Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for ground rules to protect the World Wide Web against wrongdoing and harm after the world watched as Egyptian authorities cut Internet access during its recent political crisis.
"For the United States, the choice is clear; on the spectrum of Internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness," Clinton said. "Now, we recognize that an open Internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And Internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs."
"Achieving both liberty and security; protecting both transparency and confidentiality; protecting free expression while fostering tolerance and civility; are the three major challenges facing the Internet today," Clinton said in an address to students at George Washington University.
Clinton added that Internet freedom isn't about protecting any one particular activity online. It's about ensuring that the Internet remains a space where activities of all kinds can take place, from grand, ground-breaking, historic campaigns to the small, ordinary acts that people engage in every day, she argued.
"We want to keep the Internet open for the protestor using social media to organize a march in Egypt; the college student emailing her family photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose corruption; the teenager in the United States who is bullied and finds words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading academic journals for her dissertation; the scientist in Brazil sharing data in real time with colleagues overseas; and the billions and billions of interactions with the Internet every single day as people communicate with loved ones, follow the news, do their jobs, and participate in the debates shaping their world," Clinton said.
The goal, she said, is not to tell people how to use the Internet any more than to tell people how to use any public square, whether it's Tahrir Square or Times Square. If in a country like Egypt, Internet has been successfully used to bring change, in countries like China and Iran it is being used as a toll to suppress people and restricting their freedom, she said.
"In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global Internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down," Clinton said.
Similarly, terrorists and extremist groups use the Internet to recruit members, and plot and carry out attacks. Human traffickers use the Internet to find and lure new victims into modern-day slavery. Child pornographers use the Internet to exploit children. Hackers break into financial institutions, cell phone networks, and personal e-mail accounts, she said.
In a statement soon after Clinton's speech, Sen. Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the Obama Administration to step up its initiatives to ensure freedom of the Internet around the world.
"I applaud the continuing efforts of Secretary of State Clinton and everything the Department of State is doing to counter authoritarian governments and their designs to control access to the Internet," he said.
Lugar, however, expressed concern that the State Department has not been moving quickly enough to contract out the funding Congress appropriated for developing tools to counter Internet censorship.
He called on the Secretary to transfer "no less than $8 million" in unspent funds to the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and other international information services.