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GILC Alert
Volume 3, Issue 5

August 9, 1999


Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter


Welcome to GILC Alert, the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign. We are an international organization of groups working for cyber-liberties, who are determined to preserve civil liberties and human rights on the Internet.

We hope you find this newsletter interesting, and we very much hope that you will avail yourselves of the action items in future issues.

If you are a part of an organization that would be interested in joining GILC, please contact us at

If you are aware of threats to cyber liberties that we may not know about, please contact the GILC members in your country, or contact GILC as a whole.

Please feel free to redistribute this newsletter to appropriate forums.

Privacy and Encryption

[1] Electronic Privacy Information Center releases international crypto report
[2] Russian ISP challenges secret surveillance of Internet traffic by Federal Security Service
[3] Controversial wiretapping bill Advances in Japan. Opposition parties charge that abnormal procedures were followed that threaten its validity
[4] The Privacy Law Sourcebook is published by the Electronic PrivacyInformation Center
[5] Report sponsored by British Government prompts the calls for tighter control of the cryptographic technology. The Government sees the ISPs instrumental in facilitating the access to encrypted material by law enforcement organs
[6] German position on cryptography is clarified in the form of "Cornerstones of German Encryption Policy"

Free Expression

[7] The French National Assembly has adopted two amendments considerably limiting ISP liability
[8] Human Rights Watch surveys online freedom of expression in the Middle East and North Africa
[9] Reporters sans Frontires (RSF) released a report on the state of press freedom in Tunisia
[10] Scientology Decision by the Dutch Court is seen as setting a dangerous precedent which could potentially expose a wide range of ISPs and Internet publishers to new liability
[11] UNESCO launches campaign to protect children from pedophiles on the Internet
[12] Vietnam Weighs Internet Control
[13] A decision by an Argentinean Court equates e-mail with regular postal mail to better regulate the privacy of electronic communications
[14] EFA Calls for Minister's Resignation
[15] Overseas Defamation Injunction Denied


[1] Electronic Privacy Information Center releases international crypto report

On June 9, at a Commerce Department hearing in Washington, Electronic Privacy Information Center -- EPIC -- released a report "Cryptography & Liberty 1999: An International Survey of Encryption Policy". According to Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of EPIC, the report represents the most exhaustive survey to date on international laws and policies dealing with encryption. The Executive Summary of the report is provided below. The Center also distributes 130 page paperback copies that can be ordered from its Web site.

Executive Summary

Most countries in the world today have no controls on the use of cryptography. In the vast majority of countries, cryptography may be freely used, manufactured, and sold without restriction. This is true for both leading industrial countries and for developing countries. There is a movement towards international relaxation of regulations relating to encryption products, coupled with a rejection of key escrow and recovery policies. Many countries have recently adopted policies expressly rejecting requirements for key escrow systems and a few countries, most notably France, have dropped their escrow systems. There are a small number of countries where strong domestic controls on the use of cryptography exist. These are mostly countries where human rights command little respect.

Recent trends in international law and policy point toward continued relaxation of controls on cryptography. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Cryptography Policy Guidelines and the Ministerial Declaration of the European Union, both released in 1997, argue for the liberalization of controls on cryptography and the development of market-based, user driven cryptography products and services. There is a growing awareness worldwide of encryption and an increasing number of countries have developed policies, driven by the OECD guidelines.

Export controls remain the most powerful obstacle to the development and free flow of encryption. The revised December 1998 Wassenaar Arrangement may roll back some of the liberalization sought by the OECD, particularly by restricting the key lengths of encryption products that can be exported without approval licenses. However, several major countries have already indicated that they do not plan to adopt new restrictions.

The United States government continues to lead efforts for encryption controls around the world. The U.S. government has exerted economic and diplomatic pressure on other countries in an attempt to force them into adopting restrictive policies. The U.S. position may be explained, in part, by the dominant role that national intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies hold in the development of encryption policy.

