Yesterday, Hilary Clinton made a speech committing the USA to the cause of internet freedom.
We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.
The speech covered a range of topics and Clinton discussed the importance of the internet to:
- Freedom of expression – to speak and share ideas.
- Freedom of worship – building communities of faith.
- Freedom from want – the internet as a tool to access knowledge and markets.
The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate in the name of progress.
Threats on the internet
Clinton acknowledges that not all use of the internet is benign, with terrorists, sexual predators and authoritarian governments all using the internet for nefarious purposes. However, rather than calling for censorship or further controls on how the internet is used, she calls for increased international cooperation to catch the people who are committing the crimes.
USA rejects internet filtering
Clinton attacks government censorship of the internet.
Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society, or any other, pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society.
She then says that the US is committed to helping people to circumvent government internet filtering. Of course, any tools that can be used to avoid censorship of political issues can equally be used to avoid censorship of less savoury material.
One of the main practical objections to the internet filters proposed by the Australian and New Zealand governments is that they are ineffectual and easy to work around. This circumvention will only get easier with technical assistance and funding from the country that has the most influence over internet standards and technology.
Internet freedom vs disconnection
One discordant note is the contrast between Clinton’s ringing endorsement of unfettered access to the internet, with the USA’a attempts (via ACTA and other treaties/laws) to make internet disconnection a response to copyright infringement.
We see internet disconnection as being an undesirable and disproportionate punishment for many of the same reasons that Clinton uses to point out the importance of internet freedom.
Tech Liberty is delighted to see such a strong defense of internet freedom from the US government.
Locally, we hope that the New Zealand and Australian governments reconsider their plans to implement internet censorship in their respective countries.
Ultimately, this issue isn’t just about information freedom; it’s about what kind of world we’re going to inhabit. It’s about whether we live on a planet with one internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that unites and benefits us all. Or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors.