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Global Online Freedom Act Approved By House Committee

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the who-watches-the-watchers dept.

Censorship 55

Fluffeh writes "While it is a bit disappointing that companies might need a law to avoid providing tools that censor free speech to overseas regimes, an updated version of a bill that's been floating around for a few years — the Global Online Freedom Act — has passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The version that made it out of committee took out some controversial earlier provisions that had potential criminal penalties for those who failed to report information to the Justice Department. However, the Center for Democracy and Technology has raised some concerns: 'While some companies – such as GNI members Google, Microsoft, Websense, and Yahoo! – have stepped up and acknowledged these responsibilities in an accountable way, other companies have not been so forthright. GOFA, however, is a complex bill. While it presents a number of sensible and innovative mechanisms for mitigating the negative impact of surveillance and censorship technologies, it also raises some difficult questions: can export controls be meaningfully extended in ways that reduce the spread of (to borrow words from Chairman Smith) "weapons of mass surveillance" without diminishing the ability of dissidents to connect and communicate? How can – and should – U.S. companies engage with so-called "Internet-restricting" countries?'"

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First Global Post (-1, Troll)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525021)

I'm free to post first!!! woot!

But seriously, your cutting freedoms on the internet on the other hand while doing this crap.

Contrary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39525031)

2004 Security and malware paranoia, so I promise no networking. Can't cause any trouble. I'm not a hacker.

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find irritate descend enquiry concerning LIMITED discussion

hah (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39525039)

It'll be humorous when the U.S. finds itself in the "internet restricting countries" category.

Re:hah (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525417)

When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet

Re:hah (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526239)

When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet

Actually the US DOES admit to censoring the internet, which is exactly why this bill goes nowhere.

From Childporn (won't someone please think of the children), to domain grabbing (gotta protect those helpless movie companies), to banning internet gambling, and futile blocking of wikileaks, the US is heavily involved in censoring. This active censor ship, when combined by world-wide conspiracy to foist ACTA on every country on earth in total secrecy makes the US one of the biggest offenders. They simply spin it as protection.

The audacity of naming a bill the GLOBAL online freedom bill is simply amazing.

Lets face it, this is a "For Show" bill, that either goes nowhere, or has all its teeth pulled before seeing the light of day.

Re:hah (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39528789)

When you write the list you have no real obligation to put yourself on it as long as we are just slightly less restricted than the other guys. Short of a total internet blackout the american government will not admit to censoring the internet

I believe the common parlance is differently restricted....

Re:hah (2)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525439)

You can bet there is language in the bill to make damn sure it could never apply to the U.S. government.

Re:hah (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525473)

My thoughts too... So it is bad if we export it to governments, but OK if we mandate it for the use of the *IAAs? Really?

Re:hah (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526113)

"When"? As in "in some future"? Other countries may restrict what their citizens do in internet, when they are their are there. U.S. is actually restricting, censoring, and inspecting what everyone, no matter where, no matter citizen of which country is, does in internet. And no, is not funny.

Re:hah (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39527641)

There's no chance this bill will have any effect on what a a company can do for the US government. A bill restricting that would make sense rather than this useless waste of time.

Well..... (1)

butilikethecookie (2566015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525045)

Why do bills always have goofy names? Sopa, GOFA,Acta, you do the math....

Re:Well..... (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526195)

In Australia, bills are required to have a title which properly scopes them. If you give a bill a goofy title, there's a risk that a high court challenge will have it invalidated. So they are all given boring names, like "Federal Financial Relations Amendment (National Health Reform) Bill 2012".

The US doesn't have that kind of rule.

Re:Well..... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39527347)

I have always fantasized that somewhere in the Congressional offices there is one person whose sole job is to come up with the names for these bills. And I want that job so badly.

Senator: "We have a bill that's going to be making it easier for Mexicans to have a path to citizenship. We need a catchy name."

Congressional Aide "Hurm, how about 'Trusting Our Resources To Invert Less Likely Assimilation ACT'?"

Senator: "Not your best work, but we'll run with that for now..."

Orwellian naming schemes. (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525049)

Pretty soon, the US will have less online freedom than the rest of the world.

And here they come bitching about other nations?

Start by repealing the DMCA and the other crap that followed, and stop trying to impose US law on other countries, THEN you can talk about online freedom.

Re:Orwellian naming schemes. (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525325)

Indeed. That Western nations don't see the irony of condemning places like Iran and China for heavy censorship and monitoring of the Internet even as they seem to entertain every single "digital rights" demands of the entertainment industry is a rather sad testament to just how compartmentalized, corrupted and in some cases just outright stupid lawmakers are.

Re:Orwellian naming schemes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39526895)

Wait, you think its "ironic" to compare theft of IP to prevention of privacy and abolishment of human rights?

