Apple would do well to follow the examples set by Yahoo and Google. Several years ago Google decided it would no longer censor its search results in China after attacks emanating from there targeted the Google and Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, explained in a blog post: "These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China...We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China." Google has indeed suffered financially from the decision. But it recognized that sometimes moral obligations trump the absolutely fattest profits.
Yahoo went through an even more wrenching time. In 2004 Yahoo's Hong Kong unit turned over information from the email accounts of two Chinese dissidents to Chinese authorities, and as a result both men were jailed. During congressional hearings in 2007, Yahoo co-founder and then CEO Jerry Yang apologized to the families, and the company later settled suits with them. Yahoo has since co-founded with Google the Global Network Initiative, which tries to protect Internet freedom around the world.
During the 2007 hearings, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the late California Democrat Tom Lantos, told Yang and Yahoo's general counsel, Michael Callahan, "Much of this testimony reveals that while technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies."
The same can be said today about Apple. It's time for Apple to live up to its self-created image as the friend of all those who think differently than governments want them to.
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