Commerce To Ask For Examples of Economic Costs of Internet Censorship

BY Heather Greenfield
August 18, 2010

Expect more action at the Commerce Department on Internet Freedom this fall. Anita Ramasastry, senior advisor for the International Trade Administration told those attending an Internet Freedom panel discussion at NDN Tuesday that they will put out a Notice of Inquiry in September.

The plan is to collect information on the impact of restrictions on the free flow of information on the Internet. Ramasastry says they’re interested in collecting examples on 1) what types of restrictions on the Internet people and businesses are seeing 2) what impact Internet restrictions and censorship is having in the marketplace 3) how Internet censorship and restrictions impact consumers.

Ramasastry said the issue of Internet freedom is often addressed as a human rights violation, and that the government also needs to address the harm to trade and the economy.

She said the Commerce Department is also concerned about intermediary liability U.S. tech and telecom businesses face overseas.

Daniel Calingaert, the deputy director of programs at Freedom House, tracks Internet freedom violations around the world and said that there is a broad trend toward restrictions on various types of free speech over the past five years.

He said keeping the Internet open will require the U.S. to develop sophisticated and multifaceted policies. He recommended the U.S. government do more to build international consensus on the value of the free flow of information. He also said restrictions on Internet censorship need to be challenged diplomatically – preferably through multi-lateral efforts.

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