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How powerful is Lou Dobbs?

At a discussion yesterday featuring U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on the global economy, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank had this to say:

The most influential economic spokesman in America today is Lou Dobbs, who regards the rest of the world somewhat suspiciously in terms of the negative impact he believes it has on America's middle class and working Americans.

Granted, Frank was only trying to make the point that Americans are starting to feel like the global economy is a losing proposition for U.S. workers and therefore are now taking on a more protectionist stance. Though Frank admitted he doesn't agree with most of Dobbs' positions, it's still a stretch to think that one CNN anchor holds so much sway over the American public.

That's Thomas Friedman's take as well:

I would greatly dispute Barney Frank's statement that Lou Dobbs is the most important economic voice in this country … People aren’t stupid. They want the truth. They understand the world they are living in.

Who's right? 

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Google shareholders torpedo "Don't be evil" policy

The following proposal was put before Google shareholders at their annual meeting held yesterday. The motion was voted down out of fears that adopting an anti-censorship policy would effectively shut down Google's business in China.

  1. The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
  2. The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
  3. Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
  4. Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
  5. The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.
  6. Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.

David Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development at Google, explained to PC World that "this proposal would prevent us from operating Google.cn." So we can assume that at least one of the proposed rules is being broken by Google right now.

I hope the story doesn't end here. The six-point list would make an excellent addition to the code of conduct of any business that operates online. If businesses don't want to adopt it internally, a grassroots campaign could pressure them to do so. For instance, an index that ranks how well the top 100 online companies comply with these anti-censorship measures could shed some interesting light on who's selling out freedom of speech to make a profit. The resulting harsh spotlight might force a few companies to clean up their acts. More coverage at Slashdot.

(Full disclosure: Apparently, I'm a sellout, too. I own a handful of Google shares. But I'm disappointed that these measures were not adopted.)