Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech on "Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices and Challenges in a Networked World" at George Washington University. The Secretary said:
"The internet has become the public space of the 21st century -- the world's town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub. We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us, what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.
"The goal is not to tell people how to use the internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it's Tahrir Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces provide an open platform, and so does the internet. It does not serve any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the world are going come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.
"One year ago, I offered a starting point for that vision by calling for a global commitment to internet freedom, to protect human rights online as we do offline. The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs -- these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.
"Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I've called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet. And because the internet must work evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet today, which has consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions across networks, borders, and regions.
"In the year since my speech, people worldwide have continued to use the internet to solve shared problems and expose public corruption, from the people in Russia who tracked wildfires online and organized a volunteer firefighting squad, to the children in Syria who used Facebook to reveal abuse by their teachers, to the internet campaign in China that helps parents find their missing children.
"At the same time, the internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search requests to error pages. In Burma, independent news sites have been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down.
"These actions reflect a landscape that is complex and combustible, and sure to become more so in the coming years as billions of more people connect to the internet. The choices we make today will determine what the internet looks like in the future. Businesses have to choose whether and how to enter markets where internet freedom is limited. People have to choose how to act online, what information to share and with whom, which ideas to voice and how to voice them. Governments have to choose to live up to their commitments to protect free expression, assembly, and association.
"For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs."
Secretary Clinton then addressed several of the challenges we must confront as we seek to protect and defend a free and open internet, including protecting both transparency and confidentiality. The Secretary said:
"...I know that government confidentiality has been a topic of debate during the past few months because of WikiLeaks, but it's been a false debate in many ways. Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase. Some have suggested that this theft was justified because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of our work out in the open in the full view of our citizens. I respectfully disagree. The United States could neither provide for our citizens' security nor promote the cause of human rights and democracy around the world if we had to make public every step of our efforts. Confidential communication gives our government the opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise.
"Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose nuclear material. By keeping the details confidential, we make it less likely that terrorists or criminals will find the nuclear material and steal it for their own purposes. Or consider the content of the documents that WikiLeaks made public. Without commenting on the authenticity of any particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables released by WikiLeaks relate to human rights work carried on around the world. Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists, and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments. It is dangerous work. By publishing diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even greater risk.
"For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in the internet age when dangerous information can be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke. But of course, governments also have a duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious about when we close off our work to the public, and we must review our standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United States, we have laws designed to ensure that the government makes its work open to the people, and the Obama Administration has also launched an unprecedented initiative to put government data online, to encourage citizen participation, and to generally increase the openness of government.
"The U.S. Government's ability to protect America, to secure the liberties of our people, and to support the rights and freedoms of others around the world depends on maintaining a balance between what's public and what should and must remain out of the public domain. The scale should and will always be tipped in favor of openness, but tipping the scale over completely serves no one's interests. Let me be clear. I said that the WikiLeaks incident began with a theft, just as if it had been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase. The fact that WikiLeaks used the internet is not the reason we criticized its actions. WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to internet freedom.
"And one final word on this matter: There were reports in the days following these leaks that the United States Government intervened to coerce private companies to deny service to WikiLeaks. That is not the case. Now, some politicians and pundits publicly called for companies to disassociate from WikiLeaks, while others criticized them for doing so. Public officials are part of our country's public debates, but there is a line between expressing views and coercing conduct. Business decisions that private companies may have taken to enforce their own values or policies regarding WikiLeaks were not at the direction of the Obama Administration."
Secretary Clinton recognized the tensions and challenges in advancing liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, freedom of expression and tolerance -- all of which comprise the foundation of a free, open, and secure society as well as a free, open, and secure internet where universal human rights are respected. She also recognized that some countries are trying a different approach, abridging rights online and working to erect permanent walls between different activities -- economic exchanges, political discussions, religious expressions, and social interactions. The Secretary said:
"I urge countries everywhere instead to join us in the bet we have made, a bet that an open internet will lead to stronger, more prosperous countries. At its core, it's an extension of the bet that the United States has been making for more than 200 years, that open societies give rise to the most lasting progress, that the rule of law is the firmest foundation for justice and peace, and that innovation thrives where ideas of all kinds are aired and explored. This is not a bet on computers or mobile phones. It's a bet on people. We're confident that together with those partners in government and people around the world who are making the same bet by hewing to universal rights that underpin open societies, we'll preserve the internet as an open space for all. And that will pay long-term gains for our shared progress and prosperity. The United States will continue to promote an internet where people's rights are protected and that it is open to innovation, interoperable all over the world, secure enough to hold people's trust, and reliable enough to support their work.
