Volume 5.19 December 10, 1998
"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world . . ." - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR set out the fundamental freedoms that the nations of the world agreed to observe in the aftermath of the second world war. The UDHR also established the foundation for many important treaties, agreements, and institutions that were later created to protect human rights.
Two provisions of the UDHR are of particular importance to the Internet community. Fifty years ago the drafters of the Universal Declaration recognized that the protection of privacy and the freedom of expression are essential rights that all governments must respect. Article 12 states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 19 says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Today the rights set out in the UDHR are still under attack, as the report from Human Rights Watch excerpted below points out. Across the globe, governments threaten essential freedoms and basic human rights. The Internet -- and more precisely the ability of people to make use of this new communications technology -- is also under attack. Scientists in China are jailed for sending email. Governments are developing new controls that would prevent journalists, human rights organizers, and political opponents from engaging in private communications.
Take a moment today to show your support for human rights. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Send an email in support of the DFN campaign. Sign up with FreeCrypto.
We dedicate this issue of the EPIC Alert to the spirit of freedom, justice, and peace embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The Digital Freedom Network has announced a campaign to free a Chinese Engineer and Physicist. From the DFN Action Alert 98-010, December 10, 1998):
On a day when most countries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, software engineer Lin Hai and physicist and dissident Wang Youcai sit in jail for using the Internet to support democracy in China.
A group of 13 free speech and scientific organizations has initiated an e-mail appeal campaign on behalf of Lin Hai and Wang Youcai. We encourage other groups to share this alert with their constituencies.
Lin Hai was arrested on March 25, 1998 for providing 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to VIP Reference, which publishes a pro-democracy newsletter described by Chinese prosecutors as a "hostile foreign publication." U.S.-based VIP Reference distributes reports on dissident activities, human rights, and other issues to more than 250,000 e-mail addresses in China. Lin Hai has been charged with "inciting to overthrow state power." His trial was conducted in secret in Shanghai on December 4; the verdict is expected to be announced soon. Lin's arrest has been described as evidence that the Chinese government is determined to prevent freedom of information on the Internet from posing a challenge to its leadership.
Wang Youcai, a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, is scheduled to go to trial on December 17 in the Hangzhou Intermediate Court on the charge of "inciting to overthrow state power." Among his crimes is sending e-mail messages to dissidents in the U.S. Wang was arrested in July for trying to organize an opposition party. He was then released and put under house arrest. He was detained again on November 2 and formally charged on November 30. What can you do?
Send e-mail or fax messages:
calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Lin Hai and Wang Youcai on the grounds that they were arrested solely for exercising their internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and association; and urging Chinese officials to cease their interference with electronic communications.
You can note in your letter that:
(1) More than one million Chinese citizens reportedly have access to the Internet. The government encourages this access to promote national development while, at the same time, fighting to control its use for political purposes.
(2) The arrests of Lin Hai and Wang Youcai constitute serious violations of international human rights standards enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted without opposition by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. They include:
everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person (Article 3); no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile (Article 9); everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers (Article 19); and everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Article 20).
Please consult the DFN pages below for more information on this campaign.
The campaign is supported by the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Committee of Concerned Scientists, the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists of the American Physical Society, Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), Derechos Human Rights, the Digital Freedom Network, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Human Rights in China, the New York Academy of Sciences' Committee on Human Rights, and VIP Reference. We encourage other groups to share this alert with their constituencies.
DFN Campaign Page:
DFN Press Release:
GILC Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
"Fifty years ago, the nations of the world affirmed their commitment to protect and promote human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Understanding that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," the nations of the world committed themselves to protect the rights of privacy, equality, human dignity and freedom of speech. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is essential that the international community reassert its commitment to respect and promote human rights regardless of physical borders.
"The rights cemented in the UDHR are as essential, and as threatened, today as they were fifty years ago. The undersigned organizations, members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, would like to remind the citizen nations of the world of the guarantees of freedom of expression and privacy enshrined in the UDHR.
"Article 19 of the UDHR provides that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression...through any media and regardless of frontiers.' However, governments continue to restrict expression on the Internet. In China, software dealer Lin Hai is awaiting sentencing for releasing 30,000 email addresses to a dissident group in the United States. Civil rights groups in the United States are fighting a court battle against a law dubbed Communications Decency Act II, which would restrict access by adults to online content.
