|The San Francisco Chronicle
MAY 15, 1999, SATURDAY, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A12
Administration Drops Idea Of Blocking Serb Net Sites
Jon Swartz, Chronicle Staff Writer
Under pressure from free-speech advocates and Internet service providers,
the Clinton administration shelved discussions yesterday about setting up a
cyber roadblock of Serbian Web sites.
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said the United States would
refrain from barring Yugoslavian Internet services and encouraged Serbians
to use the Net to "look beyond the propaganda" of Serbian leader Slobodan
"The Serbian people deserve to access independent and objective
information, whether by the Internet or other media," he said.
BeoNET, a 3-year-old Internet service provider in Belgrade, said it
received notice from New York-based Loral Space and Communications Ltd.
earlier this week that it would shut BeoNET's Internet satellite link on
Loral said this week that it might be forced under a trade embargo against
Milosevic's government to cut transmissions into Yugoslavia from one of its
satellites. The satellite serves at least two of Yugoslavia's major
Under the embargo, American companies and citizens are prevented from "the
sale, or supply, directly or indirectly," of software, technology or
services to war-torn Yugoslavia.
On Thursday, National Security Council spokesman David Leavy appeared to be
leaning toward a cyber ban in his comments when he said "generally
informational material is exempt" but that e-commerce would fall under the
When word of a possible ban hit the Web, it triggered a wave of protests
from the Internet community and free-speech advocates.
"We're pleased with the decision," said Barry Steinhardt of the American
Civil Liberties Union in New York. "The Internet should be a place for the
free flow of information -- not censorship."
Yugoslavia would have lost a key satellite connection to the Internet,
cutting off Net access to thousands of users, under a trade embargo signed
by President Bill Clinton last month.
"The Internet is supposed to be open and not regulated by governments,
especially for their own narrow political agendas," Alex Krstanovic,
co-founder of BeoNET, said in an e-mail yesterday. "We're thankful the
international Internet community raised its voice in support for bread,
water and bandwidth for everyone, including people in Yugoslavia."
Internet traffic has increased among the country's 11 million residents
after NATO aircraft attacked state-owned television and radio stations to
curtail Milosevic's ability to communicate with Yugoslavia's citizens.
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