AOH :: PT-1287.HTM

Reporters Without Borders calls for regulation of U.S. Internet companies

Reporters Without Borders calls for regulation of U.S. Internet companies
Reporters Without Borders calls for regulation of U.S. Internet companies



We all know the Republicans and Democrats are clearly staunch protectors 
of free speech. These principled statesman would never even think of 
enacting any law that infringes on the First Amendment.

The above is tongue-in-cheek, of course. But it shows how odd it is to 
see RSF asking for government help to _support_ free speech through more 
regulation. In general it's better for free expression if the Feds take 
a libertarian position and ignore the topic as much as possible.

I've had this discussion with Julien (of RSF) in the past and I doubt 
we'll convince each other. But it strikes me that he's able to identify 
all these apparent examples of market failure, but not as able to 
identify instances of _government_ failure.

If he gets his way and such a law were to be enacted (banning U.S. 
companies from hosting Web sites in repressive regimes), all that would 
happen is overseas companies with even fewer scruples would do the job. 
(Knowledge of Web hosting is hardly limited to the U.S.) Yahoo and 
Microsoft might shy away from really heinous behavior; a Singapore or 
Saudi or Chinese company may not.

-Declan

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Do Internet companies need to be regulated to ensure they 
respect free  expression? / Faut-il encadrer  l'activit=E9 des entreprises 
du secteur de l'Internet  pour qu'elles respectent la  libert=E9 
d'expression ?
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 2006 17:57:51 +0100
From: rsf.Internet  
To: internet@rsf.org 

English / fran=E7ais
6.01.06

Reporters Without Borders / Internet Freedom desk

INTERNATIONAL

Do Internet companies need to be regulated to
ensure they respect free expression?

Reporters Without Borders' proposals

The recent case of Microsoft closing down a
journalist's blog under pressure from the Chinese
authorities once again shows that some Internet
sector companies do not respect freedom of
expression when operating in repressive
countries. Reporters Without Borders proposes
five concrete ways to make these companies behave
ethically. These recommendations are addressed to
the US government and US legislators because all
the companies named in this document are based in
the United States. Nonetheless, they concern all
democratic countries and have therefore been sent
to European Union officials and to the Secretary
General of the OECD as well.

Background

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly
condemned the ethical lapses displayed by certain
Internet sector companies when operating in
repressive countries. Here are some examples that
have caused us particular concern:

- Since 2002, Yahoo! has agreed to censor the
results of the Chinese version of its search
engine in accordance with a blacklist provide by
the Chinese government. Reporters Without Borders
also recently proved that Yahoo! helped the
Chinese police identify and then convict a
journalist who was criticising human rights
abuses in China. The e-mail servers of Yahoo!'s
Chinese division are located inside China.

- Microsoft censors the Chinese version of its
MSN Spaces blog tool. You cannot enter search
strings such as "democracy" or "human rights in
China" or "capitalism" as they are automatically
rejected by the system. Microsoft also closed
down a Chinese journalist's blog following
pressure from the government in Beijing. This
blog was hosted on servers located in the United
States.

- All sources of news and information that are
censored in China have been withdrawn by Google
from the Chinese version of its news search
engine, Google News.

- Secure Computing has sold Tunisia technology
that allows it to censor independent news and
information websites such as the Reporters
Without Borders one.

- Fortinet has sold the same kind of software to Burma.

- Cisco Systems has marketed equipment
specifically designed to make it easier for the
Chinese police to carry out surveillance of
electronic communications. Cisco is also
suspected of giving Chinese engineers training in
how to use its products to censor the Internet.

We believe these practices violate the right to
freedom of expression as defined in article 19 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which
was proclaimed by the United Nations when it was
founded and which is supposed to apply to
everyone, including business corporations.
Furthermore, such ethical failings on the part of
American companies damage the image of the Unites
States abroad.

Our previous initiatives

Reporters Without Borders has written to the
chief executives of several corporations since
2002 proposing an exchange of ideas on this
issue. None of our letters have been answered. We
have also tried to alert the shareholders of
these companies through investment funds. We
presented a joint statement on 7 November in New
York in which 25 investment firms managing some
21 billion dollars in assets undertook to monitor
the activities of Internet companies operating in
repressive countries.

Aside from Google, all the companies we
approached refused to enter into a dialogue on
this subject. We would therefore now like the
American people's elected representatives and the
Department of State to formally take up this
issue.

