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Reporters Sans Frontieres testimony at China hearings

Here's the full testimony of Reporters Sans Frontieres on how Internet companies have endangered Chinese dissidents.

Internet search companies weren't the only ones testifying before the House subcommittee yesterday. Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) detailed a number of abuses and offered proposals on what should be done. (Read the full testimony as a PDF.)Among the abuses:

  • Yahoo! helped the Chinese police identify and then sentence to jail at
    least one journalist and one cyberdissident who criticized human rights abuses in
    China.
  • Microsoft also closed down a Chinese journalist’s blog when pressured by
    the Beijing government. This blog was hosted on servers located in the United States.
  • Cisco Systems has marketed equipment specifically designed to make it easier for
    the Chinese police to carry out surveillance of electronic communications. Cisco is
    also suspected of giving Chinese engineers training in how to use its products to
    censor the Internet.

The group made six proposals on what should be done:

  1. No US company would be allowed to host e-mail servers within a repressive country.
    Therefore, if the authorities of a repressive country want personal information about
    any user of a US company’s e-mail service, they would have to request it under a US-supervised
    procedure.
  2. Search engines would not be allowed to incorporate automatic filters that censor
    “protected” words. The list of “protected” keywords such as “democracy” or “human
    rights” would be appended to the law or code of conduct.
  3. US companies would not be allowed to locate their host servers within repressive
    countries. If the authorities of a repressive country desire to close down a publication
    hosted by a US company, they would have to request it under a procedure supervised
    by US judicial authorities. Like search engines, content hosts would not be allowed to
    incorporate automatic filters that censor “protected” keywords.
  4. Reporters Without Borders proposed two options for dealing with censorship-enabling technology.
    Option a: US companies would no longer be allowed to sell Internet censorship
    software to repressive states.
    Option b: They would still be able to market this type of software but it would have to
    incorporate a list of “protected” keywords rendered technically impossible to
    censor.
  5. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of
    Commerce in order to sell to a repressive country any technology or equipment that
    can be used to intercept electronic communications, or which is specifically designed
    to help the authorities monitor Internet users.
  6. US companies would have to obtain the express permission of the Department of
    Commerce before providing any Internet surveillance and censorship techniques
    training program in a repressive country.