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MacKinnon Testifies Before Congressional Subcommittee on Protecting Freedom while Combating Extremism

Today Rebecca MacKinnon, Director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at New America, will testify at a congressional hearing on “The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attack and Social Media.” The hearing is organized by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

MacKinnon’s testimony focuses on the importance of keeping the Internet open and free, particularly in the wake of tragedies such as the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. Politicians across the Western democratic world are calling for tougher requirements on social networking services in order to prevent their use by terrorist, She outlines several principles that the United States and others should follow when seeking to curtail terrorist use of the Internet.

  • Any international treaties, laws or other industry mechanisms aimed at addressing terrorist use of the Internet must be compatible with international human rights norms including freedom of expression and privacy.
  • Domestic policies and international solutions must be developed through multi-stakeholder processes involving industry, human rights groups, and technical experts alongside government.
  • In order to prevent abuses, governments and companies need to be transparent and publicly accountable about the volume and nature of censorship and surveillance demands being made on companies. Companies must be more transparent and accountable about how they enforce their own private rules for user behavior.

The following statement can be attributed to MacKinnon’s testimony:

“The fight against terrorism online must be carried out in a way that also protects and respects human rights. If the US and other democracies cannot figure out how to do this, victories against violent extremism online are likely to be hollow and short lived.”

MacKinnon’s complete testimony is available here: http://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=102855

The hearing will begin at 2:30 pm and will be live-streamed here: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-evolution-terrorist-propaganda-paris-attack-and-social-media

For more on MacKinnon’s analysis of government and corporate involvement in Internet freedom, see UNESCO’s report “Fostering Freedom Online: the Role of Internet Intermediaries,” which MacKinnon co-authored with a team of international researchers.

For more about the Ranking Digital Rights project, see: http://rankingdigitalrights.org