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Fwd: G7 Threat Alert from international Net-coalition (8/7/96)
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Date: Wed, 7 Aug 1996 12:27:21 -0500
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Declan McCullagh)
Subject: G7 Threat Alert from international Net-coalition (8/7/96)
[Redistribute widely. Add'l info at http://www.eff.org/~declan/global/
ALERT FROM A COALITION OF ONLINE CIVIL LIBERTIES ORGANISATIONS
G7 THREAT TO ONLINE FREE SPEECH AND PRIVACY
IN THE NAME OF COMBATING TERRORISM THE G7 IS PLANNING TO
CURB THE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS AND PRIVACY OF INTERNET USERS
7 AUGUST 1996
PLEASE REDISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT WIDELY WITH THIS BANNER INTACT
REDISTRIBUTE ONLY IN APPROPRIATE PLACES & ONLY UNTIL 30 SEPTEMBER 96
IN THIS ALERT:
What You Can Do
Where Can I Learn More?
On July 30th the G7 group of nations met in Paris to discuss terrorism.
Among other responses the G7 have endorsed a number of restrictions and
controls on the Internet. These include the prohibition or censorship
of sources that may contain "dangerous" information, restrictions on
the electronic speech of unpopular political organisations, and the
imposition of "key escrow" or other means of allowing governments to
violate privately encrypted correspondence.
This particularly serious threat, which originates from recent events
such as a bombing at the Atlanta Olympics and the crash of TWA Flight
800, is another case in a long list of attempts to restrict freedom of
speech in electronic networks, of which there are alarming examples in
many countries including Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany,
Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the USA and Vietnam, under a variety of
pretexts ranging from "pornography" to "terrorism" and incorrect
* The "offensive" material being targeted is no different from similar
material available in libraries and bookshops. *What is legal offline
must also be legal online*. If material cannot be censored at the
newsstand or the university library, it must not be censored in the
online newsstands and libraries of our future.
* Legislators and agency officials are pushing for speedy passage of
censorious and privacy-harming laws, capitalising on fear of terrorism
to exclude meaningful public input in the process and substance of
* Because the Internet is global, and every culture has its own rules
about what is and is not permissible, the open nature of the Internet
must be protected. No local jurisdiction should be allowed to impose
its rules on the rest of the world.
This alert is being issued by a coalition of online civil liberties
organisations that support online privacy, freedom of speech and human
rights. The organisations are listed at the end of this alert along
with contact details.
Since its inception the Internet has more than doubled in size every
year. If this growth continues, more than one billion people will be
using the Internet by the turn of the century. Each of these users can
as easily publish material as they can read it. The Internet has the
potential vastly to improve the workings of democratic government and
to spread liberty across the globe.
In light of recent bombings in the US and elsewhere, there are again
calls to ban from the Internet information on explosives, as well as
any other issues that can be related to "terrorism". Anti-terrorist
hysteria has become the excuse for governmental attempts to circumvent
online freedom of expression, guaranteed by constitutions, laws, and
the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Information on how to make bombs, as well as other things that would be
"banned", is widely available, often from the very governments pushing
for censorship. Banning such publications from the Internet won't
make it any less widely available. However it could become the tool
for the censorship of any debate or opinion which happens to displease
the authorities, or "pressure groups" that do not share those opinions.
This is a pure and simple violation of free speech, no matter how it
Currently, communicating via the Internet is like sending messages on
postcards. Anyone between the sender and receiver can read the
message. Encryption (data scrambling) technology can be used to ensure
the privacy of communications. It's like placing messages in
envelopes. Although widely available the technology has not yet become
a part of the Internet because of pressures from the "intelligence" and
law enforcement agencies.
Some countries, such as the United States, treat cryptography as if
were a weapon, like missile or a machine gun, and ban its export.
Other countries, such as France, have an outright ban on cryptography.
Such policies threaten to undermine information infrastructure not only
locally, but globally, leaving computer networks open to industrial
espionage, and as we are seeing in recent news of electronic spying on
the European Parliament, even governmental espionage, as well as
What the G7 have called for is a way to read all messages sent by
terrorists. The only way they can achieve this is to have some way of
reading messages sent by anyone. What the G7 are demanding is that the
privacy of all communications be compromised in the name of protection
from terrorism. However, no real terrorist is going to use such a
compromised system when uncrackable alternatives already exist and are
freely available. Effectively G7 are demanding that we all compromise
the privacy of our communications - for NO benefit.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Be alert to what your government is doing or planning. Contact your
law-makers and urge them to protect privacy and free speech on the
Internet. Write to or call publications in your area and suggest
that they report on any anti-freedom government action you hear
2. Join an online civil liberties organisation. See the end of this
release for contact information for several such organisations.
3. If there isn't an online civil liberties organisation in your
country, why not start one? Some suggestions on how to start an
online civil liberties organisation are available at:
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?
Further details on the G7 meeting and its effect on the Net can be
found in a press release from the Global Internet Liberty Coalition:
For a summary of efforts around the world to censor the Internet see
the "10 May 96 Silencing the Net" report on the Human Rights Watch
For background on global efforts to muzzle the Net see these web sites:
For information on global and international online freedom issues see
the Electronic Frontier Foundation web site:
Translations of this alert will be available as follows:
The following organisations have issued this alert:
ALCEI - Electronic Frontiers Italy * http://www.nexus.it/alcei.html
CITADEL - Electronic Frontier France * email@example.com
EFF-Austin (Texas) * http://www.eff-austin.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA) * http://www.eff.org
Electronic Frontier Canada * http://www.efc.ca/
Electronic Frontier Ireland * http://www.efi.ie/
Electronic Frontiers Australia * http://www.efa.org.au
Elektronisk Forpost Norge (Electronic Frontier Norway) *
Fronteras Electronicas Espan~a (Electronic Frontiers Spain) *
HotWired * http://www.hotwired.com/
Human Rights Watch * http://www.hrw.org
Reporters sans frontieres * http://www.calvacom.fr/rsf/
Please choose an organisation above and visit their web site for contact
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