Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
censorship, congress, liability



Bill Would Make Tech Companies Liable For Helping Censor The Internet In Other Countries

from the what-about-censoring-in-the-US? dept

A US Congressional Representative has introduced a new bill that would make it illegal for US tech companies to assist any foreign country in attempting to censor the internet or in handing over data on users to the government except for "legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes." This is targeted at companies such as Cisco, which has supplied some of the technology used in the Great Firewall of China, as well as Yahoo! which got into some hot water for supposedly handing over information to Chinese authorities on some critics of the Chinese government.

While the goal is certainly admirable, the implementation is troublesome. First, it's putting liability on tech companies for something they may not have much knowledge about (how countries are going to use the tech or whether the info is needed for "legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes."). Furthermore, where this is really hypocritical is that the law apparently does not apply to the US as well. While certainly not as bad as some other nations, the US has certainly requested data for questionable reasons, and has also been seen trying to censor parts of the internet at times. While I'm certainly not equating the efforts of US politicians to filter the internet with massive operations such as those seen in China, implementing this type of legislation does seem a bit hypocritical.

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  1. The Internet is really complicating legal issues across the globe – everything from copyright law to specific laws relating to freedom of speech and other very U.S.-specific concepts. Because each country has its own guidelines and laws when it comes to information available to the public, etc. the Internet – available to all at any time and place – creates a strange dilemma for those trying to limit or present information. The Internet makes it incredibly difficult to enforce certain laws and even determine to whom they apply. This means that we might see something similar to the difficulty of inflicting legal punishment on those that download songs for free illegally. A lot of people use the Internet and also publish information on it, and it becomes hard to track. How will really know whether or not U.S. tech companies are helping or hindering the process of censorship?

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