Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave an important speech on the importance of freedom of speech on the Internet. Her speech touched upon the remarkable potential of the Internet as a communications medium as well as the difficult policy issues associated with protecting it.
A key message was the importance of keeping the internet open to permit a free exchange of ideas and knowledge:
“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. 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. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to our Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.”
Secretary Clinton also adverted to the challenges of reconciling the needs for an open internet, with ensuring that the international community can address serious threats carried out using the internet. She noted that we have to grapple with the issue of anonymous speech stating “Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property cannot divorce their online actions from their real world identities.”
She also took the occasion to remind us of the importance of ensuring that our networks are secure from unwanted intrusion so that citizens will have the trust and confidence needed to use the internet for ecommerce purposes.
“Governments and citizens must have confidence that the networks at the core of their national security and economic prosperity are safe and resilient. Now this is about more than petty hackers who deface websites. Our ability to bank online, use electronic commerce, and safeguard billions of dollars in intellectual property are all at stake if we cannot rely on the security of our information networks.”