updated 04:00 pm EST, Tue February 3, 2009
EU considering freedom law
A law to uphold users' freedoms on the Internet similar to the Global Online Freedom Act drafted by the US Congress is not necessary in the European Union, said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding on Tuesday, according to a report. The law would protect surfers' rights, especially in countries where the government is blocking sites and intimidating users by policing their actions, which violates their human rights, say EU lawmakers in favor of the "freedom law."
In her speech to the European Parliament, Reding says she does not believe a hard law is the best way to deal with the challenge of promoting freedom of expression on the web. Proponents of the law want to introduce export controls, civil and criminal penalties and create a specific body to govern European Internet providers, all of which, Reding says, would face the companies with the difficult position of picking between breaking the law or leaving the market open to less rule-obeying Internet service providers.
Reding is backing an idea for EU to fund the creation of anti-censorship software and says it will be researched deeper.
Reding pointed out to the US draft bill, under which democratic countries in Western Europe could be subject to restrictions. US companies would rather see a code of conduct that includes minimum corporate standards regarding Internet freedoms instead of a hard law. While Reding doesn't offer such specific ideas, she believes another solution needs to be developed that would not force companies to follow a specific law to the letter or break it in order to keep existing customers and attract new ones.