News / USA

    US Government Works to Break Down Virtual Walls

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., 21 January, on the foreign policy issue of Internet freedom
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., 21 January, on the foreign policy issue of Internet freedom

    The U.S. government is making free speech in cyber space a key part of American foreign policy in a fresh bid to reach out to Internet users around the world.

    Experts say the push not only highlights the growing influence of the Internet and its power to pressure even the most tightly controlled governments, but it also seeks to shed light on the link between economic growth and Internet freedoms.

    In a speech earlier this year on Internet Freedom, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called information networks the planet's new nervous system. "Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable," said the secretary.

    A Voice for the Voiceless
    The Internet often is increasingly giving voice to the voiceless.

    Last June, mobile phone footage of a young Iranian woman's shooting shocked people around the world and galvanized opposition protesters as they rallied against election results in Iran.

    During Burma's 2007 uprisings, amateur video and photographs of protests and the government's crackdown spread around the world over the Internet.

    The Center for Democracy and Technology’s Cynthia Wong says Washington has put the world on notice that it considers freedom of expression on the Web a core value.

    "We think it is really historic.  It is the first time really that global Internet freedom has been elevated to that level,” says Wong. “It really showed a recognition that preserving Internet freedom is absolutely necessary for a whole range of foreign policy goals, from protecting human rights to promoting economic development."

    Audio extras
    Wong: Google had eyes wide open (:57)
    MacKinnon: The Great Firewall of China (2:22)
    MacKinnon: Internet freedom in China (2:52)


    Google vs. China

    Google has become a popular search engine in China, but their entry and possible exit from that market are controversial
    Google has become a popular search engine in China, but their entry and possible exit from that market are controversial

    The push for Internet freedom occurs during a showdown between Google and China.  The Internet search engine cites a recent cyber attack on its infrastructure that originated in China and increasing government censorship.  Chinese authorities counter that Google must obey Chinese laws.

    Beijing accuses Washington of trying to impose Internet imperialism and sees Google as part of that effort.

    Internet specialist Rebecca MacKinnon says it is not that simple. "One thing is very clear from the chatter I see on Chinese blogs, and also from just what people in China tell me, is that Google is much more popular among China's Internet users than the United States,” says MacKinnon, who currently is a visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

    “People feel a great deal more loyalty, they feel emotionally more connected to Google in a way that is, shall we say more purely positive, than the way they feel about the United States, which is much more conflicted," she adds.

    Responses from Chinese Internet users has varied, with some placing flowers outside the company's headquarters in Beijing and others posting blogs bidding the company good riddance.

    Google Situation Heats up Debate

    Stephen Yates, the president of D.C. Asia Advisory, a business and public policy consultant group, says the situation with Google has only helped heat up the debate for free speech in cyber space.

    “It is one thing for the world to think that the Chinese government is onerous and intruding on the lives of its citizens,” says Yates. “The fact that it is willing and capable to do it to almost anyone who has a political heart beating in the world is a much bigger threat than they wanted to convey.”

    Yates says that over the coming year cyber security and Internet freedom is going to be a defining issue for Washington and Congress. And while such additional attention from Washington is likely to push authoritarian country’s to tighten their cyber controls even more, MacKinnon notes there are limits to how far authoritarian governments can go.

    “And so this is one of the issues, is how far can you go before you turn your Internet into an Intranet, asks MacKinnon.  “And if you have an Intranet, and your Internet is not sufficiently connected to the outside world, can you be a world economic powerhouse?”

    The power of the Internet to spread information, even when governments try to suppress it, prompted the Obama administration to announce recently that Internet companies can now export services to Cuba, Sudan, and Iran, despite a ban against other types of trade.

    Secretary Clinton argues that from an economic standpoint, there is no difference between censoring political speech and commercial speech, because, as she puts it, there is a direct link between online freedom and economic growth.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora