Freedom on the Net

United States

United States

Freedom on the Net 2012
Introduction: 


Access to the internet in the United States remains relatively free compared with the rest of the world. Users face few restrictions on their ability to access and publish content online. The courts have consistently held that federal and state constitutional prohibitions against government regulation of speech apply to material published on the internet. The law also protects online service providers from liability for infractions committed by their users, a policy that fosters business models that permit open discourse and the free exchange of information.

Several developments in recent years, however, have placed the government and internet freedom advocates at odds over aspects of internet regulation as well as issues surrounding online surveillance and privacy. The United States lags behind many major industrialized countries in terms of broadband penetration, and network operators have challenged recent rules concerning network neutrality. The current administration appears committed to maintaining broad surveillance powers with the aim of combating terrorism, child pornography, and other criminal activity. Moreover, reports have emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking expanded authority to control the design of internet services to ensure that communications can be intercepted when necessary.[1]

In early 2012, digital rights advocates, citizens, and several technology companies enacted an internet “blackout” to voice their opposition to two Congressional bills—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA)—that aimed to combat piracy on non-U.S. websites hosting material allegedly infringing on U.S. copyrights. Both laws would have allowed the Attorney General to order that internet service providers (ISPs) block any website containing infringing content. Both bills were withdrawn in response to public outcry. In another recent trend, social networks and microblogging sites have become more prominent targets for government monitoring of citizen activities. The microblogging site Twitter has received multiple subpoenas requesting the personal data of users, including individuals affiliated with the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Twitter has challenged both of these requests in court.

Obstacles to Access: 


Access to the internet in the United States is largely unregulated. It is provided and controlled in practice by a small group of private cable television and telephone companies that own and manage the network infrastructure. This model has come into question in recent years: observers have warned that insufficient competition in the ISP market could lead to increases in the cost of access, thus adversely affecting the economy and individuals’ participation in civic life, which increasingly occurs online.[2] Observers have cautioned that if recent “network neutrality” regulations (discussed in greater detail below) prove too weak or are rejected by Congress or the courts, the dominant companies may decide not to continue to carry internet traffic in a content-neutral fashion.

Although the United States is one of the most connected countries in the world, it has fallen behind many other developed countries in terms of internet speed, cost, and broadband availability.[3] In 2011, approximately 78 percent of all Americans had access to the internet,[4] but only 66 percent of adults used high-speed broadband connections.[5] While the broadband penetration rate is considered high by global standards, it puts the United States significantly behind countries such as Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Sweden. Lack of high-speed internet access is especially prevalent in rural areas, where low population densities make it difficult for private companies to justify large investments in network infrastructure. Broadband service is not yet available to 5 to 10 percent of U.S. residents, most of who live in rural counties.[6] A June 2011 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report to Congress indicated that 28 percent of rural residents in the United States lack access to fixed broadband.[7]

African-Americans, residents of rural areas, and those earning less than US$30,000 annually are the groups least likely to have access to the internet, though internet penetration has been growing at significantly higher rates among African-Americans than it has within the general population. In a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, when asked why they do not use the internet, many nonusers said they did not see the internet’s relevance in their lives. They also cited factors such as availability, usability, and price as key deterrents. About 61 percent of nonusers said they would need assistance in order to use the internet.[8]

Mobile telephones have become ubiquitous in the United States with a penetration rate of roughly 106 percent in 2011.[9] As of mid-2011, about 44 percent of mobile phone users reported accessing the internet on their phones, and roughly half of those users accessed the internet on a daily basis.[10] A growing number of people use their phones to check email, visit social-networking sites such as Facebook, and engage in online commerce. This has prompted many companies to develop special applications and versions of their websites that are designed for mobile phone viewing.

