H.R. 275 (110th): Global Online Freedom Act of 2007

The text of the bill below is as of Feb 22, 2008 (Reported by House Committee).

Source: GPO

IB

Union Calendar No. 320

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 275

[Report No. 110–481, Part I]

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 5, 2007

(for himself and Mr. Wolf) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

December 10, 2007

Reported from the Committee on Foreign Affairs with an amendment

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert the part printed in italic

December 10, 2007

Referral to Committee on Energy and Commerce extended for a period ending not later than January 16, 2008

January 15, 2008

Referral to Committee on Energy and Commerce extended for a period ending not later than February 1, 2008

January 16, 2008

Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary for a period ending not later than February 1, 2008 for consideration of such provisions of the bill and amendment as fall within the jurisdiction of that committee pursuant to clause 1(k), rule X

February 1, 2008

Referral to the Committee on the Judiciary extended for a period ending not later than February 8, 2008

February 1, 2008

Referral to the Committee on Energy and Commerce extended for a period ending not later than February 22, 2008

February 8, 2008

Referral to the Committee on the Judiciary extended for a period ending not later than February 22, 2008

February 22, 2008

Additional sponsors: Mr. McCotter, Mr. Rohrabacher, Mr. Ryan of Ohio, Mr. Lantos, Mr. Wu, Mr. Burton of Indiana, and Mr. Sherman

February 22, 2008

Committees on Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary discharged; committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

For text of introduced bill, see copy of bill as introduced on January 5, 2007

A BILL

To promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title; table of contents

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007.

(b)

Table of contents

The table of contents for this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings.

Sec. 3. Definitions.

Sec. 4. Severability.

Title I—Promotion of global internet freedom

Sec. 101. Statement of policy.

Sec. 102. Sense of Congress.

Sec. 103. Annual country reports on human rights practices.

Sec. 104. Office of Global Internet Freedom.

Sec. 105. Annual designation of Internet-restricting countries; report.

Title II—Minimum corporate standards for online freedom

Sec. 201. Protection of personally identifiable information.

Sec. 202. Integrity of personally identifiable information.

Sec. 203. Transparency regarding search engine filtering.

Sec. 204. Transparency regarding Internet censorship.

Sec. 205. Protection of United States-supported online content.

Sec. 206. Penalties.

Sec. 207. Presidential waiver.

Title III—Export controls for Internet-restricting countries

Sec. 301. Feasibility study on establishment of export controls.

Sec. 302. Report.

2.

Findings

Congress makes the following findings:

(1)

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free flow of information on the Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

(2)

The Internet has been a success because it quickly provides information to its more than one billion users globally.

(3)

The growth of the Internet and other information technologies can be a force for democratic change if the information is not subject to political censorship.

(4)

The Internet has played a role in bringing international attention to issues the discussion of which are forbidden by authoritarian foreign governments, such as attempts by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to suppress news of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2004.

(5)

Authoritarian foreign governments such as the Governments of Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Tunisia, and Vietnam, among others, block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens try to obtain.

(6)

Web sites that provide uncensored news and information, such as the Web sites of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, are routinely blocked in such countries.

(7)

In June 2003, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam arrested, convicted of spying, and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment and 3 years house arrest (later reduced on appeal to 5 years imprisonment and 3 years house arrest) Dr. Pham Hong Son after he translated an Internet article titled What is Democracy from the Web site of the United States Embassy in Vietnam.

(8)

According to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Government of Vietnam in 2004 tightened control of the Internet, requiring Internet agents, such as cyber cafes, to register the personal information of their customers and store records of Internet sites visited by customers. The Vietnamese Government also monitored electronic mail, searched for sensitive key words, and regulated Internet content.

(9)

The Government of the People’s Republic of China has employed censorship of the Internet in violation of Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

(10)

This censorship by the Chinese Government allows that Government to promote a xenophobic—and at times particularly anti-American—Chinese nationalism, the long-term effect of which will be deleterious to United States efforts to improve the relationship between the United States and China.

(11)

Technology companies in the United States that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian foreign governments have a moral responsibility to comply with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(12)

Technology companies in the United States have succumbed to pressure by authoritarian foreign governments to provide such governments with information about Internet users that has led to the arrest and imprisonment of cyber dissidents, in violation of the corporate responsibility of such companies to protect and uphold human rights.

