Clinton’s Speech on Internet Freedom: a Turning Point for Freedom of Expression

By Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First’s President and CEO
Crossposted from Huffington Post

Secretary Clinton, in a live address this morning at the Newseum, marked a major turning point for promoting freedom of expression, and made clear the Obama Administration’s intent to put into practice its previously stated commitment to Internet freedom – a welcome announcement.

New technology demands new thinking about how companies and governments can each work to protect freedom. Both have a part to play. As last week’s news about censorship of Google in China makes clear, it is vitally important that companies take action to promote respect for freedom of expression and privacy. But, as Secretary Clinton stated in her speech, companies need the support of their governments to fight the repressive censorship and surveillance practices that threaten Internet freedom across the globe.

Secretary Clinton assured us that she will work across all sectors of the U.S. government to promote Internet freedom abroad, and she will coordinate with other governments to address repressive policies and programs that limit freedom of expression and privacy. She also acknowledged the work of the Global Network Initiative as another tool for addressing these concerns. The Global Network Initiative, in which Human Rights First continues to play a leading role, provides invaluable guidance and support for technology companies that are often forced to navigate difficult waters as they work to protect freedom of expression and privacy for hundreds of millions of Internet users around the world.

Human Rights First is encouraged by the Secretary’s announcement and stands ready to continues its work with the GNI and to support the Administration’s efforts to make Internet freedom a diplomatic priority. Read our press release following the speech.

The voices of human rights defenders are among the first to be silenced by repressive Internet policies. I hope that today’s announcement leads to greater protection for these brave men and women, and takes the United States’ human rights agenda into the 21st century.


Published on January 21, 2010


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