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Censorship Government United States Politics

Global Online Freedom Act Approved By House Committee 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-watches-the-watchers dept.
Fluffeh writes "While it is a bit disappointing that companies might need a law to avoid providing tools that censor free speech to overseas regimes, an updated version of a bill that's been floating around for a few years — the Global Online Freedom Act — has passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The version that made it out of committee took out some controversial earlier provisions that had potential criminal penalties for those who failed to report information to the Justice Department. However, the Center for Democracy and Technology has raised some concerns: 'While some companies – such as GNI members Google, Microsoft, Websense, and Yahoo! – have stepped up and acknowledged these responsibilities in an accountable way, other companies have not been so forthright. GOFA, however, is a complex bill. While it presents a number of sensible and innovative mechanisms for mitigating the negative impact of surveillance and censorship technologies, it also raises some difficult questions: can export controls be meaningfully extended in ways that reduce the spread of (to borrow words from Chairman Smith) "weapons of mass surveillance" without diminishing the ability of dissidents to connect and communicate? How can – and should – U.S. companies engage with so-called "Internet-restricting" countries?'"
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Global Online Freedom Act Approved By House Committee

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  • hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:44PM (#39525039)

    It'll be humorous when the U.S. finds itself in the "internet restricting countries" category.

    • When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet
      • by icebike (68054) *

        When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet

        Actually the US DOES admit to censoring the internet, which is exactly why this bill goes nowhere.

        From Childporn (won't someone please think of the children), to domain grabbing (gotta protect those helpless movie companies), to banning internet gambling, and futile blocking of wikileaks, the US is heavily involved in censoring. This active censor ship, when combined by world-wide conspiracy to foist ACTA on every country on earth in total secrecy makes the US one of the biggest offenders. They simply spin

      • When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet

        I believe the common parlance is differently restricted....

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      You can bet there is language in the bill to make damn sure it could never apply to the U.S. government.

    • My thoughts too... So it is bad if we export it to governments, but OK if we mandate it for the use of the *IAAs? Really?
    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      "When"? As in "in some future"? Other countries may restrict what their citizens do in internet, when they are their are there. U.S. is actually restricting, censoring, and inspecting what everyone, no matter where, no matter citizen of which country is, does in internet. And no, is not funny.
    • by Jonner (189691)

      There's no chance this bill will have any effect on what a a company can do for the US government. A bill restricting that would make sense rather than this useless waste of time.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:44PM (#39525049)

    Pretty soon, the US will have less online freedom than the rest of the world.

    And here they come bitching about other nations?

    Start by repealing the DMCA and the other crap that followed, and stop trying to impose US law on other countries, THEN you can talk about online freedom.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:04PM (#39525325) Journal

      Indeed. That Western nations don't see the irony of condemning places like Iran and China for heavy censorship and monitoring of the Internet even as they seem to entertain every single "digital rights" demands of the entertainment industry is a rather sad testament to just how compartmentalized, corrupted and in some cases just outright stupid lawmakers are.

  • by JBMcB (73720) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:47PM (#39525109)

    Does that include Snort/AirSnort? EtherApe?

    Sorry, this is dumb. If the government is really interested in promoting "internet freedom" or whatever, they'd promote technologies to make it difficult to monitor or censor the internet. Of course they aren't going to take that path, as it would prevent THEM from monitoring or censoring the internet. Notice the bill only covers US businesses dealing with foreign countries, not the US government.

  • Oh yeah that's encouraging. At least we have a bill that doesn't suck out there.
  • doesn't understand that the profit principle happily and freely tramples over any human rights it can.

    You need a democratic government (not a plutocratic one), regulation, to actually protect your rights from the capitalist imperative.

    • prepending "fundamentalist" to any group pretty much guarantees you're talking about a bunch of bigoted assholes.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        so what you're saying is saying "fundamentalist libertarian" is being redundant?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Seriously, that's the only reason half (if not more) of these silly/terrible bills are accepted, because they tack on the word "Freedom"
    Even though it's never freedom for the people. The only "freedoms" these bullshit things give is freedom for the government to trounce the freedoms of everyone else.
  • Our government is happy to surveille their own citizens (even with drones and cameras everywhere). So, essentially we can do it, but nobody else should!

    • Has anyone really scrutinized this bill?

      Is it parading around in another nice name but containing more nasty tricks?

      The other bills just reeked of pure evil. Is this wrapping the evil up in obfuscating layers?

    • Well you see, when we do it, we are doing it for the right reasons. When China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia do it, they are doing it for the wrong reasons.
  • by scubamage (727538) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:02PM (#39525295)
    So all of these companies will set up a factory overseas via a shell company to sell this equipment abroad. The parts get manufactured wherever, shipped there and assembled, and from there sold to whatever dictator wants to be an asshat. I haven't had a chance to look at the legislation, but I find it hard to believe they think this will work.
    • Why a shell? The way things are going, they may just move the whole damn company over seas. Most of the workforce is going there anyway...
  • by sudden.zero (981475) <sudden.zeroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:05PM (#39525351)
    Bills are so crammed full of stuff that has nothing to do with what the bill claims to be about, and this will always be the case. The only way this will change is if a reform act is passed to limit bills to one subject. If bills were limited to one subject, and only one subject, then things would be clear, concise, and easily voted up or down. The reason why this will never happen is that there would be no way for politicians to slip there little pork barrels in anywhere.
    • Bills are so crammed full of stuff that has nothing to do with what the bill claims to be about, and this will always be the case. The only way this will change is if a reform act is passed to limit bills to one subject. If bills were limited to one subject, and only one subject, then things would be clear, concise, and easily voted up or down. The reason why this will never happen is that there would be no way for politicians to slip there little pork barrels in anywhere.

      It can be done. Constitution of the State of Washington (adopted in 1889), Article II:

      SECTION 19 BILL TO CONTAIN ONE SUBJECT. No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

      SECTION 38 LIMITATION ON AMENDMENTS. No amendment to any bill shall be allowed which shall change the scope and object of the bill.

      • by pclminion (145572)
        Seriously? I could easily debate for DAYS on what "one subject" means, what "scope" means, and what "object" means. That's so vaguely worded it's completely useless.
        • Humans are not machines, so laws are necessarily vague to account for various different circumstances. But, so long as the law is on the books, it can be brought up in a court of law, and then you'll have to argue all that stuff before the judge - who I doubt will have the patience to hear you "debate for days", and will use basic common sense to reach a decision. It's not a perfect system, but it's one extra check, which is a great lot when you start with zero.

          • by pclminion (145572)
            IMO, either you rely on common sense to figure things out, or you rely on precisely worded laws. There is no mixture. If the judge is going to use "common sense" then why does he need laws to refer to?
            • Judge needs the laws because his job is to interpret and apply laws. You basically need some law that can be claimed to be violated for it to be put before judge, who can then use common sense when interpreting said law and the alleged violation of it.

  • ... grep is now classified as export restricted technology.

  • While it is a bit disappointing that companies might need a law to avoid providing tools that censor free speech to overseas regimes

    No more disappointing than the need to have laws to tell companies not to poison the environment, sell dangerous and defective products, commit fraud, etc.

    The law has to recognize human nature. If all men were angels, we wouldn't need laws.

  • Let me see if I understand this...we are going to pass a law preventing U.S. companies from complying with the laws of other sovereign nations with whom they do business, if we feel that those nations are being oppressive to their people. Meanwhile, we ignore our own Constitution anywhere and any way we feel like it, because after all, you have a 4th Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches, but "this search isn't unreasonable" or "you voluntarily waived that right when you ____

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