Obama Administration Pushes Internet Freedom Abroad While Urging Crack-Down At Home

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Obama Administration Pushes Internet Freedom Abroad While Urging Crack-Down At Home

Left-leaning Demand Progress calls administration to task for Internet censorship policies

WASHINGTON - The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  The United States this month signed on to a statement praising a pro-Internet freedom report by the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, even as the U.S. pushes new domestic laws and regulations to censor the Internet, restrict users' Internet access, and criminalize more online activities.

Those efforts, pushed by the Obama Administration, its Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, and certain members of Congress include:

1) Senate Bill 978 -- the "Ten Strikes Bill" -- would make unlicensed online streaming a felony -- punishable by 5 years in prison. 

2) Senate Bill 968 -- the PROTECT IP Act or "Internet Blacklist Bill" -- would give the government the power to force Internet service providers, search engines, and other "information location tools" to block users' access to sites that have been accused of copyright infringement -- the initiation of a China-style censorship regime here in the United States.

3) It was reported last week that the Obama administration is facilitating a "three strikes" style deal between Internet Service Providers and intellectual property rights holders to reduce bandwidth and restrict web access to certain sites for users who have been accused of copyright infringement.  As CNET reported:

 

The White House was also instrumental in encouraging the parties to reach an agreement, the sources confirmed. President Obama has said intellectual property is important to the country's economy and has vowed to step up the fight against piracy and counterfeiting. His administration has lobbied Congress the past several years to pass new pro-copyright legislation while instructing federal law enforcement to make antipiracy a priority.

 

The technology news website Arstechnica reported that such "three strikes" laws were singled out for particular condemnation:

 

[Special Rapporteur Frank] La Rue saved some of his strongest criticism for the "three strikes" laws recently enacted by France and the UK. He writes that he is "deeply concerned" about proposals to create a centralized system for cutting people off from Internet access as a punishment for copyright infringement.

 

The Special Rapporteur is "alarmed" by these regulations, writing that cutting off Internet access as a response to copyright infringement is "disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

 

"Promoting civil liberties and Internet freedom abroad is a noble goal, but if we want to be taken seriously, we need to live by those same ideals here at home" said Demand Progress executive director David Segal.  "Doing otherwise opposes American values, represents the height of hypocrisy, and provides comfort to regimes that want to use Internet censorship to stifle democracy."

The UN report may be found here:  http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.27_en.pdf

The statement praising the report, signed by the United States, is housed here:  http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/14194/a/170566

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Demand Progress works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing, lobbying, and elections in the United States.

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