Clinton: Internet freedom is a foreign policy priority


Defending global Internet freedom is a foreign policy priority for the United States and "one of the grand challenges of our time," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her second major foreign policy speech on Internet freedom.

Citing the role of protesters in recent political transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, Clinton said the political changes there are "about a great deal more than the Internet," but that the Internet is a proven accelerant for change. She spoke Feb. 15 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Maintaining an Internet that delivers stronger, freer and more prosperous countries requires a "shared vision"--a clearer stance on what behaviors should the encouraged or discouraged, and what is acceptable and unacceptable Internet behavior, said Clinton.

Clinton said the United States is part of a global coalition seeking to align Internet policies with shared values, so as to achieve both liberty and security, promote transparency and confidentiality, and protect free expression while fostering tolerance. The tenets of a free, open and secure society are also the foundation for a free, open and secure Internet, said Clinton.

The department has also made recent advances in international outreach through social media. It launched Feb. 9 a new Twitter account@USAbilAraby, in Arabic. The account name means "USA in Arabic" and will be State's "Arabic Media Hub," says the feed's description. According to a State Department fact sheet, the account "had a retweet reach of 570,000 people just days after its launch and USAdarFarsi language tweets had a reach of 288,000 within hours."  

The State Department will soon launch similar Twitter accounts in Chinese, Russian and Hindi, Clinton said. 

While calling for transparency internationally, the United States has struggled with the issue. The recent diplomatic wire breaches, posted by Wikileaks began as an act of theft, said Clinton. The United States does not have to, nor should it, conduct all matters openly and transparently in the public, she added.

"We must be judicious about when we close off work to the public," said Clinton. "The scale should and will always be tipped in favor of openness, but tipping the scale over completely serves no one's interests," said Clinton.

Clinton also sought to clarify the circumstances around private entities who hosted and published Wikileaks information and later pulled it following protest from legislators. She said there was no instruction from administration officials to pull support from Wikileaks and those decisions were made without coercion from government. Clinton wrote off comments from legislators as "part of the public debate," but later advised that "those of us in government should lead by example in the tone we set and the ideas we champion."

"Wikileaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom," she added.

For more:
- see a transcript of Clinton's complete address
- see a fact sheet provided by the State Department following Clinton's speech

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