Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Increasing Global Demand for an Uncensored Internet - How the U.S. Can Help Defeat Online Censorship by Facilitating Private Action

Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Increasing Global Demand for an Uncensored Internet - How the U.S. Can Help Defeat Online Censorship by Facilitating Private Action

Article excerpt


This Note discusses efforts to defeat government censorship of the Internet. In the narrow meaning of that idea, this Note initially discusses technological efforts to circumvent government-imposed Internet firewalls; in the broader sense, it addresses the larger goal of inducing censoring governments to bring their firewalls down. Proposed U.S. legislation would provide U.S. government funding of censorship circumvention technology. This Note discusses why such funding is not a good approach. Absent larger international efforts, private action--within both the U.S. and censoring countries--has the best chance of bringing down government-run firewalls. This Note discusses how the U.S. government can best facilitate such private action through a two-pronged approach. The approach attempts to increase private circumvention efforts while decreasing U.S. corporate assistance in foreign governments' censoring. This Note argues that such an approach would result in the possibility of censoring governments bringing down their firewalls because of an increased demand for an uncensored Internet and sufficient government frustration in maintaining such censorship.


     A. An Overview of Censorship Methods
     B. Technologies Used to Circumvent
        1. Examples of Anti-Jamming Software
        2. Recent Private Collaborative Efforts
     C. The Global Internet Freedom Act of
        2006 (GIFA)
     D. The Global Internet Freedom Task Force
     E. The Role of U.S. Corporations in China's
        Internet Censorship
     F. The Global Online Freedom Act of 2007
     A. Is Anti-Jamming Software a Good Approach
        to Defeat Censorship?
     B. Government Funding of Anti-Jamming
        Technology under GIFA and GOFA
     C. GIFA's Likelihood of "Promoting Democracy
        and Freedom".
     D. The U.S. Government's Domestic
        Curtailments of Internet Freedom
     E. U.S. Obscenity Law and the Community
        Standards Test
     A. Minimizing Government Involvement in
        Anti-Jamming Efforts
     B. Minimizing U.S. Corporate Assistance
        in Foreign Governments' Censorship Efforts


The Global Internet Freedom Act of 2006 (1) and the Global Online Freedom Act of 20072 propose government funding of "anti-jamming" technology that allows users in Internet-censoring countries to view websites that are blocked by their government. (3) U.S. government funding of such technology is not a good long-term approach to defeating government Internet censorship. The U.S. government would be perceived internationally as imposing its own standards of decency and morals onto China and other countries with similar Internet censorship. Such criticism gains legitimacy when it is viewed in light of the U.S. government's own restrictions on Internet freedom regarding suspected terrorism, pornography, and content deemed obscene. (4)

The U.S. government does not permit a completely free Internet within its own borders, yet would be actively supplanting other countries' content restrictions under the proposed legislation. (5) Government funding of such technology contradicts the spirit of U.S. courts' own community standards test, which allows the most restrictive standard within the U.S. to govern what is decent online. (6) Funding of technology that circumvents foreign censorship amounts to a statement that while the most restrictive standard in the U.S. is an important consideration, the most restrictive standards abroad must be torn down. Given that the U.S. has included its own content filters in such software offerings in the past, (7) the U.S. would essentially be replacing another government's firewall with its own.

This Note proposes that the U. …

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