GILC Alert
Volume 1, Issue 2 November 10, 1997

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.

  [A] FOREMOST NEWS [A1] United States Senate Introduces "Son of CDA" [B]ROUNDUP OF GLOBAL INTERNET ISSUES [B1] Africa/Middle East [B1.1] Dubai and Censorship [B2] Asia/Oceania [B2.1] Hong Kong Issues Internet "Code of Practice" [B2.2] Singapore's New Guidlines [B2.3] Vietnam Monitors Internet [B3] Europe [B3.1] European Commission Examines French Proposal [B4] North America [B4.1] FCC: PC V-Chip? [B4.2] ADL Releases Report on Internet Hate-Speech  
[A] FOREMOST NEWS [A1] United States Senate Introduces "Son of CDA"  

U.S. Senator Dan Coats (Republican from Indiana), the original sponsor of the failed Communications Decency Act, has introduced another piece of legislation that seeks to ban material that is "harmful to minors." Under this new law, the goverment would be able to imprison commercial online distributors for six months and fine them $50,000.

Coats's law requires businesses to ask for a credit card or proof of age before diplaying any "harmful material." The bill vaguely defines "harmful material" and fails to provide any guidance to what "harmful to minors" actually means.

"By claiming that the bill addresses only web sites involved in commercial distribution, Senator Coats says he is 'hunting with a rifle' but in fact, he has lobbed another virtual grenade into the heart of the Internet," said Ann Beeson, an ACLU National Staff Attorney and member of the legal team that defeated the CDA.

Any business merely displaying material without first requiring a credit card or other proof of age could be found liable under the statute, which criminalizes commercial distribution of words or images that could be deemed "harmful to minors," even if no actual sale is involved, Beeson said.

Stay posted for more information on this new bill.

See the ACLU Press Release
Read the bill:

[B] ROUNDUP OF GLOBAL INTERNET ISSUES [B1] Africa/Middle East [B1.1] Dubai and Censorship  

The second richest emirate in the United Arab Emirates federation will invest $2.7 million to aid in censoring the Internet. The Inter Press Service reports that the Dubai Police Chief, Major General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, acknowledged that "putting air tight restrictions on access to the Internet is impossible. But we (Dubai) have not lost hope especially since we came to know that Singapore has successfully done it."

Dr. Mansour Al-Awar, from the Dubai Police, said that the Internet is "a danger to the high moral values, traditional practices and religious beliefs of Gulf States." The Internet, according to Tamim needs the same kind "of censorship applicable to books, publication and movies, and aids the spread of radical and racists ideas among children." Therefore, Dubai has outlawed pornography, violence, nudity, homosexuality, and lesbianism on the Internet. Dubai will use the $2.7 million to further police the Net.

Dubai will employ the British Firm JBB Consultancy Services to analyze information being downloaded. "The Net Map system traces user patterns by identifying how certain sites on the web are visited. Through the use of a collection device attached to the main telephone line and an alarm signal, the authorities can be alerted each time forbidden information is viewed or downloaded."

[B2] Asia/Oceania [B2.1] Hong Kong Issues Internet "Code of Practice"  

Back in July, the Hong Kong Internet Service Provider Association (HKISPA) thought the best way to keep children from "harmful" materials on the Internet was to equip parents with information. They posted a statement from Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA). In "Protect Our Young Persons from Indecent Materials on the Internet," TELA and HKISPA inform parents about filtering software. The statement ends: "Parental guidance is an effective means to protect youn persons from objectionable materials on the Internet. Spend time with your children on surfing the Internet. If your children surf the Internet by themselves, check up on them regularly to see how they are doing. Encourage your children to discuss with you if they find any offending sites particularly those with indecent or obscene content."

HKISPA and TELA have lost their trust in parents. The government and the association of 40 internet service providers have recently issued a "Code of Practice" to regulate "obscene" or "indecent" material on the Internet. The Xinhua News Agency reports the guidelines as providing detailed procedures to deal with complaints. Upon reciept of a complaint, and ISP will investigate and potentially block the Web site. The code also requires that HKISPA members "take reasonable steps to prevent users from placing or transmitting materials as class iii (obscene)." Content providers must also also post warning notices to class ii (indecent) materials.

