June 09, 2011

CNAS: Make It Illegal For U.S. Companies To Aid Internet-Suppressing Autocrats

Congress should pass laws prohibiting American corporations from giving autocratic regimes the private information of anti-government protesters and force them to periodically disclose any requests for such data to the U.S. government, the Center for a New American Security argues in a new report.

The CNAS report on Internet Freedom also recommends that the government relax export controls on circumvention technology and other tools that dissidents might use to stay online as they organize protests and criticize their governments.

The U.S. government should also "educate companies on the precise nature of export control restrictions so that companies do not over-comply and deny legal technologies to dissidents abroad," the national security-focused think tank said.

The report was released in connection with CNAS' Fifth Annual Conference June 2.

The government has increasingly embraced Internet freedom as a key component of free expression and criticized governments like Iran and China that clamp down on the Internet in response to internal criticism or outside attention.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced full U.S. support for a worldwide open Internet in a major policy speech at The George Washington University in February, just days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned after an Internet-aided uprising against his three-decade-old regime.

In the same speech, Clinton announced the State Department would hand out $25 million in grant money to organizations aiding a free and open Internet abroad, including sites that build anti-tracking software.

Google was severely criticized after it agreed in 2006 to censor some pro-democracy results in its Chinese search engine, a practice it has since ceased.