The European Parliament has called for new rules to monitor internet censorship by autocratic regimes.
The political body voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion on Wednesday, 580 votes for, 28 against and 74 abstentions.
British MEP Richard Howitt said that new technologies have massive implications for human rights and that the European Union needs a coherent policy. "There is a race between those harnessing new media to the purpose of liberation and those who seek to use it for repression," he said.
Today's resolution calls for the European Commission to come up with new rules by 2013 to improve the monitoring of EU exports of technology that can be used to censor or block websites and monitor mobile communications. It also wants more accountability for companies that willfully sell to despotic regimes.
Howitt condemned Vodafone's action in suspending its services at the request of Hosni Mubarak just weeks before the revolution in Egypt. However he singled out Google for praise, saying the internet giant had done a lot to resist censorship in China.
A study by the OpenNet Initiative recently found that political censorship is pervasive in seven countries including China, Syria and Burma and widespread in many others.