WASHINGTON, January 21, 2010 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday addressed a crowd of activists and policymakers on the lack internet freedom abroad – and its impact on U.S. policy.
“Technology is forming a new nerve-system for our planet” Clinton said, relating stories of technology serving people world-wide: saving lives in Haiti, helping farmers in Kenya, and facilitating open dialogue around the world.
Clinton also spoke of the Internet as the “digital commons of our time,” adding that the responsibility of every nation to maintain the integrity of the Internet as a system for facilitating commerce and the free flow of information throughout the world.
Clinton spoke strongly against internet censorship, singling out the regimes in China, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan for special criticism.
Clinton condemned their “co-opting of technology to stifle political and religious minorities.” She cited the case of Hamoud bin Saleh, a Saudi blogger was imprisoned because he chronicled his conversion to Christianity online, as a particularly egregious case of censorship and persecution.
Clinton also mentioned internet filtering, saying that “…new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom, but the United States does.”
The United States stands for “a single internet,” where information can flow freely across international borders, she said, and that virtual walls like the “Great Firewall” of China represent obstacles to global economic growth and peace.
America needs a more robust network security policy, she also said, applauding the appointment of Howard Schmidt as Obama administration cyber-security coordinator. Countries that facilitate attacks on other countries’ computer networks should be dealt with quickly and forcefully. An attack on one nation’s computer networks should be treated as an attack on the networks on every nation.
“Both the American people and nations which censor the internet should understand that the U.S. government is committed to internet freedom,” Clinton said during the question-and-answer period. She also stated that the U.S. is committed to supporting other countries, particularly developing countries, in their requests to protect their networks against hackers.
Clinton’s remarks come after Google’s announcement that it was no longer censoring searches on its Google.cn domain – and that it may proceed to close its Chinese version altogether. Google has said that itss actions are related to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with the Chinese government’s use of Google.cn to spy on web users in China, as well as a major cyber-attack on Google’s Chinese domain.