Talk about a completely distorted view of reality. Let me guess, you're pro-piracy.

Re:Orwellian naming schemes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39527809)

Let me guess, you're an idiot

Re:Orwellian naming schemes. (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39532563)

Why are you a sycophant for the entertainment industries' quest to mutate copyright into a business tool and rape the public culture?

Fascilitating Surveilance or Censorship?!? (4, Interesting)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525109)

Does that include Snort/AirSnort? EtherApe?

Sorry, this is dumb. If the government is really interested in promoting "internet freedom" or whatever, they'd promote technologies to make it difficult to monitor or censor the internet. Of course they aren't going to take that path, as it would prevent THEM from monitoring or censoring the internet. Notice the bill only covers US businesses dealing with foreign countries, not the US government.

Re:Fascilitating Surveilance or Censorship?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39528825)

"If the government is really interested in promoting "internet freedom" or whatever, they'd promote technologies to make it difficult to monitor or censor the internet."

One word: TOR.

More words: Developed by Naval Intelligence, open sourced under a Free license, and its present maintainers receive a Federal subsidy.

We think this bill has an 8% chance of passing (1)

The Immutable (2459842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525127)

Oh yeah that's encouraging. At least we have a bill that doesn't suck out there.

Only a fundamentalist libertarian (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525165)

doesn't understand that the profit principle happily and freely tramples over any human rights it can.

You need a democratic government (not a plutocratic one), regulation, to actually protect your rights from the capitalist imperative.

Re:Only a fundamentalist libertarian (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525323)

prepending "fundamentalist" to any group pretty much guarantees you're talking about a bunch of bigoted assholes.

Re:Only a fundamentalist libertarian (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39525385)

so what you're saying is saying "fundamentalist libertarian" is being redundant?

Re:Only a fundamentalist libertarian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39528629)

so what you're saying is saying "fundamentalist libertarian" is being redundundant?

There ... FTFY.

Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39525199)

Seriously, that's the only reason half (if not more) of these silly/terrible bills are accepted, because they tack on the word "Freedom"
Even though it's never freedom for the people. The only "freedoms" these bullshit things give is freedom for the government to trounce the freedoms of everyone else.

Re:Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (4, Interesting)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525361)

Or better yet, give the naming rights to the opposition.

Re:Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525525)

Or better yet, give the naming rights to the opposition.

I REALLY like this idea! A lot!

Re:Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526021)

No, if they can't agree on the name, the bill should not progress.

Re:Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526055)

In other news, the Congress has approved the "Surrender to Terrorists Bill" by a large margin, repealing the earlier controversial "Hitler Bill".

Re:Can we make naming acts/bills illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39526075)

Or starting putting a 'Hell yeah' at the end.

My proposal (1)

DragonHawk (21256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39531833)

Can we make naming acts/bills illegal?

Yeah... we could call the new legislation "Ban Idiotic Titles in Congressional Hearings".

Hypocritical US Government (1)

Troy Roberts (4682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525285)

Our government is happy to surveille their own citizens (even with drones and cameras everywhere). So, essentially we can do it, but nobody else should!

Re:Hypocritical US Government (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525401)

Has anyone really scrutinized this bill?

Is it parading around in another nice name but containing more nasty tricks?

The other bills just reeked of pure evil. Is this wrapping the evil up in obfuscating layers?

Re:Hypocritical US Government (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526047)

We're Americans, we're not going to READ the bill.

Re:Hypocritical US Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39527851)

Since when has a bill not contain nasty tricks?

Re:Hypocritical US Government (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39533767)

Some tricks are nastier than others.

I miss the days when they just had pork spending.

Re:Hypocritical US Government (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526321)

Well you see, when we do it, we are doing it for the right reasons. When China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia do it, they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Re:Hypocritical US Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39527479)

Well you see, when we do it, we are doing it for the right reasons. When China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia do it, they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

I realize that you are joking, but since your lawmakers don't seem to get the irony, I'm left with a big "Fuck You America". America lost any moral high-ground years ago.

Lately, only worthy of contempt, not admiration.

So, easily avoided. (2)

scubamage (727538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525295)

So all of these companies will set up a factory overseas via a shell company to sell this equipment abroad. The parts get manufactured wherever, shipped there and assembled, and from there sold to whatever dictator wants to be an asshat. I haven't had a chance to look at the legislation, but I find it hard to believe they think this will work.

Re:So, easily avoided. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525541)

Why a shell? The way things are going, they may just move the whole damn company over seas. Most of the workforce is going there anyway...

