Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) is making another try at the Global Online Freedom Act, which is intended to keep US companies from assisting with oppression in other countries. The legislation is prompted in part by Yahoo’s cooperation in identifying Chinese dissidents, which resulted in long prison sentences for the dissidents.
Assuming the 2009 version is similar to the 2007 one, the legislation is pretty mild, actually. It does very little on the censorship front, merely requiring that companies keep track of their censorship and report it to the US government. It also forbids them from blocking web sites supported by the US government.
It does better in regard to personally identifiable information, prohibiting its release in Internet-restricting countries, except for legitimate law enforcement purposes, which specifically do not include “control, suppression, or punishment of peaceful expression of political or religious opinion.” It also gives victims a right of action against the company in federal court, without regard to citizenship. All this is limited, however, by an authority given to the president to waive the provisions for any country.
Smith’s last effort passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007 and was placed on the calendar, but never reached the House floor (which was controlled by Democrats).