To read the new Code of Practice:

[B2.2] Singapore's New Guidlines  

Heeding an 18 member National Internet Advisory Committee (NIAC) suggestion to remove provisions of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority's (SBA) Internet Code that would "curtail genuine free speech, " Singapore's Ministry of Information and the Arts has released new guidelines that clarify prohibitions on speech.

According to The Straits Time (Singapore), the revised code of practice has removed a clause that prohibited Internet content that might have incited contempt against the government. Lim Hock Chuan, the SBA's CEO, felt the revision was appropriate because Singapore already has a Sedition Act. Chuan argued that the "SBA has never censored political speech, and does not intend to do so. The SBA is not against the freedom of political speech."

Well, he means "registered" political speech. The SBA has not removed provisions that call for Web sites to be registered with the government if they promote political or religious causes. Three of Singapore's political parties and a dozen religious groups have chosen to freely advance their registered causes on the Internet. Chuan says the registration is not an act of censorship; "we simply want to know who you are."

The government has clarified its provision on hate speech. Now, any content that "glorifies, incites or endorses ethnic, racial or religious hatred, strife or intolerance" is proscribed. The SBA has also removed a provision that dealt with "religious deviations and occult practices." These are already regulated by Singapore's Society's Act.

On the sex side, Chuan noted his concern that it would be impossible to monitor millions of sites the government deems objectionable, "including a quarter of a million that are pornographic." That, however, hasn't stopped the government from blocking access to what it calls "100 mass impact pornographic sites" or from keeping eight monitors who surf the web regularly in search of sexual material. Chuan added that the SBA will still investigate complaints of offensive sites and block them, if necessary.

In a bow to NIAC's recommendation that the SBA avoid vagaries and use specific language, the new regulations also prohibit sexual material that "depicts nudity of genitalia in a manner calculated to titillate" or "depicts a person, who is, or appears to be under 16 years of age in sexual activity, in a sexually provocative manner or in any offensive manner."

The SBA estimates that Singapore Internet users stand at 230,000, double last year's number. Web sites have also seen an explosion from 2,003 in 1996 to 5,400 by September of 1997.

Read the new guidelines:

[B2.3] Vietnam Monitors Internet  

Vietnam is the home of barely 100,000 computers, and only a few thousand citizens have access to simple E-mail. Those facts, however, have not stopped the government from censoring the information superhighway. While Vietnam's communist government wants to catch up with the rest of the world, it still envisions an Internet infrastructure that can contain and monitor information. Rulers from behind "the Bamboo Curtain" want the curtain's reach to cover the digital world as well.

The Saigon Times Daily, recently reported that the Ministry of Interior decided that Internet access providers as well as Internet service providers must keep firewalls for Internet information. IAPs and ISPs must keep track of the information that is transmitted on the networks for at least 30 days. The ISPs must also block Web sites containing information "harmful to national security." According to the Ministry of Interior's decision, people must not "take part in or organize seminars on ppolitical, economic, cultural and social issues relating to Vietnam of their own free will." Furthermore, any organization wishing to use the Internet to send information must first submit to officials at the Ministry of Culture and Information a detailed list of all employees and official papers, which authorize the organization to use the Intenet.

[B3] Europe [B3.1] European Commission Examines French Proposal  

Even though the situtation has been volatile, the European Commission has been examining France's "liberalizing" of current encryption laws. The European nation was the only Western nation to completely ban domestic use of cryptography.

While the Commission has approved of the "technical" aspects of the French proposals, more specific legislation might need to be developed for France's laws to correspond to European Commission Directives. Just ask the Dutch, who have moved to delay the entire EC process. The Dutch believe that even France's new policy would violate European free-market ideals.

The European Commission adopted on October 8th, 1997 a Communication on Ensuring Security and Trust in Electronic Communication (COM(97) 503 In this document, the EC analyzed the drawbacks of 'trusted-third-party'-based systems, and of restrictive cryptography laws (pointing out that, with this issue and in the union of European states, France stands alone).

According to the EC Communication : "Key access schemes are considered by law enforcement agencies as a possible solution to cope with issues like encrypted messages. However, these schemes and associated TTPs raise a number of critical questions that would need to be carefully addressed before introducing them. The ongoing discussion of different legislative initiatives in the US is an illustrative example of the implied controversy. The most critical points are vulnerability, privacy, costs and effectiveness".

