Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 7, 2013

New Internet law can crush individual freedoms

CUMBERLAND — The war to control the Internet began after Congress quietly passes a law allowing U.S. authorities to access foreign birth certificate repositories to identify worldwide Internet users.

It’s part of an alarming trend with numerous countries invoking Internet freedom crushing laws, carving the Internet into individual “Country Intranets,” which could block the free flow of information and threaten the future of the Web.

Surprisingly, everyone is oblivious to this unjustified law which delves deeply into international personal relationships, that one has to question the purpose, which could undermine foreign relations.

All the details, that few Congressmen read, are in an unnoticed attachment in the recently passed Violence Against Women Act (S-47).

Section 808 regulates “marriage brokers” (similar to social referral or dating sites) that are prohibited from providing services to foreigners under 18. Foreign clients must submit their birth certificate information or government ID before communication with Americans can begin, and allows U.S. authorities access to this sensitive information, effectively creating an Snternet police force.

At first glance the stated purpose “to prevent marketing of underage children” by international marriage brokers seems reasonable. However, logic reveals that Section 808, an immigration provision, is pointless — an underage child cannot legally immigrate for the purpose of marriage. And why is it illegal for an 18-year-old American to say “Hello” to a 17-year-old Canadian?

The sinister term “marriage broker” is a spoof coined by special interests while crusading for the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, the parent law of section 808. The legal definition of “marriage broker” is so broadly tailored that any online communication for social referral, friendship or dating could nefariously be regulated now, or in the future.

Americans are exempted from providing birth certificates, an obvious insult to our allies, who never asked for such excessive protection in the first place.

What would prevent other countries from retaliating by enacting laws requiring Americans to submit their birth certificates or other requirements prior to saying “hello” to their citizens?

This plugs into the debate about increasing governmental control of the Internet which threatens a free and open Internet according to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web.

Section 808 gives a green light for other countries to regulate Internet communication for any arbitrary reason, which plays into the applauding hands of oppressive regimes who can point to the U.S. to justify their actions.

Part of the blame falls on VAWA author and Senate Judiciary Chairman, Pat Leahy (D-VT) who approved the legislation as a pet project for the ideological gains of special interests.

If Sen. Leahy had done his own work, he would have realized that section 808, a gateway law, paves the way for future governmental control of both social networking and dating sites which have evolved into similar communication venues for friendship, acquaintance or romance, a legitimate pursuit.

Regardless, Congress has no right to place arbitrary restrictions on legitimate communication across the Web, a gross affront to human rights.

Not everyone who uses a social referral or dating site would be regulated as a “marriage broker” client. Currently, the law exempts companies that charge similar fees and offers comparable services for everyone, regardless of nationality or gender.

But, if Facebook, for example, began a gender-based fee structure it could easily be regulated as a “marriage broker.”

Because the law became effective May 6, foreigners who communicate with Americans for friendship, dating or any purpose in the future, should be prepared to provide personal information under the scrutiny of government bureaucrats.

In the meantime Congress has an obligation to stop this reckless foreign policy madness and repeal Section 808.

Dave Root

Damascus

 

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