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Strengthening the Internet 7 December 2020

Internet Society Files Brief Arguing U.S. WeChat Ban Would Damage Internet, Harm Users

On Friday 4 December 2020, the Internet Society, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy & Technology filed a brief of amici curiae in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance case. This case challenges the U.S. Department of Commerce’s September order banning U.S. businesses from engaging in certain kinds of technical transactions with WeChat or the WeChat application (including providing hosting, content distribution, peering, and transit or using any of their software or services, and facilitating any of the these prohibited transactions). 

The Internet Society has joined other amici in this case to provide technical expertise to support the argument that the WeChat ban sets a dangerous precedent and would damage the Internet and harm its users.

The ban would exacerbate global fragmentation of the Internet by restructuring how data is routed around the world. By prohibiting any security updates to WeChat software currently installed on devices of some 19 million Americans, the ban would be a grave security risk not only for these WeChat users but also to the larger Internet as these devices become ripe for compromise with malicious software. This type of top-down intervention is even more worrisome because – similar to efforts of authoritarian regimes like China– it tries to impose a centralized management style that runs counter to how the Internet actually works.

This ban goes contrary to the United States’ commitment to an open Internet. The U.S. Administration could have avoided this route by first trying to understand how such actions might affect the Internet. An Internet impact assessment is needed for any policy or regulation that could affect the Internet to make sure our actions don’t break the foundation that makes it work for everyone.  At a time where society is increasingly reliant on the connectivity and opportunity that an open Internet enables, this move poses a significant risk of degradation and deterioration of the global Internet. 

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