Cracks in the great firewall?

Rebecca MacKinnon on RConversation reports that Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Vodaphone display some cojones, referring to a press release from Business for Social Responsibiity which says that a

diverse group of companies, academics, investors, technology leaders and human rights organizations announced today its intention to seek solutions to the free expression and privacy challenges faced by technology and communications companies doing business internationally

As MacKinnon puts it, this “is not only the right thing to do, but these [companies] all recognize that in the long run ethical business is smart business”. More to the point, an agreed platform will not only make it more difficult for countries which fail to protect human rights to pick off companies one by one but it will also make it easier for companies to resist country-based censorship.

The great test will, of course, be China (wkipedia | Global Voices). Even the longest journey must begin with a single step; and this very important development is an excellent first step.