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WTO NEWS: 1999 PRESS RELEASES

Press/151
23 November 1999

WTO DG Moore deplores fake WTO websites: They "undermine WTO transparency"

WTO Director-General Mike Moore has severely criticized recently-created websites which mimic the WTO’s websites and create confusion among the public. He says the WTO welcomes criticism and change, but is concerned that the confusion created by the fake sites with their misleading Internet links is a disservice to the public. This could disrupt a much-needed debate by making WTO information more difficult to obtain.

This is the text of his statement:

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"I am deeply concerned about the recent appearance of anonymous websites which copy important design features of the WTO’s official websites. This causes confusion among visitors looking for genuine information from the WTO, disrupting a much-needed democratic dialogue. It’s illegal and it’s unfair to those who have a genuine case in criticizing the WTO, an organization that only functions with the authority of sovereign governments.

"By creating confusion, the fake websites are interfering with the public’s ability to obtain information from the WTO. They have copied the WTO website’s design, and they use domain names such as ‘www.gatt.org’ and page titles such as ‘World Trade Organization / GATT Home Page’ which make it difficult for visitors to realize that these are fake pages. Whereas the WTO uses the image of the official logo of the WTO Ministerial Conference as a hyperlink to the official conference website, these fake sites use it to link to anti-WTO material — further misleading web users.

"The WTO and its members uphold the rights of others to criticize and comment on WTO affairs, including the right to protest publicly. The WTO is, after all, a forum for governments to debate and negotiate trade issues, reflecting the various concerns and interests of their citizens.

"Confusing the public is another matter. Contrary to critics’ allegations, the WTO is highly transparent. The WTO website already contains over 60,000 official documents in the three official languages (English, French and Spanish), including minutes of meetings, and some 200,000 visitors per month download the equivalent of millions of pages of documents in addition to browsing regular web pages. The vast majority of these documents are released to the public immediately and the rest are derestricted within about six months. The WTO Secretariat receives and replies to thousands of enquiries each week by telephone and email, a large number coming through the WTO website, either directly by email or via the contact telephone numbers on the website.

"Those who wish to see the WTO become more transparent should join me in deploring any action which makes it more difficult for the public to gain access to WTO information. It’s ironic that while the WTO is accused of lacking transparency, some critics who put out misleading or false information are camouflaging their identities."