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.

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    inc, 30 Apr 2008 @ 5:47pm

    Another example of do as I say not as I do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Kiba, 30 Apr 2008 @ 5:52pm


    Everybody is a bit of a hypocrite.

    The true test is if you admit that you're a hypocrite sometime.

    We human errs. We make mistakes. We don't know certain things. Our logics make a leap of faith. Etc.

    It would be hard for anybody, even if somebody with very high integrity to maintain this level of non-hypocritical behaviors.

    However, this doesn't change the fact that I am continuously disappointed by our government and the populace who employ them in the first place. People's apathy for freedom scares me the most. This indicates the level of wisdom that our government and the people have.

    Rather than assuming that all our politicians are corrupt, I assume that they're incompetent until proven guilty of these corruption crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Kiba, 30 Apr 2008 @ 5:53pm

    a mistake

    Whoops I typed my URL into the title.

    If only I can edit them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Zullok, 30 Apr 2008 @ 6:31pm


    who cares it will never pass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    eleete, 30 Apr 2008 @ 7:07pm

    I P

    Guess the US prefers to shut it down by fostering frivolous Intellectual Property lawsuits instead ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Jake, 30 Apr 2008 @ 7:43pm

    Nice gesture, I suppose, but 'legitimate law enforcement' is such a subjective concept that they might as well have not bothered; the difference between the Tibetan independence movement and, say, NORAID* is ultimately a question of perspective.

    * Incidentally, NORAID is probably a pretty good reason why the United States government should think twice before making unilateral value judgements. Someone might have an inconveniently long memory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Elohssa, 30 Apr 2008 @ 8:49pm

    Patently absurd.

    This idea is fundamentally stupid.

    First, the genie is out of the bottle. They already have the technology. Cisco could actively sabotage any further work they do for China, and China's "firewall" will still be as operational as ever.

    Second, if Cisco can turn a buck on China's ridiculous, unworkable policies, who is the U.S. government to create their own ridiculous, unworkable policies to thwart that? That's just unAmerican.

    Third, if Cisco (or any profitable company) doesn't make money, and tax revenue, for the U.S. government, they'll make it for another one. Notice how all the Internet casinos folded the instant the U.S. "outlawed" the practice?

    Me neither. I wonder who those companies pay taxes to now....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    hootnhowell, 30 Apr 2008 @ 9:51pm

    Go goverment

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. 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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2008 @ 6:15am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    bobdog, 1 May 2008 @ 7:08am

    internet censorship liabiliity

    Nobody seems to have noticed that this law is on its face an act of censorship.

    Might as well pass a law outlawing legislative hypocrisy for all the good it will do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    barren waste, 1 May 2008 @ 8:05am

    If you censor and you know it clap your hands....

    So it's ok for the U.S. Government to censor but not for anybody else? Or, no, I get it. It's a question of degrees, and apparantly I just don't have enough degrees to see how this bill helps me in anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Jezsik, 1 May 2008 @ 9:16am

    What about weapons?

    Wouldn't it be interesting to have a bill making weapons manufacturers liable if their products assisted a foreign country in attacking another?

    Of course, they have a stronger lobby it'll never happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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