"Although Article 12 of the UDHR states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy..." governments around the world seek to monitor and intercept communications on the Internet and elsewhere. Recently, under pressure from the United States, 33 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and South America agreed to limit the exportation of mass-market software that would protect the privacy of Internet users. This software, which scrambles data so that it can only be read by its intended recipient, is widely used by human rights groups, including GILC members, to ensure the safety and integrity of sensitive information. In Singapore, all Internet service providers (ISPs) are controlled directly or indirectly by the government and in Russia, a proposal is being debated to connect all ISPs via a black box to the Federal Security Service to monitor all Internet communications.
"The Internet holds the promise of being the greatest tool for communication and freedom of expression. The undersigned members of GILC encourage the governments of the world to recognize and promote this potential in accordance with the principles of the UDHR. The undersigned members of GILC also encourage the governments of the world to avoid restrictions on any software that protects the privacy of an individual's communications."
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) http://www.aclu.org/
Bulgarian Institute for Legal Development http://www.bild.acad.bg/
Center for Democracy and Technology http://www.cdt.org/
Derechos Human Rights http://www.derechos.org/
Digital Freedom Network (DFN) http://www.dfn.org/
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) http://www.eff.org/
Electronic Frontiers Australia http://www.efa.org.au/
FrEE (Electronic Frontiers Spain) http://www.arnal.es/free/
Electronic Frontiers Texas http://www.eftexas.org/
Electronic Privacy Information Center http://www.epic.org/
Equipo Nizkor http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/
Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG) http://www.fitug.de/
Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/
Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS) http://www.iris.sgdg.org/
Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/index.html
Liberty (National Council of Civil Liberties)
Privacy International http://www.privacy.org/pi/
quintessenz e-zine http://www.quintessenz.at/entrance/index.html
The Global Internet Liberty Campaign was established in 1996 to promote freedom and protect liberty in the online world. Today more than 50 organizations in 20 countries support the ongoing work of GILC.
The Global Internet Liberty Campaign advocates:
Prohibiting prior censorship of on-line communication.
Requiring that laws restricting the content of on-line speech distinguish between the liability of content providers and the liability of data carriers.
Insisting that on-line free expression not be restricted by indirect means such as excessively restrictive governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet.
Including citizens in the Global Information Infrastructure (GII) development process from countries that are currently unstable economically, have insufficient infrastructure, or lack sophisticated technology.
Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Ensuring that personal information generated on the GII for one purpose is not used for an unrelated purpose or disclosed without the person's informed consent and enabling individuals to review personal information on the Internet and to correct inaccurate information.
Allowing on line users to encrypt their communications and information without restriction.
We invite you -- our fellow users from around the world who are interested in taking concerted action to protect the Internet -- to join us in this campaign.
GILC Home Page:
GILC Issues Pages:
http://www.gilc.org/speech/ http://www.gilc.org/privacy/ http://www.gilc.org/crypto/ http://www.gilc.org/access/
The 1999 World Report of Human Rights Watch contains a special section on Freedom of Expression and the Internet. From the HRW report:
Despite growing acknowledgment during 1998 among governments around the world that the Internet promotes participation in civil and political life within countries and beyond, legislative proposals continued to threaten free speech on the Internet. While dissidents in authoritarian countries continued to take risks using the Internet to seek help and information, regulators in these parts of the world were quick to refine screening and other controlling technologies. As a result, in a half-dozen countries, Internet access providers (including public libraries) were implementing filtering technologies and other voluntary measures to make prior censorship of on-line communications a reality. The trend is towards extending these technologies more broadly, with global implications for free expression. On-line content providers may soon be forced to start rating their content; those failing to rate their content may find their material blocked from public access. As local rating criteria are used to define ratings, the danger is that these restrictive criteria will limit the diversity of expression on the Internet, where content is as diverse as human thought.
In October 1997 the European Parliament had consented, in principle, to the use of filtering and screening devices. Subsequently the European Commission requested to the European Parliament to foster research into technical issues, in particular filtering, rating, and tracing techniques, taking into account Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity. Ironically, authoritarian regimes around the world were soon to implement these techniques and principles to restrict free expression on the Internet.
For example, Singapore's National Internet Advisory Committee (NIAC) in its September 1998 report recommended that the local industry be required to label Web sites using PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection)- compliant content rating classification systems, such as that developed by the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC). Implementing this would mean that unrated sites would be automatically blocked. Even if this system were only adopted in Singapore, all unrated Web sites around the world would be blocked when the system was used.
The report looks also at threats to Free Expression in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, and the United States. The report also noted efforts to control the use of encryption and said that "the current push for restricted access to cryptography may make the use of freely available software like PGP illegal or impossible for human rights groups from developing countries and in the long term even by nongovernmental groups in the most developed countries."
