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Shareholders Pressure Internet Companies on Rights 227

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the battles-of-attrition dept.
whamett writes "A group of investment firms is putting their shareholder weight behind asking high-tech companies that deal with repressive regimes to pay more attention to rights violations. Meanwhile, two of the firms have drafted a separate resolution for Cisco shareholders that's up for vote on Tuesday. All this comes not long after Yahoo's involvement in the jailing of a Chinese journalist left a bad taste in everyone's mouth." This isn't the first time that investment firms have stepped up to the plate on human rights violations.
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Shareholders Pressure Internet Companies on Rights

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:06PM (#14022828) Homepage Journal
    It is funny when I believe in voting only with your dollars (political voting is evil always), and get slammed for it. Yet here is proof that money is the only non-force mechanism for change. Unfortunately, no one external to a corrupt government can really stick to the capital solution for long. The problems in our own lives eventually take precedence.

    Even if Cisco stops dealing with Badmanistan, the Badmanistanians can still import from other countries. How do you stop the use? Maybe DRM restricting what country an item works in? I don't think so. Yet funny if the thought crossed your mind.

    Maybe we can make a more concerted effort. Get the U.N. involved and completely stop technology from getting there. I'm sure the hospitals and schools can get by without technology.

    Here's a solution. Smuggle guns and ammo into countries with no respect for private property. Let the inner hope of revolution make real change. Rights won't be protected with sanctions. Only by blood do we truly stop those who dare to take our lives, our properties and our natural right to both.

    Maybe after we've brought true freedom to everyone else, someone will kindly help us find it, too.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:11PM (#14022849)
      Maybe DRM restricting what country an item works in?

      You mean like DVD Region Codes?
    • by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:14PM (#14022859) Journal

      Even if Cisco stops dealing with Badmanistan, the Badmanistanians can still import from other countries. How do you stop the use?


      I think the primary problem for the shareholders is to stop people taking advantage of poor working conditions in foreign countries (which would be illegal in the USA) and to not aid overtly foreign governments to repress it's citizens (an example would be google and China).
      • All good points. I'm not sure forcing our morals on others is the right goal.

        We've become desensitized to some terrible property rights violations in this country (U.S.). Smoking bans, minimum wage laws even zoning laws are all inherently evil, yet the majority of /. readers will think I'm nuts for saying so.

        If governments are beating their people or hampering any natural rights, I'm concerned.

        As long as our own government continues to breech their responsibilities, I honestly can't focus on other countri
        • by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:37PM (#14022974) Journal

          As long as our own government continues to breech their responsibilities, I honestly can't focus on other countries.


          Great. If everyone in America felt that way you would become irrelevant in the world wide community when it comes to human rights. You can't wait for America to reach perfection, because it will never happen (and the fact everyone disagrees on what perfection is doesn't help).
          • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:09PM (#14023113) Homepage
            Well, it is rather hypocritical to tell other nations how they should behave, when our own govenment is violating fundamental rights on a massive scale. The best way to influence other countries is to set an example for them to follow, and we're not doing that very well right now. Even if we could force our ideology on other countries (and we can't), we have no right to do so. "Relevance" is far less important than integrity, whether on a personal level or as a nation.
          • Re: Your sig (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:18PM (#14023145) Homepage
            Support free speech. Don't post anonymously. If you are anonymous, don't bother replying to my comments, I won't see it.
            If free speach is hurt in any way by anonymonity, then why do the most repressive, anti-free-speach regimes always try to stamp out anonymous speach? Anonymonity ensures that personal prejudice, association, and political or economic influence play no part in how the message is received, and allow people living under a repressive regime to speak out without putting themselves or others in even more danger than they are already in. Anonymous speach is an essential part of freedom of speach, and should be accepted or rejected solely on the basis of what is said, not rejected out of hand.
            • Re: Your sig (Score:2, Insightful)

              by aussie_a (778472)
              If free speach is hurt in any way by anonymonity, then why do the most repressive, anti-free-speach regimes always try to stamp out anonymous speach?

              That's the difference between slashdot and a repressive regime. Your post is good in theory. However I have no wish to see tons of GNAA posts on slashdot. So I have to have some way of filtering them. I can choose to surf at 0 or 1, but in that case, I'm filtering out tons of good informative posts merely because they don't conform to slashdot groupthink. Inste
              • Its a rare post indeed that acknowledges rights entail responsibilities. Sir, I salute you.
              • Re: Your sig (Score:5, Interesting)

                by demachina (71715) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:00AM (#14023804)
                I'm a little unclear why someone posting under aussie_a is so much less anonymous than someone posting as an AC. People who have URL's, like you do, or an email address associated with their alias maybe are a little more identifiable but those URL's and email addresses may be aliases too. I think all in all your standard is a little arbitrary. If people are saying something controversial, but insightful, doing it as AC is A-OK with me, I've read some great AC posts, though most are garbage from people posting as AC because they have nothing intelligent to say. If someone posts flamage under a login, they could discard it in a heartbeat, create a new one and be pretty much as anonymous as an AC.

                If someone from China is posting here as an AC chances are China's government can watch the whole IP transaction and track down the person if they want to, same probably goes for an American thanks to extensive tapping of the Internet by various three letter agencies.

