US Senate Internet freedom hearing - 2 Mar 2010

The US Senate's Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held a hearing on “Global Internet Freedom and the Rule of Law” on 2 March 2010.  The following are some key statements and materials relating to the hearing:

  • Durbin Chairs Follow-up Hearing on Global Internet Freedom- Office of US Senator Dick Durbin, 2 Mar 2010:
    " 'With a few notable exceptions, the information technology industry seems unwilling to regulate itself and unwilling even to engage in a dialogue with Congress about the serious human rights challenges the industry faces.  As a result, I plan to introduce legislation that would require internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights or face civil or criminal liability,' Durbin said... Durbin...urged firms to join...the Global Network Initiative (GNI)...[which] currently has only three members: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!... Only three companies, AT&T, McAfee and Skype, have committed to discuss joining GNI.  One company, Websense, has indicated that they will join the GNI if the membership fee is waived... Facebook, Twitter, HP, and Apple were all asked to testify and refused.  McAfee agreed to testify at today’s hearing but withdrew late last week."
  • Testimony of Rebecca MacKinnon [PDF], Internet freedom expert, Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University [USA], Co-Founder of Global Voices Online:
    "[A]uthoritarian regimes have at their disposal an expanding toolbox of technical, legal, commercial and political mechanisms to censor, manipulate, and monitor citizens’ online speech: Filtering or 'blocking'... Deletion and takedown of content by Internet companies... Compliance with political 'law enforcement'... Device-level and local controls...
    Recommendations... Corporate responsibility: ...I support a voluntary component backed up by legislation if necessary... Legislative measures:...Legal support for victims... Incentives for socially responsible innovation... Upgrade export controls..."
  • Senator to Introduce Internet Human Rights Bill - Grant Gross, PCWorld, 2 Mar 2010:
    "Durbin targeted Facebook for some of his criticism. Facebook told Durbin that it takes down some content when it violates local laws, he said.  When he asked Facebook why it was not part of GNI, the company said it didn't have the resources to participate in the group and it didn't have operations in China..., he said.  About 70 percent of Facebook's users are outside the U.S. The company, and others like it, could benefit from the dialog at GNI, said Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor at the U.S. Department of State."
  • Key security firm bails on Senate hearing - Tony Romm, The Hill [USA], 1 Mar 2010:
    "McAfee announced late Monday that it was declining to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee...Human Rights and the Law subcommittee... McAfee said the subcommittee is not likely to focus enough on industry voices. As a result, it said it did not feel it would be able to offer much substance to the conversation... 'Durbin invited McAfee to testify because filtering software produced by American companies has allegedly been used to censor the internet in several countries with repressive governments – including China,' a Durbin aide [said]..."