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GILC Alert

Volume 2, Issue 1
January 12, 1998

 


  Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter
  Welcome to GILC Alert, the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign. We are an international organization of groups working for cyber-liberties, who are determined to preserve civil liberties and human rights on the Internet.   We hope you find this newsletter interesting, and we very much hope that you will avail yourselves of the action items in future issues.   If you are a part of an organization that would be interested in joining GILC, please contact us at gilc@gilc.org. If you are aware of threats to cyber liberties that we may not know about, please contact the GILC members in your country, or contact GILC as a whole. Please feel free to redistribute this newsletter to appropriate forums.  
[A] ROUNDUP OF GLOBAL INTERNET ISSUES [A1] Asia/Oceania [A1.1] China's New Internet Regulations [A1.2] Draft of Thailand Internet Law Calls for Censorship [A1.3] Japan Urged to Disclose Net Slanders [A2] Central/South America [A2.1] U.S. Internet Effort Topples in its Effort to Topple Castro [A3] Europe [A3.1] New Irish Porn Laws Threaten ISPs [A4] North America [A4.1] Clinton Signs Copyright Bill [A4.2] United States Libraries: First-Amendment Battleground [A4.3] Canadians Growing to Fear Internet  

[A1] Asia/Oceania

[A1.1] China's New Internet Regulations

 
If you're an Internet user in mainland China, Chinese officials Ė in a
bid to fight against "spiritual pollution" Ė have prohibited you from
doing certain things.  For one, you should stop reading the GILC
Alert; we're probably covered by Section Five of China's "Computer
Information Network and Internet Security, Protection and Management
Regulations," which states that "no unit or individual may use the
Internet to . . . receive . . . information . . . inciting people to
resist . . . laws."
 
Also, according to Section Five you should not promote "feudal
superstitions, or "sexually suggestive material, gambling, violence,
murder," or "openly insult other people or distort the truth to
slander people," or "spread rumors," or "incite hatred or
discrimination among nationalities or harm the unity of the
nationalities," or "defame government agencies," or "incite division
of the country."
 
The Cabinet approved the new regulations on December 11, 1997.
According to Reuters, the prohibition on inciting division of the
country applies to supporters of the Dalai Lama or of formal
independence for Taiwan; regulations also banning statements that
"defame government agencies" actually ban cries for democracy.
 
Unspecified "criminal punishments" and fines of up to 15,000 yuan (US
$2,755) await those who choose to break the regulations.
 
Even though officials are attempting to censor certain Web sites, the
government is having problems stopping E-mail. Phones can be tapped
and content monitored, but there is no easy way to intercept E-mail.
The New York Times reports that a "more likely alternative would be
for China to establish a monitoring program used to gather evidence
against addresses should the Government wish to suppress their access
to information."
 
The Times also quoted Xio Qiang, executive director of New York-based
Human Rights in China, who pointed to Tunnel (an E-magazine written in
China and devoted to political discussion).  The contents are sent via
E-mail to the United States where it is E-mailed back to China to
thousands of addresses.
 
Under the new regulations, Internet Service Providers will be subject
to Public Security Officials and required to help find violators.
 
The new regulations, however, do not affect Hong Kong, the New York
Times reported, quoting Anthony Wong, director general of the
territory's telecommunications department: "the Internet is covered by
the 'one country, two-systems' doctrine adopted when Britain
surrendered Hong Kong in July."
 
A copy of the regulations and more information on China is available
from the GILC China Speech Archive at 
 
http://www.gilc.org/speech/asia.html#China
 

[A1.2] Draft of Thailand Internet Law Calls for Censorship

 
 After recent draft laws to censor the Internet were proposed to the
Thailand government, the Internet Society (ISOC is a member of GILC)
has issued a statement warning its members in Thailand to "stand
together, to counter those, however well intended, who would take away
the right to free expression on the Internet."
 
Because of Thailand's recent economic woes, the country is reporting
only half as many Internet users as previously expected. It had hoped
to have about 1 million users nationwide, but must settle for only
550,000, with 450,000 using the Internet for educational purposes.
The Agence France Presse reports that there are fundamental problems
that have been "putting the brakes on Thailand's Internet growth."
Now, some seem to be trying legislatively to halt the growth all
together.
 
According to its chairman, ISOC's Thai chapter was simply a
"facilitator" in the law's first drafts.  And even though there have
been last minute significant revisions, the proposal, too restrictive
by many accounts, seeks to block information that is, among other
things: against the "peacefulness of society," "immoral," disparaging
of religion, disparaging of "highly respected persons or respected
places or respected things," political in nature and impacting
Thailand's security, pornographic, and cruel or abusive of human
rights.
 
