Net giants attacked for aiding China's censors

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Amnesty International has launched a scathing attack on Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google for kow-towing to the censorship of the Chinese government.

China has 700,000 portals and 111 million web-watchers in its population of 1.3 billion. But officials consider cyberspace to be a hothouse of subversive thought and - with the help of the world's biggest internet providers - it blocks content.

Amnesty wants users of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google to e-mail the companies directly and use their online feedback forms to call for changes to the way they operate in China.

The companies should reveal which words they have banned from blogs or filtered out of web searches in China, Amnesty said, and make public all agreements with the Chinese authorities. Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google should call publicly for the release of jailed cyber-dissidents, Amnesty said. Beijing has recruited about 40,000 officials to monitor e-mail and websites.

Last year Yahoo! was accused of supplying data that was used to jail Shi Tao, a journalist in Hunan province, for 10 years for leaking state secrets, apparently by using his Yahoo! e-mail account.