GILC Alert
Volume 1, Issue 1 October 24, 1997

Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter  

Welcome to the first edition of 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.

Since this is the first edition, it is likely to reach a number of people who may be unaware of GILC's activities, therefore, this issue focuses on what we have done to date. Future issues will include action alerts, in depth articles providing analysis on international cyber-liberties issues, and short summaries of events in the field.

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.

   [A1] European Commission Issues Cryptography Report
[B1] Africa/Middle East
   [B1.1] Censorship News From Arabian Peninsula
   [B1.2] Egypt and Anti-Islamic Web Sites
   [B1.3] South Africa's Telkom Forced to Share
[B2] Asia/Oceania
   [B2.1] Australia Threatens Free Speech
   [B2.2] Chinese Internet Censorship
[B3] Europe
   [B3.1] Ireland Establishes Internet "Working Group"
   [B3.2] German Prosecution
   [B3.4] Rexrodt Urges Strong Encryption
   [B3.5] Spain
   [B3.6] AOL Alerts British Users to Surveillance
   [B3.7] EuroISPA Formed in Brussels
[B4] North America
   [B4.1] Canadian Tribunal Hears Internet Hate Case
   [B4.2] United States Judiciary Upholds Free Speech
   [B4.3] FBI Rebuffed


    There are no borders in cyberspace

Individual governments and multi-national organizations can have profound effects on the rights of citizens around the world. Therefore, users of the Global Internet must cooperate to protect freedom of speech and the right to privacy.

In 1996, the Global Internet Liberty Campaign was formed at the annual meeting of the Internet Society in Montreal. Members of the coalition include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Human Rights Watch, the Internet Society, Privacy International, the Association des Utilisateurs d'Internet, and other civil liberties and human rights organizations.

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign advocates...

  • Prohibiting prior censorship of on-line communication.
  • Requiring that laws restricting the content of on-line speech distinguish between the liability of content providers and the liability of data carriers.
  • Insisting that on-line free expression not be restricted by indirect means such as excessively restrictive governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet.
  • Including citizens in the Global Information Infrastructure (GII) development process from countries that have currently unstable economically, have insufficient infrastructure, or
    lack sophisticated technology.
  • Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • Ensuring that personal information generated on the GII for one purpose is not used for an unrelated purpose or disclosed without the person's informed consent and enabling individuals to review personal information on the Internet and to correct inaccurate information.
  • Allowing on line users to encrypt their communications and information without restriction.

Links to the Principles in Arabic, German, Spanish and French can be found at

Member Organizations

  • Associazione per la Libertanella Comunicazione Elettronica Interattiva (ALCEI)
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Amnesty International USA
  • Arge Daten
  • Association des Utilisateurs d'Internet
  • Bevcom Internet Technologies
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand School of Law.
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • CITADEL-EF France
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • CommUnity - The Computer Communicators Association
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
  • Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)
  • CypherNet
  • Derechos Human Rights
  • Digital Citizens Foundation Netherlands
  • engagierte Computer ExpertInnen (eCE)
  • EFF-Austin
  • Electronic Frontiers Australia
  • Electronic Frontier Canada
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Electronic Frontiers Houston
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Forum InformatikerInnen fuer Frieden und gesellschaftlicheVerantwortung (FIfF) e.V.
  • Förderverein; Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG)
  • Fronteras Electronicas Espana (FrEE)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Internet Society
  • NetAction
  • OpenNet
  • Open Society Institute
  • Peacefire
  • Privacy International
  • quintessenz e-zine
  • XS4ALL Foundation

If your organization is interested in becoming a member of GILC, please send us an e-mail.

International Organizations

Cyberspace defies the natural boundaries and national borders that confine most governments and businesses. These bodies, however, can dictate policy-making for the Global Information Infrastructure. How much more so, when these bodies are international in scope? The Global Internet Community cannot escape the influence of groups like the OECD, G7, European Parliament, and other international bodies. Therefore, GILC monitors the activities of these international organizations, and works to see that their policies support, and not, oppose online liberty.