Though no English translation of the draft has been offered, sources
reveal that it suffers from many facial flaws.  The Bangkok Post
reports: "No where in the proposals is there a definition of what may
constitute a threat, nor what is pornographic.  Such legislation and
vague phrasing has historically been the preserve of dictators seeking
to prevent the free exchange of ideas."
 
Under the revised draft, if ratified, Thailand will suffer sever
consequences.  According to the Bangkok Post, "some [ISPs] would cease
operation.  All would risk persecution.  Those who wished to remain
would need to install such machinery for checking, verifying and
censoring that the inevitable delays would choke the service:
businesses relying on Internet communication would suffer; doctors
trying to access databases and information overseas would have to put
treatment on hold; students now beginning increasingly to use the
Internet, because up-to-date texts are lacking, would not be permitted
the instant downloads of new information that their studies require."
 
After ISOC's Vice-President Vinton Cerf publicized his dissatisfaction
with the Thailand Chapter, a formal letter was sent to the
organization's 300 Thai members.  The letter, signed by Cerf, ISOC?s
President Don Heath and Executive Director Martin Burack, stated: "We
see a danger that the law could lead to a government censorship
committee that would attempt to exercise broad and heavy-handed
control over the Internet."  Heath,  Cerf and Burack continued, "[t]he
least amount of law affecting the Internet is the best amount."
 
Some people have misunderstood Thai ISOC's role. "The ISOC Thai
Chapter has been alleged by various people, in media statements and in
e-mails to the Internet Society, to be a catalyst for the restrictive
parts of the bill," Heath wrote. "It is therefore important that the
Chapter, and the Chapter members individually, make it clear to one
and all that the Chapter and its members fully support ISOC's Guiding
Principles, and reject any part of any bill that would compromise the
Internet as a neutral medium of communications. We wanted to make it
clear to everyone," Heath added, "that ISOC will continue to stand up
for its Guiding Principles and to base our actions upon them. They
provide a consistent and strong foundation for the betterment of the
Internet."
 
Freedom of expression is a key to a democratic society," Cerf said.
"It is vital that there be no abridgment of such freedom."
 
A copy of the regulations and more information on China is available
from the GILC Thailand Speech Archive at 
 
http://www.gilc.org/speech/asia.html#Thailand
 

 

[A1.3] Japan Urged to Disclose Net Slanders

 
The Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has issued
an official study calling for the government to disclose the names of
those who post libelous or damaging statements to the Internet.
According to the Kyodo news agency, the MPT claims that E-mail,
newsgroups, chat rooms, and Web pages have all been used to invade
citizens' privacy.
 
The Daily Yomiuri revealed that the report offered a novel
interpretation to the Telecommunications Business Law, which prohibits
censorship of telecommunications.  In an effort to counter Internet
service providers who cite the Japanese Constitution when refusing to
identify posters of libelous material, the report assures ISPs that
they would not violate the law if they were to delete harmful messages
or suspend site usage to posters.
 
 The latest report is simply an off-shot of earlier inquiries into the
nature of the Internet.  In December of 1996, the MPT issued "Flow of
Information on the Internet."  It claimed that most Internet users are
"not restrained by any professional moral code. Also, because
anonymous information can be easily transmitted, the circulation of
malicious or defamatory material is facilitated, potentially
worldwide."  That report also called for the "establishment of a
mechanism which can block transmission of specific content as an
effective method of ensuring the receiver's freedom of choice."
Finally, "Flow of Information" urged that Japan "establish, as soon as
possible, a Moral Committee comprised of experts form the private
sector and academia in order to study standards for a rating system of
Internet content."
 