The report can be read at


[2] Russian ISP challenges secret surveillance of Internet traffic by Federal Security Service

The Russian Federal Security Services' (FSB) campaign to require ISP's to provide complete access to their users e-mail to the Security Service, has been challenged by an Internet provider based in Volgograd. Nail Murzakhanov, who runs his own communication company, took the risky step of denying the agents of FSB access to his computer system and further threatened to file a suit to prevent the FSB from monitoring his clients activities on the Internet and secretly scanning their e-mail.

Murzakhanov's case is just another example in a series of attempts by Russian security and intelligence services to consolidate their control over the Internet traffic. The main tool in their attempts to monitor the on-line activity is the new regulation known as SORM-2 -- System for Ensuring Investigated Activity -- which stipulates for the creation of a system, comprised both of hardware and software components, to allow real-time monitoring of every e-mail message and Web page sent to or from Russia. The main provision of the regulation requires ISPs to fully cooperate with the security services officials, train them in conducting monitoring activities and, moreover, provide the necessary funds for the implementation of the spying technology.

Nail Murzakhanov is not the first to actively challenge FSB's enforcement of SORM-2. In February 1999, Boris Pustintsev, a longtime human rights advocate and internationally recognized director of Citizens' Watch led a group of NGO's in a lawsuit to block the implementation of SORM-2. The developments in Volgograd are clearly playing into Pustintsevs' hands, giving new thrust to his campaign and enhancing legal leverage of his case.

Mr. Murzakhanov, in an interview given to The Independent on Sunday, told that the FSB agents approached him earlier this year and demanded, citing SORM-2 regulation, that he provide training for their security personnel and install the necessary equipment to enable the monitoring. A letter presented by the FSB agents, which outlined the details of implementation, stated that his communications company -- Bayard-Slavia -- would lose its operating license if he refused to comply. The deadline was set for July 1 for the equipment to be operational.

More importantly, Mr. Murzakhanov said that the FSB ordered him to hand over a list of his clients, with their passwords and personal data included and is to be updated on a monthly basis. Yet again he refused to comply. The data that the FSB requested could allow the security services not only to read e-mail messages but to rewrite them as well. "The FSB will be able to control everything that goes on in the country from their garrets, bunkers and basements, at the expense of the Internet provider," he said.

Mr. Murzakhov further added that he would willingly co-operate with the security organs if they were tracking down a criminal. "But we refuse to work with them secretly, without any control. Other Internet providers have already signed a document committing themselves to silence, as it is a state secret."

There is some credible evidence that the FSB's monitoring of the Internet traffic has been going on for some time, reports The Independent on Sunday. For the past year, various commercial companies and some political parties and factions - including the reformist party Yabloko - have complained that their e-mail is routinely delayed, as it is being intercepted by the security organs.

"It all amounts to a violation of human rights," said Mr. Murzakhov. "I am a family man with two children and I want them to grow up in a free society." To protect his clients, he has changed all their passwords and is compiling documents with lawyers. FSB, in its customary fashion, refused to provide any comments.

Adapted from the article published in The Independent on Sunday on May 29, 1999.

[3] Controversial wiretapping bill advances in Japan. Opposition parties charge that that abnormal procedures were followed that threaten its validity

A wide coalition of human rights groups and citizens' associations released a statement calling for the withdrawal of Wiretapping Bill adopted on the 29th of May. According to the statement, at the Judicial Affairs Committee meeting, the ruling coalition of three parties -- JI- JI-KO -- proceeded with "forcible" voting and subsequent adoption of the Wiretapping/Organized Crime Control Bills. JI-JI-KO is comprised of Liberal Democratic Party (Jimin), Liberal Party (Jiyu) and Kohmei Party, which jointly exercise majority-voting power. The parties calling for careful deliberation, before any action is taken -- Democratic Party, Communist Party and Social-Democratic Party -- have boycotted this particular Committee Meeting which, according to them, was set up for the purpose of voting on the proposed Bill while avoiding further discussion. The statement further notes that the Committee deliberations were staged by allocating time for speakers from three absent parties without the approval of the parties themselves.