The European Information Service reports, France, under the new legislation,will have the option of maintaining instruments that contribute to "public security," like monitoring, while it has increased the flexibility of provisions on encryption use. Under the French proposals, final users have access to encryption tools.

The French proposals would allow users to use encryption for an electronic signature or to verify the authenticity of an unscrambled message. Users may also use encryption to scramble messages, as long as a "trustworthy third party" is involved. The licensing agreement for these "pre-approved" key-recovery banks, mandates that they surrender encryption keys to the government when requested.

For a 10 page legal, economical and political analysis (in French) of why France should liberalize their current laws:

[B4] NORTH AMERICA [B4.1] FCC: PC V-Chip?  

The controversial content-censoring V-chip being developed to filter out violent or sexually-explicit television programs, might soon be coming to a computer near you. Last year's telecommunications deregulation law compels makers of "any apparatus" with screens larger than 13 inches and designed to receive television signals to insert the signal-blocking chip.

The FCC cites technological advances that allow some computer models to receive TV programs, as a basis for their "concern." The proposal reads: "Personal computer systems, which are not traditionally thought of as television receivers, are already being sold with the capability to view television and other video programming." While arguing that the chip will not be able to control Internet sites or censor content, the FCC has solicited comment on this proposal.

Some have already commented. The Washington Times reported United States Congressman and chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, W.J. Tauzin's (a Louisiana Republican) critiques. He said, "It's a typical overreach by the FCC. Clearly, the FCC can expect a fight with Congress on this issue."

Remarkably, Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Edward J. Markey (who first proposed the V-chip concept) tried to reassure the public that "the intent is not to impose the V chip on the computer."

Dave Banisar, an attorney at the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, a GILC Founding Member, concludes that "this is a veiled attempt to back-door things like the [failed] Communications Decency Act. Most computers are accepting video, and the distinction between what's going to be video for broadcast and video for the Internet is getting increasingly slim."

[B4.2] ADL Releases Report on Internet Hate-Speech  

On October 21st the Anti-Defamation League issued its report, "High Tech Hate: Extremist Use of the Internet." In it, the ADL identifies more than 250 Web sites that preach Holocaust revisionism, neo-Nazi doctrine, racism, and anti-Semitism. The number of hate-sites have more than doubled, since the group released its 1996 report, "The Web of Hate." In a press conference, Abe Foxman, the ADL's National director, pledged that the organization will "continue to expose [such groups], to hold them to public scrutiny and to counter their messages of hate."

The ADL insists that "technology [has been] perverted" by haters, but is careful about proposing new government regulations. In addition to examining the speech of Internet "hate-groups," it also examines topics such as censorship, spamming, rating, filtering, and encryption. When dealing with encryption policy, the report cites criticisms from the business world, the scientific community and the civil libertarians: first, businesses are concerned that "they are being required to sacrifice income opportunities . . . [and a] technological leadership role . . . for little or no compensating gain in national security." Next, computer experts believe that the United States and Britain's proposed key recovery system is "effectively unworkable." Finally, civil libertarians have privacy worries and view the policy advocated by certain governments as "an attempt to enhance government power." Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), a GILC member, is quoted as saying that it's "an age-old attempt to remove privacy and liberty from the entire populace in the guise of protecting it from unsavory elements."

"High Tech Hate" asserts, "hate must be countered with information that promotes understanding, tolerance and truth." Even though the report offers no concrete solutions, it argues that "government regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange than to encourage it. The interest of encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship." According to Austin American-Statesman, the ADL is working with America Online to develop software that allows people to filter out hate sites.

Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU, a GILC founding member, has said that "filtering technology can be easily used to censor and to remove the decision making power from the end user and give it to governments and service providers. The ACLU applauds the ADL for bringing to light what they view as hate speech and for responding to it . . . . But we are waiting to see precisely how the ADL software is to work and what their alliance with American Online will be."

Read the ADL Press release:

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

Links to all information in this alert can be found at

You are welcome to pass the GILC ALERT to all who may be interested. And you have permission to re-print GILC ALERT and distribute it.

If you are not a subscriber but would like to be, please send an email to with the following message in the body:

Subscribe gilc-announce