Read Wired Article:
http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/9405.html
 
MPT's 1996 report:
http://www.mpt.go.jp/policyreports/english/group/Internet/outline.html
 

  [A2] Central/South America [A2.1] US Internet Effort Topples in its Effort to Topple Castro   In 1995, the United States Department of Defense issued a report that hoped the Internet would pose serious threats to highly centralized governments, like Cuba's: "The Internet is clearly a significant long-term strategic threat to authoritarian regimes, one that they will not be able to counter effectively. News from the outside world brought by the Internet into nations subjugated by such regimes will clash with the distorted versions provided by their governments, eroding the credibility of their positions and encouraging unrest."   Well, not yet anyway. While Castro's enemies send millions of bytes of anti-Communist rhetoric into cyberspace, very little of that reaches Cubans. The island's economic condition has helped the government passively keep information from the average Cuban. The Bergen Record reports that outmoded phone systems, computer shortages, and government regulations have mainly kept Cuba Internet-free.   It's difficult for a nation to surf the information superhighway when less than 2% of the 11 million people even have computers. While the average Cuban makes about US$15 a month, an Internet connection costs about US$260. Therefore, Internet access is limited to academic institutions, foreign embassies and journalists, and some businesses.   The paper reports that Abel Prieto, Cuba's minister of culture, wants to bring in the Internet "gradually and selectively."    

[A3] Europe

[A3.1] New Irish Porn Laws Threaten ISPs

 
Ireland's Minister of Justice, John O'Donoghue introduced to the Irish
Dail "The Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill."   The Irish Times
reports that the bills is significant not only because it prohibits
"the production, dissemination, handling, or possession of child
pornography," but also because it is one of the first Irish
Legislative attempts to regulate the Internet.
 
For the first time, under this bill, a "child" is defined as anyone
under 17 years of age.  Furthermore, the bill prohibits three types of
pornography: any visual depictions showing persons under 17 engaged in
explicit sexual activity or sexual displaying their bodies; aural
material representing a person under 17 engaged in sexual activity;
and visual or aural material that advocates or counsels unlawful
activity with person under 17 years of age. Moreover, "child
pornography" is defined as ?a reference to a figure resembling a
person that has been generated by computer graphics."
 
O'Donoghue's bill applies to any "tape, computer disk or other thing
on which the . . . representation is recorded."
 

 

[A4] North America

[A4.1] Clinton Signs Copyright Bill

 
In November of last year, the United States Congress (without a single
hearing in the Senate and only one in the House) passed the "No
Electronic Theft" Act.  That Act, supported by the entertainment and
software industry and opposed by the scientific and academic
community, penalizes "non-profit" pirates if they -- in any way --
exchange unauthorized copies of music, software, or literature over
the Internet.  Parties guilty of a felony (material valued at $2,500),
face five-year prison penalties and $250,000 fines if they "willfully"
make or possess at least ten digital copies of a computer program, for
instance.  Clinton, without ceremony, quietly signed the bill days
before the end of the year.
 
Wired News calls the law "a brutal door-slam on the hands of academics
and others who use the Internet as a forum for the free flow of
information."  Scientists and academics, mostly working in
universities, fear that the new law would stifle them.  Furthermore,
universities, fearing the onslaught of lawsuits, would forbid their
faculty members from posting papers on the Internet. It is that free
flow of information and ideas that actually spurred the growth of the
Internet.
 
 The Association for Computing wrote a letter to Clinton urging him to
veto the bill until more substantive discussions were held this year.
The CyberTimes quotes Barbara Simons, head of the Association's U.S.
Public Policy Committee: "Under the No Electronic Theft Act, an author
who posts their research on the Internet, and whose documents are
frequently read on-line, could be subject to criminal prosecution.
[S]cientists [will] have to choose between having their work
peer-reviewed or making it widely available."
 
The USAToday argues: "[The law] overlooks all the people who know
they're using copyrighted material but do so without any criminal
intent: the researchers, students, writers, and Web surfers who
duplicate copyrighted materials as a way to communicate. . . . There
are compelling reasons to revise copyright laws for our digital age.
But without guaranteeing researchers the same protections on line as
they have off, Congress risks limiting the Internet's legitimate
uses."
 
See the USA Today Article:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/comment/nceditf.htm
 
The Wired News Report:
http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/9236.html
 
The Association for Computing's letter:
http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright/usacm-hr2265letter.html
 

 

[A4.2] United States Libraries: First-Amendment Battleground

 
Free public Libraries have always served the community.  When people
have wanted books or tapes or periodicals, the local community library
was always there to supply their needs.  So, it seems logical that
when the 60% of U.S. households without computers need to enjoy the
benefits offered by the Internet, they go to the free public library.
 
When it comes to Internet access, however, some libraries are not so
free.  There's little freedom here.  Some United States local
communities have attempted to limit the flow of "objectionable"
material into their libraries.  In Loudoun County, Virginia,
librarians installed a $230 program (X-Stop) that filters out entire
Web sites, including, but not limited to, Internet pornography.  The
Mormon Church?s Web site on masturbation prevention, the Heritage
Foundation and the Quaker Church were all deemed "objectionable" and
censored.  All, however, were later un-filtered when the absurdity of
the scheme made the national papers.
 
