Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Internet - Is It the Next Freedom to Go?

Hacking for the Man
How cyberattacks have become the new censorship
by Jesse Brown on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In Russia, hacking is a government gig.
Kremlin-affiliated hackers launched a crippling cyberattack against Estonia. Hackers routinely flood the comment sections of news sites that criticize the government and spread lies to discredit the journalists who write them. When opposition parties plan rallies, hackers spread misinformation, confusing supporters with false dates and meeting places. Similar shenanigans take place in China, where PRC-linked hackers tried to infiltrate Google in retaliation for the search engine’s criticism of government censorship.
These Russian and Chinese hackers are little more than digital thugs- bullying, threatening, silencing and discrediting anyone who is deemed an enemy of the State, or of State-affiliated businesses and institutions. They are never directly on the government payroll and are kept at an arm’s length distance for the sake of plausible deniability. They are compensated by intermediaries of intermediaries through tangled systems of kickbacks and payoffs.
As goonish as the whole practice may seem, through a certain lens it must be appreciated as a clever new kind of censorship. In Egypt or Iran, governments simply tried to shut off the Internet when faced with dissent. Such ham-fisted acts merely strengthened the resolve of revolutionaries while attracting international rebuke. Much subtler then to have your agents use a cocktail of digital dirty-tricks to muddy the waters and murder reputations.
You may think such a thing could never happen in the U.S., and you may be right. But it almost did.
If you haven’t yet heard of the HBGary scandal (and if you like spy novels), you should check out these fantastic reports by Nate Anderson of Ars Technica. This is a complicated story and it’s still unfolding as thousands of hacked emails are scrutinized, but the basics suggest that a private cybersecurity firm called HBGary Federal proposed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and to Bank of America a dirty-tricks campaign, in order to thwart their enemies (labour unions, non-profits, and Wikileaks, who are expected to soon release incriminating information about the Bank of America). The proposed tactics include:
Misinformation campaigns
Phishing emails
Fake social network accounts
“Disrupting” journalists who are sympathetic to Wikileaks
Intimidating financial donors who support Wikileaks
Ironically, these hacking schemes were exposed by hackers. HBGary’s website was attacked after its CEO picked a public fight with the Internet entity Anonymous. Anonymous discovered major insecurities in the security firm’s website, and was able to steal and leak and thousands of HBGary emails, which expose the details recounted above. The U.S. Department of Justice is tangentially involved, as they recommended to the Chamber of Commerce the law firm that in turn hired HBGary. It’s highly unlikely that the DoJ had any direct knowledge of HBGary’s plans. It’s also important to note that there is no evidence that the Chamber of Commerce or Bank of America signed-off on HBGary’s proposals.
But then, I doubt that Vladimir Putin signed-off on the cyberattack against Estonia. The point of pro-government hackers is that they get results for their masters without implicating them.
If HBGary’s foolish CEO hadn’t picked a fight with Anonymous, who knows how far he might have gone?
Internet Now Top News Source for Under 30 Crowd
Internet continues to siphon TV's audience away
By Don Irvine
Thursday, January 6, 2011
We knew it was bound to happen sooner or later and in the latest Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted Dec. 1-5 with 1500 people reveals for the first time ever that a majority of those 18-29 years old now get their news primarily from the internet.
The survey showed that 65% of this highly coveted demographic group by advertisers now cites the internet as its primary source of news which is almost double the number of 34% from 2007. Over the same period of time those citing television as their primary news source dropped from 68% to 52%.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone as the internet continues to grow apace with blogs and social media applications like Twitter and Facebook capturing the attention of young people across the country both with their ease of use and accessibility via cell phones and other mobile devices. Newspapers and television stations may even be contributing to this trend as they expand their online offerings in an attempt to attract and hang on to viewers thus shifting them away from the boob tube.
While the shift to the internet was faster and more dramatic for the 18-29 year old demographic Pew found that all other age groups surveyed were trending in the same direction with the exception of the 65 and older group where internet news sourcing barely grew while still maintaining a high loyalty to television news.
