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Vladimir Putin Cracks Down On Free Press, Senators Marsha Blackburn, Bob Menendez Unveil Bipartisan Legislation To Expand Internet Freedom

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unveiled the Internet Freedom and Operations (INFO) Act of 2022, new bipartisan legislation to bolster the U.S. government’s ability to combat authoritarian and repressive governments using Internet access as a means of suppressing information sharing and communications among everyday people, civil society organizations, and journalists.

After Vladimir Putin forcefully took off air and restricted social media access to the few remaining independent media outlets in Russia still able to report on his illegal and calamitous invasion of Ukraine, the new bipartisan bill authorizes over $125 million dollars in funding for various Internet Freedom programs through the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as for Internet censorship circumvention technologies vetted through the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

“Regimes across the globe are weaponizing the internet to cut off access to information. The Russian government has begun intensifying its censorship operations to control its population and suppress the truth. This bipartisan legislation will increase access to technologies that allow individuals in rogue states, including Russia and Belarus, and those they are subjecting such as Ukraine, to circumvent government censorship and fully access the internet,” Senator Blackburn said.
 
“Freedom of information and access to fact-based, reliable, and unbiased news are fundamental to democratic governance. Around the world, people increasingly use the internet to communicate, organize, and expose government malfeasance and other human rights abuses,” Chairman Menendez said. “As part of our longstanding priorities of safeguarding basic freedoms and supporting democratic movements worldwide, the United States must remain committed to supporting the State Department’s Internet Freedom programs and other initiatives that improve technology, protect digital security – particularly for activists and human rights defenders – and circumvent censorship. From the streets of Havana to those in Moscow, repressive regimes will always seek to curtail the free flow of information, including by shutting down critical internet infrastructure. As people organize, unite, and inform their fellow citizens with real time uncensored information, we must stand with them by reinforcing the resources available to facilitate these efforts.”

Find a copy of the legislation HERE.

Key provisions of the Internet Freedom and Operations (INFO) Act of 2022 include:

  • Reaffirms U.S. policy to preserve and expand the Internet as an open, global space for freedom of expression and association.
  • Authorizes $75 million for various Internet Freedom programs through the Department of State and USAID.
  • Authorizes $50 million for Internet Freedom and circumvention technologies through the U.S. Agency for Global Media and its affiliates.
  • Authorizes expedited funds to be used in case of a crises situation like the protests in Cuba last summer or in Russia right now. 
  • Calls for two reports about the work State and USAID and USAGM are doing on internet freedom.

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