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Free Speech and Censorship. Sherwin Siy Staff Counsel Electronic Privacy Information Center. U.S. Tech Companies in China-Dilemmas. Censorship (search results, blog takedowns) Disclosing Personal Information Providing Equipment Used in Censorship. Censorship.

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Free Speech and Censorship

Sherwin Siy

Staff Counsel

Electronic Privacy Information Center

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U.S. Tech Companies in China-Dilemmas

  • Censorship (search results, blog takedowns)

  • Disclosing Personal Information

  • Providing Equipment Used in Censorship

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  • Search Results--Yahoo, Google remove certain links

  • Blogs--Microsoft removes blogs posting criticism

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Disclosing Personal Information

  • Yahoo Disclosures linked email accounts and online postings with:

    • Shi Tao: 10 years for reporting “state secrets”

    • Li Zhi:8 years for “inciting subversion”

    • Jiang Lijun: 4 years for “subversion”

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Providing Equipment Used in Censorship

  • Cisco

    • Providing Chinese government with network infrastructure that can be used for blocking/filtering

    • Marketing to, training police forces in their use

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Company Responses

  • Bringing the Internet to China

  • The Internet is a tool against repression

  • Must obey local laws and customs

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Congressional Response

  • Global Online Freedom Act

    • H.R. 4780

    • Introduced Feb. 16, 2004

    • Introduced by Chris Smith (R-NJ)

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Components of GOFA

  • Reports on Internet freedom

  • Creates Office of Global Internet Freedom

  • Prohibits altering search results at behest of “Internet-restricting country”

  • Must report filter requests

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Components of GOFA (cont’d)

  • U.S.-supported content can’t be blocked

  • Must report blocked info and takedown requests.

  • Cannot turn over personally identifying information to a restrictive country unless OK’d by DOJ

  • Export Controls on censorship equipment

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Issues with GOFA

  • Restrictive / non-restrictive list

    • Should it matter what country does the filtering, blocking, or takedown request?

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Issues with GOFA

  • Transparency:

    • Both transparency provisions require reporting of filtering and takedowns to OGIF, not to users

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Issues with GOFA

  • Special protections for US content

    • Why privilege US gov’t speech?

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Issues with GOFA

  • Integrity of User Information

    • Department of Justice has final word on turning over information

    • Transparency issues to begin with

    • Again, is the distinction necessary?

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  • Transparency

    • For users, not just government. If must remove results, say how many, under what authority, according to what complaint.

  • Notice of Requests

    • Users should know what information kept, what requested, have a chance to object

  • Abide by International Law

    • Interpret and argue under local laws

  • Limitation

    • If you can’t protect it, don’t collect it

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Principles Should be Universally Applied

  • Transparency: DMCA, hate speech filtering

  • Notice of requests: John Doe suits

  • Data limitation: DoJ/ Google requests

  • Don’t just roll over: see above

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What to Do?

  • Legislation is a blunt instrument

  • Pressure from companies can make a difference

  • Company incentives to acquiesce to China demands--profit

  • Pressures against censorship that affect bottom line might alter incentive structure

  • Fighting censorship starts at home

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Issues to Watch

  • Data retention-in EU, US

  • Regulation of disfavored content and disfavored means-pornography, file sharing

  • Thin end of the wedge (child pornography campaign)

  • Mission creep