"The action of the JI-JI-KO to have forcibly adopted such a Bill without appropriate deliberation is in fact an act of organized crime," reads the statement. The Wiretapping Bill appears to contradict the Japanese Constitution by approving the use of wiretaps by police investigators. "This acceptance of wiretapping undermines our rights to privacy in communications stated in Constitution Article 21." The statement further contends the Bill will have a tremendous impact on the social sphere of the country, where police would conduct massive surveillance of its citizens' activities by drawing on the countries' colossal national budget.

The statement calls for the withdrawal of the Bill on the grounds of invalid voting. No details were provided whether such withdrawal is possible at all or what constitutes invalid voting. The statement supports the position of the three parties which boycotted the Committee meeting that consider opening of Judicial Affairs Committee on May 28th itself "abnormal" and consequently the voting that took place is also invalid. To prove this "abnormality" as illegal, in the context of Japanese party politics and with the JI-JI-KO coalition in power, may prove to be difficult.

[4] The Privacy Law Sourcebook is published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has recently published the 1999 Privacy Law Sourcebook (ISBN: 1893044041). This one-volume source contains full texts of most of the major privacy laws and also outlines recent developments in the field.

According to the American Society of International Law, "[The Sourcebook] is a handy compilation of privacy law instruments and a 'must' for anyone seeking guidance about the location and content of the key statutes, treaties, and recent developments."

The Sourcebook has been updated for 1999 and includes materials on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, information on the "Safe Harbor" proposal, and new legislation that has been proposed to ensure the compliance with the EU Data Directive. One of the distinguishing features of the Sourcebook is an extensive new section on privacy resources, including numerous links to websites and contact information for relevant organizations and publications.

For more information on EPIC see:

[5] Report sponsored by British Government prompts the calls for tighter control of the cryptographic technology. The Government sees the ISPs instrumental in facilitating the access to encrypted material by law enforcement organs

On May 26th the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office released a report calling for the regulation of encryption technology.

As a prelude to its analysis of the problems of encryption, the report revealed that phone taps last year led to the arrest of 1,200 persons.

Further, in looking at ways of dealing with the rise of encryption programs for Internet and phone communications, the report found that the general public approval of the telephone taps would not necessarily warrant the same degree of approval of the secret surveillance of the Internet by the police. The British Government has already abandoned a plan for creating a central authority which would store the "keys" to encryption systems distributed by a small number of licensed firms and allow touch-of-a-button access to police investigators. The report concludes that such a plan would be difficult to implement, both technically and administratively, and in all likelihood would end up being too cumbersome and inflexible for the effective use by the police.

Closely following the release of the report, several pieces of new legislation dealing with law enforcement access to encrypted e-mail and files were proposed by the Ministers, with Jack Straw -- the Home Secretary of the British Cabinet -- being one of their most active proponents.

The laws that are being introduced would give government investigators power to order ISPs to unlock the encrypted files for taps. Users could also be forced to hand over the "keys" to encrypted material. A top government official, however, said that most of the warrants demanding the "keys" would be served on ISPs.

ISP organizations and civil liberties groups were swift in their response, and derided the government policy as "misguided" and "infeasible." Some even went further in suggesting that behind the seeming incompetence that the proponents of the legislation have displayed, the British crypto policy may have a hidden agenda.

Keith Mitchell, the chairman of the London Internet Exchange, said the proposed laws were founded on a "misguided conception" that the ISPs would furnish the users with encryption tools. "The only encryption of any use on the Internet is end-to-end. The keys are generated between the users. All the ISP is going to see is an encrypted data stream," Mitchell said. He concluded that with regards to the warrant policy the government "either doesn't understand or is deliberately misunderstanding."

Another cyber-liberties activist , Yaman Akdeniz of GILC Member Cyberliberties--Cyber rights , thinks that misunderstanding on the part of the lawmakers is indeed deliberate. He further added, "they [the lawmakers] don't want to give away what they want to do." Akdeniz also said there was formidable pressure on legislators from the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which wanted to expand its tapping capabilities.