(13)

Technology companies in the United States have provided technology and training to authoritarian foreign governments which have been used by such governments in filtering and blocking information that promotes democracy and freedom.

(14)

Technology companies in the United States should develop standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian foreign governments while protecting human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

3.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Appropriate congressional committees

Except as otherwise provided in this Act, the term appropriate congressional committees means—

(A)

the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; and

(B)

the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.

(2)

Foreign official

(A)

In general

The term foreign official means—

(i)

any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, state-owned enterprise, or instrumentality thereof; or

(ii)

any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, state-owned enterprise, or instrumentality.

(B)

State-owned enterprise

For purposes of subparagraph (A), the term state-owned enterprise means a commercial entity in which a foreign government owns, directly or indirectly, more than 50 percent of the outstanding capital stock or other beneficial interest in such commercial entity.

(3)

Internet

The term Internet means the combination of computer facilities, telecommunications facilities, electromagnetic transmission media, and related equipment and software, comprising the interconnected worldwide network of computer networks that employ the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol or any successor protocol to transmit information.

(4)

Internet content hosting service

The terms Internet content hosting service and content hosting service mean a service that—

(A)

stores, through electromagnetic or other means, electronic data, including the content of Web pages, electronic mail, documents, images, audio and video files, online discussion boards, and Web logs; and

(B)

makes such data available via the Internet.

(5)

Internet jamming

The term Internet jamming means jamming, censoring, blocking, monitoring, or restricting access to the Internet, or to content made available via the Internet, by using technologies such as firewalls, filters, and black boxes.

(6)

Internet-restricting country

The term Internet-restricting country means a country designated by the President pursuant to section 105(a) of this Act.

(7)

Internet search engine

The term Internet search engine or search engine means a service made available via the Internet that, on the basis of query consisting of terms, concepts, questions, or other data input by a user, searches information available on the Internet and returns to the user a means, such as a hyperlinked list of Uniform Resource Identifiers, of locating, viewing, or downloading information or data available on the Internet relating to that query.

(8)

Legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes

(A)

In general

The term legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes means for purposes of enforcement, investigation, or prosecution by a foreign official based on a publicly promulgated law of reasonable specificity that proximately relates to the protection or promotion of the health, safety, or morals of the citizens of that jurisdiction.

(B)

Rule of construction

For purposes of this Act, the control, suppression, or punishment of peaceful expression of political or religious opinion, which is protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, does not constitute a legitimate foreign law enforcement purpose.

(9)

Personally identifiable information

The term personally identifiable information

(A)

includes any information described in section 2703(c)(2) of title 18, United States Code; and

(B)

does not include—

(i)

any traffic data (as such term is defined in section 201(b) of this Act); or

(ii)

any record of aggregate data that does not identify particular persons.

(10)

Substantial restrictions on internet freedom

The term substantial restrictions on Internet freedom means actions that restrict or punish the free availability of information via the Internet for reasons other than legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes, including—

(A)

deliberately blocking, filtering, or censoring information available via the Internet based on its peaceful political or religious content; or

(B)

persecuting, prosecuting, or otherwise punishing an individual or group for posting or transmitting peaceful political or religious opinions via the Internet, including by electronic mail.

(11)

United states business

The term United States business means—

(A)

any corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, business trust, unincorporated organization, or sole proprietorship that—

(i)

has its principal place of business in the United States; or

(ii)

is organized under the laws of a State of the United States or a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States;

(B)

any issuer of a security registered pursuant to section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78l); and

(C)

any foreign subsidiary of an entity described in subparagraph (A) or (B) to the extent such entity—

(i)

controls the voting shares or other equities of the foreign subsidiary; or

(ii)

authorizes, directs, controls, or participates in acts carried out by the foreign subsidiary that are prohibited by this Act.

(12)

United States-supported content

The term United States-supported content means content that is created or developed, in whole or in part, by a United States-supported information entity.

