08/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

US Internet Companies Agree On Code Of Conduct For Repressive Regimes

It's been a journey longer than the meandering, months-long trip the Olympic torch is taking to Friday's opening ceremonies in Beijing. But Google, Yahoo and Microsoft said today that they were close to finishing a voluntary code of conduct for doing business in China and other countries that censor the Internet -- a project they started in January 2007.

In letters released by Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, the companies said they have agreed on principles "protecting and advancing the enjoyment of freedom of expression and privacy globally." The letters are very similar, with few details. (You can download a PDF of Google's here, Yahoo's here and Microsoft's here.)

Durbin and Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, held a hearing on the issue in May. They wrote to the companies last month urging them to finish their work before the Olympics open in China to protect information about athletes, journalists and tourists who use the Internet during the games.

The issue of Internet access at the Beijing games flared last week, when the Chinese government blocked access by foreign journalists to some international human rights websites. After complaints, Chinese officials stopped the blocking.

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