Reporters Without Borders has initiated action with the United States, asking them to take action that would ensure freedom of expression on the internet.
I’m very happy
with how they are proposing we resolve the issue. They are using a two-phased approach. Initially, RWB is asking the US Government to urge Internet corporations (which all happen to be US-based companies), to reach an agreement among themselves on a more evolved code of conduct. Barring the success of this, they are recommending the “last resort,” which is for the US to draft the following into law: (The following is an abridged version of the information provided by RWB on their site.)
1. No US company would be allowed to host e-mail servers within a repressive country*. So, if the authorities of a repressive country want personal information about the user of a US company’s e-mail service, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by US.
2. Search engines would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” words. The list of “protected” keywords such as “democracy” or “human rights” should be appended to the law or code of conduct.
3. US companies would not be allowed to locate their host servers within repressive countries. If the authorities of a repressive country desire the closure of a publication hosted by a US company, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised by the US judicial authorities. Like search engines, content hosts would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” key-words.
4. (Option a) US companies would no longer be permitted to sell Internet censorship software to repressive states.
4. (Option b) They would still be able to market this type of software but it will have to incorporate a list of “protected” keywords that are rendered technically impossible to censor.
5. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce in order to sell to a repressive country any technology or equipment which can be used to intercept electronic communications or which is specifically designed to assist the authorities in monitoring Internet users.
6. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of Commerce before providing any programme of training in Internet surveillance and censorship techniques in a repressive country.
* A list of countries that repress freedom of expression would be drawn up on the basis of documents provided by the US State Department and would be appended to the code of conduct or law that is adopted. This list would be regularly updated.
Note : The purpose of these recommendations is to protect freedom of expression. They in no way aim to restrict the necessary cooperation between governments in their efforts to combat terrorism, paedophilia and cyber-crime.