Smith to introduce Global Online Freedom Act

Rep. Chris Smith will introduce legislation making it illegal for Internet companies to filter results based on politics or religion - China be damned.

The Times reports:

The subcommittee's chairman, Representative Christopher H. Smith, plans to introduce legislation by week's end that would restrict an Internet company's ability to censor or filter basic political or religious terms — even if that puts the company at odds with local laws in the countries where it now operates.

Although some advocates have argued that the companies may actually be violating existing trade laws, most experts concede that does not appear to be the case.

Mr. Smith's legislation, called the Global Online Freedom Act, would render much of what the Internet companies are currently doing in China illegal.

Among the act's provisions is the establishment of an Office of Global Internet Freedom, which would establish standards for Internet companies operating abroad. In addition to prohibiting companies from filtering out certain political or religious terms, it would require them to disclose to users any sort of filtering they undertake.

Separately, the State Department announced on Tuesday the formation of a new Global Internet Freedom Task Force, charged with examining efforts by foreign governments "to restrict access to political content and the impact of such censorship efforts on U.S. companies."