Internet Freedom Increasingly Under Threat


Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero

today said internet freedom is increasingly under threat.

“Repressive regimes understand the power of this technology, and they are redoubling their attempts to control it.” -Ms. Otero

She noted that Internet freedom derives from universal and cherished rights, the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association and is based on the concept that the same rights that apply offline apply in new online environments.

Irina Bokova, DirectorGeneral of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), addresses a panel discussion in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day (3 May) on the theme, Twenty-first century media: New frontiers, new barriers. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

“As Secretary Clinton has said, “the rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs, these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog.” -Ms. Otero

She stressed that an open and accessible Internet gives people a platform from which to express their aspirations and shape their own destiny. She said people in every country deserve to be able to take part in building a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.

“In the 21st century, technology is a powerful tool with which to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms. As we all know, the Internet, mobile phone networks, and other new technologies are having a profound effect on the ability of citizen movements around the world to organize themselves.” -Ms. Otero

She stressed thatrepressive governments used to set up simple firewalls at Internet Exchange Points to block external content from outside their borders. She added they’re using sophisticated software to monitor all digital activity within their countries, and to delete posts and block emails in something approaching real time.

“They’re using tracking what their citizens do on their phones and computers. They are exerting state control over content, over users, over companies, and over the infrastructure of the Internet. And they’re trying to change national and international legal standards to legitimize a digital police state.” -Ms. Otero

Earlier this year, the U.S. said it was committed to advance internet freedom, and in late October, made internet freedom a foreign policy priority. At that time, in a presentation at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership, Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner said the U.S. Congress had allocated $70 million to the U.S. State Department, to fund technology, training and policy advocacy for Internet freedom around the world.

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