No single agency governs the internet in the United States. The FCC, an independent agency of the executive branch, is charged with regulating radio and television broadcasting, all interstate communications, and all international telecommunications that originate or terminate in the United States. Although the FCC is not specifically tasked with regulating the internet or ISPs, it has claimed jurisdiction over some internet-related issues, such as the recent rules on network neutrality. Other government agencies, such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), also play advisory or executive roles with respect to telecommunications, economic, and technological policies and regulations. It is the role of the U.S. Congress to create laws that govern the internet and delegate regulatory authority. Government agencies such as the FCC and the NTIA must act within the bounds of Congressional legislation.

Recognizing that internet penetration and connection speeds in the United States have been outpaced by those in several other developed countries, Congress has devoted funding to improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure and has instructed the FCC to create a National Broadband Plan that will promote broadband availability for all U.S. residents. Lawmakers required that this plan include a detailed strategy for reducing costs to consumers and maximizing the use of broadband to enhance health care delivery, energy efficiency, economic growth, education, and other public goods.[11] After issuing a notice of inquiry in April 2009 and weighing input from a wide variety of business, government, and civil society organizations,[12] the FCC issued its National Broadband Plan in March 2010. First among the goals is to provide at least 100 million U.S. homes with “affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.”[13] As part of the initiative, the government has started providing subsidies to ISPs that offer satellite-based internet access in rural areas.[14] In 2009, the NTIA announced its Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, which has initiated a range of state-level partnerships with private and non-profit institutions that aim to increase broadband adoption among low-income families by offering low-cost equipment, broadband service, and digital education.[15] There are several other public-private and private-non-profit initiatives underway with similar aims.[16]

Despite the recent economic recession, the United States is home to a thriving communications start-up community where innovators and entrepreneurs regularly offer new technological tools at no monetary cost to the public. Popular web applications like Twitter, the video-sharing site YouTube, the social-networking site Facebook, and international blog-hosting services such as WordPress are all freely available.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 ISPs currently operate in the United States, although 15 of them control approximately 80 percent of the market, and four—AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon—control approximately the top 50 percent and own the majority of network cables and other infrastructure.[17] Until 2005, those companies were required to grant “nondiscriminatory” access to their wire networks to other ISPs to ensure open retail-level competition and optimal service for consumers. However, in 2005, the FCC embraced an aggressive deregulation agenda and freed the network owners from the obligation to lease their lines to competing ISPs. The proponents of deregulation claimed that this step would provide more incentive for large cable and telephone companies to further develop and upgrade their networks, while opponents claimed that it would lead to higher prices, fewer options for consumers, and worse service.  Broadband speeds have increased, but a majority of Americans remain limited to three or fewer options when choosing a broadband provider.[18]

Over the last decade, policymakers in the United States have engaged in deep debates over the concept of “network neutrality,” according to which network providers must treat all content, websites, and platforms equally when managing data traffic.[19] Supporters of the principle argue that without it, ISPs would be able to block certain content and applications, or give preferential treatment to some content providers for a fee, a practice that could place limitations on citizen access to information and online services.

Although concerns about net neutrality began emerging in the early 2000s, the issue did not gain widespread attention until 2007 when investigators found that Comcast, a cable-television company and major ISP, had begun slowing down and blocking certain types of peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic.[20] Comcast claimed that it was forced to do this because high-volume users were clogging its network by repeatedly sharing large files. Yet its blocks were inconsistent and seemingly deceptive: for example, while engaged in peer-to-peer file sharing, a user would receive a message instructing him to stop the communication. The message was designed to look as if it had come from the computer of the user’s peer, when in fact Comcast had issued the message. A number of public-interest groups and academics requested that the FCC declare such blocking to be a violation of the agency’s internet policy principles.[21] The FCC agreed, and Comcast appealed to the federal courts.[22] In April 2010, a federal appeals court sided with Comcast and overturned the FCC’s ruling against the company. The decision, which came shortly after the release of the National Broadband Plan, also found that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate ISPs under the legal framework the agency had cited, challenging its ability to protect consumers on the internet.[23]