 Back in October of 1997, the library board members voted 5-4 to
install the software on nine computers in six libraries.  It's the
toughest policy in the nation because the restrictions apply to
everyone all the time.  No one is free to access E-mail; no one is
free to enter chat rooms; and no one under 18 is free to surf the
Internet without a permission slip from either mommy or daddy.  And no
library patron -- adult or child -- is free to disengage the software.
 
"We donít say you cannot publish this stuff or access it somewhere
else.  But we can sure as hell keep it out of our libraries," said
John Nicholas, Loudoun County Library Board Chairman as quoted in the
Los Angeles Times.
 
Mary Ellen VanNederynen, library board member, forgetting the
counter-majoritarianism of the Bill of Rights and arguing that the
majority made her do it, argued to The Washington Post: "we did what
we could to make sure it was legal.  We listened to the public, and
over two-thirds of the public said, 'it's our money, it's our budget'
and we gave them a what they wanted; a safe place for their kids."
 
The Washington Times quoted Elaine Williamson of Mainstream Loudoun, a
local civil liberties organization that has joined in filing a law
suit against the county as saying: "This policy relegates adults to
the electronic version of the children's reading room and denies them
access to information available to all other D.C. area library users."
 
The American Civil Liberties Union, (a GILC founding member) is
considering an intervention in that lawsuit on behalf of online
speakers who are blocked from reaching library patrons, ACLU attorney,
Ann Beeson said.
 
The ACLU is already at work in library filtering cases in California
(where county-installed software blocks access to a wide range of
socially valuable, constitutionally protected speech on the Internet)
and New York (where a proposed Internet policy for local public
libraries would permit librarians to stop patrons from accessing
"offensive" and "racially or sexually inappropriate material").
 
Read the ACLU Press Release: http://www.aclu.org/news/n012198a.html
 

 

[A4.3] Canadians Growing to Fear Internet

 
 Blame it on the new crop of families using the Internet or blame it
on a new conservative-tide washing over Canada.  Blame it on people
growing weary of violence or pornography in other media.  Blame it on
whom or what you will; but according to Newsbytes, a new Canadian poll
shows that 66% of Canadian adults favor government-enacted laws to
regulate the Internet.  Ask women aged 35-54 and the already high
number skyrockets to 80% who favor regulation.
 
Newsbytes quotes David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada
(a GILC founding member), as being disappointed by the poll's results.
But Jones is optimistic as more people start using the Internet and
begin to realize the wealth of information available.  "The truth is
that the vast majority of content is not porn, but if you want adult
content, you can find it.  What a person finds online really reflects
more about an individual's personal interests than about the
Internet."
 
Jones, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also
believes that the new-found liberation the Internet provides will aid
in turning the opinion polls around. "The more experience people have
on the Net, the more they appreciate its openness," Jones said.  He
added: "They come to realize that they can make choices themselves and
they donít need some bureaucrat to decide what they see."
 
This view is supported by a recent, and more in-depth poll conducted
by Wired magazine, which subdivided respondents according to their
level of experience with new media and technologies.  People who were
more "connected" were found to be more tolerant, and less eager to
place limits on other people's freedoms.
 
"The Southam poll failed to make any distinction between newbies and
netizens. And remember, more than 85% of Canadians are *not* online,
so their opinions on Net regulation can't be based on any meaningful
experience with this new medium.  Most Canadians have grown up with a
meddlesome and paternalistic CRTC that regulates broadcast media, so
'Why should the Net be treated any differently?', they must wonder."
 
"The real driving force behind Internet regulations in Canada," says
Jones, "may not come from citizens, but from big business. I wouldn't
be surprised if some of the big telephone companies started to push
for ISP registration or licensing as a way of speeding up the industry
shake-out that is already under way."
 

  Raafat S. Toss GILC Organizer Developer American Civil Liberties Union 125 Broad Street New York, New York 10004 rtoss@aclu.org  
Links to all information in this alert can be found at http://www.gilc.org/   You are welcome to pass the GILC ALERT to all who may be interested.   And you have permission to re-print GILC ALERT and distribute it.   If you are not a subscriber but would like to be, please send an email to gilc-announce@gilc.org with the following message in the body:   Subscribe gilc-announce   PUBLICATION OF THIS NEWSLETTER IS MADE POSSIBLE BY A GRANT FROM THE OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE (OSI)