                Fact is American's, like the Brits and everyone else, have "free speech" only as long as their government lets them have it and within the bounds they set. The UK did let people have free speech to advocate fundamentalist Islamic causes, but it is now speech likely to lead to deportation or jail. You don't really have free speech when there are all kinds of arbitrary bounds on it, i.e. you can speak freely until you say something we've decided we don't like and then you don't.

                In reality free speech is a completely relative concept. The U.S. has free speech compared to China, so it does in relative terms, but in absolute terms there are countless bounds on it.

                In eras rich in fear mongering your free speech rights can be abridged in a heart beat. You need to look no further than McCarthyism in the U.S. in the 50's to appreciate how fleeting free speech is, or today when the Executive of the United States has bestowed upon its self the power to arrest people on a whim, detain them without due process, without access to a lawyer, family or court and even to whisk you away to various secret prisons to be tortured indefinitely up to the end of your life which they have often brought about in these secret prisons. The U.S. projects an image of being free, but in many respects it is carefully manufactured facade, again free in relative terms just because there are places worse, and it is less free with each passing day. Countries which espouse freedom don't make people disappear or torture people and the U.S. most certainly does these things now thanks to government by paranoid wackos who were given carte blanche to be paranoid wackos by 9/11.

                In most respects 9/11 WAS all about Al Qaeda attacking Freedom and Democracy in the West. The catch is they are destroying them, not by attacking the West, but by giving power mad governments of Western nations excuses to destroy Freedom and Democracy themselves.
              • Re: Your sig (Score:4, Interesting)

                by GamingFox (860855) on Monday November 14, 2005 @01:28AM (#14024054)
                Wonderful post.

                Plus, I like to add my comment. Of course there will always be someone saying something we don't like, but thats the whole point of free speech. The right to free speech is created to insures that someone will say something that some people will not like to hear. Got problem with your government? Speak out. Got problem with your neighborhood? Speak out. Got problem with your boss? Speak out (anonymous of course). Got problem with slashdot? Speak out (at your own website or blog).

                Don't get me wrong. I am not saying free speech is just for people who want to flame each other to death. Free speech is for solving or preventing problems in our society because the very first step to solving problems is to get aware of them. If no one aware of the problems, then no one will solve it. Plus, knowledge is power. Governments rely on our stupidity to successfully oppress us. "Don't worry, no one will hack the RFID in your passports..." Free speech allows the knowledge to come out. It doesn't matter if people like it or not, or whichever if it is true or false, the words must come out anyway.

                Basically, we have to accept the good with the bad.
          • "If everyone in America felt that way you would become irrelevant in the world wide community when it comes to human rights."

            The U.S. has been irrelevant on the human rights front for pretty much its entire existence. It does spout a lot about it, pretends like it holds the high ground on the subject but it is so laced with hypocrisy you have to be pretty naive to buy it and I don't think most of the world does buy it anymore if it ever did, especially after the last 5 years when its become obvious the U.S
        • Er, zoning laws give you New Yorks and Chicagos. Lack of zoning gives you cities like Houston. And you think zoning is evil?
        • Smoking bans [...]

          Now, I personally don't have a huge issue with smokers (my dad smokes, I occasionally smoke a cigar and I have many friends that smoke), however, smokers have a direct, measurable, negative effect on people around them simply by lighting up a cigarette (this is in contrast to some other drugs like, say, alcohol or ecstacy). When that goes away, you can argue that smoking bans are some sort of "property" issue.

          Or, as the saying goes, your right to swing your arms around ends at my face.

          • Well, my issue with smoking bans is that they are bans on what consenting adults do inside private property with the consent of the owner of that property. If you don't want to be exposed to second-hand smoke, don't go inside places where people choose to smoke.

            If we were talking about situations where going inside the place met a need not a want - like a school or a hospital - then I would agree with you. But I find it hard to see "having someone cook your food for you instead of doing it yourself" or "

        • I'm not sure forcing our morals on others is the right goal.

          It's not about forcing "our" morals. There are already international standards of human rights, and I see no problems with demanding that businesses and governments abide by them, be they US or foreign.

          I see no problems with many smoking restrictions because smoking infringes on the natural rights of others to breathe clean air.

          • I see no problems with many smoking restrictions because smoking infringes on the natural rights of others to breathe clean air.


            I love how these brainjobs always pull out the "clean air" bit, particularly when you take into account where these government intrusions were originated. LA, New York, etc...

            I got news for you. You come into my property, you'll breathe whatever I tell you to breathe, or you'll get the hell out. THAT is the right that the government is taking away with these little smoking bans: th
        • Wait, the logic made no sense.

          Americans are desensitized because they don't accept my extreme minority positions.

          That seems to be the crux of your arguement.

          First we will need to define what a NATURAL RIGHT is, I'm not sure that we can claim that there are any, or at least I haven't run into any in the NATURAL sciences, or evolutionary theory (unless we can say you have the right to TRY to spread your genes).

          Please don't posit points as evidence of something, when your points are not supported.
        • I think I need you to explain which smoking bans are property rights violations. If necessary, feel free to compare to health inspections in restaurants.
    • Unfortunatly, the majority of times, these are nothing more than a footnote in an proxy, followed by a paragraph by the board recommending against it, claiming they are doing all they can, and the resolution cripple the businnes.