In December 2010, the FCC issued a compromise ruling on net neutrality that instructs fixed-line service providers not to block access to, or unreasonably discriminate against, lawful websites, applications, or devices. The rules for wireless broadband providers are much more limited, however, restricting only some types of blocking and saying nothing about discrimination. Under separate FCC licensing rules covering the operation of a particular range of radio communication frequencies, some wireless carriers are barred from discriminating among devices and applications, but these rules are not universally applied.[24] Some advocates have accused one wireless carrier of violating the terms of these licenses, but the FCC has not yet addressed these complaints.[25]

Under the new regulations, ISPs remain allowed to offer tiered services at different prices.[26] FCC chairman Julius Genachowski claimed that the rules would protect “internet freedom and openness and promote robust innovation and investment.”[27] Some civil society organizations expressed disappointment that the commission did not take a stronger stance on net neutrality that would have applied the Communications Act’s “common carrier” provisions, though they agreed that the FCC operated in a free, fair, and independent manner.[28] The FCC’s rules officially took effect in November 2011 and have been challenged in court. Challenges have come both from public interest groups who feel the rules do not go far enough by not fully extending to wireless networks,[29] and from ISPs that oppose the regulations.[30] The Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same appellate court that overturned the FCC’s ruling in the Comcast case, will once again consider the FCC’s authority to enact the rules, making the long-term status of the rules uncertain.

Limits on Content: 


Access to information on the internet is generally free from government interference. There is no government-run filtering mechanism affecting content passing over the internet or mobile phone networks. Users with opposing viewpoints engage in vibrant online political discourse and face almost no legal or technical restrictions on their expressive activities online.

Although the government does not restrict any political or social content, legal rules that apply to other spheres of life have increasingly been extended to the internet. For example, concerns over copyright violations, child pornography, protection of minors from harmful or indecent content, harassing or defamatory comments, publication of confidential information, gambling, and financial crime have presented a strong impetus for aggressive legislative and executive action.

Advertisement, production, distribution, and possession of child pornography—on the internet and in all other media—is prohibited under federal law and can carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. According to the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988, all producers of sexually explicit material must keep records proving that their models and actors are over 18 years old. In addition to prosecuting individual offenders, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies have asserted their authority to seize the domain name of a website allegedly hosting child abuse images after obtaining a court order.[31]

Congress has passed several laws designed to restrict adult pornography and shield children from harmful or indecent content, such as the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA), but they have been overturned by courts due to their ambiguity and potential infringements on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects freedoms of speech and the press. One law currently in force is the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 (CIPA), which requires public libraries that receive certain federal government subsidies to install filtering software that prevents users from accessing “visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.” Libraries that do not receive the specified subsidies from the federal government are not obliged to comply with CIPA, and about one-third of public libraries in 2007 decided to forgo such financial support to avoid the filtering requirement.[32] Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, adult users can request that the filtering be removed without having to provide a justification. However, not all libraries allow this option and the law has been challenged in recent years.[33]

Apart from universally illegal content such as child pornography, the government in recent years has started more aggressively pursuing alleged infringements of intellectual property rights on the internet. Since 2010, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has engaged in several rounds of domain-name seizures, with targets including blogs and file-sharing sites that allegedly link to illegal copies of music and films, and sites that sell counterfeit goods.[34] These seizures have been criticized as extreme and overly secretive; for example, ICE seized the domain name of a legitimate hip-hop music site in November of 2010 and refused to return it for an entire year. The decision to withhold the domain was based on sealed court proceedings to which the owners of the domain were not allowed access.[35]

In 2011, two bills that sought to target websites outside of the United States that hosted material allegedly infringing on U.S. copyrights, PIPA and SOPA, were introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. These bills were based on ideas proposed with Democratic and Republican support in the 2010 bill Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA). They would have permitted the Attorney General to seek orders directing ISPs to block access to domain names of sites allegedly dedicated to infringing activity, among other things. The bills provided for only minimal judicial review (or a complete lack thereof) of sites allegedly engaged in copyright infringement; the bills also authorized the blocking of domain names for websites that contained infringing content among other lawful content.

