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Date: 1999-12-15

GILC-Alert: Globaler Zensur Roundup

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Zensurbestrebungen von Australien bis in die USA, in China
wird wieder einmal gegen Dissidenten im Internet
losgeschlagen - es hat schon seinen Grund, warum die
mittlerweile auf über 60 NGOs angewachsene Global Internet
Liberty Campaign im Jahre 1996 das Licht der Welt erblicken
musste. Eines der 19 Gründungsmitglieder heißt übrigens
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GILC Alert Volume 3, Issue 8 December 14, 1999
Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter.

Welcome to GILC Alert, the newsletter of the Global Internet
Liberty Campaign. We are an international organization of
groups working for cyber-liberties, who are determined to
preserve civil liberties and human rights on the Internet. We
hope you find this newsletter interesting, and we very much
hope that you will avail yourselves of the action items in
future issues. If you are a part of an organization that would
be interested in joining GILC, please contact us at
<>. If you are aware of threats to cyber-liberties
that we may not know about, please contact the GILC
members in your country, or contact GILC as a whole.
Please feel free to redistribute this newsletter to appropriate
=========================== Free Expression [1]
Australian net censorship plans steamroll forward [2] Yahoo
censors chat boards [3] Seattle police get Usenet gag orders
[4] Chinese Internet dissidents sentenced [5] Ebay attacked
for sale of controversial materials [6] U.S. cybersquatting bill
passed [7] Bulgaria drops ISP licensing plans [8] New
Zealand Commission: ISPs should be liable [9] Thai police
plot shutdown of US web server [10] German Compuserve
executive's conviction reversed

Privacy and Encryption [11] Echelon global surveillance
network comes under scrutiny [12] Popular audio software
secretly tracks users [13] Euro wiretapping plans are back
[14] UK wiretapping bill shelved [15] New Australian law
allows police to hack private computers [16] Australian ISP
leaves passwords vulnerable, suffers break in [17]
International domain name commission wants you [18] Paris
Internet policy forum held

============== [1] Australian net censorship plans
steamroll forward
============== The Australian government is roaring
ahead with its plans to censor inappropriate Internet content,
despite scathing criticism from Electronic Frontiers Australia
(EFA--a GILC member).

The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) has issued new
rules regarding access to restricted websites. Under the
"Restricted Access Systems Declaration 1999 (No.1)",
individuals would have to register for the right to view Internet
content that is likely to be rated "R". The regulations would
require certain "[m]andatory data items for the electronic
lodgement of an application" including "name of applicant;
declaration that applicant is 18 years of age or over; and
either credit card details; or digital signature". The
Declaration would even force registrants to provide such
things as birth certificates or passports if they want to
register in paper form.

The ABA's standards are effective January 1, 2000. These
regulations are part of a much larger plan to prevent anyone
in Australia from accessing sites that refuse classification or
are rated X. Additionally, the scheme would deny Australian
children access to any R-rated websites. The list of materials
that can be classified as "R" (depending upon whether the
treatment is deemed unsuitable for minors) includes such
subjects as "suicide, crime, corruption, marital problems,
emotional trauma, drug and alcohol dependency, death and
serious illness, racism, religious issues".

These moves came after EFA loudly objected to a prior draft
version of these requirements. EFA had previously noted that
the rules would "require users to provide personal identifying
information that goes far beyond proof of age. This is likely to
act as a deterrent even for genuine adults." The cyberliberties
group had also suggested that the regulations might place an
"administratively onerous" burden on many Internet
companies. EFA had even discovered numerous technical
flaws in Consultation Paper's provisions, which might make
the entire scheme unworkable.

As an alternative, EFA had recommended "the ABA drop this
proposal altogether and replace it with guidelines for placing
warnings on web sites that may be unsuitable for children."

In related news, the Australian government has already
chosen members of a new NetAlert advisory board, which will
have several tasks, including the development of screening
software and complaint hotlines operation. EFA immediately
denounced the new body as a "Nanny committee", and
expressed fears that the board was "yet another example of
the paternalism exhibited by the current government. Time
will tell."

The ABA's new rules for access to restricted websites can
be seen at:

For EFA's stern warnings about NetAlert, go to

For the Australian government's official press release
concerning NetAlert, see
text/?MIval=dca_dispdoc&ID=4642&template=Newsr oom

EFA's comments on a draft version of the restricted system
access rules can be seen at:

====================== [2] Yahoo censors chat
====================== Want to talk about a
"controversial" subject? Don't do it on Yahoo.

Yahoo Inc. has admitted to deleting materials it deems
sensitive out of its chat boards. The Internet portal operator
has taken down truthful articles, even in cases whether
subjects of those articles did not complain. One of Yahoo's
senior producers firmly stated that the company could
prohibit messages that seem to "cause confusion", without
regard to whether the messages were accurate. The list of
censored topics included several transmissions concerning
the efficiency of Lockheed Martin Corp. and other defense

Critics immediately charged Yahoo with muzzling open
discussion of serious issues. David Sobel from the Electronic
Privacy Information Center (EPIC--a GILC member)
suggested that ''From the user's perspective, it's the worst of
both worlds.'' In particular, he cited several cases where
Yahoo outed authors of Internet messages, who thought their
anonymity would be protected.

For more information, see Ross Kerber, "Yahoo censoring
chat boards even when postings' subjects haven't
complained", Boston Globe, November 3, 1999, at D01.

=========== [3] Seattle police get Usenet gag order
=========== Watch out if you're in a heated online debate
with someone from Washington state (US).

In Seattle, a local judge has issued what may be the first
ever Internet gag order. The court prohibited one individual,
Scott Abraham, from participating in discussion on the
Usenet newsgroup "rec.alpine.skiing" for a year, or face
felony charges. The judge will now check all postings and
screen out any messages that she deems unsuitable. She
even warned users to stay away from the newsgroup, or at
least refrain from discussion of any subject other than Alpine

These strong measures come after a war of words arose on
the Usenet newsgroup "rec.alpine.skiing". The arguments got
so vicious that several participants issued death threats.

An Australian government employee, Anthea Kerrison,
passed along some of these messages to Leanne Shirey, a
detective with the Seattle Police Department. Shirey, who
was apparently worried about possible violence related to the
World Trade Organization (WTO) summit to be held in
Seattle, started monitoring the newsgroup, then sent out her
own message, telling "all participants in the RSA newsgroup
to stop all postings that do not have to do with skiing."
Curiously, the department's message contained paternalistic
language such as "Ignore anything that is not friendly and ski
related. Not responding in any way will make all involved the
better adults."

Afterwards, Shirey encouraged one of the newsgroup users
to file a complaint in Washington state court. The complaint
was pursuant to a new stringent state law which was
purportedly designed to prevent harassment in cyberspace.
The filing of the complaint led to the judge's edicts.

A number of legal experts deplored the ruling. Shari Steele
from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF--a GILC
member) said that the gag order was simply "too broad. A
more appropriate order would be one that prohibited
threatening language in messages targeted to a specific

For further information, see Craig Bicknell, "Usenet Ban a
Slippery Slope?", Wired News, November 16, 1999, at,1283,32550,00.html

Also see Bert H. Hoff, "When is it a Felony to Talk about
Zoom Skis?", MenWeb News Services, November 12, 1999,

For Detective Leanne Shirey's ultimatum, visit:[ST_rn=ps]/getdoc.xp?AN=534130

[4] Chinese Internet dissidents sentenced
Beijing is renewing efforts to stifle dissent in cyberspace.

Recently, a mainland Chinese court gave Wu Yilong an
eleven year prison sentence. Wu had allegedly sent e-mail
messages to several pro-democracy organizations in other
countries. Prosecutors also accused him of posting articles
on the Internet regarding the China Democracy Party.

This move comes as Communist China has expanded
programs to intercept transmissions along the so-called
Information Superhighway. According to the U.S. State
Department, Chinese government "authorities often monitor
telephone conversations, fax transmissions, electronic mail
and Internet communications of foreign ... diplomats and
journalists, as well as Chinese dissidents, activists and

Meanwhile, Internet use in China continues to grow. Chinese
officials have suggested that the Asian power will be among
the world's three largest Internet markets within the next five

For further information, see Kevin Platt, "'Cybercops' Police
China", (US), November 17, 1999, at

======================================================= [5] Ebay attacked for sale of controversial materials ======================================================= Ebay has come under fire for allowing the sale of "offe
nsive" materials.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has taken the online auctioneer to task for the sale of Nazi memorabilia. The Center begged the company "to review its policy of marketing items, many of which glorify Nazism." The group pointe
d out German laws that prohibit the sale of such goods, even though the Center is headquartered in Los Angeles and Ebay's customers are not all located in Germany.

The associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, claimed his goal was "not to get Ebay indicted". However, in the past, the organization has sued other companies such as, attempting to t
hwart the sale of books it deemed distasteful.

