Banks Co-Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Foreign Censorship in America

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Washington, February 12, 2020 | comments

Washington, DC – Congressmembers Jim Banks (R-IN-03), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-09), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07), Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-30) introduced the bipartisan Preventing Foreign CENSORSHIP in America Act (Preventing the Foreign Coercive Export of Non-Consensual Speech and Orwellian Restrictions by Superpowers Hoping to Intimidate People in America Act). This landmark legislation is the first bill which will prevent companies from firing or retaliating against American workers who defy foreign censorship efforts or refuse to facilitate human rights violations.

Last year, the general manager of an NBA team tweeted words of support for the Hong Kong protesters and Beijing responded by demanding his firing and by undertaking a campaign of economic coercion against the league. The NBA incident is but one of many similar stories of American workers and entities being threatened into silence or self-censorship. While most of these stories don’t make the news, North Korea famously blocked the theatrical release of The Interview by hacking and blackmailing Sony. 

The Preventing Foreign CENSORSHIP in America Act will prevent companies from firing or retaliating against workers or contractors who speak out on topics America’s geopolitical rivals seek to censor. The bill will also prohibit companies from punishing U.S. workers who refuse to do tasks that contribute to the propaganda efforts or human rights violations of our adversaries.

Banks said: “As long as you’re an American or on American soil, you should have the right to free speech. Congress will not stand idly by as China seeks to export its censorship abroad. The United States will remain the land of the free.”

Specifically, the Preventing Foreign CENSORSHIP in America Act will:

  • prohibit companies from firing or retaliating against employees or contractors because they spoke up about sensitive topics countries like China seek to censor;
  • prohibit companies from firing or retaliating against employees who refuse to help their employers facilitate the human rights violations or propaganda efforts of designated geopolitical rivals; 
  • prohibit employment contracts from requiring workers, even when they are off the clock, from staying silent on topics designated countries seek to censor;
  • create federal, state, and private enforcement mechanisms to ensure these rights are upheld and that victims of extraterritorial censorship can have their day in court; and
  • establish meaningful reporting requirements to name and shame companies that give into the censorship or self-censorship efforts of geopolitical rivals.

Clarke said: “If a foreign rival tries to apply its censorship on America’s basketball courts, silenced activists need to be able to fight back in an actual court. Our newly-dropped bill will give American workers the legal tools they need to stand up for human rights and against domestic interference without fearing for their jobs. Our geopolitical rivals should never have a veto power over the free speech rights of Americans. For many years, countries like China and North Korea have censored the speech of their own people. Now, they’re seeking to export that model across the globe, including here in the United States. Given the economic importance of overseas markets to U.S. companies, only Congress has the ability to stand up for America’s workers.”

Malinowski said: “Dictatorships like China are increasingly trying to use their economic power to censor speech beyond their borders.  This bill will ensure that no American company complies with their demands."

Gallagher said: “The Chinese Communist Party is not content to exercise totalitarian control within its borders,” said Rep. Gallagher. “Increasingly, it is seeking to control freedom of thought and expression throughout the free world by pressuring foreign companies to punish or censor their employees who speak out on topics deemed objectionable by Beijing. This has to stop. This bipartisan legislation helps ensure Americans will not face retaliation when they speak the                                            truth about Beijing's atrocities.”

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