According to Akdeniz, it was possible the British government is trying to mislead the new Internet users and falsely convince them that they need to go to the third party to get the "keys" because it was deemed by the government as "safe". "If these new services are there, many people will use them," Akdeniz said, and in effect, by using the third party for their encryption services, the users themselves will create a proxy key escrow system, seemingly without direct governmental initiative.

This article is adapted from "E-mail code-busters to join crime fight", by Stewart Tendler. For full story see,

Also adapted from "UK Crypto Policy May Have Hidden Agenda", by Madeleine Acey, TechWeb.

[6] German position on cryptography is clarified in the form of "Cornerstones of German Encryption Policy"

During its session of June 2, The Federal Cabinet agreed on the German position on the use of cryptographic technology and released a document entitled "Eckpunkten der deutschen Kryptopolitik" -- Cornerstones of German Encryption Policy -- outlining that position.

The document clearly states that cryptographic technology and products are permitted to be developed, produced and used without any restrictions. The main concern of the Government in addressing the question of cryptography appears to lie in the area of business and e- commerce. Its main motive is to enhance international competitiveness of German crypto tools suppliers and raise their productivity vis-a-vis their competitors' across the Channel and Atlantic.

From the justifications of Governments' policy, released along with the "Cornerstones", it appears that security and privacy issues have taken a back seat in informing the Governments' position. Nonetheless, Germany remains in the forefront of opposing restrictions on encryption and continues to be a main counter-balance to U.S. efforts to regulate encryption technology.

The cornerstones agreed on by the Federal Government are as follows:

1. The Federal Government has no intention of restricting the free availability of encryption products in Germany. It regards the use of secure encryption as a decisive prerequisite for data protection for the public, for the development of electronic business transactions and for the protection of company secrets. The Federal Government will thus actively support the spread of secure encryption in Germany. This particularly includes the promotion of security-consciousness among the public, in the economy and in the administration.

2. It is the aim of the Federal Government to strengthen the confidence of users in the security of encryption. It will therefore take steps to establish a framework of confidence for secure encryption, specifically by improving the verifiability of the security functions of encryption products and recommending the use of tested products.

3. For reasons relating to the security of the state, the economy and society, the Federal Government considers it indispensable that German manufacturers be capable of developing and manufacturing secure and powerful encryption products. It will take steps to improve the international competitiveness of this sector.

4. The spread of powerful encryption procedures must not undermine the statutory telecommunications surveillance authority of the criminal prosecution and security authorities. The responsible Federal Ministries will therefore continue to monitor developments closely and report on this subject after two years. Independently of this, the Federal Government will support the improvement of the technical competencies of the criminal prosecution and security authorities within the framework of its capabilities.

5. The Federal Government attaches great importance to international cooperation in the field of encryption policy. It advocates open standards and interoperable systems developed in the market and will support the strengthening of multilateral and bilateral cooperation.

Complete document in its English translation can be read at:

Original statement by German government:

[7] The French National Assembly has adopted two amendments considerably limiting ISP liability

On May 18th, the socialist parliamentarian Patrick Bloche proposed two amendments to the freedom of communication law. The amendments were adopted by the National Assembly on May 29th, signaling a significant victory for the human rights advocates and cyber libertarians worldwide.

The current law in France requires all broadcast media to register with the government and follow a set of guidelines. The law can be broadly interpreted to apply to any Web content provider and to ISP's as well and, consequently, the first of the Bloche's amendment aims at removing the registration requirement for ISP's and other communication services.

The second amendment seeks to define the responsibilities of the ISPs and it states that the operators cannot be made liable for any content hosted by them or to which they give public access, if they have not been involved in the production of the content in question and have taken all reasonable action to stop the broadcasting of the content when they have been informed, or ordered to do so, by the justice authorities.

