Tomorrow, in her planned speech at the Newseum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to explain what the Administration’s previously stated commitments to Internet freedom mean in practice. Here are three immediate actions she could announce that would make clear that protecting freedom of expression on the Internet is a priority for the United States government:
The State Department should make Internet freedom a diplomatic priority and commit to using United States government resources to make circumvention tools available to any net user, anywhere in the world, allowing them to avoid government imposed restrictions on freedom of expression. This is in line with decades of U.S. policy on press freedom, where millions in authoritarian countries across the globe have been provided access by the U.S. government to independent, objective news and information on radio and television.
Endorse a U.S. investigation of the attacks on Google in China, pledge to make the results public and -based on the findings – to take other appropriate responses in support of Internet freedom. More generally, make clear that the US will confront foreign government interference with, or toleration of such interference with, U.S. Internet communications technology companies. The U.S. will keep this pledge by identifying policies and programs of other governments that infringe on Internet freedom, and by working to promote the adoption of policies consistent with freedom of expression and privacy.
Commit to work with the Global Network Initiative, a partnership of Internet communications technology companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics to protect freedom of expression and privacy.
As last week’s news about censorship of Google in China makes clear, it is vitally important that companies take responsibility for promoting respect for freedom of expression and privacy in their global operations. But companies need the support of their governments to fight the repressive censorship and surveillance practices that threaten Internet service providers worldwide.