The New York Times has an interesting story about Steve Marshall, an English travel agent who lives in Spain, sells trips to Europeans who want to go to sunny places, including Cuba, and in October found about 80 of his web sites stopped working, thanks to the United States government.
â€œThe sites, in English, French and Spanish, had been online since 1998. Some, like www.cuba-hemingway.com, were literary. Others, like www.cuba-havanacity.com, discussed Cuban history and culture. Still others â€” www.ciaocuba.com and www.bonjourcuba.com â€” were purely commercial sites aimed at Italian and French tourists,â€? reported The Times.
It turns out Mr. Marshall’s Web sites had been put on a US Treasury Department blacklist and, as a consequence, his American registrar, eNom Inc., had disabled them. Mr. Marshall said eNom told him it did so after a call from the Treasury Department; the company, based in Bellevue, Wash., says it learned that the sites were on the blacklist through a blog, further notes The Times.
Mr Marshall told The Times â€œhe did not understand â€˜how Web sites owned by a British national operating via a Spanish travel agency can be affected by U.S. law.’ Worse, he said, â€˜these days not even a judge is required for the U.S. government to censor online materials.’â€?
And the reason â€“ â€œMr. Marshall’s company had helped Americans evade restrictions on travel to Cuba and was â€˜a generator of resources that the Cuban regime uses to oppress its people.’ It added that American companies must not only stop doing business with the company but also freeze its assets, meaning that eNom did exactly what it was legally required to do.â€? But Mr Marshall says he is not interested in American tourists as â€œthey can’t go [to Cuba] anyway.â€?
Professor Susan Crawford, an ICANN board member and â€œvisiting law professor at Yale and a leading authority on Internet law, said the fact that many large domain name registrars are based in the United States gives the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, control â€˜over a great deal of speech â€” none of which may be actually hosted in the U.S., about the U.S. or conflicting with any U.S. rights.’â€?
To read more on this disturbing issue, see the full article in the New York Times at www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/04bar.html