"These amendments protect ISPs as well as the rights of citizens using Internet services. If the French Parliament finally adopts these amendments, they will make France the first country in Europe, and indeed the world, to resolutely choose democracy and respect for personal and public liberty on the Internet, without in any way eliminating each person's responsibility for his or her acts and public statements", said Meryem Marzouki of GILC Member Imaginons un Reseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS). "Contrarily to the provision of the EU Directive on Electronic Commerce, the amendments, by requiring the intervention of judicial authorities, guarantee respect of due process", she added.

The proposed law now has to be voted on by the Senate (the lower chamber), and then reexamined by the National Assembly to insure that the two chambers are in agreement. The final approval by the Assembly is expected by the end of this year.

The information on the amendments is available on IRIS website:

[8] Human Rights Watch surveys online freedom of expression in the Middle East and North Africa

In the 92-page report released on July 8, Human Rights Watch contends that censorship, access controls and high costs are retarding Internet growth in the Mideast and North Africa. The report notes that despite numerous obstacles, the Internet is growing rapidly with nearly one million people in the Arab world having access.

While claiming to protect the public from pornography and "infidel propaganda", the governments have adopted series of measures to restrict the flow of information online. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates effectively block access to various political and human rights sites by means of proxy servers that stand between the end-user the Internet. In some countries, including Jordan, heavy taxation and stringent telecommunications regulations keep Internet access quite costly and thus beyond the means of average. Meanwhile, Libya, Iraq and Syria prohibit any public access to the Internet. Underdeveloped infrastructure, or heavily damaged in case of Iraq, is partially to blame for government's unwillingness to make local access available.

"Authorities in this region are used to keeping tight reins on the media, but they cannot control the free-flowing Internet," said Hanny Megally, executive director at Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa. "Instead of erecting barriers that cannot stand for long, these governments should work to make online communications wildly available."

The report also states that there is a growing concern among the Internet users that their privacy rights are violated by systematic surveillance of their e-mail by authorities. Such concerns are quite justified in a region where phone tapping of the political dissidents is a norm and telecommunications sector remains largely in the state hands. One citizen of Bahrain, for instance, spent more than a year in jail on charges of e-mailing "sensitive" information to his allies abroad.

Not all governments have been actively trying to regulate the Internet, even though they routinely suppress other means of expression. In Egypt and Jordan, for example, the material censored in the print media quickly appeared on the Internet, where the users could read and forward it without consequences. Algeria, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority have hardly touched the issue of online control, allowing its citizens unrestricted access to the Internet, while local print and broadcast media remain to be heavily censored.

The report can be read at:

[9] Reporters sans Frontires (RSF) released a report on the state of press freedom in Tunisia

The report "Silence, we're gagging the press", outlining the Tunisian government's assaults on its domestic press, has been released by RSF after its mission to North Africa from 14th to 19th of June. Before detailing the abuses of the media by the government, the report states that "Today, press freedom is non-existent in Tunisia." Specifically, the report "credits" the President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali for the degradation of the freedom of press.

The report reveals that the media is under heavy governmental influence, where any criticism of the regime is, in fact, prohibited. "All the daily newspapers, without exception, publish a photograph of President Ben Ali on their front pages every day. There is hardly any difference between their headlines," states the report. Furthermore, according to the report, the Internet is also effectively censored, where checks on the sites visited are made and certain foreign sites are blocked.

Since the President's ascendance to power on November 7, 1987, journalists have been victims of ungrounded dismissals, police surveillance, searches of their offices and homes, unjustified tax audits and the like. According to RSF, in August 1992, Hamadi Jebali, editor of the weekly Al Fajr, and one of its reporters, Abdellah Zouari, were sentenced to sixteen and eleven years in jail respectively.

The government also heavily controls the circulation of the foreign press. The distribution of the two major French dailies, Le Monde and Liberation, is routinely delayed and over the past eighteen months, about sixty issues of both papers were banned.

The RSF report can be read at:

[10] Scientology Decision by the Dutch Court is seen as setting a dangerous precedent which could potentially expose a wide range of ISPs and Internet publishers to new liability

Hyperlinking and ownership/liability problems associated with it, have traditionally been in the avant-garde of a still developing cyber-law frontier. This time around, the issue is taken up by the Dutch court whose decision is bound to have a wide impact on the Internet publishing community and possibly trigger a new wave of legal battles.