Both of these bills, if passed, would have suppressed legitimate, unquestionably legal speech and would pose a threat to the infrastructure of the internet. In recognition of these concerns, technologists, digital rights advocates, companies such as Google and Mozilla, and the internet community at large voiced resounding opposition to the bills. In response to these and internal concerns, members of Congress withdrew the bills from consideration. The bills remained shelved as of mid-2012.

The activities of WikiLeaks, which in 2010 published several tranches of U.S. government material that was allegedly leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, triggered a serious debate about the use of the internet to publicize sensitive or classified government documents.[36] WikiLeaks has faced some actions by non-government entities that restricted its ability to operate. The site was removed from Amazon’s data storage service, which claimed that WikiLeaks had violated its terms of service.37] EveryDNS, Wikileaks’ domain name service provider, terminated its service for WikiLeaks after suffering distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by opponents of the site.[38] While these and other companies that severed ties with WikiLeaks claimed to be acting independently and without government influence, their decisions came amid fierce public criticism of WikiLeaks by executive branch officials and prominent members of Congress.[39] As of August 2012, the U.S. government had not filed charges over the publication of the leaked documents by WikiLeaks or any of the press outlets that republished the documents.

The internet plays a significant role in civic activism in the United States, and the growth of the blogosphere and citizen journalism has changed the ways in which many people receive news. Blogs and electronic media outlets reporting from various points on the political spectrum now have greater readership than most printed periodicals. Nearly all nongovernmental organizations and causes have a presence on the internet and use it for advocacy and social mobilization. Email campaigns, online petitions, and YouTube videos have been instrumental in organizing protests, lobbying government bodies, and putting a spotlight on issues ranging from environmental degradation to hate crimes.[40] Most recently, significant online activism against SOPA and PIPA strongly influenced Congress to drop the proposed legislation in early 2012. Some estimates of user involvement in this effort include over 10 million signatures to petitions, three million emails to legislators, and 115,000 sites blacking out or going dim in protest.[41]

The internet also has profoundly influenced political campaigning and fundraising. Until recently, most election campaigns relied on large donations from a limited pool of wealthy contributors. However, the success of current U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, which was propelled by millions of small, online contributions, demonstrated the efficacy of the internet in mobilizing mass political support. President Obama’s election team was able to raise over half a billion dollars in internet-based donations, with an average donation of about US$80.[42] In addition, the campaign’s use of email, social-networking tools, and online videos was watched and eventually emulated by political operatives in the United States and around the world.

Violations of User Rights: 


The U.S. Constitution includes strong protections for free speech and freedom of the press. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court held that internet speech was entitled to the highest form of protection under the Constitution, and lower courts have consistently struck down attempts to regulate online content. Two federal laws also provide significant protections for online speech: Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996) provides immunity for ISPs and online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook that carry content created by third parties. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a safe harbor to intermediaries that take down allegedly infringing material after notice from the copyright owner. These statutes enable companies to develop internet applications and websites without fear that they will be held liable for content posted by users.[43]

The U.S. government generally does not prosecute individuals for posting information on the internet, with the notable exceptions of child pornography and content that infringes copyright. As of mid-2012, it had taken no decisive action against either WikiLeaks or site founder Julian Assange, yet some suspect that federal officials may build a case alleging that WikiLeaks played a conspiratorial role in the unauthorized downloading of classified documents from U.S. military computers or in the subsequent transmission of the material to WikiLeaks.[44]

In 2012, Federal authorities issued a subpoena to the microblogging service Twitter, requesting information from the Twitter accounts of Manning, Assange, and others associated with WikiLeaks. With the subpoena came a gag order compelling Twitter not to disclose this information to anyone, including the users in question; Twitter attorneys successfully challenged the gag order in court and were able to notify users before disclosing their information to government officials.[45] A similar case took place in May 2012 when New York City’s district attorney issued a subpoena to Twitter, requesting tweets and account information of an Occupy Wall Street protester. Twitter asked a state judge to throw out the request, arguing that the protester merited protection under the Fourth Amendment, given that prosecutors had failed to show probable cause necessary to obtain a warrant for the information.[46]

In August 2011, public transit authorities in San Francisco suspended cell phone service in several underground stations of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in an effort to impede planned demonstrations regarding the fatal shooting of a man by BART police the month prior. Numerous digital rights advocates and First Amendment scholars called the decision a violation of BART passengers’ First Amendment rights and pointed to the international implications of BART’s actions.[47] Following the incident, various civil liberties groups filed an emergency petition with the FCC requesting that the agency declares the BART shutdown a violation of the Communications Act.[48] As of mid-2012, the FCC has not directly responded to these requests but did make a call for public comment on the issue at large, the results of which have yet to be evaluated.[49] The California State Assembly has approved a bill that would require a court order before allowing for cell network interruption; Senate approval of the bill was pending as of mid-2012.[50]

Although some of the most popular social media platforms in the United States require users to register and create accounts using their real names,[51] there are no legal restrictions on user anonymity on the internet. Constitutional precedents protect the right to anonymous speech in many contexts. There are also state laws that stipulate journalists’ right to withhold the identities of anonymous sources, and at least one such law has been found to apply to bloggers.[52] In June 2010, the Obama administration released plans for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). The stated goal of the effort is to ensure the creation of an “identity ecosystem” in which internet users and organizations can more completely trust one another’s identities and systems when carrying out online transactions requiring assurance of identity.[53] The plan specifically endorses anonymous online speech.[54]

Laws that protect internet communications from government monitoring are complex. While in transit, the contents of internet communications are generally protected from government intrusion by constitutional rules against unreasonable searches and seizures,[55] although there is more legal ambiguity with data stored in “the cloud.” The courts, however, have held that transactional data about communications—the who, when, and where of communications between different individuals—is not protected by the Constitution.[56] Law enforcement and intelligence agencies can access such information under varying degrees of oversight as part of criminal or national security investigations. In criminal probes, law enforcement authorities can monitor internet communications in real time only if they have obtained a court order, issued by a judge. The order must reflect a finding that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. However, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act states that the government can obtain access to email or other documents stored in the cloud with a subpoena issued by a prosecutor or investigator without judicial approval.[57]

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires telephone companies, broadband carriers, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to design their systems so that communications can be easily intercepted when government agencies have the legal authority to do so.[58] The FBI suggested in late 2010 that the law should be expanded to impose design requirements on online communications tools such as Gmail, Skype, and Facebook,[59] but as of February 2012, no legislation has been proposed.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, which expanded some of the government’s surveillance and investigative powers in cases involving terrorism as well as in ordinary criminal investigations. Three expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act—including the government’s broad authority to conduct roving wiretaps of unidentified or “John Doe” targets, to wiretap “lone wolf” suspects who have no known connections to terrorist networks, and to secretly access a wide range of private business records without warrants under Section 215—were renewed for an additional four years in May 2011.[60]

Law enforcement agencies have also begun to use open, public websites, and social media to monitor different groups for suspected criminal activity. One notable example that stoked controversy in February 2012 was an initiative by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to monitor Muslim student groups at various universities in northeastern United States. Associated Press reported that from 2006 onward, the NYPD Cyber Intelligence unit had monitored blogs, websites, and online forums of Muslim student groups and produced a series of secret “Muslim Student Association” reports describing group activities, religious instruction, and the frequency of prayer by the groups.[61] The New York City mayor defended the practice by stating that the NYPD did not break any laws by monitoring websites and online activity that was already publicly available, although others pointed to the religious-profiling nature of the activity.

