Clinton Touts Internet Freedoms
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says countries that deny the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from progress. Clinton also calls for China to conduct a transparent investigation into charges that Google and other U.S. firms were victims of cyber-attacks originating from within China.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Jan. 21 countries that use
information technology to deny their citizens the free flow of
information over the Internet and outlined what she called America's
five key freedoms of the Internet age that will inform U.S. foreign
In a major policy speech at Washington's Newseum, Clinton said the United States is committed to freedom of speech and worship online, the ability to connect to the Internet anywhere, freedom from the fear of cyber-attacks and the promise of the Internet to relieve global suffering in cases such as Haiti.
"Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century," Clinton said. "In the last year, we've seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the Internet."
Clinton also cited Vietnam's recent decision to deny access to social networking sites and Egypt's decision to detain bloggers who disagree with the Egyptian government.
"So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and welfare of much of the world's population," she said. "We feel strongly that principles like information freedom aren't just good policy, not just somehow connected to our national values, but they are universal and they are also good for business."
The speech comes a little more than a week after Google informed State Department officials the search giant and as many as 30 other U.S. firms were victims of cyber-attacks generated from within China. In Google's case, the attacks were aimed at gaining access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.
Google responded by saying Jan. 12 it will stop censoring searches on its Google.cn and reconsider the feasibility of even doing business in China. In 2006, Google agreed to censor searches on Google.cn, a decision defended by Google at the time as a "judgment that Google.cn will make a meaningful - though imperfect - contribution to the overall expansion of access to information in China."
The State Department is seeking an explanation from Beijing over the incident.
"The most recent situation involving Google has attracted a great deal of interest and we look to the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement," Clinton said. "And we also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent."
Clinton said the Internet "has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous there are so many people in China now online." However, she added, "The United States and China have different views on this issue. And we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship."
Censorship, though, "should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere," Clinton said. "In America, American companies need to make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand. I am confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles."