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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Representative Christopher Smith on China 

From the website of Representative Christopher Smith, Republican from New Jersey. No "put business first" Republican, he has voiced the following criticisms of U.S. company practices in China:

We are here to examine a problem that is deeply troubling to me, and I believe, to the American people: that American technology and know-how is substantially enabling repressive regimes in China and elsewhere in the world to cruelly exploit and abuse their own citizens....

[W]hile the internet has opened up commercial opportunities and provided access to vast amounts of information for people the world over, the internet has also become a malicious tool: a cyber sledgehammer of repression of the government of China. As soon as the promise of the Internet began to be fulfilled – when brave Chinese began to email each other and others about human rights issues and corruption by government leaders - the Party cracked down. To date, an estimated 49 cyber-dissidents and 32 journalists have been imprisoned by the PRC for merely posting information on the Internet critical of the regime. And that’s likely to be only the tip of the iceberg.

Tragically, history shows us that American companies and their subsidiaries have provided the technology to crush human rights in the past. Edwin Black’s book IBM and the Holocaust reveals the dark story of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. Thanks to IBM’s enabling technologies, from programs for identification and cataloging to the use of IBM’s punch card technology, Hitler and the Third Reich were able to automate the genocide of the Jews.

U.S. technology companies today are engaged in a similar sickening collaboration, decapitating the voice of the dissidents. In 2005, Yahoo’s cooperation with Chinese secret police led to the imprisonment of the cyber-dissident Shi Tao. And this was not the first time. According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo also handed over data to Chinese authorities on another of its users, Li Zhi . Li Zhi was sentenced on December 10, 2003 to eight years in prison for “inciting subversion.” His “crime” was to criticize in online discussion groups and articles the well-known corruption of local officials....

But Smith is not just foaming at the mouth. He is proposing action:

The situation led Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) to announce that he would be introducing a bill requiring technology companies to yank services and equipment from countries that do not meet U.S. standards on free speech.

But that's not the only Internet bill that's been introduced. Here's H.R. 4741:


2d Session

H. R. 4741
To develop and deploy technologies to defeat Internet jamming.


February 14, 2006
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN (for herself, Mr. LANTOS, Mr. SAXTON, Mr. WELLER, Mr. SCHIFF, Mr. ACKERMAN, Mr. WOLF, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. ISSA, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, and Mr. SIMMONS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations


To develop and deploy technologies to defeat Internet jamming.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Global Internet Freedom Act'.


Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association are fundamental characteristics of a free society. The first amendment to the Constitution guarantees that `Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . .'. These constitutional provisions guarantee the rights of Americans to communicate and associate with one another without restriction, including unfettered communication and association via the Internet. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations explicitly guarantees the freedom to `receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers'.

(2) All peoples have the right to communicate freely with others, and to have unrestricted access to news and information, including on the Internet.

(3) With nearly 14 percent of the population of the world now online, and an increasing number of people gaining access to the Internet each day, the Internet stands to become the most powerful engine for democratization and the free exchange of ideas ever invented.

(4) Unrestricted access to news and information on the Internet is a check on authoritarian rule by repressive foreign governments in countries around the world.

(5) The governments of Burma, Cuba, Iran, Laos, the Maldives, North Korea, the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam, among others, are taking active measures to prevent their citizens from freely accessing the Internet and from obtaining international political, religious, and economic news and information.

(6) Intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and media organizations have reported the widespread and increasing pattern by repressive foreign governments of Internet jamming, including jamming, censoring, blocking, monitoring, and restricting Internet access and content by using technologies such as firewalls, filters, and `black boxes'. Such interference with individual activity on the Internet includes surveillance of e-mail messages, message boards, and the use of particular words, `stealth blocking' individuals from visiting particular websites, the development of `black lists' of users who seek to visit these websites, and the complete denial of access to the Internet.

(7) The websites of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, as well as hundreds of news sources with an Internet presence, are routinely being jammed by repressive governments.

(8) Since the 1940s, the United States has deployed anti-jamming technologies to make Voice of America and other United States-sponsored radio broadcasting available to peoples in countries with governments that seek to block news and information.

(9) The United States has thus far commenced only modest steps to fund and deploy technologies to defeat Internet jamming. To date, for example, the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia have committed a total of $3,000,000 for technology to counter Internet jamming of their websites by the People's Republic of China. This technology has been relied upon by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia to ensure access to their programming, and it has successfully permitted 100,000 electronic hits per day from users in China. However, United States financial support for this technology has lapsed. In most other countries there is no meaningful United States support for Internet freedom.

(10) The success of United States policy in support of freedom of speech, press, and association requires new initiatives to defeat totalitarian and authoritarian controls on news and information over the Internet.


