Bill aims to curb Net censorship

Friday, 18 July 2003, 9:12 AM EST

The legislation aims to create a federal Office of Global Internet Freedom and gives it $16 million to spend over the next two years. The office would be tasked with an unusual mission for a government agency: devising technical methods to prevent other nations from censoring the Internet.

"These regimes have been aggressively blocking access to the Internet with technologies such as firewalls, filters and black boxes," said Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. "In addition, these oppressive regimes habitually monitor activity on the Internet, including e-mail and message boards...The Global Internet Freedom Act will give millions of people around the globe the power to outwit repressive regimes that would silence them, and to protect themselves from reprisals in the process."

Cox's measure is embedded in a much larger bill--which the House approved by a 382-42 vote--that would fund the State Department for the next few years. It directs the Office of Global Internet Freedom to "develop and implement a comprehensive global strategy to combat state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming, and persecution of those who use the Internet." In practice, the money will likely to go fund Web services that let Internet users circumvent government restrictions.

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