GILC Alert
Volume 2, Issue 7 June 1, 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.

  [A] ROUNDUP OF GLOBAL INTERNET ISSUES [A1] Africa/Middle East [A1.1] Nations Pledge to Support Telecommunications Reforms [A1.2] Internet Access for Suspicious Saudis [A2] Asia/Oceania [A2.1] The Internet and Indonsesia's Suharto [A2.2] Taiwan Seeks to Censor "Sex and Violence" [A3] Europe [A3.1] Bavarian Court Convicts CompuServe Manager ˆ Even as the Prosecution Asks for Acquittal [A3.2] European Commission "Astonished" at Somm Conviction [A3.3] Schools Encourage Students to Sign "Code of Conduct" [A4] North America [A4.1] The State of Workplace Internet Privacy  


[A1] Africa/Middle East
[A1.1] Nations Pledge to Support Telecommunications Reforms

The leaders of Egypt, Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe have pledged to move their countries into the information age. Attending a continent-wide conference in South Africa, entitled "Africa Telecom 98," the members committed to implement an African telecommunications plan that covers four branches of development: (1) policy and regulatory frameworks, (2) "priority projects for Africa," (3) funding strategies, and (4) private/public partnerships. The private/public partnerships may be the most difficult because historically the governments have had monopolies over telecommunications infrastructure and services. The South African Newspaper "Business Day" quoted President Mandela as saying, "a new vision is required for African telecoms, which should be based on the right of universal access to telecommunications and the need for massive investment in human resources."

Visit the Africa Telecom 98 Web Site:

Read President Mandela's speech:

[A1.2] Internet Access for Suspicious Saudis

Long-awaited Internet access for Saudi Arabia will finally come to the nation ˆ in December. The Agence France Presse reported that Badr ibn Hmud al-Badr, the Internet project director, is not seeking to provide unlimited access, however: "The Internet will be introduced to the kingdom in December when the King Abdel Aziz University of Science and Technology has perfected the technical means to bar access to sites offering information contrary to Islamic values." The initial access will not be available to individual subscribers, but only to private universities and hospitals. Hundreds of private firms have already begun bidding for contracts. All providers, however, must comply with regulations that censor sites offering different religious and moral values than that which the Saudi government approves.

[A2] Asia/Oceania

[A2.1] The Internet and Indonesia's Suharto

A seemingly leaderless mass of Indonesian students and other dissidents have forced both a governmental coup and accompanying changes. The Internet provided the necessary means by which this "revolution" could be brought about; Wired News reported that "bound by a covert thread of communication, [the students] have been able to foment a massive ground swell of pro-democratic activity." Throughout the upheaval, students used the Internet to voice their frustrations, plan meetings, and effect change. Furthermore, students received electronic information from daily posts to bulletin boards from Indonesian exiles in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Wired News reports: "During the weeklong occupation of Parliament which led to Suharto's resignation, representatives of more than 40 universities met separately ˆ a feat which would have been impossible without online communications." The students are now seeking to oust Suharto's successor and are demanding "immediate elections."

Read Human Rights Watch's February 1998 Report on Indonesia:

Read GILC's "Human Rights and the Internet"


[A2.2] Taiwan Seeks to Censor "Sex and Violence"

Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO) has been ordered by Premier Vincent Siew to execute a campaign that would eradicate sexually explicit material and "violence" from all forms of media. The Central News Agency quoted Siew's nod to freedom of the press: "With respect for press freedom in mind, [Taiwan] should promote [censorship] through legislation, education, publicity and cracking down." Since Internet access has increased over the years, Siew wants the government to draft sweeping new laws "to prevent the Internet from becoming a major vehicle for disseminating pornography and violence."


[A3] Europe
[A3.1] Bavarian Court Convicts CompuServe Manager ˆ Even as the Prosecution Asks for Acquittal

The trial of Felix Somm, former manager of CompuServe in Germany, has taken several strange turns. First, the prosecution reversed its stance and agreed that Somm should not be prosecuted, because he was unable to monitor newsgroups and thereby prevent child pornography and Nazi literature (both illegal in Germany) from being distributed on the Internet. Germany even passed a new multimedia law in July that specifically provides that Internet Service Providers may not be held criminally liable for illegal material on their services unless they have knowledge about the material and do not attempt to block it. Then, despite the prosecution's stance, a Munich district court convicted Somm on 13 counts of distributing illegal material via the Internet and sentenced him to a two-year suspended sentence and fined him DM100,000. Finally, the prosecution has taken the unusual step of appealing to a higher German court on behalf of Somm. David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC is also a GILC founding member) added: "[This conviction] underscores something we've said in [the U.S.] about Internet censorship laws: Even if a law is intended to be narrowly applied, it gives a tool to the most conservative prosecutors and judges to hold people liable for material that is another setting or community would not be illegal or prosecuted." Yaman Akdeniz, head of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) (CR & CL (UK) is a member of GILC), warned that the continued prosecution of ISPs would "have a chilling effect on the development of the Internet . . . and would not reduce the real-life problem of child abuse." Barry Steinhardt, President of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF is a GILC founding member) cautioned: "It is only a matter of time in the U.S. before we see requests from other governments for extradition of U.S. citizens for speech crimes on the Net." Somm is also appealing the decision.

German Prosecutors Appeal Conviction: euters/980603/wired/stories/germany_1.html

Read GILC's April 1997 letter to Chancellor Kohl:

Go to EFF's Web site:

Go to EPIC's Web site:

Go to CR & CL (UK)'s Web site:

[A3.2] European Commission "Astonished" at Somm Conviction

Looking at Felix Somm's conviction in Germany, the European Commission called for international cooperation on Internet regulation. Reuters reported that the Commission was surprised at the conviction and quoted spokesman Jochen Kubosch: "The commission has learned of this decision with a certain astonishment." He noted the Bavarian court seemed to contradict the intent of legislatures. The Commission will propose legislation covering the liability of ISPs when carrying obscenity, defamatory statements, and deceptive advertising over their networks.

[A3.3] Schools Encourage Students to Sign "Code of Conduct"

The London Times reported that Research Machines (RM), the leading Internet supplier to schools, is reaching towards schools in an effort to keep students from accessing sexually explicit Web sites. The company, based in Abingdon, Oxforshire, proposes a code of conduct, where students promise not to go to "offensive" sites. RM claims that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has called upon them to "protect" students. If students "violate" the code, the school could deny them Internet access and even expel repeat offenders. Yaman Akdeniz, head of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) (CR & CL (UK) is a member of GILC) believes: "This follows from another 'moral panic' created by the UK Association of Teachers and Lecturers last month and teachers should be encouraging the use of the Internet rather than calling for its restriction."

Go to CR & CL (UK)'s Web site:

[A4] North America
[A4.1] Workplace Internet Privacy

About 35% of major U.S. companies record employees' voice mail or phone calls, check computer files, and videotape work. So, it comes as no surprise that employers would also want to monitor and censor the Internet sites their employees visit. In response, Internet filtering programs have been developed that deal specifically with the corporate environment. The Chicago Tribune reported that businesses, in the comfort of their own executive suites and with the simple installation of software, may now access the content of their employees' e-mail messages and censor sites that deal with pornography, "shopping, motor vehicles, astrology, intimate apparel, news, gambling, investing, travel, and sports." A total of 21 categories can now be censored from the workplace. Software companies employ a band of content editors who surf the Net and search for material they find "inappropriate in a corporate setting, and for countless other pages that simply could provide a distraction." Lew Maltby, head of the ACLU's Workplace Rights Project (the ACLU is a GILC founding member), sees this as just another infringement on employee rights: "People aren't machines. They need to stop and catch their breath at work occasionally, whether it's by getting a cup of coffee or having a quick chat with a fellow employee. As long as it's quick and they get back to work, there's no harm to the employer. If someone chooses to take their break by visiting a Web site, where's the harm?"

Go to the ACLU's Workplace Rights Web Site:

Read GILC's "Impact of Self-Regulation and Filtering on Human Rights to Freedom of Expression"

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

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