      The only people who *really* have a say are pensions and mutial fund companies, and they don't want to shake the boat w/ other's money.

      Most people trust others to manage their investments, and only direct owners can vote. That's why they almost always lose.
    • "voting only with your dollars", eh?
      And I'm sure everyone gets an equal amount of votes...
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:35PM (#14023219) Homepage Journal
        Life is not about equality, it is about equal rights to our bodies and the property we worked hard for.

        Today, no one but the ultra-wealthy have a vote. Your ballot choices means zilch -- everyone you vote into office just extends the future power of that office.

        In a true free market, every ollar is vote, but being a billionaire isn't total control of the poor.

        How much can a billionaire buy in respect to need? Only so many bananas, eggs and gallons of milk. Overbuying leads to waste and loss of wealth.

        Maybe the wealthy will buy all the land? How will they maint in it? How will they build on it? How will they clean it, paint it, power it?

        Hording doesn't make wealth, hard work does. Many children of the wealthy lose the family fortunes. I know of 3 100-year old contractors in the Midwest that went bankrupt at the hands of the third generation.

        Money in the hands of the majority middle class has more power than the minority, except with regards to government. Don't be fooled by what is mostly class hatred. The poor have more opportunities to become rich in a free market than in a regulated one.
        • That is so uninsightful. Free market is the poors worst enemy. Freedom favors those prepared to use it. Poor people are not prepared by definition. Or perhaps you mean a 'pure' free market where money is not power. As you can see even NAFTA is not providing the free market it claims.

          Hording does not make wealth, but it helps to keep in. Actually its the governments primary function (in USA) is to ensure the protection of wealth. Certainly the wealthy are pushing laws every day to ensure this as well.
        • by gid13 (620803) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @10:28PM (#14023421)
          "the property we worked hard for"
          Hard work often results in very different outcomes, especially when someone lacks the means to overcome a barrier to entry. A rich person with a good idea can develop and implement it, and reap many rewards. A poor person with the same good idea needs to attract investors to overcome the barriers, and then once they do, they have to share the profits with the investors, whose only required skills are having money and being able to tell a good idea from a bad one (not trivial, sure, but it's still infinitely preferable to being the poor guy).

          "Hording doesn't make wealth, hard work does."
          Investing is an opportunity the poor don't have.

          "The poor have more opportunities to become rich in a free market than in a regulated one."
          Depends how it's regulated.
        • Hording doesn't make wealth, hard work does.

          That may have been true before the term "Intellectual Property" was coined. Given the existence of laws against manipulating markets and regulations on monopolies though, I find the assertion highly suspect. The old cliché "The rich get richer" is also strong evidence to the contrary. Had there been no truth to the phrase, I doubt it would have endured for so long.

          Maybe the wealthy will buy all the land? How will they maint in it? How will they build

        • Maybe the wealthy will buy all the land? How will they maint in it? How will they build on it? How will they clean it, paint it, power it?

          Slaves.

          Don't make a mistake in the southern U.S. at some points slaves outnumbered others 15-1 yet they were unable to revolt.

          Equality is HARD and equal rights is harder, but that's why we pursue them, not because they are easy but because they are hard.
        • by demachina (71715) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:18AM (#14023868)
          "Hording doesn't make wealth, hard work does."

          Hard work can make wealth, but wealth does in fact also make wealth in the Capitalist system. Yes you can get some clueless heiress that will squander a fortune or tank a multigeneration family business.

          But, if you have extensive wealth you can with relative ease continue to generate ever greater wealth by investing it in relatively safe investment vehicles in perpetuity, by tapping a financial manager if necessary. It is simply vastly easier for the affluent to make money than it is the poor, people who are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, to pay for home heating and gas to get to work.

          It is a simple fact that without progressive taxation wealth rapidly accumulates in the hands of a tiny minority, while the vast majority get ever poorer. It was this way in the U.S. in the early twentieth century when progressives introduced progressive taxation and it is this way again today since the Republicans are dismantling progressive taxation, devastating wages for the lower and middle classes, cutting taxes for the rich while they bleed workers white with inescapable payroll taxes the surpluses from which they are squandering so their will be no money for workers benefits when they reach retirement though they paid 12.5% of their income most of their lives in to these bankrupt systems.

          You might trot out Bill Gates as a rags to riches example, well his family was relatively affluent and he never really had to worry about basic survival. He also acquired the lion's share of his wealth by essentially illegal economic activity, the same goes for the Walton family. Gates and the Walton's started out engaging in hard work and hard nosed business but there is a point that they transitioned in to acquiring their wealth by monopolistic and underhanded business practices, not so much "hard work". Ethicless monopolies are remarkably lucrative when done well.

          I think you will find many rags to riches stories where people engaged in economic activity that was either outright illegal or certainly unethical and that they screwed a large number of people to acquire their wealth, the didn't just "work hard".
        • Today, no one but the ultra-wealthy have a vote. Your ballot choices means zilch -- everyone you vote into office just extends the future power of that office.

          That simply is not true in the EU, US, or any of the other established democracies. Corporations and the wealthy don't win through force. They win through apathy. You could run for president tomorrow if you wanted. The only thing stopping you from winning is the reluctance of private citizens to hand you a buck to further advertise, and the fact t
        • In a true free market, every ollar is vote, but being a billionaire isn't total control of the poor.

          Really? Imagine a man who's robbed and left destitute. There are no employment laws, so employers are free to offer him room and board but no cash. Since he has to eat, he has to take the job anyway. He never earns another dollar, and therefore has no "vote". In effect he's a slave. If he has any children, they will also spend their lives as slaves. Congratulations, you've reinvented feudalism.

          How much ca

        • Today, no one but the ultra-wealthy have a vote.

          I beg to differ. I voted last Tuesday and helped elect two members of my school board (some of the first people I've ever helped elect in 3 years of voting). Being a college student, I'm quite far from being ultra-wealthy.

          Your ballot choices means zilch -- everyone you vote into office just extends the future power of that office.

          In many cases, yes. If that is the case, you should be running for office in order to reverse that trend. Once I graduate, I pla
    • by siriuskase (679431) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @10:13PM (#14023366) Homepage Journal
      Here's a solution. Smuggle guns and ammo into countries with no respect for private property. Let the inner hope of revolution make real change. Rights won't be protected with sanctions. Only by blood do we truly stop those who dare to take our lives, our properties and our natural right to both.

      I'm all for creating revolution and anarchy in badmanistan, but we must be careful which revolutionaries we help out. This is essentially what we did in Afganistan with the help of Bin Laden before we realized that he wasn't on our side either.
    • Here's a solution. Smuggle guns and ammo into countries with no respect for private property.

      Careful now. After Kelo, [findlaw.com] you might get yourself branded a terrorist.

    • Dammit CIA, stop astroturfing slashdot!!
    • political voting is evil, but economic voting isn't? shit dude, you realize who prints that paper we call money, right? how is the Central Bank any less evil than government?
    • by demachina (71715) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @10:57PM (#14023542)
      "Here's a solution. Smuggle guns and ammo into countries with no respect for private property."

      WTF? Repressive regimes and respect for private party are not really mutually exclusive. The West is so eager to deal with China today because they abandoned Socialism for Authoritarian capitalism(a.k.a. Fascism) in the last 20 years. They do have private property as a result and it hasn't stopped them from being a repressive regime. Repressive regimes trample private property rights when it suits them, but as a rule they don't because they want capitalists to invest there so they respect private property, especially of foreigners, to get investment. China really isn't very different from the U.S now. Since a recent Supreme Court ruling government entities in the U.S. can seize your property, reimburse you what suits them, and turn it over to a private developer to profit on.

      Western countries are pouring capital into China, and transferring IP there because they think there is a buck to be made there, more so than in any of the aging economies in the U.S. Europe or Japan. When there is a buck to be made Westerners could care less if they are dealing with repressive regimes. Americans were enthusiastic investors in Nazi Germany in the 30's including the Bush family who were the American bankers for the Thyssen family who helped put Hitler in power. The U.S. went out its way to install the Shah of Iran who was one of the Middle East's most repressive rulers, right up there with Saddam. The U.S. installed countless right wing dictators in the Western Hemisphere who "respected private property" of U.S. corporations and the wealthy and ruthlessly killed, kidnapped and tortured everyone else.

      "Get the U.N. involved and completely stop technology from getting there."

      That is pretty out of touch with reality. Many of the electronics you buy today are MADE IN CHINA, the U.S. or U.N. couldn't boycott them if you tried. I guess you boycott buying stuff them which would have an impact but you would quickly realize the U.S. economy is totally dependent on China. Stop buying there and Walmart's shelves would empty and many smaller towns would realize they have no place to shop without Walmart and its Chinese goods.

      The main thing China is importing are raw materials. In the case of oil, for example, they are securing their own oil fields and supplies so they will be largely immune to an oil boycott, which has been a weapon of choice by the U.S. in the past. Pearl Harbor was precipitated by a U.S, British and Dutch oil embargo against Japan. The Chinese are securing oil from Venezuela in particular because Chavez would never follow a U.S. lead boycott against China without the U.S. parking warships next to their oil terminals.

      Chinese technological and manufacturing prowess is rapidly eclipsing the U.S. partially thanks to Western companies transferring their manufacturing base and technology R&D centers to China. Cisco gear can't be boycotted from China. Much of it is developed and manufactured there. Cisco's CEO Chambers routinely broadcasts the fact that Cisco is a "Chinese company" now.

      Bottomline is the West has more to fear from China boycotting them than the other way around.
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @11:03PM (#14023571) Homepage Journal
      Here's a solution. Smuggle guns and ammo into countries with no respect for private property. Let the inner hope of revolution make real change. Rights won't be protected with sanctions. Only by blood do we truly stop those who dare to take our lives, our properties and our natural right to both.

      One needs to be careful with this. For two reasons:

      1. If you fail to time things correctly, the revolutionists will be caught (one by one) with the guns in their homes and charged with a crime.

      2. Violence tends to begat violence.

      Of all the revolutions that come to my mind at the moment, only two stand out as only going as far as necessary, and no farther. The first was the American Revolution. They only shed blood after they declared independence from England, and carried the war only to the extent necessary to defend the new nation. Note that the American situation was rather unique in that American were normally well armed, and that their forces were vastly inferior to those of the enemy.

