Washington, DC – A proposed addition to an international computer crime treaty endangers free speech and could impose broad liability on Internet service providers and websites if ratified, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said today.

CCIA President Ed Black joined a broad coalition of, businesses, industry associations, and civil liberties groups in sending a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft. They expressed concern over the Council of Europe’s (CoE) proposal to ban “xenophobic” and “racist” speech on the Internet, as well as make Internet service providers liable for transmitting the objectionable speech of others.

“The United States was founded on the principle of freedom of expression,” Black said. “More speech, not less, is the most effective response to the spread of ignorance and hate. We believe a free marketplace of ideas should regulate content, not government. .”

The U.S. Department of Justice has recently expressed concerns about the Protocol’s effect on the First Amendment, and is not expected to sign on to the Protocol. But signatory nations could still exert extra-territorial jurisdiction over U.S. parties, if the treaty is widely adopted, Black said.

“We also object to the imposition of liability on ISPs for anything that is sent over their networks, he added. “This treaty would force ISPs to monitor all users’ activities. It flies in the face of practicality, privacy, and the open nature of the Internet.”

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