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(Fwd) NYTimes article mentions GILC and others

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Fri, 18 Dec 1998 11:00:24 GMT0BST
From:          "Yaman Akdeniz" <lawya@lucs-01.novell.leeds.ac.uk>
Subject:       NYTimes article mentions GILC and others
To:            gilc-plan@privacy.org
Reply-to:      gilc-plan@gilc.org


December 18, 1998


          World Governments Expand Restrictions on Internet, Report

               ifty years after the United Nations General Assembly
               adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with
               its guarantee of free expression for all, the world's
               newest form of mass communication is under attack
               around the globe from laws, policies and police
          actions seeking to restrict content. 

          That's the bad news in a new report called Freedom of
          Expression on the Internet, released earlier this month by
          Human Rights Watch as part of the organization's annual
          chronicle of rights abuses around the world. 

          But the report's author and other free speech advocates say
          there is some good news as well: The Internet is, so far,

                                     "Nineteen ninety-eight can be
                                     characterized as (a time of)
                                     increasing censorship regulation
                                     -- and going beyond regulation to
                                     prosecution," said Jagdish J.
                                     Parikh, online research associate
                                     for Human Rights Watch and author
                                     of the Internet section of the

                                     On the other side of the balance
                                     sheet, he said in a telephone
                                     interview, is that "the medium
                                     itself has resilient powers." 

                                     Parikh said that countries with a
                                     history of limiting free
                                     expression, such as China and
                                     Singapore, are
          seeking to extend their controls to cyberspace. Meanwhile,
          countries with more democratic traditions, such as the
          United States and members of the European Union, are
          considering policies that, in an effort to control problems
          like racism and pornography, could end up restricting
          legitimate speech on the global network. 

          One recent and widely publicized Internet censorship case
          involved the arrest and trial in China of a software company
          owner, Lin Hai, on charges of subversion after he gave a
          list of e-mail addresses to an online democracy magazine.
          But the report says that China is not the only country where
          people have faced police or court action because of their
          Internet use. 

          Six months ago in Turkey, for example, a teenager received a
          suspended jail sentence for making comments critical of
          police in an online forum, according to the report. And in
          Malaysia in August, three people were arrested on charges
          that they spread false rumors in an Internet newsgroup. 

          A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Washington said he
          was unaware of the case there and could not, therefore,
          comment on it. A source at the Malaysian embassy confirmed
          the arrests, and said they were justified because the rumors
          regarded the possibility of rioting by illegal immigrants
          and could have heightened racial tensions in the multiracial

          Advocates of free expression on the Internet say they are
          concerned about developments in Western countries, too. 

          In Canada, according to Richard S. Rosenberg, vice president
          of the Electronic Frontier Canada, the government is
          considering extending national restrictions on hate speech
          to the Internet. And the European Union is examining
          proposals that would require Internet service providers to
          block "harmful speech," like sites promoting racism, or hold
          them accountable by law when they make such information
          available, said Barry S. Steinhardt, one of the founders of
          the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, an international
          organization pressing for free speech rights in cyberspace. 

          Free speech advocates oppose such proposals. For one thing,
          they believe objectionable ideas are best stymied by an
          intelligent response, not repression. "The way you deal with
          speech like this is to answer it," said Rosenberg, a
          professor of computer science at the University of British
          Columbia, referring to sites that question the existence of
          the Holocaust. Such sites are one of the chief targets of
          would-be Internet content regulators. "You force the people
          who hold these views to defend them," he said. 

          Advocates of free expression worldwide also worry about how
          well software filters, the main method used to block access
          to objectionable content, are able to distinguish between
          unacceptable and legitimate material. 

          Yaman Akdeniz, director of the British group Cyber-Rights &
          Cyber-Liberties, said he is aware of at least one filtering
          system that blocks access to his group's own Web site,
          apparently because the words "pornography" and "child
          pornography" are often used in discussions of online policy
          issues. "Whether this is done deliberately or not, I see
          this as censorship of political speech," he said in an
          e-mail message. 

          If laws force Internet service providers to begin deciding
          what is legal content and what is illegal, the result will
          be a deep freeze on free speech in Europe, some online
          activists there say. The service provider "risks search and
          seizure of his machines," said Rigo Wenning, a founder of
          the German Internet free speech group FITUG. 

          "That would deliver him directly to bankruptcy. So what he
          does is, he removes all content that has the slightest doubt
          of being legal. Any critique, thus, would be suppressed
          automatically," Wenning said via e-mail. 

          In a related issue, Internet free speech advocates say they
          are also alarmed at the spread of software filters in public
          settings, such as schools and libraries, in the birthplace
          of both the First Amendment and the Internet: the United
          States. Parikh fears that this gives countries with less
          democratic traditions a handy justification for state
          Internet censorship. "If you can use filters at libraries,
          why not at the national level?" he asks. 

          At the same time, Parikh says he is hopeful that attempts to
          reign in online speech worldwide will fail, because savvy
          users can find technological detours around filters, and the
          sheer volume of information on the network could ultimately
          inundate the most diligent corps of censors. 

          In addition, many people are now awakening to the important
          information available to them on the Web and will somehow
          seek it out, he said. As evidence, Parikh pointed to the
          recent huge surge in visitors to the Human Rights Watch Web
          site from Malaysians apparently seeking an alternative
          source of information about the authoritarian leadership in
          their country. 

          "People realize this is a tool not just for techno-geeks
          anymore," Parikh said. 
Yaman Akdeniz <lawya@leeds.ac.uk>
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) at: http://www.cyber-rights.org

Read the new CR&CL (UK) Report, Who Watches the Watchmen, Part:II
Accountability & Effective Self-Regulation in the Information Age,
August 1998 at http://www.cyber-rights.org/watchmen-ii.htm