Thursday, January 21, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Secretary Clinton’s Address Regarding Internet Freedom – the Power to Energize or Destroy

In her address regarding internet freedom today at the Newseum in Washington, DC, Secretary of State Clinton recognized American companies’ “shared responsibility” to protect the freedom of expression and called on business to make a principled stand to support that freedom, even if such a stand is not the most profitable option. Human Rights USA applauds these remarks. In the coming months, the Department of State will hold a series of talks regarding this shared responsibility – and we call on American companies to pay attention and participate.

Noting that the United States “stand[s] for a single internet,” Secretary Clinton stated that foreign governments who censor and limit the internet are creating an “Information Curtain” and contravening the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (A recent victim of such activity, who was among many who have been targeted in Egypt for blogging, was present in the audience; more here). The freedom to connect, she explained, is the cyberspace version of the freedom of assembly and the United States is taking concrete steps to support that freedom, including addressing internet freedom in the first resolution it introduced after rejoining the UN Human Rights Council.

Though information is a powerful tool to create real change – from allowing word of atrocities in Iran to reach the rest of the world to locating a young girl amidst the rubble in Haiti – issues of hate speech and anonymous speech must be addressed. Secretary Clinton recognized that the internet is “not an unmitigated blessing” – it has the power to energize…but it also has the power to destroy. We encourage the American government, American companies, foreign governments and companies and you, internet users, to do your part to make the internet a force for good.

For more information on the topics covered in Secretary Clinton’s address, including the link between internet access and economic growth, the work in 40 countries to help those who are silenced, and the work of the European Commission on Cybercrime (see the Convention here and info from DOJ here), click here for coverage from Business Week, here for the AP, here for the New York Times, and here for CNN.

(With research assistance from International Justice Project interns Daniel Cousineau and Katie Miller)

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