U.S. Initiatives to Promote Global Internet Freedom: Issues, Policy, and Technology [March 17, 2010] [open pdf - 355KB]
"Modern means of communications, led by the Internet, provide a relatively inexpensive, open, easy-entry means of sharing ideas, information, pictures, and text around the world. In a political and human rights context, in closed societies when the more established, formal news media is denied access to or does not report on specified news events, the Internet has become an alternative source of media, and sometimes a means to organize politically. [...] Legislation now under consideration in the 111th Congress would mandate that U.S. companies selling Internet technologies and services to repressive countries take actions to combat censorship and protect personally identifiable information. Some believe, however, that technology can offer a complementary and, in some cases, better and more easily implemented solution to some of those issues. They argue that hardware and Internet services, in and of themselves, are neutral elements of the Internet; it is how they are implemented by various countries that is repressive. Also, Internet services are often tailored for deployment to specific countries; however, such tailoring is done to bring the company in line with the laws of that country, not with the intention of allowing the country to repress and censor its citizenry. In many cases, that tailoring would not raise many questions about free speech and political repression. This report provides information regarding the role of U.S. and other foreign companies in facilitating Internet censorship by repressive regimes overseas. The report is divided into several sections: Examination of repressive policies in China and Iraq; Relevant U.S. laws; U.S. policies to promote Internet freedom; Private sector initiatives, and Congressional action. Two appendixes describe technologies and mechanisms for censorship and circumvention of government restrictions."
CRS Report for Congress, R41120