Tech Companies Report Internet Freedom Crackdowns Overseas

December 6, 2010
The Computer & Communications Industry Association responded today to the Commerce Department’s request for comments on obstructions to the global free flow of information on the Internet. The administration requested the information in response to reports that U.S. companies were facing pressure from foreign governments to censor or filter Internet content or turn over customer information.

CCIA’s comments also include recommendations for combating threats to the free flow of information, best practices for governments to minimize restrictions while safeguarding security and the role trade agreements and international cooperation must play.

In the comments, tech and telecom companies report approximately 40 governments now engage in broad-scale online censorship. Nations who have engaged in online censorship include:  Afghanistan, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The censorship includes laws, regulations, and court orders that require or forbid various actions.  Examples of imposed requirements on Internet services include:

  • blocking access to an entire Internet service or specific keywords, web pages, and domains
  • requiring Internet search engines to remove search results
  • demanding companies take down certain web sites
  • forbidding companies from revealing requests made by censorship authorities
  • encouraging companies to engage in self-censorship in some countries through surveillance, monitoring, threats of legal action, and informal methods of intimidation.

The following statement can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“We appreciate all this administration is doing to recognize that the free flow of information online is an increasingly important international trade issue. Internet censorship, filtering and turning over private customer data are widespread problems and for too long companies have been alone on the front lines negotiating with other nations. Companies don’t want to be caught in the middle. These companies’ governments must be the ones on the forefront with other governments making sure Internet freedom is part of every international or trade agreement – and that existing measures are enforced.

“While our government has long recognized the human rights violations when access to information is suppressed, it’s also an economic issue that can and should be addressed using measures negotiated into our international agreements.

“The United States is an information economy. When other governments curtail access to information, they are harming U.S. companies and the U.S. economy. Filtering online content dilutes U.S. competition abroad and combating it should be a top priority on our diplomatic and trade agenda.”

The deadline for submitting comments is today. Click here to read CCIA’s full filing under its International Trade filings and briefs, or go to: http://www.ccianet.org/index.asp?bid=8

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