Tech companies urged to strengthen commitment to speech freedoms

An alliance of investors and researchers is pledging to monitor technology companies that do business in countries with shaky human rights reputations, and is asking the companies to proclaim their commitment to freedom of expression.

Twenty-five investment groups, representing about $21 billion (-18 billion) in assets in the United States, Europe and Australia, are signatories to a "joint investor statement on freedom of expression and the Internet," an initiative spearheaded by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The statement comes in the wake of several instances in which technology companies have been criticized for cooperating with governments, notably China, in order to get stronger market positions.

For example, Reporters Without Borders has highlighted the case of a journalist jailed in China after Yahoo Inc. allegedly helped authorities trace e-mails he had written about press restrictions. Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have been accused of helping China censor news sites and blogs, AP reported. V.A.

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