Overall Pew reported that 41% of people surveyed get their news from the internet which is up 17 points from 2007 and while 66% are still clinging to their television sets for news that is down 8 points from three years ago and from the 82% figure reported in 2002.
Network television news still attracts a large audience of 22 million per night but the audience is older and less appealing to advertisers who know that it’s the younger generation that has the disposable income to spend on their products which makes these past cash cow news divisions more of an albatross for the networks and puts their future very much in doubt as the internet continues to siphon its audience away.
Obama Poised to Steal the Internet
By Jon Christian Ryter
December 15, 2010

With a straight face that would suggest they had the authority to do so, the Federal Communications Commission is poised to steal the Internet after new rules are introduced on Dec. 20, by simply declaring it has the right to regulate it. Their logic? The left will assure you their reasoning has nothing to do with the fact that more people today get their news from unvetted alternate news sources on the Net than they do from the liberal mainstream media. The problem? Internet journalists tend to reports the news without coloring it with the communist red brush of political correctness.
With Sen. Jay Rockefeller's cyberspace strangulation bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, still hung up in Committee, and not likely to find its way out before Jan. 3, 2011, the far left sees little hope of it passing any time soon. Particularly since the Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof Senate. Even badly outnumbered in the Senate, the GOP can once again exercise the right of the filibuster to block any piece of legislation they don't want to reach the floor. Implementing legislation that has neither cleared the obstacles in Committee nor a floor vote may be rare, but in their zeal to "protect the people," the social progressive zealots in the bureaucracy are not adverse to writing the rules and regulations of bills that were never enacted if they believe they are needed—even when they fall into a legislative black hole in committee.
One such "law" was the Health Claims Act, which was proposed as a rider to Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. A health claim is a statement in a printed advertisement, or an oral statement made at the point of sale, that a food or substance can be used to
prevent, treat or mitigate a medical condition. In 1990, the FDA published the regulations and guidelines to implement the Health Claims Act that was stripped from the Nutrition Labeling legislation before it was signed into law,. Shortly thereafter FDA agents visited 57-year old Sissy Harrington-McGill's pet store—without a search warrant as required by the 4th Amendment—and ransacked it, looking for vendor brochures Harrington-McGill gave to several of her customers advising them that regularly giving their pets vitamins would keep them healthy. Finding the damning evidence, they arrested her. When her day in court arrived, Harrington-McGill discovered the federal judge intended to dispose of the case immediately.
When Harrington-McGill demanded her 7th Amendment right to a jury trial, the federal magistrate denied her request although the 7th Amendment gives the accused the right to a jury trial where the value of the controversy exceeds $20. (The FDA seized the entire inventory of Harrington-McGill's business. On top of that, the fine she faced under the never-enacted Health Claims Act was $10,000.). She was sentenced to 179 days in jail and fined $10 thousand, adding the color of legitimacy to the FDA's seizure and disposal of her property. One hundred-fourteen days later, the judge was forced to free her from jail for violating a law that did not exist. Even though her constitutional rights were violated by the FDA and their accomplice, the federal magistrate that railroaded her for violating a nonexistent law, the FDA succeeded in doing what they set out to do—intimidate small business owners for extolling the virtues of health supplements. Now, it appears the FCC has picked up the gauntlet and will attempt to implement Rockefeller's failed Cybersecurity Act of 2009 by decree.
The Obama Administration blames the Tea Party Revolution on the American conservatives' unfettered access to the Internet. That appears to be the real reason the Administration authorized The Federal
Communications Commission [FCC] to regulate the Internet. The excuse given by the FCC—one of the reasons in FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's draft document of his proposed regulations for regulating the Internet, complete with over 550 footnotes—and an official FCC stamp that says "Nonpublic. For internal use only" to assure that no one outside the FCC sees it until the rules are approved on Dec. 21. This will be Barack Obama's "Christmas Surprise" for the American people.
