United States Moves To Promote Internet Freedom, ‘Knowledge Commons’ 20/01/2010 by Sharon McLoone for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The United States is working to become a master at empowering its residents and others through networked technology while it navigates the murky areas of international policy and law. Alec Ross, senior advisor for the Innovation Office of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said 2009 was a very good year for Clinton “in terms of how she systematically integrated technology into America’s diplomatic agenda” while recognising opportunities to update the nation’s policy framework. [Update: Clinton’s remarks from 21 January are available here.] Panellist Ross, who spoke at an event hosted by the New America Foundation and Slate, said Clinton has “monitored and immersed herself in the issue of Internet freedom” and noted that she was expected to give an important speech on Thursday morning addressing the State Department’s position on the future of the internet. Internet freedom has “just very recently become a sexy A1 above-the-fold topic, but it has been a long term focus for us,” he said. Ross is helping prepare Clinton’s speech, and in his remarks that likely will frame Clinton’s upcoming speech, he said the State Department will be offensively making positive use of tools for economic empowerment. “We don’t just view the issue of internet freedom,” he said. “It goes to the issue of what kind of world we want.” For example, is there one internet and one “knowledge commons” from which we can all draw, or do we want to live in a world where the knowledge you have access to is limited by country, he asked the packed room in Washington, DC. He pointed out that when he joined the State Department last year, there were 4.1 billion mobile handsets on the planet and nine months later that figure grew by 500 million to reach 4.6 billion today. “That’s a 10 percent increase in nine months,” he said. “We’re at the tipping point of global connectedness.” Ross reiterated that tomorrow’s speech is not only about China, although China has recently been a prime topic of discussion in the United States and on Wednesday’s panel because of Google’s recent announcement that it might discontinue censoring material on its Chinese website, www.google.cn, which operates inside of China. Google has asserted that it was hit with a cyber attack originating from China that was aimed at gaining access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. “The State Department is not the foreign policy arm of Google,” said Ross, “but we’re looking into the issue.” He added that: “tomorrow’s speech is not a speech about China. There are ‘honour killings’ – and I use the term in quotes – of women in the Middle East when they use social media…. There are manipulations of content and censorship in places like Tunisia. Even though China is grabbing headlines, we need to recognise the global perspective of this.” Panellist Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow with the Open Society Institute and co-founder of Global Voices Online, said it’s important that Westerners are aware that when it comes to China, people can circumvent the government’s internet firewall through devices such as proxy servers. However, she added, that only solves the problem of helping people access content outside of China. “It doesn’t help with the internet that’s being built by Chinese people” inside of China, she said. “Chinese firms are under tremendous pressure to be nannies for Chinese public,” she said, referring to the possibility that a Chinese internet service provider could lose its business licence if it does not actively monitor and take down what the Chinese government could consider inappropriate content. Chinese firms in China are held liable for what users do on carriers and platforms, she explained. Panellist Tim Wu, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing writer with Slate, raised the issue of internet neutrality, a hot debate in the United States as the nation’s Federal Communications Commission puts together a national broadband plan at the behest of Congress. “The FCC moving forward on net neutrality [an open, unfettered internet] is an effort by Google” and others to “have a free and open internet within the United States,” he said. Wu added that in China the media is a regulated industry and internet firms – especially US-based internet firms – often are not self-aware that they are media companies too. “They can get used to censorship [in a place like China] and then they lose their will inside the United States,” he told panellists and moderator James Fallows, a New America Foundation board member and correspondent with The Atlantic Monthly magazine. Evgeny Morozov, contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine and a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, said Google should have “known who they are dealing with,” referring to the Chinese government. “Google needs to be cognizant of the political costs and the social role” that setting up its services in China would stir. MacKinnon said that in the long term she agrees “with the many millions of people in China who feel that their ability to innovate, learn and prosper and do the business that they want to do is suffering because of censorship and information control. Whether that is compatible with the Chinese Communist Party’s survival is another question.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Sharon McLoone may be reached at email@example.com."United States Moves To Promote Internet Freedom, ‘Knowledge Commons’" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.