Anyone in the U.S. who facilitates the tracking, monitoring or impeding of Internet traffic by Syria or Iran has just been put on notice by President Obama that they will be in big trouble.
The president has issued an executive order blocking the transfer of any U.S. assets of anyone found by the Secretaries of State and Treasury to be supplying Iran or Syria with the "information and communications technology" with which to disrupt computer networks or track or monitor computer users.
"The Governments of Iran and Syria are endeavoring to rapidly upgrade their technological ability to conduct such activities," the president said. "Cognizant of the vital importance of providing technology that enables the Iranian and Syrian people to freely communicate with each other and the outside world, as well as the preservation, to the extent possible, of global telecommunications supply chains for essential products and services to enable the free flow of information, the measures in this order are designed primarily to address the need to prevent entities located in whole or in part in Iran and Syria from facilitating or committing serious human rights abuses."
The State Department has already declared an open Internet to be a basic human freedom similar to speech, assembly and worship.
In the order, the president said he was taking that and other steps in response to human rights violations in those countries abetted by computer and network disruption and user tracking.
The U.S. government is also authorized to go over those who have provided tech support or funded operations.
The order defines "information and communications technology" as "any hardware, software, or other product or service primarily intended to fulfill or enable the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display, including via the Internet."
Computer companies gave the president props for focusing on people. "The White House Executive Order rightly targets bad actors, not technology," said TechAmerica senior vice president Kevin Richards in a statement. "The number one goal should be to curb the bad behavior -- not the technology -- as the President has done here. We applaud the Administration's action targeting those who would intentionally use technology in malicious and hateful ways to repress their people and to commit human rights abuses." TechAmerica members include IBM, Dell and Apple.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.