To see the Wiesenthal Center's press release on this subject, visit

===================================================== [6] U.S. cybersquatting bill passed ===================================================== A new U.S. law may restrict the rights of Internet users to register domain n

In a last minute flurry of legislative activity, the U.S. Congress approved a proposal that would prevent average citizens from using well-known names in Universal Resource Locators (URLs). The proposal was contained in a
massive Consolidated Appropriations package (see H.Rept. 106-479). The law was supposed to stop ordinary individuals from registering multiple domain names associated with famous companies or people (e.g.
However, several organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF--a GILC member) have voiced strong objections to such legislation because it might curtail free speech. Other observers, inclluding certain
White House officials, were concerned that the proposal might severely hamper efforts by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to create global standards for domain names.

The bill was passed in response to several instances where registrants have relinquished their domain names in exchange for monetary compensation. The new statute does contain certain exceptions, particularly for users wh
o register an otherwise infringing name in good faith. It remains to be seen whether this law will have an adverse impact on cyberspace, particularly on the creators of websites which protest the actions of well-known com
panies or individuals.

For an excerpt of the Consolidated Appropriations Act containing provisions relevant to domain names, see

For the full text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in conference report form (H.Rept. 106-479), see

To see EFF's comments regarding an earlier version of the bill, see

ICANN's home page is located at

===================================================== [7] Bulgaria drops ISP licensing plans ===================================================== Bulgarian government plans to license all ISPs are no more.

Bulgarian officials tried to impose a strict set of guidelines on Internet Service Providers. The regulations included a system of taxes and fees which would have severely restricted the operations of many ISPs throughout
the Eastern European country.

The Internet Society of Bulgaria (a chapter of the Internet Society--a GILC member) filed a lawsuit to forestall implementation of these proposals. A number of other groups, including the Bulgaarian Association for Informa
tion Technologies and the Bulgarian Internet Association, joined the fight to prevent these measures from taking effect. Thousands of e-mail messages were sent to Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, protesting the new s

As a result of this eleven month effort and ensuing public uproar, officials from the Bulgarian communications ministry re-categorized ISPs as "free services", essentially ending this particular effort to restrict the gro
wth of the Internet.

For more information from the Internet Society of Bulgaria, visit

================================================== [8] New Zealand Commission: ISPs should be liable ================================================== ISPs in New Zealand are bracing for a possible avalanche of lawsuits.

These preparations come after an official New Zealand law commission recommended holding Internet Service Providers liable for material that they host. This suggestion was one of several measures that were supposed "to re
move the immediate barriers to electronic commerce". ISPs would lose in cases where they had "actual knowledge of existence of information on the web site which would be actionable at civil law or constitute a crime".

The Commission did suggest that any such standard should incorporate an "innocent dissemination defence". Furthermore, the board believed ISPs should not be liable "for the reposting of information by a third party that h
as previously been removed." However, the group would require providers to delete infringing material as soon as it was discovered. This requirement might put a great deal of strain on many Internet hosts, given the fast
pace at which many messages are transmitted and posted.

For more information, see Chris Barton, "Act would make ISPs liable", New Zealand Herald, November 23, 1999, at toryID=103651

================================================= [9]Thai police attempt shutdown of US web server ================================================= Thailand authorities have attempted to block public access to several Am
erican web servers, all in the name of law and order.

The Thai government has already managed to wring concessions from one Maryland (US) Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP deleted a website which contained fake nude photographs of several Thai actresses. Colonel Yanap
hon Youngruen of the Thai Police Information System Centre admitted that the authorities had tried several elaborate techniques, in the hopes of hunting down the site's creators. Yanaphon even made the startling suggestio
n that "[b]anner companies, e-mails and even bank accounts need to be checked to see who the guilty person is.''

Thai officials have also made demands on GeoCities (an Internet host owned by Yahoo Inc.) to remove a website which was created by opponents of the current Thai administration. These dissidents included Pulo separatists w
ho support greater autonomy for several southern Moslem provinces in Thailand. Yanaphon described the group as "a terrorist organization".

In addition, Thailand's Crime Suppression Division has issued a directive to 17 ISPs inside the southeast Asian country, telling them to shut out websites which contain deceptive nude photographs of Thai actresses.

For more information, see Natee Vichitsorasatra, "Porn swoop worries Net advocates", The Nation (Thailand), November 27, 1999, at

=========================================== [10] German Compuserve conviction reversed =========================================== A German court has reversed the conviction of a corporate executive for failing to block q
uestionable Internet material.

The appeals court ruled in the case of Felix Somm, who formerly headed CompuServe Corp.'s German activities. Previously, the Munich Administrative Court had found him guilty of allowing child pornography to be sent across
the network in thirteen instances. The conviction was based on the idea that Mr. Somm should have denied Compuserve customers access to various websites. However, in reversing the guilty verdict, the higher tribunal held
that the technology to prevent such access was unavailable.

Observers had feared the original ruling would jeopardize free speech in cyberspace, forcing ISPs to scan through private Internet transmissions and censor out content that was deemed unsuitable.

For further information, see Imre Karacs, "Germany clears Net chief of child porn charges", The Independent (UK), November 18, 1999, at

See also "Compuserve Off the Porno Hook in Germany", eMarketer, November 22, 1999, at

============================================================== [11] Echelon global surveillance network comes under scrutiny ============================================================== Several new efforts may help to e
xpose the truth about a global electronic spy network, known as ECHELON.

A broad band of organizations has unveiled a new website,, which is designed to educate the public about the activities of ECHELON. The site is administered by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU--a
GILC member), in conjunction with several other organizations, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC--a GILC member), the Free Congress Foundation, Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties UK (a GILC member),
and the Omega Foundation.

"Echelon is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering network in the world," said Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU. "But it is still very much a black box, which apparently operates without the over
sight of Congress or the courts. Echelon can no longer be dismissed as an X-Files fantasy. The reports to the European Parliament make it quite clear that Echelon exists and that its operation raises profound civil libert
ies issues."

The homepage contains links to several documents, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions about ECHELON, as well as the aforementioned European Parliament reports.

In another related move, EPIC has sued for the release of documents regarding the legal standards by which ECHELON operates. The lawsuit was made pursuant to the United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A Congress
ional committee had requested these documents earlier this year, but officials from the United States National Security Agency (NSA) refused to divulge this information. NSA reputedly operates ECHELON in conjunction with
several other national intelligence organizations, including UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).

To visit, go to

For more on EPIC's press release about its FOIA efforts, see

For further press coverage of EPIC's efforts to uncover ECHELON, see Robert Lemus, "Privacy group sues NSA over spy net", ZDNet News, December 3, 1999, at,4586,2404126,00.html

================================================== [12] Popular audio software secretly tracks users ================================================== Do you use audio software on your computer? Someone else might be lis
tening in.

Millions of people use products from RealNetworks to hear compact discs and Internet related audio files. What these people didn't know was that the company assigned identification numbers to its customers, then apparentl
y tracked their activities through the Information Superhighway.

After RealNetworks admitted to these practices, aggrieved users filed two class action lawsuits against the software maker. The plaintiffs claimed the firm had engaged in fraud, unfair business practices, invasions of pri
vacy and violations of consumer protection laws. In one of these suits, filed in California state court, the alleged victims of the tracking scheme asked for $500 million.

Since the revelations, the company has offered an upgrade that allows users to blank out ID numbers from its products with zeroes. However, in spite of these disclosures, TrustE, an industry-based initiative to ensure com
puter privacy, refused to withdraw its seal of approval from RealNetworks' website.

For more information, see Courtney Macavinta, "Real Faces Second Privacy Suit", CNET, November 10, at

==================================== [13]Euro wiretapping plans are back ==================================== Previously discarded plans to create a European surveillance system have been resurrected.

These plans, known as ENFOPOL, had been dropped several months ago. However, new proposals in Germany and Austria have helped breathe new life into these proposals. Under the new version of ENFOPOL, rather than building a
unified surveillance network in one fell swoop, communications interception facilities reportedly will be built on a national basis at first. "Legal assistance" treaties between constituent countries will then ensure sta
ndardization and cooperation between these facilities.

Many of the basic ideas for a European tapping network apparently had been agreed upon several weeks ago, in a Moscow meeting of representatives from the G-8 nations. The new system is likely to become operational within
two to three years.

For more information in German, see Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti, "Information is the raw material of police work", Telepolis, November 26, 1999, at

For an English translation of Schulzki-Haddouti's article, see

For additional documents on ENFOPOL, visit

Further background information is available at

================================== [14] UK wiretapping bill shelved ================================== After intense public criticism, the British government temporarily withdrew its attempt to expand its surveillance pow
ers in cyberspace.

Several months ago, the UK Home Office had proposed new sweeping changes in the way law enforcement agencies obtain permission to intercept private communications. These changes were included in an Electronic Communicatio
ns Bill, which was supposed to improve e-commerce. Under the proposal, individuals who refused to provide computer encryption keys to the police when asked could be sent to jail for up to two years. ISPs would have to sta
y silent about government surveillance or face five year prison sentences. The bill would also have decreased security for private e-mail messages.

These measures were blasted by many experts in the field. An audit commissioned by the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) and Justice severely criticized the bill for its deleterious impact on civil libert
ies. Among other comments, the report noted the proposal's profoundly negative effect on the right to a fair trial and the right against self-incrimination. The authors of the audit also asserted that the government's pla
ns did not provide enough safeguards against potential government abuse.

