LIVE WEBCAST: Human Rights First Testifies in Congress on Internet Freedom

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino testified today on Internet Freedom before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. Witnesses:

  • Daniel Calingaert, Ph.D., Vice President, Freedom House
  • Clothilde Le Coz, Washington Director, Reporters Without Borders
  • Elisa Massimino, President and CEO, Human Rights First
  • Rebecca MacKinnon, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow, The New American Foundation

In her testimony, Elisa Massimino debunked excuses used by surveillance and dual-use technology providers that comply with repressive governments that use these products to thwart free speech and dissent. For example, the companies often note that  they sell to private companies – not governments – so they are not responsible for misuse of their products through a third party or that they are required to follow the laws of jurisdictions where they operate. Noting that threats to global internet freedom span from China’s Great Firewall to surveillance conducted by repressive regimes in the Middle East,  Massimino stated that companies and governments each play a role in addressing this concern, including:

  • Congress should continue to highlight expectations of companies and press them to adopt responsible policies. The lack of focused pressure has given ICT companies the time and space to stall on accountability for their actions.
  • Sellers of surveillance and dual-use technology or related hardware have an obligation to conduct due diligence to reveal the role their products play in enabling surveillance and repression by authoritarian governments.
  • The best course of action is not always clear. American businesses should ensure that they do not go into these complex situations blind by gathering as much information as possible regarding the society, government, and legal structures of the country in which they intend to operate, and form a specific, comprehensive plan for dealing with the objectionable demands that a government might make.
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Published on December 8, 2011

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