US lawmakers want Internet freedom task force

The task force would monitor proposals in the U.S. and other countries that could hurt the Internet

New legislation in the U.S. Congress would establish a government task force to monitor domestic and overseas policy proposals that could threaten Internet freedom.

The Global Free Internet Act, introduced Tuesday by Representative Zoe Lofgren and three other California Democrats, would create a new task force comprising government officials and outside Internet activists.

The task force would monitor proposals and practices, in both the U.S. and in other countries, that deny market access to Internet goods and services or threaten the technical operation, security and free flow of communications on the Internet. The task force would hold public hearings, issue reports and coordinate Internet freedom policies in the U.S. government, Lofgren said in a press release.

"The Internet has been such a spectacular success because it lowers barriers and empowers people to connect and share information, resulting in greater cultural exchange and economic growth," Lofgren said in a statement. "For the Internet to remain a platform for innovation and prosperity, we need to address undue restrictions on Internet commerce and the global free flow of information."

Lofgren's press release didn't mention the U.N.'s recent World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), during which some countries advocated for more international regulation of the Internet, but international gatherings on Internet governance would be in the task force's purview, said a spokesman for Lofgren. In addition, the task force would review U.S. bills like the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), scrapped by its sponsors in early 2012 after online protests.

"When the next SOPA-like legislation, restrictive international trade agreement, or overbroad treaty from an international body becomes a threat, it is the job of this task force to sound the alarm and propose a course of action," the spokesman said by email.

Lofgren introduced an earlier version of the Global Free Internet Act in 2012. That version of the bill did not pass in Congress.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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