How Congress Might Accidentally Ban US Companies From Doing Business In The US

from the double-standard? dept

A couple of years ago, we wrote about a proposal to restrict search engine companies from doing business in foreign countries whose Internet policies the United States government deems “repressive.” In March, we noted that it was back. Jonathan Zittrain has written up an analysis of the latest version. It would supposedly “prevent US companies from aiding the censorship and surveillance operations of repressive foreign governments.” It would target “Internet Restricting Countries,” which are countries that are “directly or indirectly responsible for a systematic pattern of substantial restrictions on Internet freedom.”

Now, I understand that the intent is to target truly repressive regimes like China and Cuba, but I have to wonder about how this is being defined. After all, you could argue that the United States’s gambling ban is a “substantial restriction on Internet freedom.” Ditto for the recent FISA bill, which allows warrantless dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international calls. Likewise, some European countries restrict Internet freedom with regard to Nazi memorabilia. And of course the Australian government forces its ISPs to censor online pornography. Will American companies be prohibited from doing business in the United States, France, Germany, and Australia? Somehow I doubt it. All of which is to say that putting the US government in charge of drawing up a list of countries with bad Internet policies seems like a bad idea. The list will wind up being a political football rather than an objective assessment of countries’ internet policies, and in any event it will hurt American businesses a lot more than it will promote human rights abroad.

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Comments on “How Congress Might Accidentally Ban US Companies From Doing Business In The US”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Contradictions may be to prove a point

There have been multiple bills in the past that have been brought forth with the intention to fail to bring attention to the real issue(s). Typically, these tactics are used to bring into real discussion topics that have been deemed “off limits” or “too hot.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Contradictions may be to prove a point

Several years ago the Iowa legislature was considering a bill that would not allow state employees to travel to any state that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. The bill was expanded by amendment to prohibit travel to any country that had not ratified the ERA. Of course, this was an amendment to the US constitution, so the ban was silly. In fact, not even the United States had ratified the ERA (that was the point of the original bill). The Iowa story and this one just prove that legislatures are always eager to make bad laws more expansive.

Anthony Kuhn (user link) says:

Whoa there, pardner!

Seems to me like the lawmakers forgot to draw their six-shooters out of their holsters before pulling the trigger. Nothing like being hoisted on one’s own petard to make one look foolish.

Man, I’ve been looking for a way to use that petard reference for a long time, so finally finding a way to do so makes my day!

Thanks, Timothy, for enabling my literary compunctions…Oh, and great piece, too, BTW.

Andrew Yu-Jen Wang says:

Speaking of the U.S. Congress:

The U.S. Congress does not like George W. Bush—Bush committed too many crimes.

George W. Bush committed hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism (indicated in my blog).

George W. Bush did in fact commit innumerable hate crimes.

And I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed other hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention.

Many people know what Bush did.

And many people will know what Bush did—even to the end of the world.

Bush was absolute evil.

Bush is now like a fugitive from justice.

Bush is a psychological prisoner.

Bush has a lot to worry about.

Bush can technically be prosecuted for hate crimes at any time.

In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

I am not sure where I had read it before, but anyway, it goes kind of like this: “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never got stale and faded.” Oh wait—off the top of my head—I think the quotation came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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