The reason regulations are needed? Genachowski is prepared to answer this one with "a straight face," as well. It reminds me of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he proposed the Communications Act of 1933. FDR was concerned, he said, because newspapers lie about their circulation.
On Wed., Dec. 1, Genachowski announced to the media that he had circulated his draft rules memo. He said it will "...preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet," adding that the federal government will increase the freedom of online services because, he noted, heavy use in some areas of the Internet slow the "web experience" for everyone sharing the same information superhighway lines. The example he cited was people watching movies that consume too much bandwidth. (In point of fact, the only computers affected by the "web experience" of someone watching a Netflix movie are the other computers hooked up to the same
Internet feed—in that home or business. What Genachowski and Obama are doing is "playing Roosevelt."
In 1933, Roosevelt used whatever excuse his Brain Trust could muster to seize control of the fourth estate. Once the newspaper industry was under his thumb, Roosevelt knew he could control them by forcing every newspaper in America to apply for, and be granted a license, to operate.
Licensing the fourth estate would give the White House the power of life and death over every newspaper in America. When any newspaper crossed the proverbial line and spoke out against his policies, he could pull their license and shut them down. Or, just the fear of having their license suspended, or not renewed, would force them to toe the line he had already drawn in the sand. In the end, Roosevelt's coup d' etat of the newspaper industry was defeated by
Sen. Thomas Schall [R-MN] who argued (in a very public newspaper op ed war with FDR) that because newspapers are protected by the 1st Amendment, Roosevelt could not regulate them. In the end, when the gutted Communications Act of 1933 was signed into law, FDR was allowed to regulate radio and, a few years later, television—since they were not construed by Pennsylvania Avenue lawyers to be "the press." And while he won the battle, Schall lost war. A constant thorn in FDR's side, Schall, who was legally blind, was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking across a busy street in Cottage City, Maryland on Dec. 19, 1935. He died three days later on Dec. 22.
The same legislation that differentiated between newspaper and radio by erasing 1st Amendment protection for the newly developed electronic media that did not exist in 1787 also created the FCC and put it "in charge" keeping the fourth estate in check.
Although the federal judiciary has extended 1st Amendment protection to the Internet (May 27.2006),
Barack Hussein Obama believes he has the executive authority, without legislation enacted by Congress, to arbitrarily regulate who uses cyberspace and what access they may enjoy based entirely on the content of the material they wish to publish there.
In American Civil Liberties Union v Reno, a panel of federal judges ruled that that the Internet is a "...publishing medium [in which]...personal home pages are the equivalent of individualized newsletters about that person or organization." (929 F. Supp at 837). The judges concluded that the Internet deserves at least as much protection under the 1st Amendment as printed matter receives.
The appellate court judges emphasized that any analysis of the 1st Amendment protections afforded to a particular medium of mass communications must focus on the underlying technology that brings the information to the user. Thus, they concluded, the Supreme Court's two primary theories for government regulation of any form of broadcast communications content—NBC v United States (319 US 190[1943]) and FCC v Pacific Foundation (438 US 726 [1978]) do not justify government regulation of the Internet.
Which, of course, is why Jay Rockefeller's Cybersecurity Act of 2009 is still suspended in limbo. And, that also explains why Obama will use the FCC plans to implement control of cyberspace by fiat. Obama insists he has that right, and that he can regulate the Internet through the FCC—which regulates the other electronic mediums: radio and television. What Obama really means is that as long as the American people have unfettered access to the Internet, he will be a one-term visitor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Internet Freedom
The prepared text of U.S. of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech, delivered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Foreign Policy
January 21, 2010
Thank you, Alberto for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to be here at the Newseum. This institution is a monument to some of our most precious freedoms, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to discuss how those freedoms apply to the challenges of the 21st century. I'm also delighted to see so many friends and former colleagues.
