Senate passes Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act

Late last night, the Senate passed the Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act.

Nico links to the presser just co-released by a number of senators, including leads McCain, Liberman and Graham, Casey, Kaufman and others.

Important bits:

• Authorizes $30 million to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to expand Farsi language broadcasting into Iran by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda and the Voice of America’s Persian News Network. The funds may be used to develop additional transmission capability to counter Iranian government efforts to jam radio, satellite, and Internet-based transmissions; establish additional proxy server capability and anti-censorship software to counter efforts to block access to websites in Iran; develop technologies to counter efforts to block SMS text message exchange over cellular phone networks; and hire, on a permanent or short-term basis, additional staff for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network.

• Authorizes $20 million for a new “Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund,” which will support the development of technologies, including websites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to gain access to and share information; counter efforts to block, censor, or monitor the Internet in Iran; and engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges with Americans online.

• Requires a report by the President on non-Iranian companies, including corporations with U.S. subsidiaries, that have aided the Iranian government’s Internet censorship efforts, including by providing deep packet inspection technology.

Entire text of the bill, courtesy of THOMAS at the Library of Congress, after the jump:

Subtitle D–VOICE Act

SEC. 1241. SHORT TITLE.

This subtitle may be cited as the “Victims of Iranian Censorship Act”or the “VOICE Act”.

SEC. 1242. SENSE OF CONGRESS.

It is the sense of Congress that the United States–

(1) respects the sovereignty, proud history, and rich culture of the Iranian people;

(2) respects the universal values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iran and throughout the world;

(3) supports the Iranian people as they take steps to peacefully express their voices, opinions, and aspirations;

(4) supports the Iranian people seeking access to news and other forms of information;

(5) condemns the detainment, imprisonment, and intimidation of all journalists, in Iran and elsewhere throughout the world;

(6) supports journalists who take great risk to report on political events in Iran, including those surrounding the presidential election;

(7) supports the efforts the Voice of America’s (VOA) 24-hour television station Persian News Network, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda 24-hour radio station; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Farsi language programming; Radio Zamaneh; and other independent news outlets to provide information to Iran;

(8) condemns acts of censorship, intimidation, and other restrictions on freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression in Iran and throughout the world;

(9) commends companies which have facilitated the ability of the Iranian people to access and share information, and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through alternative technologies; and

(10) condemns companies which have knowingly impeded the ability of the Iranian people to access and share information and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through electronic media, including through the sale of technology that allows for deep packet inspection or provides the capability to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals.

SEC. 1243. STATEMENT OF POLICY.

It shall be the policy of the United States–

(1) to support freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly in Iran;

(2) to support the Iranian people as they seek, receive, and impart information and promote ideas in writing, in print, or through any media without interference;

(3) to discourage businesses from aiding efforts to interfere with the ability of the people of Iran to freely access or share information or otherwise infringe upon freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press through the Internet or other electronic media, including through the sale of deep packet inspection or other technology to the Government of Iran that provides the capability to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals; and

(4) to encourage the development of technologies, including Internet Web sites that facilitate the efforts of the Iranian people–

(A) to gain access to and share accurate information and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, through the Internet or other electronic media; and

(B) engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges between United States citizens and Iranians.

SEC. 1244. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

(a) International Broadcasting Operations Fund.–In addition to amounts otherwise authorized for the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ International Broadcasting Operations Fund, there is authorized to be appropriated $15,000,000 to expand Farsi language programming and to provide for the dissemination of accurate and independent information to the Iranian people through radio, television, Internet, cellular telephone, short message service, and other communications.

(b) Broadcasting Capital Improvements Fund.–In addition to amounts otherwise authorized for the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Broadcasting Capital Improvements Fund, there is authorized to be appropriated $15,000,000 to expand transmissions of Farsi language programs to Iran.

(c) Use of Amounts.–In pursuit of the objectives described in subsections (a) and (b), amounts in the International Broadcasting Operations Fund and the Capital Improvements Fund may be used to–

(1) develop additional transmission capability for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network to counter ongoing efforts to jam transmissions, including through additional shortwave and medium wave transmissions, satellite, and Internet mechanisms;

(2) develop additional proxy server capability and anti-censorship software to counter efforts to block Radio Farda and Persian News Network Web sites;

(3) develop technologies to counter efforts to block SMS text message exchange over cellular phone networks;

(4) expand program coverage and analysis by Radio Farda and the Persian News Network, including the development of broadcast platforms and programs, on the television, radio and Internet, for enhanced interactivity with and among the people of Iran;

(5) hire, on a permanent or short-term basis, additional staff for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network; and

(6) develop additional Internet-based, Farsi-language television programming, including a Farsi-language, Internet-based news channel.

SEC. 1245. IRANIAN ELECTRONIC EDUCATION, EXCHANGE, AND MEDIA FUND.

(a) Establishment.–There is established in the Treasury of the United States the Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund (referred to in this section as the “Fund”), consisting of amounts appropriated to the Fund pursuant to subsection (f).

(b) Administration.–The Fund shall be administered by the Secretary of State.

(c) Objective.–The objective of the Fund shall be to support the development of technologies, including Internet Web sites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to–

(1) gain access to and share information;

(2) exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through the Internet and other electronic media;

(3) engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges between Americans and Iranians; and

(4) counter efforts–

(A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and

(B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text exchanges.

(d) Use of Amounts.–In pursuit of the objective described in subsection (c), amounts in the Fund may be used for grants to United States or foreign universities, nonprofit organizations, or companies for targeted projects that advance the purpose of the Fund, including projects that–

(1) develop Farsi-language versions of existing social-networking Web sites;

(2) develop technologies, including Internet-based applications, to counter efforts–

(A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and

(B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text message exchanges;

(3) develop Internet-based, distance learning programs for Iranian students at United States universities; and

(4) promote Internet-based, people-to-people educational, professional, religious, or cultural exchanges and dialogues between United States citizens and Iranians.

(e) Transfers.–Amounts in the Fund may be transferred to the United States Agency for International Development, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any other agency of the Federal Government to the extent that such amounts are used to carry out activities that will further the objective described in subsection (c).

(f) Authorization of Appropriations.–There is authorized to be appropriated $20,000,000 to the Fund.

SEC. 1246. ANNUAL REPORT.

(a) In General.–Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter for 5 years, the President shall submit a report to Congress that provides a detailed description of–

(1) United States-funded international broadcasting efforts in Iran;

(2) efforts by the Government of Iran to block broadcasts sponsored by the United States or other non-Iranian entities;

(3) efforts by the Government of Iran to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals;

(4) plans by the Broadcasting Board of Governors for the use of the amounts appropriated pursuant to section 1244, including–

(A) the identification of specific programs and platforms to be expanded or created; and

(B) satellite, radio, or Internet-based transmission capacity to be expanded or created;

(5) plans for the use of the Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund;

(6) a detailed breakdown of amounts obligated and disbursed from the Iranian Electronic Media Fund and an assessment of the impact of such amounts;

(7) the percentage of the Iranian population and of Iranian territory reached by shortwave and medium-wave radio broadcasts by Radio Farda and Voice of America;

(8) the Internet traffic from Iran to Radio Farda and Voice of America Web sites; and

(9) the Internet traffic to proxy servers sponsored by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the provisioning of surge capacity.

(b) Classified Annex.–The report submitted under subsection (a) may include a classified annex.

[Page: S8049]

SEC. 1247. REPORT ON ACTIONS BY NON-IRANIAN COMPANIES.

(a) Study.–The President shall direct the appropriate officials to examine claims that non-Iranian companies, including corporations with United States subsidiaries, have provided hardware, software, or other forms of assistance to the Government of Iran that has furthered its efforts to–

(1) filter online political content;

(2) disrupt cell phone and Internet communications; and

(3) monitor the online activities of Iranian citizens.

(b) Report.–Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit a report to Congress that contains the results of the study conducted under subsection (a). The report submitted under this subsection shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.

SEC. 1248. HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION.

There are authorized to be appropriated $5,000,000 to the Secretary of State to document, collect, and disseminate information about human rights in Iran, including abuses of human rights that have taken place since the Iranian presidential election conducted on June 12, 2009.