That people all over the world are taking to the Internet to voice their interests and concerns is something that the U.S. and the Obama Administration see as a positive force in the world. This is why we take the issue of Internet freedom so seriously and why the President and Secretary of State Clinton have made the issue of Internet freedom a vital part of U.S. foreign policy. I urge everyone to read Secretary Clinton’s excellent speech on Internet Freedom. It is in everyone’s interest that as many voices and opinions, ınterests and concerns, be heard as possible. The Internet and technology are providing an ever growing forum for this positive development.
In the past two weeks, there have been a couple of events generating positive discussion. One of those events was a talk by Bill Lynn, former US Deputy Secretary of Defense, The Future of War: Cyberdefence and Defence Restructuring, at a seminar organized by Folk och Försvar and the Swedish National Defense University. I recommend watching the replay, because modern free societies need to talk about protecting digital infrastructure in an open, honest and realistic way. Bill Lynn is a particular expert on how the US is tackling this relatively new challenge.
Secretary Clinton has emphasized that the importance of the universal human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association apply online as they do offline. Last week, Assistant Secretary Posner said at the State of the Net conference, ” No deed is more evil — or more noble — when it is committed online rather than offline… You can’t beat up and gag a peaceful protestor and you can’t jail her for a blog post criticizing a government policy, either.” If there was any question whether America is serious about protecting people’s rights online, this statement stands as a clear testament.
Important questions are being raised by private industry, civil society and the tech community about the balance between freedom of expression and the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital realm. These are some of the same challenges we have faced in the analog world before, some for centuries, and they are solvable when we have all the stake-holders sitting at the table working toward lasting partnerships. The embassy is strengthening our partnership with Sweden as the emphasis moves from agreement to action, and focus turns to Internet Freedom for Global Development at the Stockholm Internet Forum April 18-19. I’m excited about this event and the potential to make freedom and openness on the Internet an economic and social development priority.
All of these discussions and actions around cyberspace and the role of the Internet in our lives demonstrate one simple but important principle: the Internet itself is an exceptionally effective tool for this public debate. So it’s perhaps fitting to see, after so much effective use of the Internet to break down barriers in repressive countries, the lively discussion and activism by individuals in the US and Europe over these very questions of online expression, piracy and security. In the words of theorist Marshall McLuhan, who predicted the web some 30 years before it existed, “the medium is the message.”