This is an important speech on an important subject. But before I begin, I want to speak briefly about Haiti. During the last nine days, the people of Haiti and the people of the world have joined together to deal with a tragedy of staggering proportions. Our hemisphere has seen its share of hardship, but there are few precedents for the situation we're facing in Port-au-Prince. Communication networks have played a critical role in our response. In the hours after the quake, we worked with partners in the private sector to set up the text "HAITI" campaign so that mobile phone users in the United States could donate to relief efforts via text message. That initiative has been a showcase for the generosity of the American people and it's raised over $25 million for recovery efforts.
Information networks have also played a critical role on the ground.
The technology community has set up interactive maps to help identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search and rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help. These examples are manifestations of a much broader phenomenon.
The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something happens in Haiti or Hunan the rest of us learn about it in real time - from real people. And we can respond in real time as well. Americans eager to help in the aftermath of a disaster and the girl trapped in that supermarket are connected in ways that we weren't a generation ago. That same principle applies to almost
all of humanity. As we sit here today, any of you - or any of our children - can take out tools we carry with us every day and transmit this discussion to billions across the world.
In many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.
During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States' belief in that truth is what brings me here today.
But amid this unprecedented surge in connectivity, we must also recognize that these technologies are not an unmitigated blessing. These tools are also being exploited to undermine human progress and political rights.
Just as steel can be used to build hospitals or machine guns and nuclear energy can power a city or destroy it, modern information networks and the technologies they support can be harnessed for good or ill. The same networks that help organize movements for freedom also enable al Qaeda to spew hatred and incite violence against the innocent. And technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.
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. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir - who is thankfully no longer in prison - is with us today. 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.
Syncing Progress with Principles
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.
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 the 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.
Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. At the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the trouble of his day.
Years later, one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, worked to have these principles adopted as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have provided a lodestar to every succeeding generation - guiding us, galvanizing us, and enabling us to move forward in the face of uncertainty.
As technology hurtles forward, we must think back to that legacy. We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles. In accepting the Nobel Prize, President Obama spoke about the need to build a world in which peace rests on the "inherent rights and dignity of every individual." And in my speech on human rights at Georgetown I talked about how we must find ways to make human rights a reality. Today, we find an urgent need to protect these freedoms on the digital frontiers of the 21st century.
There are many other networks in the world - some aid in the movement of people or resources; and some facilitate exchanges between individuals with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that
magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that's why we believe it's critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms.
Freedom of Expression
First among them is the freedom of expression. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens
can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, email, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas - and created new targets for censorship.
As I speak to you today, government censors are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. These leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc, and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.
The Berlin Wall symbolized a world divided, and it defined an entire era. Today, remnants of that wall sit inside this museum - where they belong. And the new iconic infrastructure of our age is the internet.
Instead of division, it stands for connection. But even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls.
Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world's networks. They have expunged words, names and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world. Beyond this partition, viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.
As in the dictatorships of the past, governments are targeting independent thinkers who use these tools. In the demonstrations that followed Iran's presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman's bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government's brutality. We've seen reports that when Iranians living overseas posted online criticism of their nation's leaders, their family members in Iran were singled out for retribution. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening in their country. In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights the Iranian people have inspired the world.
And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.
All societies recognize that free expression has its limits. We do not tolerate those who incite others to violence, such as the agents of al Qaeda who are - at this moment - using the internet to promote the mass murder of innocent people. And hate speech that targets individuals on the basis of their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation is reprehensible. It is an unfortunate fact that these issues are both growing challenges that the international community must confront together. We must also grapple with the issue of anonymous speech. Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property cannot divorce their online actions from their real world identities. But these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes.
Freedom of Worship
The freedom of expression may be the most obvious freedom to face challenges with the spread of new technologies, but it is not alone. The freedom of worship usually involves the rights of individuals to commune - or not commune - with their Creator. And that's one channel of communication that does not rely on technology. But the freedom of worship also speaks to the universal right to come together with those who share your values and vision for humanity. In our history, those gatherings often took place in churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. Today, they may also take place on line.
The internet can help bridge divides between people of different faiths.