(13)

United States-supported information entity

The term United States-supported information entity means—

(A)

any authority of the Government of the United States; and

(B)

any entity that—

(i)

receives grants from the Broadcasting Board of Governors to carry out international broadcasting activities in accordance with the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (title III of Public Law 103–236; 22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.);

(ii)

exists within the Broadcasting Board of Governors and carries out nonmilitary international broadcasting activities supported by the Government of the United States in accordance with such Act; or

(iii)

receives grants or other similar funding from the Government of the United States to carry out any information dissemination activities.

(14)

United States-supported web site

The term United States-supported Web site means a location on the World Wide Web that is owned or managed by, or is registered to, a United States-supported information entity.

4.

Severability

If any provision of this Act, or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of this Act, and the application of such provision to other persons not similarly situated or to other circumstances, shall not be affected by such invalidation.

I

Promotion of global internet freedom

101.

Statement of policy

It shall be the policy of the United States—

(1)

to promote as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy the right of every individual to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers;

(2)

to use all appropriate instruments of United States influence, including diplomacy, trade policy, and export controls, to support, promote, and strengthen principles, practices, and values that promote the free flow of information, including through the Internet and other electronic media; and

(3)

to deter any United States business from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content.

102.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that—

(1)

the President should through bilateral, and where appropriate, multilateral activities, seek to obtain the agreement of other countries to promote the goals and objectives of this Act and to protect Internet freedom; and

(2)

to the extent that a United States business empowers or assists an authoritarian foreign government in its efforts to restrict online access to the Web sites of Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, or other United States-supported Web sites and online access to United States Government reports such as the Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom, and the Annual Trafficking in Human Persons Reports, or to identify individual Internet users, that business is working contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States, and is undercutting United States taxpayer-funded efforts to promote freedom of information for all people, including those in undemocratic and repressive societies.

103.

Annual country reports on human rights practices

(a)

Report Relating to Economic Assistance

Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

(g)
(1)

The report required by subsection (d) shall include an assessment of the freedom of electronic information in each foreign country. Such assessment shall include the following:

(A)

An assessment of the general extent to which Internet access is available to and used by citizens in that country.

(B)

An assessment of the extent to which government authorities in that country attempt to filter, censor, or otherwise block Internet content, as well as a description of the means by which they attempt to block such content.

(C)

A description of known instances in which government authorities in that country have persecuted, prosecuted, or otherwise punished a person or group for the peaceful expression of political, religious, or dissenting views via the Internet, including electronic mail.

(D)

A description of known instances in which government authorities in that country have sought to collect, request, obtain or disclose the personally identifiable information of a person in connection with that person’s communication of ideas, facts or views where such communication would be protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

(2)

In compiling data and making assessments for the purposes of paragraph (1), United States diplomatic mission personnel shall consult with human rights organizations, technology and internet companies and other appropriate nongovernmental organizations.

.

(b)

Report Relating to Security Assistance

Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2304) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

(i)
(1)

The report required by subsection (b) shall include an assessment of the freedom of electronic information in each foreign country. Such assessment shall include the following:

(A)

An assessment of the general extent to which Internet access is available to and used by citizens in that country.

(B)

An assessment of the extent to which government authorities in that country attempt to filter, censor, or otherwise block Internet content, as well as a description of the means by which they attempt to block such content.

(C)

A description of known instances in which government authorities in that country have persecuted, prosecuted, or otherwise punished a person or group for the peaceful expression of political, religious, or dissenting views via the Internet, including electronic mail.

(D)

A description of known instances in which government authorities in that country have sought to collect, request, obtain or disclose the personally identifiable information of a person in connection with that person’s communication of ideas, facts or views where such communication would be protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

(2)

In compiling data and making assessments for the purposes of paragraph (1), United States diplomatic mission personnel shall consult with human rights organizations, technology and internet companies, and other appropriate nongovernmental organizations.

.

104.

Office of Global Internet Freedom

(a)

Establishment

There is established in the Department of State the Office of Global Internet Freedom (in this section referred to as the Office).

(b)

Duties

In addition to such other responsibilities as the President may assign, the Office shall—

(1)

serve as the focal point for interagency efforts to protect and promote freedom of electronic information abroad;

(2)

develop and ensure the implementation of a global strategy and programs to combat state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming by authoritarian foreign governments, and the intimidation and persecution by such governments of their citizens who use the Internet;

(3)

provide assistance to the President in connection with the annual designation of Internet-restricting countries required by section 105(a) of this Act;

(4)

beginning not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act—

(A)

identify key words, terms, and phrases relating to human rights, democracy, religious free exercise, and peaceful political dissent, both in general and as specifically related to the particular context and circumstances of each Internet-restricting country; and

(B)

maintain, update, and make publicly available on a regular basis the key words, terms, and phrases identified pursuant to subparagraph (A);

(5)

establish mechanisms to collect the information required to be reported by sections 116(g) and 502B(i) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as added by section 103 of this Act) and sections 203 and 204 of this Act;

(6)

establish a regularized consultative process with appropriate technology companies involved in providing, maintaining, or servicing the Internet, human rights organizations, academic experts, and others to develop a voluntary code of minimum corporate standards related to Internet freedom, and to consult with such companies, organizations, experts, and others regarding new technologies and the implementation of appropriate policies relating to such technologies; and

(7)

advise the appropriate congressional committees of legislative action that may be necessary to keep the provisions of this Act and the amendments made by this Act relevant to changing technologies.

(c)

Cooperation of other federal departments and agencies

Each department and agency of the Government of the United States, including the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Department of Justice, the International Broadcasting Bureau, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, shall—

(1)

cooperate fully with, and assist in the implementation of, the duties of the Office described in subsection (b), including the strategy developed by the Office pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection (b); and

(2)

make such resources and information available to the Office on a nonreimbursable basis as is necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act and the amendments made by this Act.

(d)

Definition

In this section, the term appropriate congressional committees means—

(1)

the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives; and

(2)

the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.

(e)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to the Office to carry out this section $50,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

105.

Annual designation of Internet-restricting countries; report

(a)

Designation

(1)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the President shall designate Internet-restricting countries for purposes of this Act.

(2)

Standard

A foreign country shall be designated as an Internet-restricting country if the President determines that the government of the country is directly or indirectly responsible for a systematic pattern of substantial restrictions on Internet freedom during the preceding 1-year period.

(b)

Report

(1)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that contains the following:

(A)

The name of each foreign country that at the time of the transmission of the report is designated as an Internet-restricting country pursuant to subsection (a).

(B)

An identification of each government agency and quasi-government organization responsible for the substantial restrictions on Internet freedom in each foreign country designated as an Internet-restricting country pursuant to subsection (a).

(C)

A description of efforts by the United States to counter the substantial restrictions on Internet freedom referred to in subparagraph (B).

(2)

Form

The information required by paragraph (1)(C) of the report may be provided in a classified form if necessary.

(3)

Internet availability

All unclassified portions of the report shall be made publicly available on the Internet Web site of the Department of State.

II

Minimum corporate standards for online freedom

201.

Protection of personally identifiable information

(a)

Prohibition of locating personally identifiable information in Internet-restricting countries

A United States business may not locate, within a designated Internet-restricting country, any electronic communication that contains any personally identifiable information.

(b)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Title 18 definitions

The terms electronic communication, electronic communications system, electronic storage, and contents have the meanings given such terms in section 2510 of title 18, United States Code.

(2)

Locate

The term locate includes, with respect to an electronic communication—

(A)

computer storage or processing by facilities of a remote computing service, as such term is defined in section 2711 of title 18, United States Code;

(B)

electronic storage by any electronic or computer server or facility of an electronic communications system; and

(C)

any other storage by any electronic or computer server or facility.

(3)

Traffic data

The term traffic data means, with respect to an electronic communication, any information contained in or relating to such communication that is processed for the purpose of the conveyance of the communication by an electronic communications system or for the billing thereof, including any Internet Protocol address or other means of identifying a location within an electronic communications system, but that does not by itself identify a particular person. Such term does not include the contents of any electronic communication.

202.

Integrity of personally identifiable information

(a)

User protection

If a United States business collects or obtains personally identifiable information through the provision of products or services on the Internet, such business may not provide such information to any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country, except for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes as determined by the Department of Justice.

(b)

Use of established legal channels

Any information that may be provided under subsection (a) for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes may only be provided through established legal channels as determined by the Department of Justice.

