The free flow of information is essential to Internet freedom.  Internet freedom is online freedom of expression in the 21st century and enables the dissemination of information and ideas that are the building blocks of economic growth and democracy.  Filtering or regulation by governments or private Internet access providers curtails the democratizing effects and economic benefits of the Internet.  CCIA has applauded Obama Administration efforts to combat censorship, filtering and invasions of online privacy by foreign regimes.  The U.S. State Department has undertaken a strategic dialogue with Civil Society that involves international NGOs and may become a new model for 21st Century diplomacy.  Nations valuing Internet freedom can also help promote it by working together in regional efforts.

Businesses and citizens alike possess limited tools to combat government censorship and demands for information. A strong and consistent U.S. Government position is essential so when foreign regimes attempt to strong-arm U.S. businesses regarding censorship, surveillance or possible facilitation of human rights violations, they may be exposed in the broader international business arena and among free trading partners. Government-to-government diplomatic engagement including multilateral efforts and social media engagement across diverse cultures are key to combating state-sponsored online abuses that are on the rise, including blog infiltrators, technical and physical attacks on citizens for their online speech, hijacking of personal accounts and pressure on intermediaries leading to voluntary takedowns of content.

CCIA’s View:

Multi-stakeholder forums such as the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and Freedom House can best advance the goal of Internet freedom by calling out Internet restricting nations from a human rights perspective, and promote the Internet as a tool of economic growth around the world.  Companies need a reliable rough consensus framework and guidelines of their own for response when an Internet freedom crisis occurs.  Government prosecution of Internet censorship as a trade barrier in violation of international trade agreements is also an appropriate way to improve the free flow of data across national borders.  By contrast, international governmental regulation of the Internet by the ITU, an agency of the United Nations, is not advisable, and would threaten to fragment and disrupt the global Internet.  That is why in 2012, Congress passed a unanimous resolution against ITU regulation of the Internet.

Most Recent Statements&Findings:

Internet Freedom and Jackson-Vanik

One of the most prominent trade issues in 2012 centers on Congressional approval of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia.  While extending PNTR to Russia would provide some economic benefits to both countries following Russia’s WTO entry, we believe that there is another aspect to this issue to be considered: that of Internet Freedom.…

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Twitter’s Difficult Choice: The Unenviable Position of U.S. Internet Companies

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it had created a targeted solution to removing locally “illegal” material on a country-by-country basis.  Perhaps understandably, the company has been accused of abetting censorship, particularly because Twitter is one of the online platforms that has played such an important role in empowering traditionally silenced minority groups, democracy activists and protestors around the world. However,…

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Thai for Two?

What do the MPAA, the RIAA, the U.S. Congress, and the perennially human-rights-challenged Thai government have in common?  A similar taste in misguided regulations with draconian flair. In Thailand, the Computer Crimes Act holds a website operator responsible for any content posted on his or her website.  The country also has strict lèse majesté laws that make…

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