      The only other situation I can think of was the transition from the Communist Russian government to the psuedo-democratic government. It was largely a bloodless affair, as the remaining people in power just wanted to make their problems someone else's.

      Every other coup that I can think of was a bloody mess with a questionable outcome. The French Revolution was a particularly good example of things going from bad to worse. France eventually recovered, but not until after a series of civil wars, exectutions, and other unpleasentries. From a lot of the feedback I've been getting, it sounds like the Chinese are not really there yet.

      So, I guess what I'm saying is that you have to be careful in supporting revolutionaries. Sometimes they're in it for the right reasons, but sometimes they're just looking to seize power themselves.
      • Revolutions aren't usually by definition improving the status quo by themselves. If you want to achieve that, slow and controlled political change seems to be the only way.

        But what revolutions are good for is for shaking up deeply entrenched static situations. The result may be worse than the life before it, but it's also less controlled and therefore susceptible to being changed by softer methods.

        The French Revolution (along with other revolution of a similarily bloody nature that first turned disastrous,
    • Yet here is proof that money is the only non-force mechanism for change.

      Mahatma Gandhi provides one obvious counter-example.
    • How can money be a "non-force mechanism" when property laws (like all laws) are backed up by force? Libertarian capitalists love to whine about "coercion" when the topic is tax, but as soon as property laws are called into question they go straight for their guns.

      Tell me, where exactly in nature does your natural right to property reside? Can you objectively demonstrate its existence? Or are you just tacking the word "natural" onto your opinion as a cheap rhetorical trick?

      Only by blood do we truly stop

  • by saskboy (600063) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:06PM (#14022830) Homepage Journal
    The only way most firms will push to respect human rights is if we make serious domestic penalties for companies that break human rights laws overseas or use companies that break codes.

    We can't even get Walmart to stop hiring illegal immigrants and hiding them in the backs of stores in America, how are we going to stop The Gap from using sweatshops or whatever it is they do to get clothing made?
    • The only way most firms will push to respect human rights is if we make serious domestic penalties for companies that break human rights laws overseas or use companies that break codes.

      Umm, did you read the article? It's the investors of these companies (in this case) that are pushing for protection of human rights. However, their intetions aren't exactly altruistic.

      FTA:
      "On the broadest possible level, democracy provides the best possible environment for investment," Kanzer said.

      and
      Wolfe maintain
      • "Umm, did you read the article?"

        You must be new here.

        "It's the investors of these companies (in this case) that are pushing for protection of human rights."
        If it doesn't hold a profit incentive to be respectful of human rights, odds are a company won't do it. Corporations remove the humanity from humans in power of them.
    • "The only way most firms will push to respect human rights is if we make serious domestic penalties for companies that break human rights laws overseas or use companies that break codes."

      This is naive at best. Many multinationals are reaching the point that they could discard their American presence in a heartbeat if the need arose.

      If you start "penalizing" them for doing things that are reprehensible but profitable chances are it would just hasten their abandonment of the U.S. Most multinationals are at
  • by conner_bw (120497) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:07PM (#14022836) Homepage Journal
    I mean if the shareholders of multi-national corporations won't stand up for human rights, then who will?!
    • by c0dedude (587568) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:22PM (#14022904)
      We are just like you. We live in the same world, and have similar concerns. We want human rights just as much as you do. Not only that, a loss of goodwill can result from poor business practices. China has an emerging market we want access to, but we see better returns from a free market with free organization, thus leading to human rights concerns.
      • We are just like you. We live in the same world, and have similar concerns.

        We are also immortal! Inviolable! Unassailable in our Glory! Our mighty hosts of lawyers sweep all before us!

        Kneel plebain! Kneel and gaze upon the world which we have wrought for you! Bite not the hand that feeds thee!

        So Preacheth The Church Of The New Global Capitalism!! Hail Satan!
  • by Rick Zeman (15628) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:07PM (#14022837)
    ...but the almighty dollar will still end up ruling all. If ethics mattered, there wouldn't be any US company at all dealing with China.
    • by NevDull (170554)
      If ethics mattered, companies in what other country would be dealing with the US? You can't possibly be so deluded to imagine that we're ethical. Maybe in some cases we're "more ethical", but in absolute terms, we're far from the ideal.

      Compromise is necessary to get anything done, including some compromise of ideals. You do it with yourself every day.
      • Exactly my thoughts.
    • If the west hadn't been willing to invest in China, I doubt China would have liberalized its economy or government at all. The strategy is somewhat akin to a drug dealer, who offers free or cheap free samples to hook the user and then charges increasing prices for future drugs: get China hooked on western trade, then demand increasing concessions on economic and political liberty for the continuance of that trade. Like junkies don't quit drugs even when they can't afford the dope (or when they realize its h
  • Just say "no" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Personally, I said no, and explained why. I was unsure of what would happen, but I'm still gainfully employed; my performance review noted a commitment to integrity, and I just got promoted.
  • Given that "CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan [admitted] that for the past decade the network [systematically] covered up stories of Iraqi atrocities" [honestreporting.com] prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in order to maintain access to Saddam's government, it would seem that CNN and TimeWarner would be prime candidates for sanctions/and or boycotts. Of course, the question now is: What crimes are CNN and their MSM brethern covering up to maintain access in countries like Cuba, Syria and Communist China to "maintain access" even now?

