Through various committees, initiatives, and caucuses, members of Congress have explored, and continue to explore, the issues that arise when conducting business in countries that censor the Internet and how best to advance privacy and free expression globally. Most recently, on March 24, 2010, Senators Ted Kaufman (D-DE) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) announced the establishment of a new Senate Global Internet Freedom Caucus (“Caucus”), formed to highlight the importance of a free global Internet. Citing China as an example of an authoritarian government that censors information, Caucus Co-Chair Brownback stated that the Caucus would stand against digital tyranny that violates human rights.
That same day, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) on Internet control in China to explore the nexus between human rights and trade. Witnesses at the hearing discussed the challenges posed by China’s regulation of the Internet to conducting business in the country.
Earlier in the month, on March 2, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Rule of Law also held a hearing on efforts by foreign governments to censor Internet sites and citizen communications. The hearing focused on a multistakeholder voluntary initiative established by industry and nongovernmental organizations to address issues pertaining to human rights, censorship, and user privacy in Internet technologies. At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) expressed an interest in introducing legislation to require Internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights.