In January, Secretary of State Hillary Rodman Clinton spoke strongly about her support for Internet freedom and said, “”We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.”
After that, the State Department decided to bring the issue of online freedom to the front in its diplomacy around the world and has joined the Internet providers and social media companies so they can foster public-private partnership in Internet freedom. Collaborations such are these are important because authoritarian regimes very often contract out the daily work of censorship for private companies.
Even Congress has showed their commitment to openness online due to their allocation of $35 million in funding between the year 2009 and 2010 budgets for work that aims to promote Internet freedom. This money has not been spent yet but the State Department finally has sent the names of designated recipients of the 2009 budget of $5 million in Internet freedom funding to Congress so they can finally approve them and can soon begin the process of distributing this year’s grants.
As the movement pushes forth on this very vital issue, the State Department has to consider carefully determining how best they can spend the limited resources. Of course there is no direct way to guarantee the freedom they want to attain on the Internet. But it is possible for great good to be done with the available funds. The impact investing in censorship-circumvention techniques like those that have powered Tehran’s “twitter revolution” in June 2009 will certainly be incredible.
Authoritarian Effect on Internet Freedom
The best known provider of this software is the Falun Gong-affiliated Global Internet Freedom consortium and users behind China’s Great Firewall may think to mistrust the technology of a group their government has banned. Although this solution is not without its problems, the State Department should consider seriously the channeling of funds to organizations that have demonstrated great potential to make a difference.
The State Department is starting to attempt a more holistic approach to Internet freedom by spreading the funds across a variety of projects. By monitoring the efficacy of these chosen solutions and rewarding those that produce the wanted results will be necessary as this program persists.
Once there is a cyberspace without walls or barriers, people can assemble and express themselves freely without the fear of censorship or imprisonment. This will definitely make the world safer for the United States and for democracies everywhere. The continued public-private partnership, prioritization of Internet freedom in diplomacy and the wise deployment of allocated funds will move this ideal closer to actuality.