11/09/2005, 00.00
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Social investment funds: "Stop web repression and censorship"

A group of 25 social investment funds is calling on companies like Cisco and Yahoo! not to collaborate with schemes of censorship, surveillance and identification of dissidents undertaken by "China and other nations".

San Francisco (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of social investment funds has called on agencies managing Internet services and products "to refrain from supporting repressive human rights practices in China and other nations". In a letter signed by 25 investment funds – based in the United States, Switzerland, Canada and Australia – directors warned companies like Yahoo! and Cisco of the risks in "collaborating to suppress freedom of opinion and expression".

Domini, Calvert Group, and Walden Asset Management were among signatories of the letter, as were diverse Catholic funds, Ethical Funds of Canada, Foundation Ethos in Switzerland and Conscious Investors of Australia.

"The Shi Tao case is essentially a lockdown on freedom of expression," said Amy Domini, founder and chief executive of New York-based Domini Social Investments. Shi Tao is a Hong Kong journalist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "espionage" thanks to help given the Chinese government by the provider Yahoo!, which supplied the contents of his private mails.

Domini condemned what she defined as "violations of basic notions of privacy rights", saying that internet access "should be as free from government snooping as private mail or conversations in cafés".

She added: "The internet is now the way people chat with each other". The letter also called on businesses in the sector "to make information public about how they are acting to ensure products and services are not being used to commit human rights violations".

The group – which manages a total of around 21 billion dollars – plans to identify and monitor companies distributing products useful for censorship, surveillance and identification of dissidents on the web.

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