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GILC Alert

Volume 2, Issue 5
April 13, 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.

[A1] GILC Issues Statement at OECD Meeting
[B1.1] Israel Debates Internet Censorship
[B1.2] Algeria Freedom Fighter Continues Fight on Internet
[B2.1] India and Telephony
[B3.1] Report: European Union Set to Reject Key Escrow for Cryptography
[B3.2] Irish Bill Takes Aim at Child Pornography
[B4.1] Court Strikes Down Virtual Child Pornography Law
[B4.2] Judge Sets Standard for Virginia's Library Filtering Scheme
[B4.3] Netscape Plans on Adopting PICS
[B4.4] Canada Set to Move on Encryption
[B4.5] "Democracies Online" Formed
[B5.1] Brazil and Internet


On March 25th, 1998 members of GILC attended an OECD one day meeting
on "International Co-operation Concerning Content and Conduct on the
Internet", in Paris, and issued a member statement on "Impact of
Self-Regulation and Filtering on Human Rights to Freedom of
Expression." The statement details the importance of freedom of speech
and freedom of expression to the online community.  It also explains
the essential role anonymous communications plays in the struggle for
human rights.  Among other things, the statement notes: "Global rating
or labeling systems squelch the free flow of information: Efforts to
force all Internet speech to be labeled or rated according to a single
classification system distorts the fundamental cultural diversity of
the Internet and will lead to domination of one set of political or
moral viewpoints. Such systems will either be easy to use and not have
enough categories for all cultures or it will have so many categories
to cater for all cultures that it will be unusable. These systems are
antithetical to the Internet and should be rejected."
The GILC statement:


[B1.1] Israel Debates Internet Censorship


The Business Arena reported that the Israeli Knesset Committee for
Scientific and Technological Research and Development sought to
"explore the possible imposition of censorship on information
distributed over the Internet." Lawmakers heard testimony from many
sources.  The paper reports that one "Yeshiva student told horrified
[members] . . . . that he had reached pornographic sites 'while
searching for automobiles.'"  The author of the piece then went on to
argue: "All I ask is why this never happens to me! In the hundreds of
surfing hours I have notched up in the past two years, never once has
a pornographic site popped up by accident.  Never have I keyed in
'law' and got 'sex.'"  The article warns that if Israel "imposes any
censorship whatsoever on the Internet, it will fall in line with such
model democracies as the Chinese Republic, Singapore and various Arab
[B1.2] Algeria Freedom Fighter Continues Fight on Internet Algeria is a country where the government deals with even suspected opposition brutally: executions, decapitations, rapes, kidnappings and other forms of torture are daily nightmares. Needless to say, the government outlaws newspapers critical of the extremist ˆ and armed ˆ Islamic groups, who allegedly have massacred more than 80,000 people since elections were suspended in 1992. La Nation was one such paper until its editor, Salima Ghezali (who won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov award), took the paper to the Internet last year. Ghezali is the only female editor of a major Muslim newspaper and practices what she calls "guerrilla journalism." The Guardian (London) quotes her saying: "Over one 100 people are now being killed every week. This barbarity now seems normal, but of course it is not. The regime is so arrogant that if there is no condemnation of its human rights abuses it will believe it has carte blanche." For more information:   Info in French   An interview with Ghezali:  
[B2] ASIA/OCEANIA [B2.1] India and Telephony Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL), the overseas telecommunications arm of the Indian government, announced that customers would be disconnected if they used Internet telephony to dial overseas (a fraction of the cost that a normal telephone call would cost). Asia-Pacific Telecommunications reported that VSNL may actually be blocking access to certain companies that provide Internet telephony software. If VSNL is doing this, the paper argues: "it would seem illegal, because it amounts to censorship and a restriction of the freedom guaranteed to all Indians under the Constitution. If VSNL is shutting [them] out, there are other Web sites which offer voice connectivity." VSNL's policy can be found at:  
  [B3] EUROPE [B3.1] Report: European Union Set to Reject Key Escrow for Cryptography On April 2, 1998, the Intelligence Newsletter reported that the European Commission is about to complete a draft directive aimed at digital signatures and computer privacy. The EC draft leaves out any use of Trusted Third Parties (TTPs), key escrow or key recovery systems. This draft will be submitted for public comment in Copenhagen on April 23rd -April 24th. Furthermore, the Newsletter quotes from a recently released November 1996 memorandum from the office of William Reinch, the U.S. Commerce Department's undersecretary for export administration: "he acknowledged that key escrow by a TTP was 'more costly and less efficient' than non-escrowed products." GILC's Cryptography and Liberty: An International Survey of Encryption Policy, February 1998, at     Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), "First Report on UK Encryption Policy" is available at "Scrambling for Safety" Conference Web site is at   Walsh Report, "Review of policy relating to encryption technologies":     Kryptographie, Cryptography resources in German from FITUG, at  
[B3.2] Irish Bill Takes Aim at Computer Child Pornography The Irish Minister of Justice formally introduced to the Dail the Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill which would criminalize possession of sexually explicit material involving people under 17 years of age. The Irish Times notes that the Minister fears that without the law, pedophiles would try and use the Internet to molest people under 17 years (the age of consent). The paper quotes O'Donoghue: "The offense of possession will apply where, for example, a person downloads child pornography from the Internet. This means that any person who would try and circumvent the legislation by means of computer technology would not succeed."
[B4] NORTH AMERICA [B4.1] Court Strikes Down Virtual Child Pornography Law A federal district court in Portland, Maine has struck down a portion of the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996. While old definitions of child pornography required prosecutors to prove that the "child" was in fact under the age of consent, the new federal law outlawed "any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture . . . of sexually explicit conduct, where . . . such depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct." U.S. District Judge Gene Carter found that the inclusion of including computer images that merely "appear" to show minors engaged in sex to be too broad and would restrict adult expression: "The statute impacts a significant amount of adult pornography featuring adults who appear youthful," Carter wrote in his 11-page decision. "The court concludes that expression involving such adults will be chilled by the subjective language of the statute." Carter is the first federal judge to find the law unconstitutional. Read Cnet article:,4,20722,00.html Read the Act:    
[B4.2] Judge Sets Standard for Virginia's Library Filtering Scheme Relying ˆ and drawing heavily from ˆ the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Reno v. ACLU decision last summer, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, refused to dismiss a case involving a local, board-approved library-filtering program. Not only, she said, did the government misconstrue the nature of the Internet, but she also held that "the Library Board may not adopt and enforce content-based restrictions on access to protected Internet speech unless it meets the highest level of constitutional scrutiny." She dismissed the government's argument that blocking software is simply another form of a librarian selecting the books and periodicals to put in the library: she noted that cyber-publications exist onlyin cyberspace and do not "take up shelf space or require physical maintenance of any kind." Furthermore, Judge Brinkema noted that while library books cost money, and therefore, necessitate certain purchasing decisions, cyber-publications cost no money. Rather, "it costs a library more to restrict the content of its collection by means of blocking software than it does for the library to offer unrestricted access to all Internet publications." The trial is set to proceed this summer. Cnet article:,4,20920,00.html   ACLU press release:   ACLU's complaint:   Judge's entire decision:  
[B4.3] Netscape Plans on Adopting PICS The popular Internet browser, Netscape, has recently announced that by the end of this month, its newest version (Netscape Communicator 4.05) will adopt the controversial Platform for Internet Content Selection content-rating and content-filtering scheme. Netscape will call its implementation of PICS "NetWatch" and will launch in German with English and other versions to follow shortly thereafter. PC World News Radio quotes Cassidy Sehgal, an attorney working on cyber-issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (a GILC founding member), who is concerned about the Netscape development: "There are serious long-term implications. I think that people need to realize that it's not as simple as turning [the filter] on and off . . . because what will happen now is if you want your speech to be read you're going to have to rate [your site]. That is antithetical to First Amendment views." Read GILC comments on PICS:  
[B4.4] Canada Sets the Stage for Encryption Action On March 31, 1998, leaders of Canada's cryptography industry and privacy advocates met in Ottawa to discuss and suggest an encryption plan for Canada. Wired News reported that "the consensus among the group was that Canada should continue its current stance of not implementing any domestic crypto controls, and liberalize its existing export policies." The article quotes David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC is a GILC founding member): "We are firmly opposed to any policy or legislation that would prohibit the export of encryption of encryption products, either stored or transmitted." In February, the Canadian government invited public comment when it issued "A Cryptography Policy Framework for Electronic Commerce," where it depicts several different cryptography possibilities. According to Mark Hughes, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues said: "its call for public comment is, in my view, a cruel joke because the paper was only just issued (February 21, 1998) and all public comment must be made by April 21, 1998. As few Canadians comprehend what encryption is and how it affects them, two months is simply not enough time for Canadians to sufficiently educate themselves in order to make informed comments on the future of their electronic privacy." Read Wired story:   Canada's "Framework" proposal: Electronic Frontier Canada:
[B4.5] "Democracies Online" Formed Housed at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, a new organization dedicated "to build[ing] a strong foundation for improving democracy as democracies around the world converge with information networks" has just formed. "Democracies Online" will provide a twice-monthly newsletter ("Democracy Notes") that will objectively cover trends, issues, and efforts related to the convergence of democracy and information networks. "Democracies Online" will also supply a newswire and online peer networks. The organization also proposes to host a Democracies Online World Virtual Summit in the Fall of 1998. They can be found at:   To subscribe either to the newswire or the Notes: send an e-mail message to: In the body of your message, write: subscribe do-wire "Your Name (Place)" To join both the Newswire and Democracy Notes, send the following two lines: subscribe do-wire "Your Name (Place)" subscribe do-notes "Your Name (Place)"
[B5] SOUTH AMERICA [B5.1] Brazil and Internet Internet access in Brazil had been limited to wealthy English speakers with good telephone lines. Reuters recently reported that the situation is slowly changing: "there are signs that the Internet is becoming more accessible." The paper cites to a survey released late last month that covers many aspects of Internet usage in South America's largest country. According to the survey, more women are traveling the information superhighway (17% used it in 1996 compared to 25% in 1997). Language is also becoming less of an obstacle: whereas 68% of Brazilian, Internet-users understood English in 1996, today only 58% do. "The surveys showed Brazilian Internet users to have many traits in common with their American counterparts: most are well-informed (68% subscribe to a newspaper or magazine) and most are adults (34% are 20 to 30 years old, 24% are aged 30 to 40)."  
Raafat S. Toss
GILC Organizer Developer
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
New York, New York 10004

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