  • GILC organized a conference entitled "The Public Voice in Development of International Cryptography." 15 organizations endorsed a resolution encouraging the OECD to "base its cryptography policies on the fundamental right of citizens to private communications." The GILC conference changed the focus of the OECD cryptography debate; and resulted in much more Internet friendly policies than OECD had originally proposed.
  • GILC formally criticized a number of provisions of the Resolution on the Communication of the Commission Regarding Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet (COM(96)0487-C4-0592/96), which the European Parliament adopted on April 24th, 1997. Foremost, the GILC comments called upon the European Parliament, the Council, the European Commission, the governments and Parliaments of the member states, as well as appropriate international organizations, to adhere to founding principles and avoid the malignant influence of fleeting fears. These groups will do well to remember that those who would trade a little liberty for a little security, deserve neither and will get neither. Fear should not replace the European Union's founding principles or the fundamental principles of the protection of human rights and public freedoms: freedom of expression, free access to public information, protection of privacy, as well as the principle of freedom of circulation of services and the principle of proportionality. GILC also counseled that most of these organizations avoid implementing many of the policies in the resolution.

Read the GILC statement here pe-en.html


[B1] European Commission Issues Cryptography Report

Citing concerns that the United States's encryption proposal is ineffective and violative of some member states' data-privacy rules, the European Commission has rejected a U.S. plan that would allow governmental monitoring of private Internet communications. Commission officials, without specifically endorsing any specific methods, have offered what some have termed a "counter proposal" to the U.S. scheme.

The Commission's counter-proposal is based on three foundations. First, the Commission views encryption as the only useful and practical means of securing the confidentiality of both business and personal communications. Second, it regards encryption regulation as simply inefficient. Third, it views encryption's widespread use as working to PREVENT crime, not hasten it, as the U.S. alleges.

The European Commission also has real concerns the U.S. plan would serve to facilitate industrial espionage. The Federal Association of German Banks fears the U.S. initiative "would allow wide ranging spying on electronic-business transactions protected by encryption technology."

In the Commission's rebuttal to the U.S. plan, it proposed a multi-faceted strategy. Among the suggestions, the Commission announced its intention to propose legislation in early 1998, which would provide a community framework for digital signatures. It is also ready to support the development of cryptographic services to generate strategies for securing electronic communications. Furthermore, the Commission will establish, by the end of the year, a European Internet Forum as a means of not only sharing information, but also providing information. Moreover, beginning in 1998, the Commission will hold hearings about "digital signature and encryption," whose aim will be to consult with governments, businesses and their customers in an attempt to gauge opinions on which steps should be taken to ensure more Internet security.

It's time to "get out of the box" and take affirmative measures whereby Internet security is truly secure and Internet privacy is truly private. It appears that the European Commission continues to shift the paradigm towards greater freedom.

To read the report

        [B1] Africa/Middle East

        [B1.1] Censorship News From Arabian Peninsula

All of the region's countries -- except Yemen, which can't afford to police the internet -- are working to censor pornography and political opinions so that their 20,000 subscribers and 100,000 users can not freely surf the Internet. Etisalat, the only ISP to the seven states of the United Arab Emirates, has setup software blockades after officials of the several countries disapproved of free access to the internet. The countries are blocking Web sites that carry words such as breast, sex or nude. Qatar and Oman both use "CyberPatrol" and "Net Nanny" to limit their population's access to the world wide web. Kuwait is working on a blocking system, while Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Muslim countries, has started a committee to initiate that country's official entry into the cyber age.

[B1.2] Egypt and Anti-Islamic Web Sites

Egypt, home of 45,000 internet users, is awash in sensitive internet issues. The country's religious leaders -- Egypt's official censors -- have denounced internet-based attacks on Islam (the State's official religion and the religion of 85% of the populace). Sunni Islam's highest authority, the Al Azhar, has vowed to "strongly confront these matters" and work with the government and international religious organizations on combating what it views as hostile religious assaults. Al Azhar and Egypt's Religious Affairs Ministry announced that they would launch their own website to "respond to everything being said about Islam abroad."

To date, Egyptian officials have refrained from taking direct actions to censor the material. Instead, the religious authorities, offended by the Web sites, are taking seriously the maxim that the best way to fight "offensive" speech is with more speech.

[B1.3] South Africa's Telkom Forced to Share

Two victories for the citizenry of South Africa were coupled together in one announcement last week. The South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) voted to deny Telkom (the state-controlled telecommunications utility) an Internet monopoly. This one decision is not only about the constitutional right to do business, but also involves the pubic's reasonable demands for information and for efficient communications services.

SATRA's Internet ruling means the nation's 70-80 service providers can proceed with business as usual. Because Internet service providers relied on Telkom's telecommunications infrastructure, the industry was defenseless against rate-increases and bandwidth supply bottlenecks. Furthermore, because SATRA decided that Telkom's exclusive right to provide South Africa's telecommunications infrastructure did not extend to the Internet, Internet providers will continue to seek innovative methods of allowing inexpensive home connections. For example, Eskom (a South African service provider) will investigate providing access over electricity cables.

These service providers and Telkom are to share a collectively-owned, internal, neutral site that routes all Internet traffic, instead of using international gateways (users sent e-mail via the United States to receivers across the street) SATRA insists a lack of this "common peering point" is costing South Africa a fortune in wasted bandwidth. Nape Maepa, chairman of SATRA, said the "main aim of the common peering point is to complement, rather than compete, with the service provided by constituent members." The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), in a press release hailing the ruling, has supported common peering points. But in a press conference, Mark Todes, the co-chairman of the ISPA, warned they would not allow Telkom to connect to ISPA's peering point, "if [Telkom] did not commit themselves to free and fair competition."

The ruling aligns South Africa's Internet service provision with global standards, allows for a free market system and free business association, free speech on the net, and the prevention of nationalizing an industry that knows no national or natural boundaries.

The South African Institute of Race Relations has voiced three concerns, however:

1) Since SATRA calls for ISP's to apply for licenses, and since these licensing parameters are yet undefined, "artificially high barriers to entry for smaller industries might be a disincentive for future investment."

2) SATRA will also create a "regulatory environment" for Internet providers. "No one really knows what that means. One can only hope that SATRA did not rule against [Telcom] only to embark on a scheme to overregulate the industry in another way, which would be counter to the global trend of deregulation."

3) SATRA is also asking for "public service obligations" with the issuing of a VANS license. "Yet again, no clarity exists as to what these obligations will be. . . . This essentially boils down to an additional tax on the revenue of ISP's."

Telkom Executive for Regulatory Affairs, Pinky Moholi, argued that the "decision was based on a misinterpretation." It will continue to study the ruling and might appeal.

You can read SATRA's ruling at

[B2] Asia/Oceania

[B2.1] Australia Threatens Free Speech

In the same week that President Clinton announced the US Government would not be introducing any new controls on Internet content, the Australian government announced the opposite intention. Members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign have warned that the Australian proposals would threaten free speech and place an impossible burden on Australian Internet Service Providers.

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), a GILC founding member, has launched a campaign against these proposals that includes a GILC action alert, and an online petition. EFA is urging all concerned about online freedoms to sign a petition and to make a submission to the Australian Government.

[B2.2] Chinese Internet Censorship

In spite of the growing number of internet users, censorship rages in China, the world's largest nondemocratic nation. By the end of the year, the number of Chinese Internet subscribers is expected to hit 250,000 people. According to the Agence France Presse, however, experts believe the number of actual users to be more than one million because accounts are often shared.

In late August, China's Minister of Posts and Telecommunications said he had a "positive attitude" about the world wide information superhighway. But, he said the government will continue to "eliminate" the Internet's shortcomings. China adopts regulations "against anything that is detrimental to the country's security and that goes against the country's traditions." While today the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication initially censors political intelligence, pornography, and anti-Beijing sites, the government is generating a complete infrastructure to regulate the Internet.

[B2.3] Singapore Might Loosen Internet Control

In Singapore, an 18 member National Internet Advisory Committee (NIAC) has urged its government to remove provisions of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority's (SBA) Internet Code that would "curtail genuine free speech." The NIAC, appointed by the Ministry of Information and the Arts last August, found that references to Singapore's Sedition Act, which had banned all Internet content that brought the "government into hatred or contempt," was too vague and overly broad. As it stands, Singapore now routes all Internet communications through central, government-owned computers so that censors can weed out "spiritual pollution."

The NIAC should be applauded in this important, albeit small step. The meta-question is how long can a committee decide for the people of Singapore exactly what "genuine" speech is? While Singapore moves toward a less ambiguous and more libertarian Internet framework, it should also work on eliminating other vague parts of existing SBA regulations: namely, provisions banning pornography, violence, promotion of religious or ethnic intolerance, and promotion of criminal offenses.

To read the guidelines

[B3] Europe

[B3.1] Ireland Establishes Internet "Working Group"

Ireland has become one of the latest countries to consider whether to
crack down on 'harmful and illegal' use of the Internet. It has established A Working Group on Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet, consisting of representatives from both private and public sectors, with advisory and recommendatory functions.

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign made a submission hoping to lay the framework for an effective Internet policy by providing key background information on both technical and policy issues. The submission examined the experience of other countries in trying to assert jurisdiction over the Internet.

Members of the GILC recommended, in summary, that the Irish government:

  • Refrain from prosecuting Internet providers for material on the Internet, or requiring them to monitor or control content.
  • Rely on existing laws to prosecute crimes on the Internet (such as the distribution of child pornography or copyright infringement) rather than pass new laws or regulations treating the new medium specially.
  • Avoid censorship, but advise the use of filtering or blocking software by any individuals interested in avoiding objectionable content.

For more information
To read GILC's recommendations:

[B3.2] German Prosecution

Twenty-three members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign sent a letter to Chancellor Kohl calling on Germany to end the prosecution of CompuServe German Director Felix Somm and support legal reforms relating to the Internet.

On April 16, German prosecutors announced they had indicted German CompuServe's managing director in connection with the alleged distribution of pornography and violent games over the Internet. That day, GILC member XS4ALL also announced that the German Federal Prosecutor had pressured a German academic Internet service provider into blocking access to the ands-based XS4ALL's entire site because it contains German-banned RADIKAL magazine.

Read GILC's letter

[B3.4] Rexrodt Urges Strong Encryption

Germany's Economic Minister, Guenter Rexrodt is at the forefront of opposing initiatives that would give law enforcement officials technology that can tap into encrypted computer data. In June, while giving the opening statement to the European Union's Global Information Network Conference (http://www2. in Bonn, he re-pledged his opposistion to encyprtion keys. According to Reuters, he said: "Users can only protect themselves against having data manipulated, destroyed or spied on through the use of strong encyption procedures. That is why we have to use all of our powers to promote such procedures instead of blocking them."

[B3.5] Spain

Global Internet Liberty Campaign members lent their support to the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) in its attempts to give alternative political organizations a voice. They condemned the orchestrated campaign to shut down IGC services simply because one Web site they hosted was promoting Basque independence.

GILC takes no stand on the Basque question and does not support the use of violence by the ETA. We simply support the rights of organizations to carry on electronic communications without deliberate disruption, and the right to freedom of expression. While the ETA undertakes violent acts, the supportive web site was a non-violent act.

To read GILC's statement go to igc-statement-en.html

[B3.6] AOL Alerts British Users to Surveillance

Suscribers to AOL Ltd. in Britain were warned the provider was requiring a stiff new contract that gives AOL vast license to reveal subscribers' private email and on-line movements to law enforcement offices. The revised contract is also the first to inform users that they must comply with both British and U.S. export laws governing encryption. The International Herald Tribune has reported that AOL Europe will provide similiar contracts, which vary according to local law, in each of the seven European countries in which AOL operates.

The contract provides that AOL "reserves the right to monitor or disclose the contents of private communicaton . . . and data to the extent permitted by law." Subscribers are also forbidden from posting or transmitting "unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, seditious, blasphemous, hateful, racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable" content. The contract also enhanced the legal wording about pornography and continued to prohibit maintaining links to "obscene" Web sites.

[B3.7] EuroISPA Formed in Brussels

Last month, ISPs in Europe banded together to more efficiently battle Internet regulation and taxation. The European Internet Service Providers Association ( was formally established in Brussels. The seven founding members, representing over 400 ISPs across the European Union include: AFPI (France), AIIP (Italy), AnProTel (Spain), ECO (Germany), ISPA (Belgium), ISPA (UK), and Nlip (Netherlands). Visibly missing from the new union is the UK's largest ISP, Demon Internet.

EuroISPA will concentrate on lobbying the European Commission and other international regulatory bodies. According to Techwire ( wire), the organization will have a permanent General Secretary who works with a governing council representing each of the national associations, while the rolling presidency will be filled from each organization in turn.

In its first press release (, newly appointed President Jim Dixon of ISPA UK said: "EuroISPA has immediately become the world's largest representative body of Internet Service Providers." According to the press release, EuroISPA hopes to act as the principal voice for the Internet in Europe; it also wants to promote "self-regulation and influence the regulatory process on behalf of the Internet industry" and to "encourage the development of a free and open telecommunications market."

[B4] North America

[B4.1] Canadian Tribunal Hears Internet Hate Case

The Canadian Human Rights Commission used Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which forbids the communication of hate messages "by means of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament," to investigate complaints that Ernst Zundel's website (Zundelsite) incites hatred. The website runs an opening banner asking, "Did six million people really die?"

Since it held further inquiry was warranted, the Commission referred the complaints to a Human Rights Tribunal for adjudication.

