The Internet Debate Heats Up in Congress

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Yesterday the Congress human rights subcommittee held a seven-hour hearing on the internet censorship debate. Republicans and Democrats chastised internet giants Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco for allowing the Chinese government to limit citizens’ access to preapproved websites. Tom Lantos (D-CA), co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, accused the four companies of “nauseating collaboration with a regime of repression,” while Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) equated support for China’s totalitarianism with assistance to the Nazi’s during World War II. Smith later brought Google to center stage, mocking their motto “Don’t Be Evil”, calling the conglomerate “evil’s accomplice.”

Smith hasalready sponsored a bill in Congress that will dictate a set of new mandatory procedures for internet companies. Expected to be introduced in the next several days, the bill would mandate that:

  • Any U.S. corporation that offers a search service “may not” alter its results in response to the request of an “Internet-restricting country.” That last phrase would apparently permit ongoing censorship by Western nations such as Germany, which requires Google to filter Nazi-related sites from search results, and the United States, which imposes a similar requirement on search engines as a result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

  • Search-engine companies must provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom–a new federal bureaucracy that would be created under the bill–with a list of verboten search terms that have been “provided by any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country.”

  • Any Web site with operations in the U.S. must regularly provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom with a list of content deleted or blocked at the request of an Internet-restricting country.

  • A new set of federal regulations–apparently aimed at Cisco’s routers and software used by the other companies–would be erected to criminalize certain exports to China, Iran, Vietnam and other Internet-restricting nations. Current law permits the export of “publicly available technology and software” to those nations. Those exports would no longer be permitted if software or hardware is exported for the purpose of “facilitating Internet censorship.”
  • THE TRUTH IS...

    what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

    And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

    It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

    payment methods

    THE TRUTH IS...

    what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

    And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

    It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

    payment methods

    We Recommend

    Latest

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

    Get our award-winning magazine

    Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

    Subscribe

    Support our journalism

    Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

    Donate