The highly anticipated proposal, created by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) in response to recent reports about censorship in China by Google, Yahoo and others, also makes it unlawful to filter search results or turn over information about users to certain governments unless the U.S. Justice Department approves. It would also impose new export restrictions to those nations.
“For the sake of market share and profits, leading U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft have compromised both the integrity of their product and their duties as responsible corporate citizens,” Smith said at a related hearing in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Smith, chairman of a human rights subcommittee, likened that cooperation to companies that aided the Nazis in World War II.
Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako and Cisco Systems spokesman John Earnhardt said their companies were still evaluating the draft. Google and Microsoft did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
During Wednesday’s hearing, politicians predicted that this bill would be introduced in the next few days, perhaps even as early as Thursday. Google Vice President Elliot Schrage expressed cautious agreement with the broad principles of this approach, leading some subcommittee members to jest that the search company should be listed as a joint sponsor.