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Posted by on 2006/11/17. Filed under China. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By RSF Nov 17, 2006 – 5:27:05 PM

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Reporters Without Borders today praised all the individual and institutional shareholders who chose to express their concern about Cisco Systems’ ethical failings by voting at an annual shareholders meeting on 15 November in favour of a resolution that would have forced it to produce a report on its activities in repressive countries.

Twenty-nine percent voted in favour, which is unprecedented for a resolution of this kind. Fifty per cent plus one would have been needed for the resolution to have been adopted. The press freedom organisation urges US investors to present similar resolutions at the annual shareholders meetings of other Internet companies such as Yahoo!.

“Just three years ago, few investors in new technologies felt concerned about the ethics of these companies,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But today we see more and more shareholders ready to do something to get companies such as Cisco Systems to respect free expression, whatever the country they are operating in.”

“Now US legislators as well as the shareholders and clients of these companies are becoming worried about their ethical lapses,” the organisation added. “It is time that Internet giants such as Cisco Systems and Yahoo! realise the scale of these concerns and overhaul their policies as regards social responsibility.”

Entitled “Internet fragmentation report,” the resolution was filed by the investment company Boston Common Asset Management (see the text of the resolution below). The Cisco Systems board of directors asked shareholders to vote against the resolution.

Boston Common filed a similar resolution last year that got 11 per cent of the votes. The investment company was inspired by the example of human rights activist Ann Lau, who – as an individual shareholder – submitted resolutions in 2002 and 2003 condemning Cisco Systems’ lapses in China, each time getting less than 3 per cent of the vote.

Reporters Without Borders has for several years been urging investment funds to take action in support of online free expression. At the organisation’s initiative, 30 investors signed a statement in 2005 about the moral responsibilities of Internet sector companies (see: http://www.rsf.org/fonds-investissement.php3).

Cisco Systems helped build the Chinese Internet in 1998. It is accused of helping the authorities to programme its equipment to allow filtering and online surveillance. Research by journalist Ethan Gutman also revealed the company’s involvement in the sale of very sophisticated communications equipment to the Chinese police.

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