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PARIS July 30, 1996 -- The Global Internet Liberty Campaign said today that it would oppose efforts to regulate privacy technology and free speech on the Internet. The announcement follows a meeting of G-7 leaders in Paris where plans were announced to regulate the Internet in ways that threaten the Free Speech and Privacy rights of it users. The G-7 countries include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. Russia also participates in the meetings of the G-7.

The G-7 proposal, while couched in careful diplomatic terms, appears to endorse a U.S. Government inititiated plan to require key escrowed encryption on the Internet -- a scheme where the keys for decryption would be accessible to governments. There is also language which suggests plans to restrict the electronic publication of information by unpopular political organizations.

Earlier attempts by officials in the US Administration to pass similar measures through Congress have failed.

Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU, said "The US government may not accomplish through an international endrun what the US Congress and the US Courts have rejected."

The ACLU was lead plaintiff in the successful challenge to the Communications Decency Act. In that case, a US federal court held that the government may not regulate speech on the Internet.

Simon Davies, director general of Privacy International, said that the human rights community must not permit national governments to seize control of privacy enhancing technologies. "National governments will use the horrendous incidents in the States to build a international web of surveillance to the detriment of their citizens."

Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said that the proposals would meet with fierce opposition from the Internet community. "Net users will simply not allow governments to trample on the rights of citizens. Our rights to privacy and free speech are clearly protected by international law."

EPIC organized the Internet petition against the Clipper encryption scheme.

Cynthia Brown, program director of Human Rights Watch, said, "Free speech on the Internet is already under attack from states like Saudi Arabia, China and Singapore, and with this agreement, the G7 countries are only reinforcing that negative trend.

Human Rights Watch has produced a report on threats to Liberty on the Internet.

The GILC 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, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties and human rights organizations.