Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an address on internet freedom and declared unrestricted access to the internet a foreign policy priority. At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., an institution that embodies free speech, Clinton outlined five freedoms of the internet age:
- Freedom of speech online
- Freedom of worship online
- Freedom to connect to the Internet anywhere
- Freedom from the fear of cyber attacks
- Freedom from “want”, or the ability to use the Internet to relieve suffering
Citing the story of a girl in Haiti that was rescued from earthquake debris because she could contact the outside world with a text message, she said: “These networks took a voice that was buried and spread it to the world.” And “Once you’re on the internet, you don’t need to be a tycoon or rock star to have a huge impact on society.”
Secretary Clinton spoke strongly of the power of the internet and the importance of its freedoms: “Let us make these technologies a force for progress, and go forward together to champion these freedoms.”
She also pointed out the challenges for governing that the Internet produces, stating that those who use the Internet to recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property cannot be allowed to divorce their online actions from their real world identities. However, she insisted that the challenge to deter and prevent illegal use of the Internet must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the Internet for peaceful political purposes.
Clinton’s address also included statements regarding the U.S. government’s policies on the internet:
“We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their right of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship. We are working globally to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them, in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely. The United States has been assisting in these efforts for some time. Both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is proud to help promote internet freedom.”
“And the State Department will be launching an innovation competition to give this work an immediate boost. We’ll be asking Americans to send us their best ideas for applications and technologies that help to break down language barriers, overcome illiteracy, and connect people to the services and information they need.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsk praised Clinton’s address: “Secretary Clinton’s inspiring remarks are a compelling argument for the power of Internet freedom to promote economic opportunity and the rights of all people,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsk.
And Leslie Harris, President of the Center for Democracy and Technology said:
“We applaud Secretary Clinton for placing global Internet freedom at the heart of 21st century diplomacy. This is a critical moment in the evolution of the Internet. Authoritarian regimes are remaking the Internet into a tool of political control; meanwhile, democratic countries are struggling to manage old social ills in the new digital world. The United States must take bold action to ensure that the global Internet remains a powerful force for democracy and human rights, Secretary Clinton’s speech is an historic first step toward that end.”
The full remarks can be viewed and read on the State Department’s website.
-Written by Yussi, the newest intern at Joe Trippi & Associates