The case was brought to court by the Church of Scientology and was directed against individuals who posted materials written by Ron Hubbard -- the founder of the Church -- on a Web page hosted by a site in Netherlands. The page containing copyrighted materials was put up in Holland after the U.S. Court had fined a separate individual for publishing the materials on the Net. The County Court in Hague found the materials published on the Dutch Web site to also be an infringement on the church's copyrights.

But what got the attention of the international cyber-law community was the ruling that linking to a site that contains material which infringes the church's copyright is also an infringement.

Dan Burk, an associate professor of law at Seton Hall University, noted that hyperlinks serve only as pointers or footnotes that direct the user to the source of information. "It's hard for me to imagine how this holding can be correct," Burk said. "I think it's pretty clear that just giving you a reference can't make me an infringer."

But Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, complicated the issue somewhat by saying that it is "not implausible" that U.S. courts could uphold the decision by the Dutch court by citing a "contributory infringement" theory.

"The only requirements for demonstrating a presence of contributory infringement] are that you knew or should have known about the infringement and you materially contributed to the infringement," Volokh said. This legal theory is certain to give the Dutch ruling more argumentative substance and subsequently make it less prone to quick reversal. "This isn't some ridiculous thing that only a Dutch court could come up with," added Volokh.

One of the defendants in the Dutch case is believed to be Karin Spaink, an Amsterdam based cyber-liberties activist who recently revived a controversial anti-abortion site closed down by a federal jury in Oregon.

Story adapted from "Scientologists' Copyright Suit Shapes Net Liability", by Dan Goodin. For full story see,,4,0-37622,00.html

[11] UNESCO launches campaign to protect children from pedophiles on the Internet

As a follow-up to the UN sponsored summit "Sexual Abuse of Children, Child Pornography and Pedophilia on the Internet: An International Challenge," held in Geneva this past January, UNESCO formed an action group, "Innocence in Danger", to fight Internet pedophilia.

The newly formed group is comprised of representatives from computer and communications industries, law enforcement officials and children's rights activists. It does not have representatives from free expression and cyber rights groups. According to published reports, the primary objective of the group at this incipient stage is to develop and ratify a plan of action for making the net safe for minors without infringing on the freedom of speech.

Adapted from "UNESCO launches campaign to fight Internet pedophilia", CNN. Full story at:

[12] Vietnam Weighs Internet Control

On the 19th of May, Associated Press reported that police authorities in Ho Chi Minh city have asked the central government to give full control over Internet activities to the local People's Committee which is composed of the police, the Department of Culture and the Department of Science and Technology.

Advising former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet on social order in the city, the police leadership said hostile forces abroad have abused the Internet to bring in documents with bad and reactionary content, the local newspaper Youth reported.

Associated Press reported that the local paper quoted police as saying many state secrets have been leaked through the Internet. Many writings of Vietnamese dissidents have also been posted, the police said.

Police also added that some people stole subscribers' passwords to illegally log on, causing losses to the state and individuals. Fines were proposed by the police to be set for these kinds of violations.

AP concluded that the government fears its inability to control the inflow of information through the Internet may threaten its one-party rule. According to the AP's report, the Vietnamese government allowed the use of the Internet in December 1997 and today the number of subscribers has swelled to over 30,000.

Adapted from the article by Associated Press on May 19, 1999.

[13] A decision by an Argentinean Court equates e-mail with regular postal mail to better regulate the privacy of electronic communications

A court in Argentina ruled that e-mail communications must enjoy the same level of privacy protection as does postal correspondence. A translation of the part of the decision concerning e-mail, provided by Margarita Lacabe of GILC Member Derechos Human Rights, reads as follows: "...nothing precludes us from defining the electronic communication medium as a true post in an updated version. In this sense, correspondence and everything that can be transmitted and received through it, enjoys the same protection that the legislators meant to grant in articles 153 to 155 when the substantive code was written, that is to say, when these technological advances had no yet come about."

