U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, Bill Keating (D-Mass) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) last week joined in introducing legislation that creates greater authority for the U.S. to protect global access to uncensored information, in response to efforts by authoritarian and repressive government to restrict internet access.
“More than three billion people use the Internet each day to access information and communicate freely with one other. In many countries such as Russia, China, Cuba, Burma, and Iran the freedom of information is under threat among civil society organizations, journalists, and all people,” according to a release from Spanberger’s office.
The Internet Freedom and Operations (INFO) Act would create greater authorities for the United States government to continue and aggressively support efforts to protect Internet freedom and circumvent censorship online. Spanberger is leading the House companion bill led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
“Millions of people living under repressive regimes lack access to fact-based, reliable, and unbiased news and information sources,” said Spanberger.
“Right now, we are watching the Iranian regime blatantly disregard human rights and attempt to stifle peaceful protests, online speech, and the free flow of information. Authoritarian regimes are strengthened when their citizens are cut off from an unfiltered view of the outside world — posing a serious national security threat to the United States. To further our national security priorities, we must protect Internet freedom for all dissidents, human rights defenders, and people around the world. And as a beacon of freedom and democracy, the United States must reaffirm our commitment to defending basic rights and supporting democratic movements globally.”
“As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Europe, one of my top priorities has been to counter disinformation and provide tools to independent media suffering under authoritarian regimes,” said Chairman Keating. “All people deserve access to uncensored information. As communities around the world from Belarus to Afghanistan to Cuba continue to face attacks on the free press and have their internet restricted, this bill underscores that it is the policy of the United States to support all those in search of the truth by funding alternative transmission routes and internet circumvention routes.”
Specifically, the INFO Act would: reaffirm U.S. policy to preserve and expand the Internet as an open, global space for freedom of expression and association, authorize $75 million for various Internet Freedom programs through the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development, authorize $50 million for Internet Freedom and circumvention technologies through the U.S. Agency for Global Media and its affiliates, authorize expedited funds to be used in case of a crises situation like the protests in Cuba last summer or in Russia right now; and call for two reports about the work State and USAID and the United States Agency for Global Media are doing on internet freedom.