Notes: 


[1] Charlie Savage, “U.S. Tries to Make it Easier to Wiretap the Internet,” New York Times, September 27, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html?_r=1.

[2] Mark Cooper, “The Socio-Economics of Digital Exclusion in America, 2010,” paper presented at 2010 TPRC: 38th Research Conference on Communications, Information, and Internet Policy, Arlington, Virginia, October 1–3, 2010.

[3] According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as of June 2011 the United States was ranked 7th among the OECD member countries in terms of mobile wireless broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and was ranked even lower, at 15th, on fixed-line broadband penetration. See, OECD Broadband Statistics, “OECD Fixed (Wired) Broadband Subscriptions per 100 Inhabitants, by Technology, June 2011,” and “OECD Terrestrial Mobile Wireless Broadband Subscriptions per 100 Inhabitants, by Technology, June 2011,” accessed January 24, 2012, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/21/35/39574709.xls.

[4] International Telecommunication Union (ITU), “Percentage of individuals using the Internet, fixed (wired) Internet subscriptions, fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions,” 2011, accessed July 13, 2012, http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx#.

[5] “Internet Use and Home Broadband Connections,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 24, 2012. http://pewinternet.org/Infographics/2012/Internet-Use-and-Home-Broadband-Connections.aspx.

[6] Amy Schatz, “Want Broadband? New Maps Show Options,” Digits blog, Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2011, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/02/17/want-broadband-new-map-shows-options/.

[7] Sharon Gillett, “Progress Made on the Road To Bring Broadband to Rural Areas, but Many Miles To Go,” Official FCC Blog, June 22, 2011, http://www.fcc.gov/blog/progress-made-road-bring-broadband-rural-areas-many-miles-go.

[8] Aaron Smith, “Home Broadband 2010,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, August 11, 2010, http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Home-Broadband-2010/Summary-of-Findings.aspx.

[9] International Telecommunication Union (ITU), “Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions,” 2011, accessed July 13, 2012, http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx#.

[10] Aaron Smith, “Americans and their Cell Phones,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, April 15, 2011, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Cell-Phones.aspx

[11] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1, 111th Cong. (2009).

[12] Stephanie Condon and Marguerite Reardon, “FCC Seeks Input on National Broadband Plan,” CNet News, April 8, 2009, http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10214974-38.html.  

[13] “National Broadband Plan: Connecting America,” Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 2010, http://www.broadband.gov/download-plan/.  

[14] Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program, “Round Two Application Directory: Satellite, Technical Assistance, and Rural Library Broadband Grant Applications,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, August 30, 2010, http://www.broadbandusa.gov/BIPportal/files/BIP_Sat_TA_RLB_App_Directory.pdf.

[15] “About: Broadband Technology Opportunities Program,” NTIA, http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/about.

[17] “ISP Usage and Market Share: ISP Trends, Stats and Analysis,” StatOwl.com, January 2012, http://www.statowl.com/network_isp_market_share.php.

[18] Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2010,” http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-310261A1.pdf.

[19] Tim Wu, “Network Neutrality FAQ,” Timwu.org, accessed August 17, 2011, http://timwu.org/network_neutrality.html.

[20] Peter Svensson, “Comcast Blocks Some Internet Traffic,” MSNBC, October 19, 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21376597/ns/technology_and_science-internet/.  

[21] “Comcast Complaint,” Public Knowledge, accessed March 4, 2011, http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/comcastcomplaint

[22] FCC, “Commission Orders Comcast to End Discriminatory Network Management Practices,” news release, August 1, 2008, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-284286A1.pdf

[23] Comcast Corporation v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 08-1291, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (April 6, 2010), http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/EA10373FA9C20DEA85257807005BD63F/$file/08-1291-1238302.pdf.

[25] FCC, Letter from Free Press to Marlene Dortch, August 3, 2011, http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7021700316.

