Clinton to challenge Internet censorship in policy address

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will raise the issue of Google's ongoing battles in China in a broad policy address on Internet freedom she plans to make Thursday in Washington, D.C.

But the main focus of the speech will be to articulate America's policies for supporting and enabling unrestricted Internet access to people worldwide, a senior aide said today. The aide who previewed Clinton's remarks asked not to be idenitifed.

Google 's censorship battles in China will figure in the speech but will not be its sole focus. "This is going to be a major policy address on Internet freedom," the aide said. "At the center of the speech is the idea that the Internet is a tool for people around the world to connect to information, to each other, to entities and to actual resources."

As part of the speech, Clinton is also expected to articulate a "number of concrete deliverables" to enhance the ability of people around the world to use the Internet.

Events in countries such as Iran, China and Columbia have shown that "advocacy for human rights and democracy [is] no longer restricted just to the traditional realms," the aide said. "A lot of these things are taking place over the Internet, as well as in other digital platforms."

Clinton's speech will challenge Internet censors and focus on the need for the U.S. to elevate its efforts to ensure freedom of speech on the Internet.

Her address comes just days after Google revealed that it had been attacked by cyber-adversaries apparently operating out of China. More than 30 other technology companies in the Silicon Valley area have since been identified as victims of similar targeted attacks -- also allegedly emanating from China. The attacks have caused widespread concern and raised questions about how the U.S. should respond to state-sponsored cyber attacks .

"China will be one of a number of different countries she talks about in the global landscape as it pertains to Internet freedom," the Clinton aide said. At the same time, the Secretary of State will also stress the need for non-governmental organizations and the private sector to work to promote human rights, democracy and development on the Internet.

"Five years ago, the only conversation you would have had with technology companies about human rights, democracy and development would have been with regards to protection of people's information," he said. Now there is a need for private companies to engage in discussions about how their tools are being used to promote democracy.

"Government alone cannot advocate democracy and development in the virtual commons," he said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld . Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan , send e-mail to or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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