Internet Freedom

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 15, 2011

Following her landmark address on January 21, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a second major foreign policy speech on Internet freedom on February 15, 2011 at George Washington University.

Last year, Secretary Clinton called on the global community to protect freedom of expression, association, and assembly in the online world. Taken together, these rights comprise what Secretary Clinton has called the “freedom to connect.” By protecting these rights in the digital era, we preserve the promise and the possibility of the Internet as a platform for ideas, innovation, connection, and economic growth.

The United States is making good on its promise to defend the openness of the Internet and other connection technologies:

  • The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor issued over $5 million in grants in 2010 to support access to information and secure communications on the Internet and mobile devices.
  • In March 2010, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero and Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats convened the first meeting of information technology companies to discuss ways in which the private sector and government can work together to advance Internet freedom.
  • Our diplomats raise the cases of imprisoned bloggers, journalists, and online activists at the highest levels of government, and we take a public stand on their behalf. In the last year, we publicly raised the cases of online activists and journalists in countries ranging from Egypt and Tunisia to Azerbaijan, Syria, and China.
  • The United States is playing a leading role in a global coalition of governments committed to advancing Internet freedom. This commitment was highlighted at the Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania in September 2010 and in a cross-regional statement on Internet freedom sponsored by Sweden in the Human Rights Council in June 2010.

Through the State Department and USAID, the United States is committed to continuing to advance Internet freedom over the course of the next year:

  • As announced in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the Secretary is establishing the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues and has named Mr. Christopher Painter as its head. On cyber-security and other issues, the new office will coordinate work across the Department and with other agencies.
  • The Department will issue up to $30 million in grants funding to increase open access to the Internet, support digital activists, and push back against Internet repression wherever it occurs.
  • The United States is proud to serve as host of UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 1 – 3, “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers,” which will include Internet freedom themes.
  • USAID will execute a program to bring much needed digital safety capacity-building to local media and civil society organizations around the world.
  • The State Department will continue to advance Internet freedom as an economic issue in multilateral forums and will continue to advocate for openness on the Internet in our bilateral relationships.

The Secretary’s 21st Century Statecraft initiatives complement the Department’s work to advance Internet freedom. 21st Century Statecraft connects the private and civic sectors with foreign policy by bringing new resources and partners together, and using connection technologies to make diplomacy more innovative. Internet freedom is a prerequisite for the application of technology in these ways—an open platform creates the space for innovation in diplomacy, development, and beyond.

  • Through new connection technologies, we are connecting directly with people we could not reach before. For example, USAbilAraby, which we tweet in Arabic, had a retweet reach of 570,000 people just days after its launch and USAdarFarsi language tweets had a reach of 288,000 within hours. And it’s not simply broadcasting our messages in the stodgy old way of governments, we get to see responses from people everywhere – positive and negative – and then we are able to engage each other as equals. After all, no tweet can be more than 140 characters, whether you are the U.S. Secretary of State, a protester in Tahrir Square, or someone who wants to be heard in the streets on Tehran.
  • In September 2010, the Secretary launched the mWomen initiative – a public-private partnership led by the Global Women’s Initiative designed to close the global gender gap in mobile phone adoption.
  • Last year, the State Department launched Civil Society 2.0 to build the technical capacity of civil society organizations to accomplish their missions through the use of connection technologies. Civil Society 2.0 seeks to match these organizations with technology tools and tech-savvy volunteers to help raise digital literacy, strengthen the information and communications networks of NGOs, and amplify the impact of civil society movements.
  • As part of the Civil Society 2.0 program, the United States, through the State Department, has held several Tech@State meetings and a TechCamp in Santiago, Chile, on topics ranging from the use of technology in the aftermath of natural disasters to mobile money to blogger training. The Department also partnered to launch the first Apps4Africa competition with local partners in the region challenging applicants to use digital technology to connect to their communities and develop innovative solutions to shared problems.

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PRN: 2011/ 216