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Bill aims to restrict exports of censorship software

updated 08:15 pm EST, Thu December 1, 2011

Legislators to limit spyware distribution

Legislators are currently drafting a bill that aims to impose export restrictions on software that can be used by foreign governments to monitor citizens or censor Internet content. Republican Representative Chris Smith, the bill's sponsor, suggests such legislation is necessary to help prevent certain governments from using American-produced software to quash political dissent.

Smith claims many regimes are looking to US companies for tools to help hunt down, identify and imprison dissenters. This is not the first time the New Jersey Representative has promoted such restrictions, however the recent global unrest is expected to give the latest draft a better chance at becoming law.

The Global Online Freedom Act looks to the State Department for guidance on specific countries that would be most likely to misuse surveillance and censorship technology for nefarious purposes, rather than legitimate law-enforcement endeavors. Companies would also be forced to publicize their internal policies regarding human rights.

The reporting requirements are still expected to be met with criticism from companies that operate in countries such as China, which requires local and global companies to abide by its censorship laws. It remains unclear if Smith's revised draft will pass through the House and Senate. [via Wall Street Journal]

by MacNN Staff



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