[26] “Report and Order: In the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet, Broadband Industry Practices,” FCC 10-201, December 21, 2010, http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1223/FCC-10-201A1.pdf.  

[27] Sara Jerome, “Genachowski on Net-neutrality: ‘I Reject Both Extremes,’” Hillicon Valley blog, The Hill, December 20, 2010, http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/134597-genachowski-on-net-neutrality-i-reject-both-extremes.  

[28] “Network Neutrality,” Public Knowledge, http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/network-neutrality.  

[29] Petition for Review, Free Press v. FCC, 11-1411, DC Circuit.

[30] Ibid.; Petition for Review, MetroPCS v. FCC, 11-1403, DC Circuit.

[31] Treating domain names as property subject to criminal forfeiture, 18 U.S.C. 2253.

[32] Charles C. McClure and Paul T. Jaeger, Public Libraries and Internet Service Roles: Measuring and Maximizing Internet Services (Chicago: American Library Association, 2009), 42.

[33] Bob Bocher, “Children’s Internet Protection Act, CIPA: A Brief FAQ on Public Library Compliance,” Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, February 2004, updated March 11, 2010, http://dpi.state.wi.us/pld/cipafaqlite.html. The requirement that libraries disable filters upon patron request is being challenged by some librarians, who view the use of filters on library computers as a form of curation/collection development decision that would typically fall within a library’s discretion.  See, e.g., Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District (Washington state Supreme Court found library right to enforce filtering, Bradburn v. NCLRD, No. 82200-0 (May 6, 2010); case pending review in federal court, Bradburn v. NCLR, NO. CV-06-327-EFS (E.D. Wash.)); Hunter v. City of Salem (E.D. Missouri).  The American Library Association is firmly opposed to this idea and supports patrons’ rights to access whatever legal material they wish. 

[34] Corynne McSherry, “U.S. Government Seizes 82 Websites: A Glimpse at the Draconian Future of Copyright Enforcement?” Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 29, 2010, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/11/us-government-seizes-82-websites-draconian-future.  

[35] Trevor Timm, “Blacklist Bills Ripe for Abuse Part II: Expansion of Government Powers,” Deeplinks Blog, Electronic Frontier Foundation, December 9, 2011, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/12/blacklist-bills-ripe-abuse-part-ii-expansion-government-powers.

[36] This information included video footage of a 2007 incident in which journalists and Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces, documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department, and reports on prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay military prison, all of which number in the tens and (in the case of the Iraq war) hundreds of thousands.

[37] Geoffrey A. Fowler, “Amazon Says WikiLeaks Violated Terms of Service,” Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703377504575651321402763304.html.   

[38] Kevin Poulsen, “WikiLeaks Attacks Reveal Surprising, Avoidable Vulnerabilities,” Wired, December 3, 2010, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/wikileaks-domain/.  

[39] Ewen MacAskill, “WikiLeaks Website Pulled by Amazon After US Political Pressure,” Guardian, December 2, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-website-cables-servers-amazon.  

[40] See for example the Credo “Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline” petition at http://www.credoaction.com/campaign/keystone_obama/index2.html. See also: Steve Williams, “President Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill—Thank You to the 25,000 Care2 Members That Helped It Reach His Desk!” Care2, October 28, 2009, http://www.care2.com/causes/civil-rights/blog/25-000-care2-members-help-secure-presidents-signature-on-hate-crimes-bill/

[41] Fight for the Future, http://sopastrike.com/numbers/.

[42] Jose Antonio Vargas, “Obama Raised Half a Billion Online,” 44 (blog), Washington Post, November 20, 2008, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/11/obama-raised-half-a-billion-on.htm

[43] “Intermediary Liability: Protecting Internet Platforms for Expression and Innovation,” Center for Democracy and Technology, April 2010, http://www.cdt.org/files/pdfs/CDT-Intermediary%20Liability_%282010%29.pdf.  