(c)

Private right of action

Any person aggrieved by a violation of this section may bring an action for damages, including punitive damages, or other appropriate relief in the appropriate district court of the United States, without regard to the amount in controversy, and without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

203.

Transparency regarding search engine filtering

Any United States business that creates, provides, or hosts an Internet search engine shall provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom, in a format and with a frequency to be specified by the Office, with all terms and parameters used to filter, limit, or otherwise affect the results provided by the search engine that are implemented—

(1)

at the request of, or by reason of any other direct or indirect communication by, any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country; or

(2)

to comply with a policy or practice of restrictions on Internet freedom in an Internet-restricting country.

204.

Transparency regarding Internet censorship

(a)

Provision of URLs

Any United States business that maintains an Internet content hosting service shall provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom, in a format and with a frequency to be specified by the Office, with the Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) of all data and content that such business has, under the circumstances set forth in subsection (b)—

(1)

removed from the content hosting service of such business;

(2)

blocked from availability on the Internet; or

(3)

blocked from transmission via the Internet into or within an Internet-restricting country.

(b)

Circumstances

The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the United States business took the action under subsection (a)—

(1)

at the request of, or by reason of any other direct or indirect communication by, any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country; or

(2)

in order to comply with a policy or practice of restrictions on Internet freedom in an Internet-restricting country.

205.

Protection of United States-supported online content

A United States business that maintains an Internet content hosting service may not conduct Internet jamming of a United States-supported Web site or United States-supported content in an Internet-restricting country.

206.

Penalties

(a)

Civil penalties

(1)
(A)

Any United States business that violates section 202(a) shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $2,000,000 imposed in an action brought by the Attorney General.

(B)

Any officer, director, employee, or agent, or stockholder of a United States business, who is acting on behalf of that business concern and who violates section 202(a), shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more $100,000 imposed in an action brought by the Attorney General.

(2)

Any United States business that violates section 201, 203, 204, or 205, or any officer, director, employee, or agent, or stockholder of a United States business, who is acting on behalf of that business concern and who violates section 201, 203, 204, or 205, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 imposed in an action brought by the Attorney General.

(b)

Criminal penalties

(1)
(A)

Any United States business that willfully violates, or willfully attempts to violate, section 202(a) shall be fined not more than $2,000,000.

(B)

Any officer, director, employee, or agent, or stockholder of a United States business, who is acting on behalf of that business concern, and who willfully violates, or willfully attempts to violate, section 202(a), shall be fined not more than $100,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(2)
(A)

Any United States business that willfully violates, or willfully attempts to violate, section 201, 203, 204, or 205 shall be fined not more than $10,000.

(B)

Any officer, director, employee, or agent, or stockholder of a United States business, who is acting on behalf of that business concern and who willfully violates, or willfully attempts to violate, section 201, 203, 204, or 205, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.

(c)

Payment of fines

Whenever a fine is imposed under subsection (a) or (b) upon any officer, director, employee, agent, or stockholder of a United States business, the fine may not be paid, directly or indirectly, by the United States business.

207.

Presidential waiver

(a)

In general

Subject to subsection (b), the President may waive the application of any of the provisions of sections 201 through 205 with respect to a United States business or an Internet-restricting country, if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees that—

(1)

the government of the country has ceased the activities giving rise to the designation of the country as an Internet-restricting country;

(2)

the exercise of such waiver authority would further the purposes of this Act; or

(3)

the important national interest of the United States requires the exercise of such waiver authority.

(b)

Congressional notification

Not later than the date of the exercise of a waiver under subsection (a), the President shall notify the appropriate congressional committees of the waiver or the intention to exercise the waiver, together with a detailed justification for the waiver.

III

Export controls for Internet-restricting countries

301.

Feasibility study on establishment of export controls

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall complete a feasibility study regarding the development of export controls and export license requirements regarding the export of any item subject to sections 730 through 774 of title 15, Code of Federal Regulations (commonly known as the Export Administration Regulations) to an end user in an Internet-restricting country for the purpose, in whole or in part, of facilitating substantial restrictions on Internet freedom.

302.

Report

Not later than 30 days after the end of the 180-day period described in section 301, the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing the actions taken to carry out section 301.

February 22, 2008

Committees on Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary discharged; committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed