Clinton, EU, Urge Protection of Internet Freedom
Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the UK Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes are urging both private companies and governments not to support oppressive regimes by selling surveillance tools and training to them. As speakers at the Dutch Government's Internet Freedom Conference, Clinton and Kroes are asking companies to avoid "selling despots the tools of their repression".
Clinton said the "drive for short-term gains must not lead to shortcuts that jeopardize the openness of the Internet and the rights of the people who use it", and called Internet freedom a human right. The conference was attended by 20 countries and international organizations, including Google.
Neelie Kroes said she will work with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Asherton on an EU response to oppressive regimes, but that companies should come up with an answer that they are comfortable with. She suggests that this response could use the Global Network Initiative, a "a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics", as a model.
Representative Chris Smith (R- NJ) has introduced the Global Online Freedom Act of 2011 today that would stop the sale of surveillance equipment and technology to oppressive regimes.
The recent release of the Wikileaks Spy files and the revelation that BlueCoat systems equipment used by Syria in a crackdown that killed over 4,000 people are just a few of the recent events that have highlighted the need to protect Internet freedom.