As the president said in Cairo, "freedom of religion is central to the ability of people to live together." And as we look for ways to expand dialogue, the internet holds out tremendous promise. We have already begun connecting students in the United States with young people in Muslim communities around the world to discuss global challenges. And we will continue using this tool to foster discussion between individuals in different religious communities.
Some nations, however, have co-opted the internet as a tool to target and silence people of faith. Last year in
Saudi Arabia, a man spent months in prison for blogging about Christianity. And a Harvard study found that the Saudi government blocked many web pages about Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam. Countries including Vietnam and China employed similar tactics to restrict access to religious information.
Just as these technologies must not be used to punish peaceful political speech, they must not be used to persecute or silence religious minorities. Prayers will always travel on higher networks. But connection technologies like the internet and social networking sites should enhance individuals' ability to worship as they see fit, come together with people of their own faith, and learn more about the beliefs of others. We must work to advance the freedom of worship online just as we do in other areas of life.
Freedom from Want

There are, of course, hundreds of millions of people living without the benefits of these technologies. In our world, talent is 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 opportunity where none exists.
Over the last year, I've seen this first hand. In Kenya, where farmers have seen their income grow by as much as 30% since they started using mobile banking technology. In Bangladesh, where more than 300,000 people have signed up to learn English on their mobile phones. And in sub-Saharan Africa, where women entrepreneurs use the internet to get access to microcredit loans and connect to global markets. These examples of progress can be replicated in the lives of the billion people at the bottom of the world's economic ladder. In many cases, the
internet, mobile phones, and other connection technologies can do for economic growth what the green revolution did for agriculture. You can now generate significant yields from very modest inputs. One World Bank study found that in a typical developing country, a 10% increase in the penetration rate for mobile phones led to an almost one percent annual increase in per capita GDP. To put that in perspective, for India, that would translate into almost $10 billion a year.
A connection to global information networks is like an on a ramp to modernity. In the early years of these technologies, many believed they would divide the world between haves and have-nots. That hasn't happened. There are 4 billion cell phones in use today - many are in the hands of market vendors, rickshaw drivers, and others who've historically lacked access to education and opportunity. Information networks have become a great leveler, and we should use them to help lift people out of poverty.
Freedom from Fear
We have every reason to be hopeful about what people can accomplish when they leverage communication networks and connection technologies to achieve progress. But some will use global information networks for darker purposes. Violent extremists, criminal cartels, sexual predators, and authoritarian governments all seek to exploit global networks. Just as terrorists have taken advantage of the openness of our society to carry out their plots, violent extremists use the internet to radicalize and intimidate. As we work to advance these freedoms, we must also work against those who use communication networks as tools of disruption and fear.
Governments and citizens must have confidence that the networks at the core of their national security and economic prosperity are safe and resilient. This is about more than petty hackers who deface websites.
Our ability to bank online, use electronic commerce, and safeguard billions of dollars in intellectual property are all at stake if we cannot rely on the security of information networks.
Disruptions in these systems demand a coordinated response by governments, the private sector, and the international community. We need more tools to help law enforcement agencies cooperate across jurisdictions when criminal hackers and organized crime syndicates attack networks for financial gain. The same is true when social ills such as child pornography and the exploitation of trafficked women and girls migrate online. We applaud efforts such as the Council on Europe's Convention on Cybercrime that facilitate international cooperation in prosecuting such offenses.
Howard Schmidt,  a former Microsoft security executive and a one-time cybersecurity adviser to President George W. Bush, has been appointed to the position of cybersecurity coordinator
We have taken steps as a government, and as a Department, to find diplomatic solutions to strengthen global cyber security. Over a half-dozen different Bureaus have joined together to work on this issue, and two years ago we created an office to coordinate foreign policy in cyberspace. We have worked to address this challenge at the UN and other multilateral forums and put cyber-security on the world's agenda. And President Obama has appointed a new national cyberspace policy coordinator who will help us work even more closely to ensure that our networks stay free, secure, and reliable.
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 interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all. By reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons.
