Dick Durbin had harsh words for all but a handful of tech companies at a hearing of the Senate judiciary subcommittee he chairs. The assistant Senate majority leader blasted Facebook, Twitter and others, both for their reluctance to join a global cooperative devoted to Internet freedom and their unwillingness to testify at the hearing.
In the midst of a standoff between Google and China, Durbin said he’s drafting Internet freedom legislation that would impose civil or even criminal penalties on companies that facilitate human rights violations by agreeing to repressive tech policies.
WASHINGTON — A top Senate Democrat on Tuesday criticized the technology industry for its unwillingness to stand up to foreign governments that restrict access to online content, pledging to introduce legislation that would impose penalties on Internet companies that facilitate human rights violations in repressive regimes.
“The bottom line is this: with a few notable exceptions, the technology industry seems unwilling to regulate itself and unwilling to even engage in a dialogue with Congress about the serious human rights challenges the industry faces,” Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law and assistant Senate majority leader, said at a hearing on Internet freedom.
“I will introduce legislation that would require Internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights or face civil or criminal liability,” Durbin said.
Durbin chaired a hearing on Internet censorship in May 2008, when he secured commitments from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) to join the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a global consortium that promotes a voluntary code of conduct for Internet companies to preserve the free flow of information.
Durbin said he was disappointed that no other Internet companies had come forward to join the GNI, saying that only AT&T (NYSE: T), Skype and McAfee had expressed a willingness to consider the initiative.