Monday, April 23, 2012

US seeks to impose sanctions against foreign technology firms in human rights abuse cases

obama_2196055b President Obama is due to announce an executive order on Monday at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, during a 20-minute speech about the prevention of genocide around the world.

The move is designed to prevent authoritarian regimes from being able to use internet surveillance tactics to curtail the activities of dissidents in countries such as Syria and Iran.

Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have helped expose human rights abuses in the last few years, with activists using the internet to relay information from areas where reporters and human rights groups have been unable to gain access. Use of social media was particularly significant during the initial Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

However, government forces in these countries have also found technology useful in cracking down on their opponents. Activists have found themselves tracked using new technologies, with their movements being monitored closely by regime forces to prevent them speaking out publicly.

Opposition figures have also had their internet connections cut off in a bid to stop reports of human rights violations from being broadcast to the world.

Mr Obama's executive order is expected to target foreign companies and individuals who have aided countries with questionable human rights records. Initially it will be aimed specifically at those helping Syria and Iran, but is expected to reach further afield in the future to other countries using technology to crack down on dissidents.

"This unprecedented direction from the president, and the development of a comprehensive strategy. sends a clear message that we are committed to combating atrocities, an old threat that regularly takes grim and modern new forms," Samantha Power, the National Security Council's senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, told The Washington Post.

The Telegraph

News Update Users