The Freedom to Connect
The final freedom I want to address today flows from the four I've already mentioned: the freedom to connect - the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites,
or to each other. 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. Once you're on the internet, you don't need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.
The largest public response to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai was launched by a 13-year-old boy. He used social networks to organize blood drives and a massive interfaith book of condolence. In Colombia, an unemployed engineer brought together more than 12 million people in 190 cities around the world to demonstrate against the FARC terrorist movement. The protests were the largest anti-terrorist demonstrations in history. In the weeks that followed, the FARC saw more demobilizations and desertions than it had during a decade of military action. And in Mexico, a single email from a private citizen who was fed up with drug-related violence snowballed into huge demonstrations in all of the country's 32 states. In Mexico City alone, 150,000 people took to the streets in protest. The internet can help humanity push back against those who promote violence and extremism.
In Iran, Moldova, and many other countries, online organizing has been a critical tool for advancing democracy, and enabling citizens to protest suspicious election results. Even in established democracies like the United States, we've seen the power of these tools to change history. Some of you may still remember the 2008 presidential election...
The freedom to connect to these technologies can help transform societies, but it is also critically important to individuals. I recently heard the story of a doctor who had been trying desperately to diagnose his daughter's rare medical condition. After consulting with two dozen specialists, he still didn't have an answer. He finally identified the condition - and a cure - by using an internet search engine. That's one of the reasons why unfettered access to search engine technology is so important.
Applying Principles to Policy
The principles I've outlined today will guide our approach to the issue of internet freedom and the use of these technologies. And I want to speak about how we apply them in practice. The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic and technological resources necessary to advance these freedoms. We are a nation made up of immigrants from every country and interests that span the globe. Our foreign policy is premised on the idea that no country stands to benefit more when cooperation among peoples and states increases. And no country shoulders a heavier burden when conflict drives nations apart.
We are well placed to seize the opportunities that come with interconnectivity. And as the birthplace for so many of these technologies, we have a responsibility to see them used for good. To do that, we need to develop our capacity for 21st century statecraft.
Realigning our policies and our priorities won't be easy. But adjusting to new technology rarely is. When the telegraph was introduced, it was a source of great anxiety for many in the diplomatic community, where the prospect of receiving daily instructions from Washington was not entirely welcome. But just as our diplomats eventually mastered the telegraph, I have supreme confidence that the world can harness the potential of these new tools as well.
I'm proud that the State Department is already working in more than 40 countries to help individuals silenced
by oppressive governments. We are making this issue a priority in at the United Nations as well, and included internet freedom as a component in the first resolution we introduced after returning to the UN Human Rights Council.
We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their right of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship. We are working globally to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them, in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely. The United States has been assisting in these efforts for some time. Both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is proud to help promote internet freedom.
We need to put these tools in the hands of people around the world who will use them to advance democracy and human rights, fight climate change and epidemics, build global support for President Obama's goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and encourage sustainable economic development. That's why today I'm announcing that over the next year, we will work with partners in industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations to establish a standing effort that will harness the power of connection technologies and apply them to our diplomatic goals. By relying on mobile phones, mapping applications, and other new tools, we can empower citizens and leverage our traditional diplomacy. We can also address deficiencies in the current market for innovation.
Let me give you one example: let's say I want to create a mobile phone application that would allow people to rate government ministries on their responsiveness, efficiency, and level of corruption. The hardware required to make this idea work is already in the hands of billions of potential users. And the software involved would be relatively inexpensive to develop and deploy. If people took advantage of this tool, it would help us target foreign assistance spending, improve lives, and encourage foreign investment in countries with responsible governments - all good things. However, right now, mobile application developers have no financial incentive to pursue that project on their own and the State Department lacks a mechanism to make it happen. This initiative should help resolve that problem, and provide long-term dividends from modest investments in innovation. We're going to work with experts to find the best structure for this venture, and we'll need the talent and resources of technology companies and non-profit organizations in order to get the best results. So for those of you in this room, consider yourselves invited.
