The Internet Debate Heats Up in Congress

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Yesterday the Congress human rights subcommittee held a seven-hour hearing on the internet censorship debate. Republicans and Democrats chastised internet giants Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco for allowing the Chinese government to limit citizens’ access to preapproved websites. Tom Lantos (D-CA), co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, accused the four companies of “nauseating collaboration with a regime of repression,” while Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) equated support for China’s totalitarianism with assistance to the Nazi’s during World War II. Smith later brought Google to center stage, mocking their motto “Don’t Be Evil”, calling the conglomerate “evil’s accomplice.”

Smith hasalready sponsored a bill in Congress that will dictate a set of new mandatory procedures for internet companies. Expected to be introduced in the next several days, the bill would mandate that:

  • Any U.S. corporation that offers a search service “may not” alter its results in response to the request of an “Internet-restricting country.” That last phrase would apparently permit ongoing censorship by Western nations such as Germany, which requires Google to filter Nazi-related sites from search results, and the United States, which imposes a similar requirement on search engines as a result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

  • Search-engine companies must provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom–a new federal bureaucracy that would be created under the bill–with a list of verboten search terms that have been “provided by any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country.”

  • Any Web site with operations in the U.S. must regularly provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom with a list of content deleted or blocked at the request of an Internet-restricting country.

  • A new set of federal regulations–apparently aimed at Cisco’s routers and software used by the other companies–would be erected to criminalize certain exports to China, Iran, Vietnam and other Internet-restricting nations. Current law permits the export of “publicly available technology and software” to those nations. Those exports would no longer be permitted if software or hardware is exported for the purpose of “facilitating Internet censorship.”
  • Fact:

    In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

    In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

    $400,000 to go!

    payment methods

    Fact:

    In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

    In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

    $400,000 to go!

    payment methods

    We Recommend

    Latest

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

    Get our award-winning magazine

    Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

    Subscribe

    Support our journalism

    Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

    Donate