Nearly a dozen organizations have joined The Constitution Project in calling on the Obama administration to improve dialogue with civil liberties and human rights advocates about “the future of free expression and privacy online.”
In a March 7 letter to White House officials, the groups noted that technology companies are under increasing pressure from government officials to monitor their users’ communications and to report to the government any activity that might help to prevent or investigate acts of terrorism, and urged the administration to invite civil society groups to the table as well.
“When the government sits down secretly with those companies that have practical control over a broad swath of public speech and private communication, and especially if and when those conversations lead to voluntary surveillance or censorship measures that would be illegal or unconstitutional for the government to undertake itself, the consequences are truly global,” the groups wrote.
The letter pointed out that U.S. counter-extremism programs are currently targeted principally at Muslim and other marginalized communities, and that actions by the U.S. government to encourage private entities to assist in scrutinizing online communications could “embolden abusive governments around the world to continue exerting pressure on tech companies to assist in crackdowns on dissent and the targeting of human rights defenders.”
Other groups joining TCP in calling for improved discourse on internet freedom include Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Amnesty International, Brennan Center for Justice, The Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press Action Fund, Human Rights Watch, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Niskanen Center.