Should the USA 'protect' the internet?

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Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks on Internet Freedom

2010 kicked off with a very interesting high-stakes drama unfolding between Google and China. The situation has now blown up and got the US government involved. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech on Internet Freedom which basically outlined a new foreign policy for USA and extended it to the internet.

In a nutshell, the US wants to help ensure the freedom of the internet to everyone, all over the world, especially in countries like Iran and China. Erick Schonfeld in Techcrunch says it best:

Apparently, it is now the U.S. government’s foreign policy to protect and promote these freedoms throughout the information “commons” which extend beyond our physical borders.  It is also U.S. foreign policy to encourage corporations, particularly those in the technology industry, to protect these freedoms.

I’d highly encourage reading the Techcrunch article which does a great job of explaining Clinton’s speech – Hillary Clinton Extends Foreign Policy To The Internet And Wants Your Help. For background on how this all came about, check out CNET News’ roundup (Google’s challenge in China), especially this video that summarises everything - Video: China’s attack on Google explained.

My Thoughts

I’m really not a fan of politics and international relations. However this seems like a really big development that may impact the internet throughout the world, and not just in China and USA.

This also smacks of USA being the world’s sherrif, but I ask myself who else could or would even try to protect the internet. And on the other hand is China – the world’s largest country and possibly the most powerful – is censoring the media and the internet like nobody’s business. If our silly politicians here try to censor the internet we would be up in arms right?

I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I definitely don’t want the internet to be censored or for there to be a Chinese internet and an English internet. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Flickr/ U.S. State Dept

2 Comments on "Should the USA 'protect' the internet?"

  • reese says

    David, you’ve shown me another reason to appreciate and respect you: you don’t see issues in shades of black or white–you see the subtle complexities and questions this raises.

    I have mixed feelings about America’s role in foreign affairs. I think we often overstep our boundaries, yet if we aren’t going to be the sheriff, who will? Russia? China?

    Sometimes the US reeks of a sense of righteousness–as if it knows better than other, older countries, how they should be governed.

    Yet I think of China. And of places in SE Asia where internet freedom is essential to cultural and political change. Maybe if the US tries to safeguard internet freedom, it gives the opposition leaders in these countries a fighting chance at democracy and fairness.

    I just think it needs to be done at times with a more respectful attitude toward other cultures and belief systems.

  • Hey there Reese, thanks for your comment!

    Fundamentally I agree with Clinton. But maybe America should be one of the many member nations of an organisation that is set up specially to safeguard internet freedom.