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In a major address on the importance of internet freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the internet and other information networks are forming "a new nervous system for our planet:"
"There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. And even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable."
But terrorists and autocrats are also exploiting the new technologies:
"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 to promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights."
Secretary of State Clinton said that recent events involving Iran serve as a paradigm for both the beneficial power of the internet and other connective technologies, as well as for the dangers such technologies pose when used by governments as tools to target independent thinkers:
"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 inside their country."
"In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights," said Secretary of State Clinton, "the Iranian people have inspired the world, and their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice."
From its founding as a nation, said Secretary of State Clinton, the United States has been committed to the free exchange of ideas. That freedom, she said, now must be protected "on the digital frontiers of the 21st century."