US States Pass Legislation to Censor Free Speech on the Internet
February 20, 2013
The Illinois State Senate has introduced bill 1614 entitled “Internet Posting Removal Act” that “provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.”
This bill is championed by State Senator Ira Silverstein. The language of the bill defines an anonymous poster as “any individual who posts a message on a web site including social networks, blogs, forums, message boards, or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”
In the name of curbing telephone harassment and applying this control to Internet activity, Arizona State legislators have passed House Bill 2549. The law uses anti-bullying campaigns to establish any offensive communications including editorials, illustrations, and satires become a crime to be punished.
According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: “The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify,’ as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, HB 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.”
The Media Coalition wrote a letter to Governor Jan Brewer concerning HB 2549 saying that it “would make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to communicate using obscene, lewd or profane language or to suggest a lewd or lascivious act if done with intent to ‘annoy,’ ‘offend,’ ‘harass’ or ‘terrify’ . . . ‘lewd’ and ‘profane’ are not defined in the statute or by reference.”
The bill defines “lewd” as vague and basically “that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy the reader, the subject or even any specific person.”
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google has recently said that he believes the biggest threat to internet freedom is “a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry’s attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.”
Brin’s concerns are the censorship that countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran implement to alter their internet for their citizens. “There’s a lot to be lost,” Brin said.
Goggle has released their 2013 report stating that the US is first in line of governments across the globe that are requesting information on users; with more than 8,000 requests on nearly 15,000 users.
The internet giant claims to be forced to hand over this data to the federal government. The reports produced by Google show that the US government is increasing their surveillance on their citizen’s private lives.
Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are able to obtain information from corporations without the necessity of a warrant. While 68% of the requests to Google from federal agencies were legal, there are still 42% of those demands for digital information on users that circumvented the process of obtaining a warrant to justify the need for this invasion of American’s privacy.
Last year, Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, drafted the ECPA substitution which was meant to be an update to a piece of legislation.
Leahy meant to replace the 180 – day rule within the ECPA that gives law enforcement agencies the freedom to simply subpoena (i.e. request) a warrant to gain lawful access to private citizen’s emails older than 6 months. The subpoena would be sufficed in lieu of obtaining an actual warrant. As of now, a police department can claim – without being subject to proof – that a particular email is an imperative to an investigation and can gain access to that information without having to seek judicial means.
The change to the ECPA was never made. Instead, Leahy rewrote the bill to say that law enforcement no longer needed a warrant at all and could access any electronic information required to conduct their investigation by simply claiming its relevance.
In this newly altered bill HR 2471, federal and local law enforcement agencies including Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Federal Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be empowered to obtain any US citizens:
• Private email
• Google Docs
• Facebook posts
• Twitter posts
Censorship of speech on the internet is the concern of pro-Zionist groups such as the Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) who are “a private, independent, non-violent protest organization representing a collective of activists” that are committed to advocating for Israel on the internet by pro-Israel “presenting news, viewpoints, and information throughout a large network reaching hundreds of thousands via email, Facebook, YouTube, RSS feeds, Twitter, and other digital hubs to those who share our concerns for Israel and about anti-Semitic and jihadist online content.”
JIDF are proud that they have been integral in “the removal of thousands of anti-Semitic and jihadist pages online. Whether it’s an anti-Semitic Facebook page with millions of members, or a YouTube video promoting global jihad, our team is on it, monitoring it, and urging companies to adhere to their own rules.”
In the name of controlling free speech on the Web, as well as demanding that anti-Zionist views be silenced, JIDF have gathered “individuals” together in “a real grassroots effort for change.”
In Russia, a vague law was passed for the sake of protecting children on the internet. Websites identified as having “harmful information” specified as “child pornography, suicide how-to instructions and drug providers to install special equipment” is a thinly-veiled attempt to create “mechanism for blocking foreign sites.”
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