Rep. Chris Smith has just announced that the Global Online Freedom Act of 2006 will be introduced tomorrow. Aides have handed out a “Discussion Draft” – which does not appear to be online yet. (It will probably be searchable here after it gets formally introduced.) UPDATE: I now have the full PDF file here.
Most certainly, before it goes through subcommittee and committee it’s likely to undergo changes. Smith says he welcomes comments and suggestions from the human rights community, technologists, academics, and the corporate community. The draft legislation proposes to do the following (my summary of the content - most interesting bits are in bold):
1. Promotion of Global Internet Freedom
The Act states that it is the policy of the United States to promote glogal free speech on the internet and global free flow of information, which includes “to prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.” The following measures would be taken:
- Commissioning of Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
- Establishment of the Office of Global Internet Freedom
- An annual report designating Internet-restricting countries
2. Minimum Corporate Standards for Online Freedom
- Protection of search engines and content services: search engines should not be located in “internet restricting” countries, and search engines can’t alter or filter the results of their searches at the behest of governments and officials from an “internet restricting country”
- Integrity of search engines: search engine companies would have to inform the Office of Global Internet Freedom of all the “terms and parameters” provided to them by internet-restricting governments.
- Transparency regarding search engine filtering: Companies must provide the OGIF with block lists given to them by internet-restricting governments.
- Protection of U.S.-supported online content: U.S. businesses can’t block US-government supported websites and content.
- Transparency regarding Internet censorship: Any U.S. business with content-hosting services must report to the OGIF with all copies of data and content that they’ve removed, blocked or restricted from their services at the behest of an internet-restricting government
- Integrity of user identifying information: U.S. businesses with internet content hosting services can’t provide personally identifying user information to officials in internet-restricting countries “except for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes as determined by the Department of Justice.” What’s more, “Any person aggreived by a violation of this section” can sue a U.S. company in U.S. court “without regard to the citizenship of the parties.”
- Penalties. Fines for violations.
The final third section is very short, calling for export controls and a report describing actions taken.
So, I guess if this had been in effect last year, Shi Tao’s family would have had the right to sue Yahoo! in the U.S.