Wed, Feb 16, 2011 - Page 6 News List

FALLOUT FROM NORTH AFRICA: Clinton pushes Internet freedom

AFP, WASHINGTON

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is renewing her push for the free and open use of the Internet as protesters from Egypt to Iran have used it to demand political freedoms.

In excerpts of a speech she was due to give in Washington yesterday, the chief US diplomat said the question of what people do online and what principles they follow is one that “becomes more urgent every day.”

The US supports the “freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online” — what she calls the “freedom to connect” — and urges other nations to embrace those freedoms.

Washington is also committed to protecting civil liberties and human rights in cyberspace and is “determined to track and stop -terrorism and criminal activity online and offline,” she said.

“We are convinced that an open Internet fosters long-term peace, progress and prosperity,” Clinton said in her speech on “Internet rights and wrongs.”

However, her prepared remarks warned that governments that block, censor or punish Internet activity can “cut off opportunities for peace and progress and discourage innovation and entrepreneurship.”

“History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road,” she said. “Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.”

She said leaders worldwide can open up to the Internet and perhaps see its content increase the demand for political rights or they can block it and risk losing all the economic and social benefits that come with it.

“The United States will continue to promote an Internet where people’s rights are protected and that is open to innovation, is interoperable all over the world, secure enough to hold people’s trust and reliable enough to support their work,” Clinton said.

US diplomats and development experts now work daily to monitor and respond to threats to Internet freedom.

A State Department official said Clinton’s speech at The George Washington University would tackle the role of 21st century communication technologies in recent events in the Middle East and efforts by some countries to curtail their “people’s freedom to connect.”

In a speech on Internet freedoms in January last year, Clinton urged China to conduct a thorough probe into cyberattacks on Google and other US companies, pressing technology firms to resist Internet censorship.

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