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Preserving Internet Freedom


Two Vietnamese students use Facebook at an internet cafe. (file)

The U.S. is committed to ensuring that the human rights that people enjoy offline are also protected online.

The United States believes it is important to preserve Internet freedom for all, and is committed to ensuring that the human rights that people enjoy offline are also protected online. A U.S. delegation underlined this commitment at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Indonesia last week.

More than two billion people are now connected to the internet, but in the next 20 years, that number will more than double.”
Acting Assistant Secretary of State
for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Scott Busby
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor remarked, “More than two billion people are now connected to the internet, but in the next 20 years, that number will more than double.”

The United States supports the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, on display at the IGF. This model allows inclusive, cooperative efforts to empower users and further enable innovation free from arbitrary intergovernmental control.

“The architects of the Internet,” said U.S. Ambassador for Communications and Information Policy Daniel Sepulveda, “built it as an open, inclusive platform. As a result, the Internet today is no more one country’s than another’s; it is no more any one stakeholder’s than another.”

Among the topics of discussion at the IGF was “cyber ethics”. “Any discussion of cyber ethics,” said U.S. Coordinator for Cyber Issues Christopher Painter, “must begin with the fundamental understanding that human rights apply equally online as they do offline.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not limit the protection given for expression only to what is termed “ethical” expression. In contrast, some states seek to define “ethical standards” to suppress speech. The United States, said Mr. Painter, “stress(es) that human rights are universal, and do not vary from place to place, or from culture to culture.”

When states curtail freedom of expression online in the interests of social stability, they limit future development. Their young people miss out on conversations and debates elsewhere in the world, and they lack exposure to the free inquiry that spurs people to question old ways of doing business and invent new ones.

“There is a clear connection,” said Mr. Painter, “between our freedom to express thoughts and our ability to organize our companies and our societies in creative and innovative ways that make us more productive, more efficient, and more prosperous.”

The United States will continue to work toward regional and international collaboration on Internet freedom and other key cyber policies.

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