02/20/2006, 00.00
CHINA – UNITED STATES
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US draft bill to target companies that help China censor the internet

If approved the bill would impose fines up to US$ 2 million and five years in jail for companies that help the governments of China, Cuba, Iran, Libya and Myanmar enforce censorship.

Washington (AsiaNews/SCMP) – US Republican Congressman Christopher Smith has introduced draft legislation that would make it illegal for mainland internet firms listed in the US to comply with Chinese government demands on censorship and disclosure of personal information.

The 'Global Online Freedom Act' proposed by Smith, who chairs a House subcommittee on human rights, would prevent US firms from maintaining servers and storing user and search engine data in the mainland.

The bill "to promote freedom of expression on the internet" follows a heated congressional hearing last week in which Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco Systems were accused by congressmen of suppressing human rights in China by complying with demands from Beijing.

With the new law companies found guilty would have to pay a fine of up to US$ 2 million and face up to five years in jail.
The bill also provides for foreign internet users to seek punitive damages in US courts if they are victim of such actions.

In addition to China, the bill says it aims to counter online censorship by the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Libya, the Maldives and Myanmar.

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