Feds plan global Net freedom event

Tech Culture

Fury over the now-notorious Internet censorship practices of countries like China--and the willingness of American firms, at times, to do their bidding--may have quieted somewhat after a fiesty daylong congressional hearing last winter, but the U.S. government is preparing a renewed spotlight on the issue.

On January 30, the State Department plans to hold an afternoon conference exploring the topic at its Washington D.C. headquarters, Ambassador David Gross, who coordinates international telecommunications and information policy for the government, said Tuesday.

The goal of the event is to drum up ways to "preserve the Internet as being a conduit for the free flow of information," Gross said.

The agency is just starting to finalize its plans and has not yet issued invitations, but it hopes representatives from Internet companies, non-governmental organizations and academia will participate, Gross added.

The State Department first attempted to draw heightened attention to concerns about other countries' online censorship practices last February, when Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced the formation of a Global Internet Freedom Task Force to "consider foreign policy aspects of Internet freedom."

A bill recently reintroduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, would further elevate the department's role, establishing a permanent Office of Global Internet Freedom within the agency that would be charged with designating a list of "Internet-restricting countries" each year. That list, in turn, would be used to back efforts to restrict American firms doing business in those locales.

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