Human Rights Watch World Report 1999, "Freedom of Expression on the Internet":
Human Rights Watch World Report 1999:
A little more than a week ago, government officials meeting secretly in Vienna revised an international agreement that concerns the export of munitions in an attempt to establish new controls on the use and development of encryption products. In so doing, they are attempting to reverse efforts to promote good techniques to protect privacy that have been backed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Ministers of the EU Member Countries. The Wassenaar delegates have also turned their backs of the rights of citizens and the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Now it's time to fight back. A new web-based campaign makes it possible to send a fax message to your political leaders to ask that new controls on encryption not be established. EPIC urges you to visit the FreeCrypto web site and express your support for this effort.
The FreeCrypto campaign focuses on the following arguments against controls.
- Strong cryptography is the only way to protect the contents of private and confidential communications.
- The right to privacy is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
- Strong cryptographic software is already widely available throughout the world.
- The regulations impose unnecessary constraints and costs on business while doing little to achieve their aim of restricting availability of cryptographic software.
- No objective case for the benefits of imposing such controls has been made public.
- The restrictions on deployment of strong cryptography increase the risk of criminal or terrorist attack on vital infrastructures such as banking and electricity supply.
Take a moment, visit the FreeCrypto web site, and send a message.
Free Crypto Web Site:
GILC Report, "Cryptography and Liberty: An International Survey of Encryption Policy":
Internet Privacy Coalition:
Human Rights in the World Community: Issues and Action by Richard P. Claude (Editor), Burns H. Weston (Editor).
A compilation of the best analytical work of leading scholars and activists in the field of international human rights designed for educational use.
(University of Pennsylvania Press, $24.95 list).
States of Injustice: A Guide to Human Rights and Civil Liberties in the European Union by Michael Spencer.
A concise guide to human rights and civil liberties in the European Union on issues such as surveillance and data protection,
(Pluto Press, $22.95 List)
Also available at the EPIC Bookstore, books on civil liberties, privacy, free speech, and government accountability, as well as videos and DVDs:
- "1984" (with John Hurt and Richard Burton) - "The Tin Drum" (based on the novel by Gunter Grass) - "Brazil" (with Robert DeNiro) - "War Games" (Matthew Broderick) - "Gattaca" (Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman)
These films and lots of good books on civil liberties are available for purchase online at the EPIC Bookstore:
Give a book (or film) on civil liberties this holiday season!
Computer Ethics. Philosophical Enquiry 98 (CEPE'98). December 14-15. London, UK. Sponsored by ACMSIGCAS and London School of Economics. http://is.lse.ac.uk/lucas/cepe98.htm
1999 RSA Data Security Conference. January 18-21, 1999. San Jose, CA. Sponsored by RSA. Contact: http://www.rsa.com/conf99/
FC '99 Third Annual Conference on Financial Cryptography. February 22-25, 1999. Anguilla, B.W.I. Contact: http://fc99.ai/
Electronic Commerce and Privacy Legislation -- Building Trust and Confidence. February 23, 1999. Ottawa, Canada. Sponsored by Riley Information Services. http://www.rileyis.com/seminars/Feb99/
"CYBERSPACE 1999: Crime, Criminal Justice and the Internet". 29 & 30 March 1999. York, UK. Sponsored by the British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association (BILETA). http://www.bileta.ac.uk/
Computers, Freedom and Privacy (CFP) '99. April 6-8, 1999. Washington, DC. Sponsored by ACM. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1999 EPIC Cryptography and Privacy Conference. June 7, 1999. Washington, DC. Sponsored by EPIC. Contact: email@example.com.
Cryptography & International Protection of Human Rights (CIPHR'99). 9-13 August 1999. Lake Balaton, Hungary. Contact: http://www.cryptorights.org/
The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. To subscribe or unsubscribe, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: "subscribe" (no quotes) or "unsubscribe". A Web-based form is available at:
Back issues are available at:
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public interest research center in Washington, DC. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy issues such as the Clipper Chip, the Digital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medical record privacy, and the collection and sale of personal information. EPIC is sponsored by the Fund for Constitutional Government, a non-profit organization established in 1974 to protect civil liberties and constitutional rights. EPIC publishes the EPIC Alert, pursues Freedom of Information Act litigation, and conducts policy research. For more information, e-mail email@example.com, http://www.epic.org or write EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20003. +1 202 544 9240 (tel), +1 202 547 5482 (fax).
If you'd like to support the work of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, contributions are welcome and fully tax- deductible. Checks should be made out to "The Fund for Constitutional Government" and sent to EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington DC 20003.
Your contributions will help support Freedom of Information Act and First Amendment litigation, strong and effective advocacy for the right of privacy and efforts to oppose government regulation of encryption and funding of the digital wiretap law. Thank you for your support.
Alert Home Page | EPIC Home Page