    • Given that "CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan [admitted] that for the past decade the network [systematically] covered up stories of Iraqi atrocities" prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in order to maintain access to Saddam's government, it would seem that CNN and TimeWarner would be prime candidates for sanctions/and or boycotts.

      Yeah, well they covered up the fact that there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq either, so I guess it all balances out.
  • by a_greer2005 (863926) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:22PM (#14022899)
    Can any company control how the product is used after purchase? Cisco isnt liable here for the same reasons gun companies arent liable in murder cases, there is a huge amount of legal network activity that Cisco enables, china is the bad apple here.

    Yahoo handles content, the routers just pass bits

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:26PM (#14022928)
      Can any company control how the product is used after purchase?

      Apparently you can if your name is Sony. Just takes a Windows rootkit.
    • I would think that gun companies would be liable if they knowingly sold a gun to someone who was a convicted serial killer. Cisco knows exactly what China is going to do with the equipment they provide them with.
    • by rossz (67331) <ogre@gee k b i k e r.net> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:45PM (#14023019) Homepage Journal
      It's not the same. Cisco is actively helping them to set up the firewalling to prevent freedom of speech. While the gun companies sells guns to a licensed dealer, who then sells it to an individual who later has it stolen by a crackhead who kills someone with it.

      On the other hand, if the gun company sold large quantities of guns and ammo to a repressive government and sent over a bunch of buys to train government thugs on the most efficient means to kill large numbers of peaceful protestors, then we might have a reasonable comparison.
      • You know, we put Saddahm Hussein in power... along with several other "bad guys' in the world.

        We have a hell of a lot of house cleaning to do here before we go judging others.
        • Indeed. But if we did put hussein in power, wouldn't that make it our responsibily to remove him when we're cleaning house?
          • Actually, "cleaning house" would be saying "we fucked up btu we're not gonna make that mistake again."

            It is not our responsibility to "liberate" people. If you are being held captive it is YOUR responsibility to fight for your liberty. Nothing wrong with helping, but helping doesn't mean "we are here to liberate you."
    • To claim that they've got no clue what's going on is ridiculous. If they can't stop what China does with their stuff, then they shouldn't sell to China. They aren't just letting China, etc. use their stuff, they are going out of their way to help China in order to get access to the Chinese market.
    • Can any company control how the product is used after purchase? Cisco isnt liable here for the same reasons gun companies arent liable in murder cases, there is a huge amount of legal network activity that Cisco enables, china is the bad apple here.

      Cisco has a large role in building and maintaining much of their network, including the filtering and blocking of websites the state considers threatning. This is not like China is using off the shelf parts to demonstrate such extreme levels of access control;

  • Stock Trader POV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sugar Moose (686011) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:26PM (#14022929) Journal
    As someone who trades stocks, I don't really see this the same way. Generally, I don't buy a stock because I want to own that company, I buy it because I think later I call sell it for more. I wouldn't buy Yahoo because I think they are overvalued, and they are facing increasing pressure from Google which they aren't handling very well. In my opinion, the stock does not have very much upside potential.

    Generally, making people mad is costly for a stock. Bad news is bad, but uncertainty is much much worse. Will all of their customers leave? What effect will this have? There's thousands of publicly traded companies out there, so there's no reason to buy stock in one which has an uncertain future.

    While i'm glad to see there are some responsible investors out there, they don't amount to a very large portion. When you look at the ownership of Cisco [msn.com], you see that the two investors mentioned in the article aren't even listed. They each own less than 1% of the company's outstanding shares.

    Recently, I was amused by something that happened to Intel. They received an award for corporate social responsibility. The stock traded down that day.
    • When you invest in a company, there is also the issue of 'reputational risk'. As an individual, it might not matter but for a bank, it may not look too good to have a the great unwashed protest outside the door even if they aren't holding long-term positions.

      Investing in companies that get up to baaad things is seen to be high risk for other reasons. Dealings with dodgy regimes tends to be opaque so all kinds of extra costs can appear such as corruption with the possibility of future legal actions against

  • by dragonfly_blue (101697) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:28PM (#14022938) Homepage

    I'm not really a political or litigious person by nature, but as I've aged, I've come to this somewhat depressing conclusion; occasionally, the only way to effect change in this world is to exact some kind of financial cost on those who disregard the rights of their fellow human beings.

    David Brancaccio (from public radio's Marketplace) wrote a quite entertaining book [amazon.com] that deals with the concept of socially responsible investing, and asks the question of whether or not applying fuzzy concepts of "good " and "evil" to publicly traded companies makes any kind of sense.

    He was sort of sarcastic about it, and had a tendency to make fun of new-age hippies showing at the annual shareholder's meeting in Montana with their 100% natural non-bleached cotton moccasins, and painfully detailed dietary requirements, but overall it was funny, and it made an otherwise dry subject a lot more palatable. Check it out if you're sick of O'Reilly books - it was a good companion on the road last summer.

    Hopefully, we will continue to develop more accurate and effective ways to evaluate companies and maybe even their corresponding Good:Evil ratios in the future; maybe then companies guilty of human rights violations or severe pollution disasters will feel a direct effect on their bottom line.

  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:39PM (#14022983) Homepage Journal
    The idea being that democracy works better when voting is disproportionate based on the amount of self sacrifice that has been offered by the individual. For example, someone who works for a company and uses 90% of their salary to buy stock in the company has more say in the running of that company than someone who chooses to invest nothing in the company.
  • by pHatidic (163975) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:39PM (#14022986)
    I was walking around campus yesterday when I saw a poster saying "Is Slashdot Your Home Page?" in huge letters. Apparently it was a recruiting poster for some investment firm. Of course I immediately appropriated it and thumbtacked it above my laptop in my room.
  • Bias? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nulldaemon (926551) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:52PM (#14023053)
    The article talks about Cisco, Yahoo & Google but the summary only mentions Cisco & Yahoo.
  • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:06PM (#14023101) Homepage Journal
    What?! Capitalists working on the side of good?! I smell a rat! A great big communist rat! Ronnie!! Ronnie come back and save us from these pinkos! How will I be able to afford my hummer if I can't sell a few activists out to the boys in Beijing? I blame television! Danm liberal media!
  • Even if the majority of shareholders back such human rights declarations I'm not sure this is legal. Under US law corporations have an obligation to maximize profit irrespective of anything else. Strange but true.

    This doctrine was established in a landmark Supreme Court case Dodge v. Ford Motor Company [wikipedia.org] which established that even minority share holders can prevent a corporation from doing anything that hinders the maximization of profits.

    I could be completely wrong.
    • by Ironsides (739422) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:25PM (#14023170) Homepage Journal
      I believe you are talking about a "Minority Shareholder Lawsuit". It doesn't matter how much stock you own, even if it is only a single share, you can sue a company/employees if it does something that damages the stock price for reparation. This can vary from monetary damages to giving the shareholder more stock.
    • That isn't the case at all. The issue in that case was that H. Ford owned a disproportionate number of shares, and the board was obligated to carry out Ford's interests. Since the majority of the minority shareholders wanted to make money and to earn dividends, not employ the poor, they took Ford Corp to court. Keep in mind that a corporation is really not answerable to anyone but the shareholders, and they are represented by the board (which to me at least is why the Chairman of the Board and CEO MUST be s
  • If thine eye offend thee pluck it the hell out. Divestment movements are built for this. But I as a shareholder, watching you demand they harm my investment, well I'd like to come to your house and burn it down. Or better yet, you can pay for my kid's college education.

    Leave YOUR morality at the door, thank you.
  • by 808140 (808140) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:44PM (#14023251)
    You know, lately I've been seeing a lot of fear-mongering Slashdotters talking about how we all have a moral responsibility to not to business with companies that do business with China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc.

    Now, last I checked it was illegal for US corps to do business with North Korea and Iran, so I'm never quite sure why those are brought up. But China is a popular target. I can only imagine this is because we are starting to get nervous about such a massive economic force. Sort of in the same way people in the eighties used to yell "Go Home, Jap!" to anyone who looked Asian on the street. But I digress.

    Well-meaning (and I do believe they are well meaning) people have said lots of things about how we ought to "not buy Chinese goods" because the Chinese government doesn't respect basic human rights, and the only way to make them see the light of day is to hit them where it hurts -- financially. We say the same thing about "sweat shops" in Vietnam or wherever operated by firms like Nike or Reebok. Not sure if it's still the rage to go off about these.

    Now, as a disclaimer, I actually live in China (I'm American, though). I want to advance a theory about totaletarian regimes: they are non-sustainable if the populace is becoming wealthy.

    Now obviously this doesn't apply to a place like North Korea where trading with the country (if it were even legal) really means trading with the government, and not with the people. But China and Vietnam are not like that, despite what you may have heard.

    In the 1970s, China was in the throes of the cultural revolution; people truly had no rights, they were expected to spend several hours of their day reciting "Wei Renmin Fuwu" and other works of Chairman and Poet Mao Ze Dong. But those days have been a thing of the past since Deng Xiao Ping's economic reforms in the late seventies and early eighties, reforms which continue to this day.

    As a direct result of these reforms, money paid into China not only makes the government richer (you can't avoid this, people pay taxes on income) but also, and this is important, it makes the people more wealthy.

    Chinese people are not living like beggars (unless you're in Guizhou or something). Especially people in the cities are beginning to do very well for themselves. And if you're in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, well, you're essentially living at first world standards. Really.

    The problem is, as people get more wealthy, more prosperous, more educated, more connected to the outside world -- read, not isolated from it as they were during the cultural revolution -- they come into contact with a lot of ideas that had previously been considered non grata by the government. You know, like democracy. The other week I was in Beijing and there was a huge advertisement for a development site with Chinese characters as tall as me saying "Bringing a little more culture, a little more civility, and a little more democracy (!!!) to Beijing."

    This is the city that sent tanks against students demonstrating just 15 years ago.

