Google Says China, Turkey Internet Curbs Act as Trade Barriers

Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular Internet search engine, urged the U.S. to combat Internet censorship abroad as an unfair trade barrier.

China, Vietnam, Iran and Turkey are among countries that have shut off of search engines, blogging platforms or social-media websites such as Facebook, Google said in a white paper released today. Those actions are harming the ability of U.S. companies to profit, Google said.

“Governments around the world are restricting, censoring, and disrupting the free flow of online information in record numbers,” according to Google’s paper, which was posted today on its blog. “These actions unnecessarily restrict trade, and left unchecked, they will almost certainly get worse.”

Google disclosed in January that Chinese hackers had targeted its mail servers and announced that the company would no longer censor search results in the country. Google then began redirecting all searches in China to a site in Hong Kong.

China is the world’s biggest Internet market with 384 million Web users at the end of 2009, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government agency that registers online domain names.

The Google paper outlines a series of rules under the World Trade Organization that might apply to Internet censorship. WTO rules call for reasonable, objective and impartial rules, and say that “exceptional measures” must be narrowly applied.

“The WTO negotiators set clear limits on the ability of members to invoke such exceptions,” the Google paper said.

Google also asked U.S. negotiators to strengthen protections for Internet freedom in pending agreements with South Korea, in the Doha Round of global trade talks and in a broader Asian measure known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.