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US: Clinton to Press for Internet Freedom

January 24, 2010

Speech Recognizes Internet as Integral to Development and Stability
For Immediate Release
Human Rights Watch
January 21, 2010

Washington, DC, January 21 -- Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton’s speech on internet freedom
today, in which she said the US will devote the
"diplomatic, economic, and technological
resources necessary" to press for internet
freedom, could have broad implications for human
rights online, Human Rights Watch said.

"Secretary Clinton has elevated internet freedom
to a key US priority by confronting governments
that censor online speech and supporting
companies that stand up for human rights," said
Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights
director for Human Rights Watch.  "The challenge
now will be to put these goals into practice by
incorporating internet freedom into diplomacy,
trade policy, and meaningful pressure on companies to act responsibly."

In her speech today, Clinton recognized that an
open internet is not just a matter of human
rights, but integral to economic development and
political stability, Human Rights Watch said. She
criticized online censorship by allies and major
trade partners, such as Saudi Arabia and China,
and condemned governments, such as Egypt, for
arresting bloggers. She also called on the
Chinese government to investigate and publicly
explain cyberattacks on Google that were
disclosed last week.  She articulated the
administration's efforts to mobilize diplomacy,
technology, responsible companies, and civil
society to press for internet freedom.

"Censorship should not be in any way accepted by
any company from anywhere," Clinton said in her
speech. "And in America, American companies need
to make a principled stand." She also said that
the "private sector has a shared responsibility
to help safeguard free expression. And when their
business dealings threaten to undermine this
freedom, they need to consider what's right, not
simply the prospect of quick profits."

She also highlighted the Global Network
Initiative (GNI), an effort by Microsoft, Google,
Yahoo, human rights organizations, academics, and
investors that obliges companies to protect
freedom of expression and privacy online.

Human Rights Watch said the Obama Administration
can take several steps to make this effort
effective. US diplomats should regularly press
their counterparts to eliminate online censorship.

The administration should also ensure that all
government agencies work to combat censorship.
The Commerce Department or the US Trade
Representative (USTR) should call for an open
internet in the course of commercial diplomacy
and trade negotiations, for example. And future
US trade agreements should have provisions to
protect freedom of expression online, comparable to labor protections.

The US should also consider examining US export
control laws to determine whether certain
technologies need to be better regulated to
ensure that governments do not use them to censor
their critics, Human Rights Watch said. One
opportunity to examine export controls will come
under the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act,
which requires the US government to issue reports
to determine whether non-Iranian companies may
have provided surveillance or censorship
technologies to the Iranian government.

Finally, the US should go beyond a "principled
stand" and actually require companies to
demonstrate that they have policies and
procedures in place to protect human rights
online as part of any government cooperation or
support for their efforts, Human Rights Watch said.

"This is an important opportunity to push back
against governments who want to censor and
conduct surveillance on individuals around the
world," Ganesan said. "We hope this opportunity
to promote internet freedom will not be squandered."

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on business, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/business

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Arvind Ganesan (English): +1-202-255-8305 (mobile)
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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