FARA’s Double Life Abroad

Published: November 2017

Around the world, governments are constraining civil society and dissent. A common tactic of these governments is to enact legislation targeting civil society groups that receive international funding. In this briefer, we provide some examples of how the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) has been used to justify such legislation.

While FARA has traditionally been narrowly enforced in the United States and it has critical differences with legislation in other countries, FARA’s broad language has made it easy for foreign governments to draw parallels between their legislation and U.S. law.

Several bills have been introduced into Congress in 2017 to strengthen the enforcement of FARA. The United States should be careful that steps to strengthen FARA are not used as a pretext abroad for constricting civic space. FARA’s sweeping provisions also create the danger that FARA – similar to other “foreign agent” laws – could be enforced in a way that undermines pluralistic civil society in the United States itself.