Applicable Penal Code Articles

Art. 153 - He will be punished with a prison term of 15 days to six months, he who would wrongfully open a letter, a sealed sheet of paper or a telegraph, phone or other message that is not addressed to him; or he who would wrongfully take possession of a letter, a sheet of paper, a dispatch, or other private paper, even it is not sealed; or who would stop or divert a correspondence not addressed to him. A prison term of one month to one year will be applied, if the guilty party communicate to another [or] publish the content of the letter, writing or dispatch.

Art. 155 - He who, being in possession of a correspondence not meant to be publicized, wrongfully publicized it, even it was addressed to him, will be punished with a fine of $1,500 to $90,000, if the act cause or could cause damage to third parties.

Spanish version of the court decision can be found at:

[14] EFA Calls for Minister's Resignation

Following passage of a controversial piece of Internet censorship legislation by the House of Representatives, GILC Member Electronic Frontiers Australia asked for the resignation of Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

The July 1 resignation demand came after it was made known Alston's Broadcasting Services Amendment, popularly known as the Internet Services Bill, had passed the night prior.

Calling it little more than "a cheap political stunt," Darce Cassidy, EFA executive director, said the legislation raised serious questions about Alston's ability to serve on that post and could further plunge Australia into the "Dark Ages." Alston is "unfit to hold the IT portfolio," Cassidy said. "He has ignored community concerns about free speech and privacy, dismissed advice from his own department, the CSIRO and industry experts, and has failed to comprehend the nature of the Internet," he said.

The bill's passage will not "silence its many critics," said EFA Chair Kim Heitman, adding regular users will find a way to avoid the "blacklist filters." According to him, Alston is following a dangerous national trend toward censorship and positioning himself as an information age Luddite. Recently there has been "an endless series of announcements about increased censorship involving television programming, X-rated videos, the Internet, phone-sex lines, and interference by the Cabinet in the appointment of OFLC staff," added Cassidy. In fact, Cassidy said pointedly, Alston probably does not "know the difference between the Internet and TV." Alston also seems to be ignoring the demands of the public who "have voiced their displeasuure at the government censorship of various media."

A significant factor in the legislation's passage was the "government's need to gain Senator Harradine's crucial vote for its GST and Telstra agendas," Cassidy added. The Internet Services Bill will make Australia an " international laughing-stock," concluded Cassidy.

URL of the EFA release:

Information about the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill:

[15] Overseas Defamation Injunction Denied

An Australian judge has refused to grant an injunction against an allegedly defamatory web site based outside of Australia.

Citing the defendant's probably "unfettered right to publish the material," based on international law, Justice Caroline Simpson of the NSW Supreme Court refused in early June to grant an attempt by Macquarie Bank to block an allegedly defamatory web site based outside Australia.

John Davidson mentions the case in the June 4 issue of the Australian Financial Review. "What if an Australian Internet content provider was told to take down content being accessed, not only by Australians, but by other Internet users outside Australian jurisdiction?" asked Davidson. "Which is to say, since almost all Internet content is accessible globally, what if the courts tried to enforce the content- provisions of the federal government's net-porn legislation?"

The decision raises questions about what "constitutes an attempt to block Australian law," Davidson writes. He argues Simpson's decision touches on the "impracticality of being asked to block a site outside Australia."

However, Davidson notes, that Simpson "does agree with the bank that courts are empowered to restrain conduct outside the territorial boundaries of their jurisdiction." The issue is raised of "technical feasibility" versus blocking "unsavory content," he said. "It's possible that the Broadcasting Services Amendment could be unenforceable because it calls on Internet service providers to simultaneously do things that can be mutually exclusive."

Adapted from "EyeSite", by John Davidson.

Full story at


The GILC News Alert is the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, an international coalition of organizations working to protect and enhance online civil liberties and human rights. Organizations are invited to join GILC by contacting us at To alert members about threats to cyber liberties, please contact members from your country or send a message to the general GILC address.

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