European Union - Members of European Parliament urged to support Global Online Freedom Act's European version



    MONTREAL, July 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is backing a
proposed directive which Dutch MEP Jules Maaten will submit to the European
Parliament on 17 July and which would prevent Europe's Internet companies from
being forced to cooperate with repressive regimes in censoring and monitoring
the Internet. Inspired by America's proposed Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA),
it would allow these companies to adopt a series of joint measures to resist
such governments.
    "We support this proposal and urge all Members of the European Parliament
to support it too," Reporters Without Borders said. "Online freedom is not
just threatened by Yahoo!'s cooperation with the Chinese authorities. Some
European companies are also the accomplices of online censors."
    Telecom Italia, for example, owns part of the Cuban telecommunications
company ETECSA, the only ISP available in Cuba. The French ISP Orange is
involved in China, Vietnam and Egypt, which are all on the Reporters Without
Borders list of "Internet Enemies." The German company KCC Europe supplies
North Korea with Internet access under an exclusive partnership signed in
2004.
    Proposed by Maaten, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
for Europe, the directive urges European companies to assume their
"responsibility to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights" and requires them, inter alia, to locate their servers outside
repressive countries.
    "Internet companies say they have to comply with the laws in the
countries with which they have agreements because their servers are located
inside these countries," Reporters Without Borders said. "But these laws very
often violate international treaties that guarantee free expression. The
European GOFA offers an alternative to such constraints, which are often a way
for repressive government to obtain private data about these companies'
clients and have them arrested."
    The GOFA, which was proposed by Republican representative Christopher
Smith and enjoys bipartisan support, has been approved by the House of
Representatives foreign affairs committee and, as the energy and commerce
committee waived its right to examine the bill, it now only awaits approval by
the full house.
    The GOFA was inspired in part by the example of the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act, which the US Congress adopted in 1977 with the aim stopping US
companies from bribing corrupt officials in other countries and which had even
greater impact after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
adopted a similar anti-bribery convention in 1988.
    This European version of the GOFA aims to forestall online censorship
possibilities and to regulate the potentially repressive activities of
European Internet companies. It would open the way for the creation of an
Office of Global Internet Freedom with the job of combatting online censorship
by the most repressive governments and protecting the personal data of
Internet users.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters sans frontières Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org;
www.rsfcanada.org

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