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GILC Alert

Volume 2, Issue 2
January 30, 1998

    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.  
    [A] FOREMOST NEWS [A1] GILC Issues Human Rights Statement [B] ROUNDUP OF GLOBAL INTERNET ISSUES [B1] Africa/Middle East [B1.1] Internet to Come to Saudi Arabia [B2] Asia/Oceania [B2.1] Japan Seeks to Regulate Internet Pornography [B2.2] China's Dissidents Find Refuge on Internet [B3] Central/South America [B3.1] Costa Rica Holds Off On Online Election Test [B4] Europe [B4.1] EU Supports Police-Access to Encryption Keys [B5] North America [B5.1] Navy Enlists AOL in Hunt for "Gay" Sailor [B5.2] US Senator Links Funding With Internet Blocking  
    New York Law School to host Internet Symposium: "Should Cyberspace be a Free Speech Zone? Filters, 'Family Friendliness' & The First Amendment," on March 4th from 8:30a.m. to 1p.m. Visit for more information.


[A1] GILC Issues Human Rights Statement

Several members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign attended and
testified at a one day briefing for Members of the European Parliament
on the 27th of January 1998, in Brussels.
GILC issued a statement which was presented at the briefing,
highlighting the following issues as important with respect to Human
Rights and the Internet: "Human Rights protection on the Internet is
important, particularly freedom of speech and privacy. The Internet is
also important to those working for Human Rights, as it can provide a
secure means of communicating between and coordinating the work of
Human Rights groups."
The world-wide group of international human rights organizations
appealed to widely recognized international human rights documents.
"The European Convention and international human rights law enshrine
the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. These
core documents explicitly protect freedom of expression without regard
to borders, a phrase especially pertinent to the global Internet."
Furthermore, the GILC Paper highlights examples of how
non-governmental organizations have benefited from using the Internet.
GILC also argued: "By enabling early access to information, immediate
dissemination of calls for campaigns, and the organization of wide
international pressure, the Internet greatly increases [NGO's]
lobbying capacities."
GILC also detailed the importance of strong encryption availability to
human rights organizations around the world. The Paper argues that a
breach in privacy could endanger lives and turn back the clock on
human rights developments: "Sending an e-mail message is thus the
equivalent of sending a postcard. In the human rights arena
especially, many matters discussed among NGOs are extremely
confidential. Names of witnesses to human rights violations, for
example, need to be kept from those who would harm them. Repressive
governments commonly use their intelligence services to tap the phone
communications of human rights groups and intercept their mail. It is
very likely that they are also intercepting electronic mail."
The following policy recommendations were made:
  • Prohibiting prior censorship of on-line communication on the Internet;
  • Demanding that any restrictions of on-line speech content be clearly stated in the law and limited to direct and immediate incitement of acts of violence;
  • 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;
  • Calling for the promotion of non-commercial public discourse on the Internet;
  • Promoting the wide dissemination of diverse ideas and viewpoints from a wide variety of information sources on the Internet; and
  • Ensuring that the Internet enable individuals to organize and form on-line associations freely and without interference.
To read the full GILC Paper:

[B1] Africa/Middle East

[B1.1] Internet to Come to Saudi Arabia

Due to "technical difficulties,"  Saudi Arabia has delayed introducing
the Internet to its citizens.  Before the "difficulties" arose, the
Middle East Business Intelligence, reported that the Saudi Council of
Ministers recently approved the Internet after an April 1997, royal
decree sanctioned its use in Saudi Arabia.
Among, other things, the paper reports that the Internet will be used
for telemedicine and Internet banking.  "A recent seminar held under
the auspices of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency confirmed a growing
interest in the Kingdom, in Internet Banking, and the Saudi market was
categorized as the biggest market for Internet banking in the Arabia
However, because of the combined forces of bureaucratic problems,
cultural problems and infrastructural problems, the country has lagged
behind most other Gulf states in the field of electronic commerce.
The paper also reports the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and
Technology and the Prince Sultan Charity Foundation were assigned to
put the Kingdom online and provide filtering and blocking software to
screen out "culturally sensitive material."  That material will most
likely censor religion, politics, and sexually expressive information.

[B2] Asia/Oceania

[B2.1] Japan Seeks to Regulate Internet Pornography

In a country with more than 14,000 personal home pages containing
pornographic images, the Japanese police want to revise the laws
regulating the adult entertainment industry in order to better control
The Agence France Presse reported that the police plan to propose
bills to parliament by early March.  These revised laws would be the
first to regulate adult pages.
The bills would change the law in two ways: (1) domestic providers of
adult pages must register with "local safety commissions"; (2)
providers may no longer have subscribers under 18 years of age.

[B2.2] China's Dissidents Find Refuge on Internet

Shortly after the US State Department issued its annual report on
human rights in China claiming has "taken positive steps in human
rights," Chinese security police scoured through and sacked the homes
of four dangerous subversives: the China Cultural Renaissance. The
young poets, who argued how art can thrive outside of governmental
indoctrination have not been seen by the their families since January
The Sunday Times reports that "although the plight of the poets showed
the prevalence of China's state repression, it also highlighted the
astonishing persistence of dissent and a growing underground network
of intellectuals and even party officials who are daring to call for
And where are these cries for change resonating?  On the Internet, of
course.  The Internet is protecting and sustaining dissent.  The
dissidents often communicate "by e-mail and [are] in constant contact
with the outside world that can no longer be kept behind and
electronic great wall."
According to the State Department, overseas Chinese dissidents have
succeed in sending volumes of e-mail to sympathizers inside the
country.  The Times adds, "power may no longer come out of the barrel
of a gun . . ., but from a computer keyboard, and while demonstrators
can be shot on the streets, hackers lurk in any office, creating an
authoritarian nightmare."

