US authorities cracking down on free internet – Moscow
"The US government, private companies and organizations are tightening censorship of internet communication," the report by Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
The parliamentary hearings devoted to the issue of human rights violations in the United States, discussed the passage of some US legislation that could be considered a form of censorship.
For example, the 63-page report pointed to the Children Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Adopted in 2000 following a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, CIPA makes the use of web filters in school libraries a mandatory condition for receiving government subsidies on telecom and internet services.
The report also slammed US government officials for placing indirect pressure on companies responsible for internet content.
"They are pushed to remove 'unwelcome' information from websites under the threat of prosecution," the report said.
The ministry cited a recent Google ‘Transparency Report’ that says the search engine site received 6,321 requests to release users’ private data to US government agencies – including law enforcement.
The report also revealed that the number of requests by US officials for removal of particular internet content had exploded by 103 percent year-on-year in July-December 2011.
US law enforcement agencies appealed for the removal of 1,400 'insulting' videos from YouTube, while there were some 6,300 appeals for data disclosure on more than 12,200 users.
Internet websites, including Google, complied with 93 percent of such appeals, the ministry noted, while adding that such measures represent a blatant disregard for the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The Russian parliamentary session also criticized a proposed law in the US Congress, known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).
"In the opinion of human rights defenders, CISPA…will practically grant the US government unlimited powers to monitor internet browsing by individuals," it said.
The Foreign Ministry’s warnings echo those of others, including Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web.
CISPA “is threatening the rights of people in America, and effectively rights everywhere, because what happens in America tends to affect people all over the world,” Berners-Lee told the Guardian in an interview. “Even though the SOPA and PIPA acts (US legislation to regulate the internet) were stopped by the huge public outcry, it's staggering how quickly the US government has come back with a new, different, threat to the rights of its citizens."
Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders warned that the cyber security bill now before the US Congress “would allow the government and private companies to deploy draconian measures to monitor, even censor, the Web. It might even be used to close down sites that publish classified files or information."
Finally, the ministry also noted that the United States government is making inroads at using the internet as an instrument of propaganda.
"The US Central Command (Centcom) has already concluded an agreement with a California-based company Ntrepid to develop software, which will assist the manipulation of social network debates abroad, primarily in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Artificial online “personas” will spread pro-American propaganda and block undesirable comments,” the report warned.