The purposes of this Act are--

(1) to adopt an effective and robust global Internet freedom policy;

(2) to establish an office within the International Broadcasting Bureau with the sole mission of countering Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments;

(3) to expedite the development and deployment of technologies to protect Internet freedom in countries around the world;

(4) to authorize a substantial portion of United States international broadcasting resources to be committed to the continued development and implementation of technologies to counter Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments;

(5) to utilize the expertise of the private sector in the development and implementation of such technologies, so that the many current technologies used commercially for securing business transactions and providing virtual meeting spaces can be used to promote democracy and freedom in countries around the world; and

(6) to bring to bear the pressure of the free world on repressive foreign governments that engage in Internet jamming and the intimidation and persecution by such governments of their citizens who use the Internet.


(a) Establishment of Office of Global Internet Freedom- There is established in the International Broadcasting Bureau the Office of Global Internet Freedom (in this Act referred to as the `Office'). The Office shall be headed by a Director who shall develop and implement a comprehensive global strategy to combat state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments, and the intimidation and persecution by such governments of their citizens who use the Internet.

(b) Cooperation of Other Federal Departments and Agencies- Each department and agency of the United States Government shall cooperate fully with, and assist in the implementation of, the strategy developed by the Office and shall make such resources and information available to the Office as is necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act.

(c) Report to Congress- Not later than March 1 of the year following the date of the enactment of this Act and one year thereafter, the Director of the Office shall submit to Congress a report on the status of state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments and a description of efforts by the United States to counter such jamming. Each report shall list the countries the governments of which engage in Internet jamming, provide information concerning the government agencies or quasi-governmental organizations of such governments that engage in Internet jamming; and describe with the greatest particularity practicable the technological means by which such jamming is accomplished. If the Director determines that such is appropriate, the Director may submit such report together with a classified annex.

(d) Limitation on Authority- Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted to authorize any action by the United States to interfere with Internet jamming by a repressive foreign government if such jamming is in furtherance of legitimate law enforcement aims that are consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(e) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated to the Office $50,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2007 and 2008.


It is the sense of Congress that the United States should--

(1) publicly, prominently, and consistently denounce repressive foreign governments that engage in Internet jamming;

(2) direct the United States Representative to the United Nations to submit a resolution at the next annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission condemning repressive foreign governments that engage in Internet jamming and deny their citizens the freedom to access and share information on the Internet; and

(3) deploy, at the earliest practicable date, technologies aimed at defeating state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments and the intimidation and persecution by such governments of their citizens who use the Internet.


In this Act, the term `Internet jamming' means jamming, censoring, blocking, monitoring, or restricting Internet access and content by using technologies such as firewalls, filters, and `black boxes'.

Of course, as I believe I've noted before, all societies repress the Internet to some extent, and most of us accept this as a good thing. This bill, by talking about repressive foreign governments, specifically excludes private enterprises (e.g. AOL) and specifically excludes domestic governments. So the U.S. or AOL or our favorite evil firms (Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco, Google) can repress all it wants. For example, this action by a domestic company would not be prohibited by the law:

The German website of BMW, the carmaker, has been removed from Google’s search results as part of the web company’s crack down on the manipulation of its search engine.

Google confirmed on Monday that BMW.de had been removed from all search engine results.

Incidentally, the repression by Google was not permanent:

I said BMW would be back soon after they got banned on Saturday. Matt Cutts over at Google lets everyone know they are now back in. So, they got a three day slap on the wrist. It demonstrates once again how public spam reports can be so effective and how big major web sites really don't get the "death penalty," when it comes to spamming.

But let's get back to the evil repressive foreign governments and all the nasty things that they could do. And let's all decry everything the Commies do:

Beijing has blocked 988 overseas websites and shut down 67 local ones as part of a nationwide campaign to weed out pornographic content on the internet, Chinese media reported.

The websites shut down during the July 6 to 21 special operation included Hong Kong websites. The popular search tool Google was also inaccessible this week.

So far, the Chinese capital has arrested 13 people suspected of operating the websites, the Beijing Youth Daily said on Saturday.

Police received 10,660 tips from the public, a majority of which were complaints about inappropriate sexual content on the internet. Other complaints involved pornographic mobile phone short messages, the report said.

The central Chinese government this month launched a "people's war" against pornography on the internet, giving websites a deadline until September to rid themselves of indecent content or lose their license to publish decent material, such as news.

Officials had so far identified 500 websites across China that carried pornographic pictures and film clips, the China Daily reported.

Hundreds of websites, including the most influential ones, publish "indecent or even pornographic content" to attract users, the Xinhua news agency had reported.

The crackdown on internet porn reflects two top concerns of the Chinese leadership, about the ethical standards of the young and about the subversive potential of the internet.

So, if I follow things correctly, this bill will allow Chinese youth to access all of the porn that they want.

Or perhaps not.

This whole episode illustrates the deficiencies of ideological stances. If you want to keep porn out of your house, are you "anti-freedom"? If you want to read any type of material, are you "anti-societal"?

At least China doesn't claim to support freedom when they don't. Honesty is refreshing, since it's uncommon.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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