British officials have admitted to these concerns, but have expressed hope of reviving the proposals within the next few months.

For further details, see Madeleine Acey, "U.K. Bill Combines E-Spying, Crypto Control", TechWeb, November 17, 1999, at

The FIPR's opinion is available at

More background information is available from Richard Reeves, "Police power to read e-mails 'is breach of rights'", (London) Observer, October 24, 1999, at,3879,9533

================================================================ [15] New Australian law allows police to hack private computers ================================================================ The Australian parliament h
as enacted new laws which may make it easier for government authorities to break into private computers.

The proposals were included in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Amendment Bill of 1999. Provisions in the bill allow the Australian government to intrude on non-governmental computer systems and al
ter any data contained within. Theoretically, such alteration is only allowed to the extent "necessary" to permit government tapping. However, the measure includes expansive language as to the magnitude of government powe
r in these matters, allowing the authorities to engage in any and all activities that are "reasonably incidental."

Many observers fear that the ASIO bill will amount to the legitimatization of Big Brother in the digital arena. Greg Taylor of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA--a GILC member) said, "I hate to use the word 'Orwellian,'
but I can't think of anything better to describe this." He called the legislation "another stop down the path of legalized surveillance of all information by authorities."

For further details, see Stewart Taggart, "Orwellian Nightmare Down Under?", Wired News, December 4, 1999, at,1283,32853,00.html

See also William Maher, "Parliament passes ASIO bill", Newswire, November 26, 1999 at

================================================================== [16] Australian ISP leaves passwords vulnerable, suffers break in ================================================================== Think your Internet p
asswords are safe? Think again.

Optus is one of the biggest Internet Service Providers in Australia. In a surprising turn of events, the company left unprotected a massive file that contained the login passwords to everyone of its customers--nearly 100,
000 in all. After a later "unauthorised intrusion", the ISP told its users to change their passwords, admitting that the security of the network had been compromised. Strangely enough, Optus only issued the warning a full
18 hours after it became aware of the problem. The firm even went so far as to contact the authorities regarding the incident.

Since then, Optus claims it has repaired the breach. The exact extent of the damage to its users, however, is not yet known.

Full story at David Akin, "Optus calls police after ISP breached", ABC News Online(Australia), November 4, 1999, at

==================================================== [17] International domain name commission wants you ==================================================== Want to say something about how domain names are created?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is looking for volunteers to serve on its Membership Implementation Task Force. ICANN was created several years ago to deal with several Internet protocol re
lated issues, including domain name registration.

The official role of this Task Force is to "generate and implement strategies for outreach and recruitment of a broad and numerous membership that is globally representative of the Internet user community; design effectiv
e membership authentication and online election procedures; and undertake such other membership implementation responsibilities as may be assigned to it by the Board or the President."

The deadline for "Expressions of Interest" is December 21, 1999.

Further information on ICANN's plans can be seen at

Expressions of Interest should be sent to Andrew McLaughlin at

========================================================== [18] Paris Internet policy forum held ========================================================== On November 27, Imaginons un Reseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS--a G
ILC member) sponsored a forum in Paris to discuss future Internet policy. At this conference, the participants approved a motion designed to promote "non-commercial interests and solidarity" throughout cyberspace.

Among the adopted principles was the idea that "[r]espect for individual and public liberties ... should prevail over all other considerations." The group expressed the belief that "[c]ontent labelling cannot be accepted
except in a voluntary and positive manner." The motion also contained language stating "The protection of fundamental rights of citizens takes place through the guarantee of confidentiality--which includes the total liber
alization of cryptography and the non-traceability of messages--as well as by the strictest protection of their personal data."

The full text of this motion (in French) is located at:

An English translation of this statement is available at:

========================================================== ABOUT THE GILC NEWS ALERT: ==========================================================

The GILC News Alert is the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, an international coalition of organizations working to protect and enhance online civil liberties and human rights. Organizations are invited
to join GILC by contacting us at To alert members about threats to cyber liberties, please contact members from your country or send a message to the general GILC address.

To submit information about upcoming events, new activist tools and news stories, contact: Christopher Chiu, GILC Coordinator, American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad Street, 17th Floor, New York, New York 10004 USA. e

More information about GILC members and news is available
at <>. You may re-print or redistribute the
GILC NEWS ALERT freely. To subscribe to the alert, please
send an mail to <> with the following
message in the body: subscribe gilc-announce

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edited by Harkank
published on: 1999-12-15
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