[B3] Central/South America

[B3.1] Costa Rica Holds Off On Online Election Test

A few months ago, the GILC Alert reported that Costa Rica was planning
on testing a plan that would have paved the way for the first-ever
online elections this February.  That has been postponed.
CyberTimes reported that the reasons for the delay are unclear.  For
one, the government fears the losing party might use the Internet as
an excuse to contest the elections. Another reason cited was the lack
of time:  the project had only gotten underway in August and the
government may not have had garnered the necessary resources to devote
to the undertaking.
Project coordinators stressed that the project had not been abandoned.
"The group still hopes to hold a test and get a system in place to see
if it's viable for the country to hold its national election, in 2002,
Read the latest CyberTimes article on the Costa Rica Project:
Visit the Costa Rica Project page:

  [B4] Europe [B4.1] European Police Ministers Call for Access to Encryption Keys   The Agence France Presse, recently reported that EU ministers for justice and home affairs recommended that law enforcement officers should have access to encryption keys. The ministers cautioned against unbreakable encryption: "We have to make sure that legitimate law enforcement interests are taken into account when it comes to accessing encrypted material."   Joyce Quin, a junior British Home Office minister, added: "We should not be in the position of fighting the crime of the 21st century with the methods and equipment of the 19th."   The European Commission criticized the imposition of key escrow/recovery systems and recommended that all European countries relax controls in a paper released in October. Civil liberties groups, as well as the telecommunications industry, oppose the idea of government holding the keys to encryption. While "big brother" concerns worry civil libertarians, big business fears this would jeopardize the privacy that Internet commerce relies on.  

[B5] North America

[B5.1] Navy Enlists AOL in Hunt for "Gay" Sailor

Another Timothy McVeigh has a problem with the federal government.
This one, though, is not related to the Timothy McVeigh who blew up
the Edward Murro Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  This one used
America Online and posted a self-description of "gay."
While the convicted mass murder incited racial hatred in the Army,
this one was had a spotless and distinguished 17-year record.  While
the convicted mass murderer spread racist and anti-Semitic literature
during in the Gulf War, this one was reviewed by his superiors as an
"outstanding role model" and leader.  While the military looked the
other way with the soon-to-be-mass baby killer, it immediately sought
to have this one dishonorably discharged.
But this Tim McVeigh - who has never officially stated his sexual
orientation - has filed suit in federal court claiming that both AOL
and the Navy violated his rights and broke the Electronic
Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which is two-edged: (1) government
agents must identify themselves and present a court order to access
online subscriber information; and (2) an online service provider must
demand a court order before releasing any information.
Both failed to happen, here.  The Navy received a "tip" from another
officer's wife; and the Navy just called AOL to verify.  AOL,
violating both the law and their own policy, simply turned over the
name.   Soon thereafter, the Navy charged McVeigh with violating the
government's "donít ask, donít tell" policy.
David Sobel, legal counsel to the Electronic Privacy Information
Center (a GILC founding member), wrote, in a letter to John Dalton,
Secretary of the Navy: "Under the unusual and troubling facts of this
case, the only appropriate course of action is to postpone the
proposed discharge of Mr. McVeigh and closely examine the
circumstances surrounding the Navy's prosecution of this matter.
Fundamental fairness and the rule of law require nothing less."
Judge Stanley Sporkin of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in a
15 page opinion, ordered the Navy to re-instate McVeigh.  He wrote the
Navy conducted an unjustified "search" and "out" mission against the
The Washington Post reported the ruling "marked the first time a court
has found military officials exceeding their authority under the
Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' rules on homosexuality." The
decision also carries " important consequences outside the military,
reinforcing electronic privacy rights at a time that the availability
of personal information on computer networks is expanding rapidly."
The Navy has said it will appeal the judge's decision.
Read the EPIC letter:
Read the Judge's decision granting the permanent injunction:

[B5.2] US Senator Links Funding With Internet Blocking

Republican Senator from Arizona and Chairman of the Senate Commerce
Committee, John McCain, plans on introducing legislation that would
demand schools seeking Internet subsidy funds from the government have
a policy prohibiting students from accessing "indecent material."
He made his proposal in anticipation of the impending Federal
Communications Commission hearings on Internet "decency."  McCain
claims he has two objectives: (1) supply Internet connections to
schools that most need them; and (2) ensure that students do not use
federal funding to peek at pornography.  To guarantee the latter,
Communications Daily reports McCain intends to have school districts
certify with the School and Library Corporation (which distributes
universal serve subsidies).
Both civil liberties groups and educational organizations have warned
against the measure, however.  First, educators are worried that the
Senator has other motives.  Communications Daily quotes Leslie Harris,
a lobbyist for the Coalition for School Networking as saying:  "McCain
has never liked universal service.  By concentrating on Internet
indecency, McCain will divert attention from making certain that
technology is provided to schools, with all of the benefits that
access can bring."
Second, civil libertarians think the proposal is unconstitutional.
Ann Beeson, a staff attorney with the ACLU (a GILC founding member),
argued:  "This is nothing less than Big Brother in the classroom.  We
believe that educators, not Congress, should be the ones making
decisions about what students can learn on the Internet."
The ACLU believes schools could promote content-neutral rules about
how and when students use the Internet.  "For instance, schools could
require that Internet access be limited to school-related work."
The ACLU Press Release:

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