The initiative

Reporters Without Borders is convinced that a law
regulating the activities of Internet companies
should only be drafted as a last resort, and we
therefore recommend a two-step approach.
Initially, a group of congressmen should formally
ask Internet corporations to reach an agreement
among themselves on a code of conduct that
includes the recommendations we make at the end
of this document. The companies would be urged to
use the help of organisations specialised in
freedom of expression in drafting the document.
The request would include a deadline for the
companies to submit their draft code of conduct
to the congressmen concerned.

In the event that no satisfactory code of conduct
has been drawn up when the deadline expires, or
the proposed code has not been accepted by a
sufficient number of representative companies,
the congressmen would set about drafting a law
that would aim to ensure that US companies
respect freedom of expression when they are
operating in repressive countries and elsewhere.

Reporters Without Borders' proposals

We have listed our recommendations according to
the type of service or equipment marketed by
Internet companies:

- E-mail services:
No US company would be allowed to host e-mail
servers within a repressive country*. So, if the
authorities of a repressive country want personal
information about the user of a US company's
e-mail service, they would have to request it
under a procedure supervised by US.

- Search engines:
Search engines would not be allowed to
incorporate automatic filters that censor
"protected" words. The list of "protected"
keywords such as "democracy" or "human rights"
should be appended to the law or code of conduct.

- Content hosts (websites, blogs, discussion forums etc)
US companies would not be allowed to locate their
host servers within repressive countries. If the
authorities of a repressive country desire the
closure of a publication hosted by a US company,
they would have to request it under a procedure
supervised by the US judicial authorities. Like
search engines, content hosts would not be
allowed to incorporate automatic filters that
censor "protected" key-words.

- Internet censorship technologies
Reporters Without Borders proposes two options:

Option a: US companies would no longer be
permitted to sell Internet censorship software to
repressive states.

Option b: They would still be able to market this
type of software but it will have to incorporate
a list of "protected" keywords that are rendered
technically impossible to censor.

- Internet surveillance technology and equipment
US companies would have to obtain the express
permission of the Department of Commerce in order
to sell to a repressive country any technology or
equipment which can be used to intercept
electronic communications or which is
specifically designed to assist the authorities
in monitoring Internet users.

- Training
US companies would have to obtain the express
permission of the Department of Commerce before
providing any programme of training in Internet
surveillance and censorship techniques in a
repressive country.

* A list of countries that repress freedom of
expression would be drawn up on the basis of
documents provided by the US State Department and
would be appended to the code of conduct or law
that is adopted. This list would be regularly
updated.

Note: The purpose of these recommendations is to
protect freedom of expression. They in no way aim
to restrict the necessary cooperation between
governments in their efforts to combat terrorism,
paedophilia and cyber-crime.

------------------------------------------------

INTERNATIONAL

Faut-il encadrer l'activit=E9 des entreprises du
secteur de l'Internet pour qu'elles respectent la
libert=E9 d'expression ?

Les propositions de Reporters sans fronti=E8res

L'affaire Microsoft, qui vient de fermer le blog
d'un journaliste sous la pression des autorit=E9s
chinoises, d=E9montre une nouvelle fois que
certaines entreprises du secteur de l'Internet ne
respectent pas la libert=E9 d'expression
lorsqu'elles op=E8rent dans des pays r=E9pressifs.
Reporters sans fronti=E8res pr=E9sente cinq
propositions  concr=E8tes pour garantir que ces
entreprises exercent leur activit=E9 de mani=E8re
=E9thique. Ces recommandations sont adress=E9es au
gouvernement  et aux =E9lus am=E9ricains, car toutes
les entreprises mises en cause dans ce document
sont bas=E9es aux Etats-unis. Elles concernent
toutefois l'ensemble des pays d=E9mocratiques et
ont ainsi =E9t=E9 transmises =E9galement au secr=E9taire
g=E9n=E9ral de l'OCDE et aux responsables de l'Union
europ=E9enne.

Contexte

Reporters sans fronti=E8res a d=E9nonc=E9, =E0 plusieurs
reprises, le fourvoiement =E9thique de certaines
entreprises du secteur de l'Internet lorsqu'elles
op=E8rent dans des pays r=E9pressifs. Voici quelques
exemples qui nous pr=E9occupent particuli=E8rement :

- Yahoo ! accepte depuis 2002 de censurer les
r=E9sultats de la version chinoise de son moteur de
recherche, selon une blacklist fournie par les
autorit=E9s de P=E9kin. Reporters sans fronti=E8res a
par ailleurs r=E9cemment prouv=E9 que cette
entreprise avait aid=E9 la police chinoise =E0
identifier puis =E0 condamner un journaliste qui
critiquait les atteintes aux droits de l'homme
dans son pays. Les serveurs d'e-mails de la
branche chinoise de Yahoo ! sont bas=E9s en Chine.

- Microsoft censure la version chinoise de son
outil de blog, MSN spaces. Sur cet outil, il est
impossible de taper les mots "d=E9mocratie" ou
"droits de l'homme en Chine", qui sont
automatiquement rejet=E9s par le syst=E8me. Cette
entreprise a par ailleurs proc=E9d=E9 =E0 la fermeture
du blog d'un journaliste chinois suite =E0 des
pressions de la part du gouvernement de P=E9kin. Ce
blog =E9tait h=E9berg=E9 sur des serveurs bas=E9s aux
Etats-Unis.

- Google a retir=E9 de la version chinoise de son
outil de recherche d'actualit=E9, Google News,
toutes les sources d'informations censur=E9es dans
le pays.

- Secure Computing a vendu =E0 la Tunisie la
technologie qui lui permet de censurer les sites
d'information ind=E9pendants, dont celui de
Reporters sans fronti=E8res.

   - Fortinet a vendu =E0 la Birmanie le m=EAme type de logiciel.

- Cisco Systems a commercialis=E9 des =E9quipements
sp=E9cifiquement con=E7us pour faciliter le travail
de surveillance des communications de la police
chinoise. Cette entreprise est =E9galement
soup=E7onn=E9e d'avoir form=E9 des ing=E9nieurs chinois =E0
l'utilisation de ses produits pour censurer
Internet.

Nous estimons que ces pratiques portent atteinte
=E0 la libert=E9 d'expression telle que d=E9finie par
l'article 19 de la D=E9claration universelle des
droits de l'homme, un texte fondateur des Nations
unies cens=E9 s'appliquer =E0 tous, y compris aux
entit=E9s commerciales. En outre, de tels
fourvoiements =E9thiques de la part d'entreprises
am=E9ricaines ternissent l'image des Etats-Unis =E0
l'=E9tranger.

Nos pr=E9c=E9dentes initiatives

Depuis 2002, Reporters sans fronti=E8res a adress=E9
plusieurs courriers aux PDG de ces entreprises,
leur demandant d'engager une r=E9flexion sur le
sujet. Toutes nos lettres sont rest=E9e sans
r=E9ponse. L'organisation a =E9galement tent=E9
d'alerter les actionnaires de ces soci=E9t=E9s, =E0
travers des fonds d'investissement. Nous avons
ainsi pr=E9sent=E9 =E0 New York, le 7 novembre, une
d=E9claration commune dans laquelle 25
investisseurs et analystes financiers, qui g=E8rent
plus de 21 milliards d'actifs, se sont engag=E9s =E0
surveiller les entreprises du secteur d'Internet
qui op=E8rent dans des pays r=E9pressifs.

Hormis Google, les entreprises que nous avons
approch=E9es ont toutes refus=E9 d'engager un
dialogue sur cette question. Nous souhaitons donc
aujourd'hui que les repr=E9sentants =E9lus du peuple
am=E9ricain, ainsi que le d=E9partement d'Etat, se
saisissent formellement de cette question.

La d=E9marche

Reporters sans fronti=E8res est convaincue que la
r=E9daction d'un texte r=E9glementaire encadrant
l'activit=E9 des entreprises du secteur d'Internet
est une solution qui ne doit =EAtre utilis=E9e qu'en
dernier recours. Nous recommandons par cons=E9quent
une proc=E9dure en deux =E9tapes. Dans un premier
temps, un groupe de parlementaires devrait
demander formellement aux entreprises du secteur
d'Internet de s'entendre sur un code de
d=E9ontologie qui s'inspirerait les recommandations
de Reporters sans fronti=E8res expos=E9es =E0 la fin de
ce document. Il serait par ailleurs conseill=E9 aux
entreprises de d'associer des organisations de
d=E9fense de la libert=E9 d'expression =E0 la r=E9daction
de ce document. Cette requ=EAte serait assortie
d'un d=E9lai =E0 l'issue duquel un texte devrait =EAtre
soumis aux parlementaires =E0 l'origine de cette
initiative.

Dans le cas o=F9, apr=E8s expiration de ce d=E9lai,
aucun code de d=E9ontologie satisfaisant n'avait
=E9t=E9 =E9labor=E9, ou si le document propos=E9 ne ferait
pas l'objet d'un consensus de la part d'un nombre
suffisant d'acteurs repr=E9sentatifs, les
parlementaires pourraient s'atteler =E0 la
r=E9daction d'un texte l=E9gislatif contraignant.
Cette loi aurait pour objectif de s'assurer que
les entreprises respectent la libert=E9
d'expression, et ce m=EAme lorsqu'elles exercent
leur activit=E9 hors du territoire des pays
r=E9pressifs.

