As the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have inspired groundswells of government opposition in states around the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday noted the powerful role that the Internet and Web-based communications technologies have played in those movements.
But just as Facebook and Twitter have become integral parts of modern popular uprisings, repressive regimes have been quick to shut down service, cut off access to certain websites and target bloggers or other dissidents through electronic surveillance.
In her address, Clinton appealed to the international community to embrace an Internet freedom policy, which she said the State Department has elevated to a chief foreign policy priority.
“We believe that governments who have erected barriers to Internet freedom, whether they’re technical filters, or censorship regimes, or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online, will eventually find themselves boxed in. They will face a dictator’s dilemma, and will have to choose between letting the walls fall, or paying the price to keep them standing,” Clinton said.
While arguing for Internet openness and transparency, Clinton also cautioned that there is still an essential role for confidentiality in the online age, both for businesses and governments. She defended the government’s response to Wikileaks’ publication of sensitive diplomatic cables, arguing that the notion that secrecy and transparency are mutually exclusive is a “false choice.”
Datamation reports on Clinton’s appeal for global Internet freedom.