Last updated: March 10, 2011 - 2:04pm
[Commentary] Billions of people live in countries where the Internet is not free. Confined behind the elaborate firewalls of authoritarian regimes such as China and Iran, they find their rights to expression threatened online and off -- by elaborate systems of monitoring and censorship and by harsh laws that punish bloggers with imprisonment or even death.
In January, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke powerfully in support of Internet freedom, saying, "We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it." Since then, the State Department has brought the issue of online freedom to the table in its diplomacy around the world and joined with Internet providers and social media companies to foster public-private partnership in Internet freedom. Such collaboration is key, since authoritarian regimes so often contract out the daily work of censorship to private companies.
Congress, too, has showed commitment to openness online, allocating $35 million in funding between the 2009 and 2010 budgets for work that promotes Internet freedom. This money has yet to be spent, but the State Department finally has sent the names of designated recipients of the 2009 budget's $5 million in Internet freedom funding to Congress for its approval and soon will begin the process for distributing this year's grants.
A cyberspace without walls or barriers, where people can assemble and express themselves freely, without fear of censorship or imprisonment, will make the world safer for the United States and for democracies everywhere. Continued public-private partnership, prioritization of Internet freedom in diplomacy and the wise deployment of allocated funds will move this ideal closer to reality.
- The Internet War
- Freedom vs. the Firewall
- Pressing for Freedom: The State of Digital and Media Repression Worldwide in 2013
- Freedom of the Press 2012
- The means exist to rupture Internet censorship -- if the State Department will cooperate
- Press Freedom Index 2010: U.S. ranks No. 20, Eritrea worst
- How democracies clamped down on the Internet
- As world burns, G8 leaders fiddle ... with the Internet. Seriously?
- Keeping the Internet free
- Tear down the great firewall
- Cybersecurity strategy boosts commitment to Internet freedom, experts say
- Eric Schmidt: The Great Firewall of China will fall
- Stealth Internet helps get images, messages out of troubled areas, but proves less useful for protests
- Broadband for All: A Networked and Prosperous Society
- Alec Ross on Technology for Diplomacy