[44] Charlie Savage, “U.S. Weighs Prosecution of Wikileaks Founder, but Legal Scholar Warns of Steep Hurdles,” New York Times, December 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/02legal.html.  

[45] Ryan Singel, “Twitter’s Response to WikiLeaks Subpoena Should Be the Industry Standard,” Wired, January 10, 2011, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/01/twitter/.

[46] Dan Goodin, “Twitter fights government subpoena demanding Occupy Wall Street protester info,” Ars Technica, May 5, 2012, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/05/twitter-fights-government-subpoena-demanding-occupy-wall-street-protester-info/.

[47] David Streitfeld, “Bay Area Officials Cut Cell Coverage to Thwart Protestors,” Bits Blog, NYTimes.com, August 12, 2011, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/bay-area-authorities-cut-cell-coverage-to-thwart-protestors/. See also, Cynthia Wong, “Welcome to San Francisco – Next Stop, Cairo?” CDT blog, August 23, 2011, http://cdt.org/blogs/cynthia-wong/238welcome-san-francisco-next-stop-cairo.

[48] Mike Masnick, “FCC Asked For Declaratory Ruling That BART Shutting Off Mobile Phone Service Was Illegal,” TechDirt (blog), August 31, 2011, http://www.techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20110830/11591515740/fcc-asked-declaratory-ruling-that-bart-shutting-off-mobile-phone-service-was-illegal.shtml.

[49] “Commission Seeks Comment on Certain Wireless Interruptions,” Federal Communications Commission, March 1, 2012, http://www.fcc.gov/document/commission-seeks-comment-certain-wireless-service-interruptions

[50] Hannah Dreier, “Calif. Bill bars agencies from cellphone jamming,” San Jose Mercury News, August 9, 2012, http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_21274392/bill-would-bar-cellphone-jamming-by-calif-agencies

[51] Erica Newland, Caroline Nolan, Cynthia Wong, and Jillian York, “Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practices for Companies and Users,” Global Network Initiative, September 2011, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/node/7080.

[52] “Apple v. Does,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, accessed August 1, 2012, http://www.eff.org/cases/apple-v-does.  

[53] A site created to foster discussion on the proposed strategy can be found at http://www.nstic.us/.   

[54] Jay Stanley, “Don’t Put Your Trust in ‘Trusted Identities,’” Blog of Rights (blog), American Civil Liberties Union, January 7, 2011, http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/dont-put-your-trust-trusted-identities. See also, Jim Dempsey, “New Urban Myth: The Internet ID Scare,” Policy Beta (blog), Center for Democracy and Technology, January 11, 2011, http://www.cdt.org/blogs/jim-dempsey/new-urban-myth-internet-id-scare.  

[55] Paul Ohm, “Court Rules Email Protected by Fourth Amendment,” Freedom to Tinker, December 14, 2010, http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/paul/court-rules-email-protected-fourth-amendment.  

[56] “A Brief History of Surveillance Law,” Center for Democracy & Technology, accessed August 17, 2011, https://www.cdt.org/issue/wiretap-ecpa.

[57] Ibid.

[58] The FCC does not classify Skype as an “interconnected VoIP” service.

[59] Charlie Savage, “U.S. Tries to Make it Easier to Wiretap the Internet.”

[60] “Patriot Act Excesses,” New York Times, October 7, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/opinion/08thu1.html.  

[61] Al Baker and Kate Taylor, “Bloomberg Defends Police’s Monitoring of Muslim Student Web Sites,” New York Times, February 22, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/nyregion/bloomberg-defends-polices-monitoring-of-muslim-student-web-sites.html.

 

2012 Scores

Freedom on the Net Status

Free

Freedom on the Net Total
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

12

Obstacles to Access
(0 = best, 25 = worst)

4

Limits on Content
(0 = best, 35 = worst)

1

Violations of User Rights
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

7