    Why is this happening? Because the Chinese government too wants to get rich. Even back in the days when Mao had a swimming pool built for himself in Zhong Nan Hai while everyone else was starving, the best the government cronies could hope for was a lifestyle equivalent to a beverly hills hillbilly. Not shabby, certainly. But nothing (and I mean nothing) like what they enjoy now.

    Because they want to encourage more investment, they are continuously relaxing their controls. There are two reasons for this. One: certain technology, like the internet, is necessary for commerce. It can also be used by Chinese citizens to learn uncomfortable truths. Because they are addicted to wealth, they mostly ignore the second issue (the Chinese firewall is a joke -- it's there so they can say they're doing something: most of the stuff that's blocked is irrelevant and a surprising large amount of openly rebellious material in Chi
    • How exactly is Google's censorship, Cisco's firewalls, and Yahoo's collusion with the police making anyone in China wealthier? How do they make people in China more connected to the outside world?

      I do believe that engagement, trade and economic development have their places, but so does outside pressure. You propose to simply do nothing and everything will work out. Dr. Pangloss comes to mind. Is that how any of us would manage our personal affairs? Our business? Would that be the response if it was o
      • by 808140 (808140) on Monday November 14, 2005 @07:52AM (#14024981)
        Thanks for the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. I hadn't seen it before, and it's quite on the mark. I think the crux of my view on the matter lies in the last sentence of your post, though: "Wouldn't it be convenient for us, and our interests and agendas, if that were actually the case?"

        I believe that it is the case. From my own experiences.

        You see... whereas things in the US in the 1960s were not getting better for black people very quickly at all, and MLK was lamenting the complacency of moderate whites, a group not directly affected by racism and therefore relatively unable to relate to it (a problem that persists with most white Americans today, sadly), in China we have a completely different situation. The Chinese themselves -- the ones directly affected by the government's lack of respect for human rights -- are for the most part supportive of the government, extremely nationalistic, and hopeful about the future.

        Of course you can write this off to propaganda, but when you grow up as a kid listening to stories from your dad how when he was a kid, people were allowed one (!) mantou per day and that his grandfather used to give him his and eat treebark instead -- true story -- you start thinking, shit, things are pretty good at the moment. I hear a lot of, "I don't know much about politics, but I want the reform to continue. It's good for China" from the youth of today.

        The situation in the 1960s was markedly different. Most whites who knew no black people were completely detached from the situation. "So people don't treat you the way they ought to. That sucks, but they'll get better in time, and right now, I don't want to cause a ruckus," says Whitey. Easy for him to say, he's not the one who has to move to the back of the bus.

        A much better analogy (and I'm rather convinced you won't be able to find one) would be a majority of blacks saying, "Hey, these Jim Crow laws aren't half bad! Hell, I don't mind sitting on the back of the bus, because I'm sure things'll get better any day now." That is, the person affected by the "regime" complaining.

        Don't get me wrong, the PRC government has at times been quite the bully, and is not respectful of human rights by any stretch. And the Chinese are not unaware of this, nor are they uncritical. But they see improvement -- much improvement -- and are hopeful it will continue. It shows no signs of stopping. Why rock the boat? If things appeared to stagnate, if the government said, "Hell, fuck this capitalism shit, it's back to piao and lining up at the co-op for rice", there would be a revolt, no question. But at the moment, things are stable, and getting better, and not at all slowly.

        As for the Cisco/Google/Yahoo BS, I agree completely, it's despicable. We Americans, who are from the "land of the free", have an obligation to hold ourselves to a higher moral standard than the PRC government. The Cisco routers thing in particular is bad, because, had Cisco refused to do it, no one in the PRC would have been worse for wear. The government would have developed its own solution or found someone else to do it, certainly, but at least Cisco wouldn't have been pricks. The Yahoo/Google situation is a little more difficult to judge. If Google had for example done the right thing and refused the PRC's terms, they would have been unable to operate in China. Yahoo is the same. As I mentioned in my post, the vast majority of things blocked by the Chinese internet censorship system are completely irrelevant, outdated, and stupid. The really juicy stuff is all in Chinese and most of it is not blocked. Google and Yahoo make finding this information easy, until some lazy government official notices and orders them to block it. During that period of time, which may be months, ordinary Chinese people are able to find the info using Google and Yahoo's services.

        Had they "done the right thing", that would not be the case. People would have to use sohu or baidu which are
  • IF shareholders are able to exert influence, as we see here, should they not be considered legally responsible for both the positive and the NEGATIVE things their companies do?
    A share devaluation isn't enough. I would like to see shareholders tried for criminal negligence.
  • by efuzzyone (919327) <efuzzyone&netscape,net> on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:01AM (#14023811) Homepage
    I have read many post here where people have been criticizing this article,and the place to where it links.

    I don't undertsand how this article is anti-chinese people, unless everyone bashing this post equates the chinese government and chinese party members to chinese people.

    Yahoo, and the Chinese government did something bad (and is doing) to an ordinary Chinese citizen (took away his rights).

    And as people with conscience, we need to stop them from doing this in the future. And so the shareholders have taken the right step.

    But how does this translates to an activity against the Chinese people, as far as I understand this is being done to help Chinese people and their rights.

    So, please stop being cynical and thinking of western morality conscience people as dissimulators.

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