Access welcomes Obama order placing sanctions on use of ICT for human rights abuses
5:48pm | 23 April 2012 | by Mike Rispoli, English
Access welcomes today’s executive order issued by President Obama, which places new sanctions on entities or individuals that sell or are complicit in the malign use of ICT that facilitates “computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses” by the governments of Syria and Iran.
These repressive regimes wield dual-use technologies, such as cell-phone tracking and internet surveillance systems, against their citizens to censor political opposition and track down those fighting for freedom. Today's executive order is a step in the right direction in cracking down on the role American companies play in allowing these regimes to use the internet as a tool for repression.
While the human rights abuses this executive order seeks to address have been highlighted time and again in Syria and Iran, the use of technology by governments for repressive purposes is certainly not limited to these nations. Access believes the Administration and Congress should work to enshrine export controls on technologies that facilitate human rights abuse into a more robust legal framework. Such a framework should include a process for sanctioning other countries such as Bahrain, preventing third parties from reselling technologies, and requiring companies to be transparent about who they are selling to and what processes they have in place to prevent their products and services from being used in the commission of human rights abuses.
As we have stated in past campaigns, Access believes lawmakers should implement policies that demand stronger accountability and transparency, takes the politics out of sanctions, and puts human rights first. We strongly believe that all sanctions must not ensnare lightweight technologies that will actually help activists and must not burden “dual use” technologies with onerous licensing procedures. Ill-conceived regulation may actually hurt activists while enabling their oppressors, as we have seen when governments “over sanction.” A review of existing sanctions should be conducted to determine if any hinder citizens while enabling their oppressors, with an eye to easing controls on technologies which can aid activists, like web hosting, Google Earth, and Java.
This is an important first step. We look forward to working with lawmakers and the US government to prevent regimes from using technology to carry out human rights atrocities, while ensuring that activists on the ground are able to exercise their rights freely, fully, and safely.