Les propositions de Reporters sans fronti=E8res

Reporters sans fronti=E8res a choisi de segmenter
ses recommandations en fonction du type de
service ou d'=E9quipement commercialis=E9 :

- Les services d'e-mail :
Les entreprises am=E9ricaines ne seraient pas
autoris=E9es =E0 h=E9berger des serveurs d'e-mail sur
le territoire d'un pays r=E9pressif*.  Ainsi, si
les autorit=E9s d'un pays r=E9pressif souhaitent
obtenir des informations personnelles concernant
l'utilisateur d'un service de mail commercialis=E9
par une entreprise am=E9ricaine, elles devraient le
faire dans le cadre d'une proc=E9dure supervis=E9e
par la justice am=E9ricaine.

- Les moteurs de  recherche :
Les moteurs de recherche ne pourraient plus
int=E9grer de filtres automatiques censurant  des
mots-clefs dit "prot=E9g=E9s". Une liste de ces
mots-clefs "prot=E9g=E9s" - tels que "d=E9mocratie", ou
"droits de l'homme" - devrait ainsi =EAtre jointe =E0
la loi ou au code de d=E9ontologie.

- Les h=E9bergeurs de contenu (sites Web, blogs, forums de discussion, etc.)
Les entreprises am=E9ricaines ne seraient pas
autoris=E9es =E0 placer leurs serveurs d'h=E9bergement
sur le territoire de pays r=E9pressifs. Si les
autorit=E9s d'un pays r=E9pressif souhaitent obtenir
la fermeture d'une publication h=E9berg=E9e par une
entreprise am=E9ricaine, elles devraient le faire
dans le cadre d'une proc=E9dure supervis=E9e par la
justice am=E9ricaine.
Comme les moteurs de recherche, les h=E9bergeurs de
contenu ne seraient pas autoris=E9s =E0 mettre en
place des filtres automatiques censurant  des
mots-clefs dit "prot=E9g=E9s".

- Les technologies de censure du Net
Reporters sans fronti=E8res propose deux options :

Option a :les entreprises am=E9ricaines ne seraient
plus autoris=E9es =E0 vendre aux Etats r=E9pressifs des
logiciels de censure d'Internet.

Option b : ce type de logiciel est toujours
commercialisable, mais inclurait une liste de
mots-clefs "prot=E9g=E9s" qui seraient rendus
techniquement impossibles =E0 censurer.

- Les technologies et =E9quipement de surveillance d'Internet
Pour vendre =E0 des pays r=E9pressifs des
technologies ou des =E9quipements permettant
d'intercepter les communications =E9lectroniques,
ou des technologies ou des =E9quipements con=E7us
sp=E9cifiquement pour aider les services des pays
r=E9pressifs =E0 surveiller les internautes, les
entreprises am=E9ricaines devraient obtenir une
autorisation expresse du d=E9partement du commerce.

- Les formations
Avant d'engager un programme de formation portant
sur des techniques de surveillance et de censure
d'Internet dans un pays r=E9pressif, les
entreprises am=E9ricaines devraient obtenir une
autorisation expresse du d=E9partement du commerce.

* Une liste des pays r=E9pressifs de la libert=E9
d'expression devrait =EAtre =E9tablie, sur la base
des documents produits par le State Department
am=E9ricain, et annex=E9e au code de d=E9ontologie ou
au texte l=E9gislatif adopt=E9. Cette liste serait
mis =E0 jour r=E9guli=E8rement.

Note : Ces recommandations ont pour objectif de
prot=E9ger la libert=E9 d'expression. Elles ne visent
en aucune mani=E8re =E0 limiter la n=E9cessaire
collaboration inter=E9tatique dans le domaine de la
lutte contre le terrorisme, la p=E9dophilie ou la
cybercriminalit=E9.


--
Julien Pain
Bureau Internet et libert=E9s / Internet Freedom desk
___________________________________________

Reporters sans fronti=E8res / Reporters Without Borders
TEL: ++ 33 (0) 1 44 83 84 71
FAX: ++ 33 (0) 1 45 23 11 51
internet@rsf.org 
www.internet.rsf.org 

Read our handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents :
http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=542 

Consultez notre guide du blogger et du cyberdissident :
http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=527 
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