Sec of State Clinton on Internet Freedom

Interesting excerpts. See the State Dept for full text. Clinton was very considerate of official Chinese reaction to the speech, and pointed out that the USA can’t really force China’s hand in this matter. In other locations, particularly the middle east, the US is prepared to take a more active role.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to our Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.

There are, of course, hundreds of millions of people living without the benefits of these technologies. In our world, as I’ve said many times, talent may be distributed universally, but opportunity is not. And we know from long experience that promoting social and economic development in countries where people lack access to knowledge, markets, capital, and opportunity can be frustrating and sometimes futile work. In this context, the internet can serve as a great equalizer. By providing people with access to knowledge and potential markets, networks can create opportunities where none exist.

States, terrorists, and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks. 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. Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an internet-connected world, an attack on one nation’s networks can be an attack on all. And by reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons.

Taken in context, this reads to me like a veiled threat against China. Of course, the NSA’s job is cyber-espionage and cyber-terrorism, so it’s not really something new. Just part of The Great Game.

To use market terminology, a publicly listed company in Tunisia or Vietnam that operates in an environment of censorship will always trade at a discount relative to an identical firm in a free society. If corporate decision makers don’t have access to global sources of news and information, investors will have less confidence in their decisions over the long term. Countries that censor news and information must recognize that from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech. If businesses in your nations are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably impact on growth.

As it stands, Americans can consider information presented by foreign governments. We do not block your attempts to communicate with the people in the United States. But citizens in societies that practice censorship lack exposure to outside views. In North Korea, for example, the government has tried to completely isolate its citizens from outside opinions. This lopsided access to information increases both the likelihood of conflict and the probability that small disagreements could escalate. So I hope that responsible governments with an interest in global stability will work with us to address such imbalances.

And censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere. And in America, American companies need to make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand. I’m confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles.

In fact, I would like to see more governments, if you disagree with what a blogger or a website is saying, get in and argue with them. Explain what it is you’re doing. Put out contrary information. Point out what the pitfalls are of the position that a blogger might be taking.

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