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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid