Key security firm bails on Senate hearing

McAfee announced late Monday that it was declining to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, when the Human Rights and the Law subcommittee examines the relationship between some countries' strict Internet rules and a number of U.S. companies' willingness to adhere to them.

McCafee said the subcommittee is not likely to focus enough on industry voices. As a result, it said it did not feel it would be able to offer much substance to the conversation.

"Due to the fact that the composition of the hearing panels evolved from a broad-based industry discussion on technology and strategy to one that was less-focused on the views of the industry, we felt we did not have enough to contribute to warrant our participation," the company said in a statement released on Monday.

Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) office quickly condemned McAfee late for its decision to skip the hearing, claiming it had no right "to approve the other hearing witnesses."

"Durbin invited McAfee to testify because filtering software produced by American companies has allegedly been used to censor the internet in several countries with repressive governments – including China," a Durbin aide told The Hill.

"McAfee and other American tech companies have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect human rights," the aide continued.

But McAfee's move not to attend on Tuesday could have one unintended consequence: More of the spotlight will be on Google, which still plans to testify.

Representing the company will be Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Nicole Wong. She is likely to face a slew of questions about the company's practices -- in China especially -- of adhering to government censors in order to maintain business.

The hearing arrives just days after an Italian court held three Google executives liable for the transmission of a controversial video posted by a third-party user.

Legal experts fear Italy's ruling has set a dangerous precedent that could undermine the Internet's core principles -- a sentiment long echoed with respect to China, which censors much of its online content.