Let's get it straight... (5, Interesting)

sudden.zero (981475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525351)

Bills are so crammed full of stuff that has nothing to do with what the bill claims to be about, and this will always be the case. The only way this will change is if a reform act is passed to limit bills to one subject. If bills were limited to one subject, and only one subject, then things would be clear, concise, and easily voted up or down. The reason why this will never happen is that there would be no way for politicians to slip there little pork barrels in anywhere.

Re:Let's get it straight... (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39527853)

Bills are so crammed full of stuff that has nothing to do with what the bill claims to be about, and this will always be the case. The only way this will change is if a reform act is passed to limit bills to one subject. If bills were limited to one subject, and only one subject, then things would be clear, concise, and easily voted up or down. The reason why this will never happen is that there would be no way for politicians to slip there little pork barrels in anywhere.

It can be done. Constitution of the State of Washington (adopted in 1889), Article II:

SECTION 19 BILL TO CONTAIN ONE SUBJECT. No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

SECTION 38 LIMITATION ON AMENDMENTS. No amendment to any bill shall be allowed which shall change the scope and object of the bill.

Re:Let's get it straight... (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39529811)

Seriously? I could easily debate for DAYS on what "one subject" means, what "scope" means, and what "object" means. That's so vaguely worded it's completely useless.

Re:Let's get it straight... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39529995)

Humans are not machines, so laws are necessarily vague to account for various different circumstances. But, so long as the law is on the books, it can be brought up in a court of law, and then you'll have to argue all that stuff before the judge - who I doubt will have the patience to hear you "debate for days", and will use basic common sense to reach a decision. It's not a perfect system, but it's one extra check, which is a great lot when you start with zero.

Re:Let's get it straight... (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39530153)

IMO, either you rely on common sense to figure things out, or you rely on precisely worded laws. There is no mixture. If the judge is going to use "common sense" then why does he need laws to refer to?

Re:Let's get it straight... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39530347)

Judge needs the laws because his job is to interpret and apply laws. You basically need some law that can be claimed to be violated for it to be put before judge, who can then use common sense when interpreting said law and the alleged violation of it.

You mean like it worked for encryption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39525389)

Right, because this worked so well for SSL and other encryption technologies. Export controls are _clearly_ the way to go.

It isn't like companies will just purchase or open operating units oversees which they are majority stakeholders in and produce software there...

That said, it does have some symbolic value I guess, but we need to get rid of DMCA and crap like that first before we start talking about how we're taking symbolic moves to stop censorship :)

In related news ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39525467)

... grep is now classified as export restricted technology.

Re:In related news ... (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39532581)

It joins the (now license-requiring) hacking tool "strings"...

Disappointment (1)

Tassach (137772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39526387)

While it is a bit disappointing that companies might need a law to avoid providing tools that censor free speech to overseas regimes

No more disappointing than the need to have laws to tell companies not to poison the environment, sell dangerous and defective products, commit fraud, etc.

The law has to recognize human nature. If all men were angels, we wouldn't need laws.

first Post'! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39527823)

stupid. To the man walking. It's this post up. best. Individual5 approximately 90% parties). At THE itself. You can't fellow travellers? culture of abuse

FRIST PSOT? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39528095)

be a lot 5;lower [goat.cx]

Oh, the irony (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39528721)

Let me see if I understand this...we are going to pass a law preventing U.S. companies from complying with the laws of other sovereign nations with whom they do business, if we feel that those nations are being oppressive to their people. Meanwhile, we ignore our own Constitution anywhere and any way we feel like it, because after all, you have a 4th Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches, but "this search isn't unreasonable" or "you voluntarily waived that right when you ____(fill in the blank with whatever activity you want)" or "it was necessary to catch the (pedophiles|terrorists|boogeyman-du-jour)."

Our word of the day, kids, is "Effing hypocrites."

If we don't, then somebody else will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39532611)

The problem is that, starting with the Nixon administration's visit to China, the US has systematically dismantled the protectionist policies that led to the greatest expansion in wealth and productivity this country has ever seen (1940-1960).

So now most of the tech and manufacturing capability is in other countries...try to find a single high-tech device that isn't mostly made in Asia...you just can't.

If we pass a law like this, all that will happen is the Chinese will build their own censorship solutions...they already have the factories and the talent...the only change this bill will cause, is that the profits from selling these oppressive goods will now just flow to Chinese firms instead of US-based multinationals.

Is censorship bad? Sure.

Is this law going to be an effective way to either promote US interests, or help people oppressed by censoring regimes? No.

Is protectionism bad? In the best of all possible worlds, where everybody has the interests of the well-being of the world's people at heart, yes. In the real world...as a country our #1 priority should be to look out for #1...because that's what all the other countries do...and if we don't, then nobody else will...anyone who knows anything about game theory / Prisoner's Dilemma knows that Cooperation is a sucker's strategy if the other players aren't also Cooperators...

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