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Global Internet Freedom and the Rule of Law II

CDTʼs core mission is to advocate for public policies, standards and industry practices that keep the Internet open, innovative and free. We believe that an open Internet can be a powerful tool for human rights and democracy. However, the challenges to global Internet freedom have only grown more complex and difficult since this Subcommitteeʼs hearing in 2008 on the issue. Authoritarian regimes are increasingly enlisting companies and the technologies they produce to remake the Internet into a tool of political control. Last year, China asked computer manufacturers to pre-install the Green Dam filtering software on all computers sold in China in an attempt to further decentralize its censorship regime. Many governments are increasingly building up surveillance and censorship capabilities using technologies developed in the west. And authoritarian regimes are becoming ever more sophisticated in using new media technologies to propagate their own messages and control online debate.

Just as important, many of our democratic allies are taking actions in the name of addressing various social ills that also jeopardize the environment for expression and innovation on the Internet. An Italian court just convicted three Google employees for a video posted by a user under the theory that might force companies to review all user-generated content before it can be hosted on their services in Italy.5 In an overbroad claim of jurisdiction, Belgium authorities have ignored existing treaties and imposed fines on Yahoo! for refusing to hand over user data.  And Australia is advancing a mandatory Web filtering proposal that requires ISPs to implement a secret government blacklist for prohibited content (an approach that is of questionable efficacy in fighting child exploitation). Authoritarian regimes often point to such actions by democratic governments to justify their own acts of censorship and surveillance.