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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tech Company Censorship Penalties Coming Up?

Forbes reports:

The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs voted Tuesday to pass the Global Online Freedom Act, a bill designed to penalize U.S. companies up to $2 million if they cooperate with the technological surveillance of political dissidents or share technology and information used for “Internet-restricting” purposes.

“Dictatorships need two pillars to survive: propaganda and secret police. The Internet, if misused, gives them both in spades,” said Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. “Both wittingly and unwittingly, companies operating in places like China have discovered they’re a part of these regimes.”

Tuesday’s bill must still pass several hurdles before reaching the House or Senate floor.

$2 million? Somehow I can’t imagine Google loses any sleep over such sums (even when it may hurt their image to be punished in such ways). Though why not directly convert this into prize money handed out as “best censorship circumvention tool or service” award for smaller start-ups (the kind of company to which that sum is meaningful)? The “Chinese knowledge workers, fighting with one hand tied behind their back” – to quote Tim Bray, and to name just one group – might appreciate it.

[Via Search Engine Land.]


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