Clinton to lay out Internet freedom plan
Washington, February 15, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will unveil a new US push for global Internet freedoms on Tuesday, citing Internet-fired protests in Egypt and Iran as examples of how new technologies can spark political transformation.
Clinton, making her second major address on Internet policy amid growing evidence of how communications technologies can transform politics around the globe, will underscore US commitments to a free, open and secure Internet, the State Department said on Monday, releasing excerpts of her speech.
"There is a debate underway in some circles about whether the Internet is a force for liberation or repression. But as the events in Iran, Egypt and elsewhere have shown, that debate is largely beside the point," one excerpt of Clinton's speech says.
"What matters is what people who go online do there, and what principles should guide us as we come together in cyberspace. That question becomes more urgent every day," Clinton will say, according to the excerpts of her address.
Under Clinton, the US State Department has pushed Internet freedom as a basic human right, although it has also struggled with the consequences as it seeks to control the damage wrought by the WikiLeaks release of classified US diplomatic cables.
Clinton has condemned the WikiLeaks releases, saying they are based on stolen information that threatens both US security as well as the wellbeing of confidential sources including human rights activists and others cited in the cable traffic.
But she has also strongly defended the basic value of a free Internet, saying social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can give voice to people's aspirations as seen in protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere.
The State Department, previewing Clinton's speech at a Washington, DC university on Tuesday, said she would "reaffirm US support for a free and open Internet and underscore the importance of safeguarding both liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, and freedom of expression and tolerance."
"Our allegiance to the rule of law does not dissipate in cyberspace. Neither does our commitment to protecting civil liberties and human rights," Clinton will say, according to the speech excerpts.
Clinton has made Internet freedom a central plank of US foreign policy, and last year called efforts by some governments to control their citizens' access to the Internet as "the modern day equivalent of the Berlin Wall."
The forceful US stance on the Internet has led to friction with China and other countries, which the United States has accused of hacking and censorship in an attempt to control the flow of information.
Along with China, Clinton has cited Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among countries that censored the Internet or harassed bloggers -- and in Egypt and Iran, opposition protests have been fueled in part by new Internet technologies that allow people to organize.