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Clinton On Internet Freedom

An internet user in China.
An internet user in China.

"Internet freedom is on the “frontlines of human rights."

Internet freedom is on the “frontlines of human rights, [one of the] issues over which fierce battles are being fought, where the stakes are high and our leadership . . . is urgently needed,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a recent speech regarding human rights.

Clinton On Internet Freedom
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Ten years ago, internet freedom would probably not be a top human rights priority, said Secretary of State Clinton. But today, “our commitment to internet freedom as a human rights issue intersects with our interest in seeing emerging powers rise in a way that tends toward sustainable economic growth and long-term stability. . . .

“Part of what will determine the trajectory of those countries is how they choose to respond to the questions their own citizens are raising about what kind of future they want,” said Secretary Clinton.

“The United States believes that it is in the interest of all governments to respond to criticism, not repress it,” she said:

“A free and open debate about real issues presents governments with opportunities and ideas for reform, if they’re willing to accept them. And those reforms, in turn, can help reinforce economic and political stability. Democratic countries have the institutions and processes to respond constructively to critics, and then to adapt to a changing world.”

Increasingly, such debates take place on the internet. “As the internet has grown . . . . repressive governments have worked harder and harder to limit people’s freedom online, just as they do offline,” said Secretary Clinton:

“They are scrubbing websites of facts or ideas that challenge their hold on power. They are censoring emails and re-routing web traffic. They’re reading political blogs, then showing up at the homes of bloggers and arresting them. They’re monitoring the emails of political dissidents in order to track their movements and identify their associates. The rights of individuals to express their views, petition their leaders, freely associate with others are universal, whether they are exercised on a university campus or a university’s Facebook page.”

“Freedom is freedom, online or off,” said Secretary Clinton. “We need to protect human rights online and hold governments accountable when they violate those rights, just as we should seek to hold violators accountable in the offline world.”