In the meantime, there are companies, individuals, and institutions working on ideas and applications that could advance our diplomatic and development objectives. And the State Department will be launching an innovation competition to give this work an immediate boost. We'll be asking Americans to send us their best ideas for applications and technologies that help to break down language barriers, overcome illiteracy, and connect people to the services and information they need. Microsoft, for example, has already developed a prototype for a digital doctor that could help provide medical care in isolated rural communities. We want to see more ideas like that. And we'll work with the winners of the competition and provide grant to help build their ideas to scale.
Private Sector and Foreign Government Responsibility
As we work together with the private sector and foreign governments to deploy the tools of 21st century statecraft, we need to remember our shared responsibility to safeguard the freedoms I've talked about today.
We feel strongly that principles like information freedom aren't just good policy, they're good business for all involved. 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. 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 nation are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably reduce growth.
Increasingly, U.S. companies are making the issue of information freedom a greater consideration in their business decisions. I hope that their competitors and foreign governments will pay close attention to this trend.
The most recent example of Google's review of its business operations in China has attracted a great deal of interest. We look to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make this announcement. We also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent. The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it's great that so many people there are now online. But 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. The United States and China have different views on this issue. And we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently.
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.
Information freedom supports the peace and security that provide a foundation for global progress. Historically, asymmetrical access to information is one of the leading causes of interstate conflict. When we face serious disputes or dangerous incidents, it's critical that people on both sides of the problem have access to the same set of facts and opinions.
As it stands, Americans can consider information presented by foreign governments - we do not block their attempts to communicate with 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 lop-sided access to information increases both the likelihood of conflict and the probability that small disagreements will escalate. I hope responsible governments with an interest in global stability will work to address such imbalances.
For companies, this issue is about more than claiming the moral high ground; it comes down to the trust between firms and their customers. Consumers everywhere want to have confidence that the internet companies they rely on will provide comprehensive search results and act as responsible stewards of their information. Firms that earn that confidence will prosper in a global marketplace. Those who lose it will also lose customers. I hope that refusal to support politically-motivated censorship will become a trademark characteristic of American technology companies. It should be part of our national brand. I'm confident that consumers worldwide will reward firms that respect these principles.
We are reinvigorating the Global Internet Freedom Task Force as a forum for addressing threats to internet freedom around the world, and urging U.S. media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance. The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply the prospect of quick profits.
We're also encouraged by the work that's being done through the Global Network Initiative - a voluntary effort by technology companies who are working with non-governmental organization, academic experts, and social investment funds to respond to government requests for censorship. The Initiative goes beyond mere statements of principle and establishes mechanisms to promote real accountability and transparency. As part of our commitment to support responsible private sector engagement on information freedom, the State Department will be convening a high-level meeting next month co-chaired by Under Secretaries Robert Hormats and Maria Otero to bring together firms that provide network services for talks on internet freedom. We hope to work together to address this challenge.
Pursuing the freedoms I've talked about today is the right thing to do.
But it's also the smart thing to do. By advancing this agenda, we align our principles, our economic goals, and our strategic priorities. We need to create a world in which access to networks and information brings people closer together, and expands our definition of community.
Given the magnitude of the challenges we're facing, we need people around the world to pool their knowledge and creativity to help rebuild the global economy, protect our environment, defeat violent extremism, and build a future in which every human being can realize their God-given potential.
Let me close by asking you to remember the little girl who was pulled from the rubble on Monday in Port-au-Prince. She is alive, was reunited with her family, and will have the opportunity to help rebuild her nation because these networks took a voice that was buried and spread it to the world. No nation, group, or individual should stay buried in the rubble of oppression. We cannot stand by while people are separated from our human family by walls of censorship. And we cannot be silent about these issues simply because we cannot hear their cries. Let us recommit ourselves to this cause. Let us make these technologies a force for real progress the world over. And let us go forward together to champion these freedoms.
Also See:
Is It the End of the Internet & Freedom of Speech?
15 June 2008