"In the past year, we have welcomed the emergence of a global coalition of countries, businesses, civil society groups, and digital activists seeking to advance these goals. We have found strong partners in several governments worldwide, and we've been encouraged by the work of the Global Network Initiative, which brings together companies, academics, and NGOs to work together to solve the challenges we are facing, like how to handle government requests for censorship or how to decide whether to sell technologies that could be used to violate rights or how to handle privacy issues in the context of cloud computing. We need strong corporate partners that have made principled, meaningful commitments to internet freedom as we work together to advance this common cause.
"We realize that in order to be meaningful, online freedoms must carry over into real-world activism. That's why we are working through our Civil Society 2.0 initiative to connect NGOs and advocates with technology and training that will magnify their impact. We are also committed to continuing our conversation with people everywhere around the world. Last week, you may have heard, we launched Twitter feeds in Arabic and Farsi, adding to the ones we already have in French and Spanish. We'll start similar ones in Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. This is enabling us to have real-time, two-way conversations with people wherever there is a connection that governments do not block.
"Our commitment to internet freedom is a commitment to the rights of people, and we are matching that with our actions. Monitoring and responding to threats to internet freedom has become part of the daily work of our diplomats and development experts. They are working to advance internet freedom on the ground at our embassies and missions around the world. The United States continues to help people in oppressive internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.
"While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle against internet repression. There's no app for that. Start working, those of you out there. And accordingly, we are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach, one that matches our diplomacy with technology, secure distribution networks for tools, and direct support for those on the front lines.
"In the last three years, we have awarded more than $20 million in competitive grants through an open process, including interagency evaluation by technical and policy experts to support a burgeoning group of technologists and activists working at the cutting edge of the fight against internet repression. This year, we will award more than $25 million in additional funding. We are taking a venture capital-style approach, supporting a portfolio of technologies, tools, and training, and adapting as more users shift to mobile devices. We have our ear to the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and our diversified approach means we're able to adapt the range of threats that they face. We support multiple tools, so if repressive governments figure out how to target one, others are available. And we invest in the cutting edge because we know that repressive governments are constantly innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them.
"Likewise, we are leading the push to strengthen cyber security and online innovation, building capacity in developing countries, championing open and interoperable standards and enhancing international cooperation to respond to cyber threats. Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn gave a speech on this issue just yesterday. All these efforts build on a decade of work to sustain an internet that is open, secure, and reliable. And in the coming year, the Administration will complete an international strategy for cyberspace, charting the course to continue this work into the future.
"This is a foreign policy priority for us, one that will only increase in importance in the coming years. That's why I've created the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, to enhance our work on cyber security and other issues and facilitate cooperation across the State Department and with other government agencies. I've named Christopher Painter, formerly senior director for cyber security at the National Security Council and a leader in the field for 20 years, to head this new office.
"The dramatic increase in internet users during the past 10 years has been remarkable to witness. But that was just the opening act. In the next 20 years, nearly 5 billion people will join the network. It is those users who will decide the future.
"So we are playing for the long game. Unlike much of what happens online, progress on this front will be measured in years, not seconds. The course we chart today will determine whether those who follow us will get the chance to experience the freedom, security, and prosperity of an open internet.
"As we look ahead, let us remember that internet freedom isn't about any one particular activity online. It's about ensuring that the internet remains a space where activities of all kinds can take place, from grand, ground-breaking, historic campaigns to the small, ordinary acts that people engage in every day.
"We want to keep the internet open for the protestor using social media to organize a march in Egypt; the college student emailing her family photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose corruption; the teenager in the United States who is bullied and finds words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading academic journals for her dissertation; the scientist in Brazil sharing data in real time with colleagues overseas; and the billions and billions of interactions with the internet every single day as people communicate with loved ones, follow the news, do their jobs, and participate in the debates shaping their world.
"Internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things occur so that it remains not just for the students here today, but your successors and all who come after you. This is one of the grand challenges of our time. We are engaged in a vigorous effort against those who we have always stood against, who wish to stifle and repress, to come forward with their version of reality and to accept none other. We enlist your help on behalf of this struggle. It's a struggle for human rights, it's a struggle for human freedom, and it's a struggle for human dignity."
Read the Secretary's full remarks here.