The United States believes that the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are rights that all people should enjoy – online and offline. "Americans and people around the world," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, "have a tremendous amount to gain from a free and open Internet. . .from the broader sharing of information and ideas, to more markets for businesses, to a more transparent and accountable government."
The Internet plays a critical role in supporting democratic activity of nongovernmental organizations and individuals. During a recent UN General Assembly event on internet freedom, Ambassador Power noted that there is significant correlation between "governments that use the internet to repress their own citizens and NGOs, and those same governments using the Internet to launch cyberattacks on other countries and to hack the websites of foreign nationals and companies."
During that event, in recognition of the importance a free Internet plays in safeguarding human rights, Ambassador Power announced a new initiative called LIFT: Leading Internet Freedom Technology Initiative. The goal is for LIFT to foster innovative next-generation technologies to circumvent Internet censorship. The U.S. is launching LIFT with a $10 million dollar investment this year, raising its annual support for Internet freedom to $33 million.
"The potential impact of these new technologies really can be profound," said Ambassador Power. "They have the potential to make the Internet inherently. . .more resistant to control." These new technologies could help millions of users gain access to the global Internet free of censorship. They complement the United States’ support of secure communication technologies as well as its broader support for civil society development and the digital and physical safety of human rights defenders.
The United States cannot undertake this task alone. More governments should consider joining the Freedom Online Coalition and the Open Government Partnership. In addition, technology companies should embrace the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These companies are also uniquely positioned to leverage their own technological innovation in order to preserve the free and open Internet.
It's important to remember that history is on the side of freedom. "Every previous effort to destroy or curb new technologies enhancing freedom of speech," said Ambassador Power, "have eventually failed."So even as repressive governments are pouring resources into trying to control the internet – the odds and time favor freedom.