Even though Zundel has tried to bypass Canada's law by arguing that the site is run by a U.S. citizen, Ingrid Rimland, in California, the commission argued that Zundel, a Toronto resident, created and managed the site. On October 17th, Zundel was surprised when his estranged wife appeared in court to testify that her husband daily edited and approved the site's content.

According to The Toronto Sun, Zundel argues that the Tribunal threatens democracy because it "has no jurisdiction" over the Internet. David Jones, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton and president of GILC member Electronic Frontier Canada added that: "It is inappropriate to accomplish by the back door what cannot be done through the front door. This section was enacted by Parliament to deal with telephone-answering machines carrying hateful messages."

The tribunal will next reconvene on December 11, 1997 and then again in April next year.

To view Zundel's page for yourself see --
For other news on the hearing --

[B4.2] United States Judiciary Upholds Free Speech

The summer of 1997 will be remembered as a summer of internet free speech. Three Federal Courts have decided that governmental attempts to regulate the Internet have all fallen short of the United States Constitution's demand that government refrain from limiting speech.

Foremost, was the United States Supreme Court's inspiring decision in Reno v. The American Civil Liberties Union ( There, the ACLU and 18 other plaintiffs challenged the Federal Communications Decency Act as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. A lower federal court had agreed and the Supreme Court affirmed, in sweeping language, that cyberspace must be free.

The eight other members of the Court agreed with most of Justice John Paul Stevens's opinion holding that the CDA placed an "unacceptably heavy burden on protected speech," that "threatens to torch a large segment of the Internet community." His strong opinion held that the Constitution shields Internet speech and must be given the highest level of First Amendment protection, similar to the protection the Court gives to books and newspapers. In contrast, the Court has a more limited First Amendment defense of speech on broadcast and cable television.

While concurring with most of the result, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissented in part. But even the dissenters believed the CDA was clearly unconstitutional because it was "akin to a law that makes it a crime for a bookstore owner to sell pornographic magazines to anyone once a minor enters his store." They, however, believed the law could be constitutionally applied, albeit very narrowly in the very limited situation of deliberate transmission of indecent material "where the party initiating the communication knows that all of the recipients are minors." If an adult might be among the recipients, however, the speech cannot constitutionally be suppressed, Justice O'Connor stated.

The Supreme Court's monumental decision came just three days after federal judges in New York and Georgia stuck down each state's Internet censorship law. In the New York case, American Library Association v. Pataki (http://, Judge Loretta A. Preska attacked the law as violating the Constitution's Commerce Clause (dealing with business activities across state borders). In Georgia's ACLU v. Miller (, Judge Marvin Shoob decided that a law, banning anonymous speech on the Internet, unconstitutionally restricted free speech and gave "prosecutors and police officers . . . substantial room for selective prosecution of persons who express minority viewpoints."

While New York and Georgia will not appeal the decisions, twenty other states either have or are considering such legislation. But Georgia and New York's were the first challenging the laws and will not be the last.

[B4.3] FBI Rebuffed

The United States House of Representatives' Commerce Committee, citing civil liberties concerns, overwhelmingly rejected the FBI's new amendment to the Security and Information Through Encryption Act (SAFE). The FBI sought to subvert SAFE's original intent -- the easing of controls on export of strong encryption technology.

On October 21st, US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he opposes the FBI's approach to encryption technology. In the Congressional Record, he said the FBI proposals to put restrictions on domestic use of encryption technology would "invade our privacy, be of minimal use to the FBI, would require nonexistent technology, would create new administrative burdens and would seriously damage our foreign markets." Lott also asserted that even though law enforcement needs require "due and proper regard," the FBI's measures, guaranteeing access to information without a user's knowledge, would put "most us into an entirely new world of surveillance, a very intrusive surveillance, where every communication by every individual can be accessed by the FBI."

Furthermore, Lott questioned the FBI's motives: Why has the FBI assumed "all Americans are going to be involved in criminal activities?" and "where is probable cause?" Moreover, Lott praised the House Commerce Committee for rejecting the FBI's proposal, particularly the provision establishing a National Encryption Technology Center, which would have served to "break codes." Two other House panels, National Security and Intelligence, passed bills favorable to the FBI, while 3 other panels, Commerce, Judiciary and International Relations, voted for measures favorable to civil liberties organizations. No resolution is in the making.


Raafat S. Toss GILC Organizer Developer American Civil Liberties Union 125 Broad Street New York, New York 10004

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