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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Filed Under: censorship, companies, congress, global online freedom act, internet

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous, 23 Jul 2008 @ 11:10am

    "...putting the US government in charge of drawing up a list of countries with bad Internet policies seems like a bad idea."

    I would like to posit that "putting the US government in charge of" just about anything seems like a bad idea.

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