Iraq’s internet on the brink
9:53am | 29 March 2012 | by Mike Rispoli, English
A year since the Arab Spring, the internet in the region is facing significant threats from governments trying to gain more control over it. Iraq’s Parliament is rushing to put its stamp on internet and computer norms with a bill that enforces national security and "morality" agendas, according to a new report from Access, "Iraq’s Information Technology Crimes Act of 2011: Vague, Overbroad, and Overly Harsh.” The draft law, also known as the Informatics Crimes Law, puts online actors from nearly every sector, including IT, finance, civil society, and the press, at risk for severe punishments.
"As the region moves online, the future of freedom of speech is in peril,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access. “That's why the regulatory environment in the digital space is so crucial to get right. Getting it wrong could have generations of impact."
To read the full report, go here.
Our analysis exposes the law's narrow definition of lawful internet and computer use. It finds a pattern of problems, including:
- Vagueness and overbreadth in definitions of crimes: Crimes include violating "religious, moral, family, or social principles or values" or promoting terrorist “ideas.”
- Harsh punishments without proportionality: Life imprisonment is imposed for using computers to “harm the reputation" or affect the "unity" of the country; "deal with the enemy" and expose the country to "dangers"; or publish information about human trafficking, or "mind altering substances and the like.
- Lack of Protection for the Press, Whistleblowers, and Others: Criminal sanctions are imposed for libel and “insults” of others, without exception.
- Uncertainty and lack of privacy for website operators, ISPs, and citizen users: The Act does not distinguish ISPs or intermediaries from liability, and mandates data be handed over to authorities on request.
- Excessive copyright enforcement: There are no fair use or other exceptions.
"Countries across the region are legitimately lacking in important legislation about the internet on topics like IP and e-commerce,” according to Solomon, “but the rush to fill that gap has created legislation that enables surveillance and censorship. This threatens to kill the Arab net even before it gets started, with significant economic, political, and social ramifications."
For more information, please contact Mike Rispoli at +1-646-209-0802 or email@example.com.