The Obama administration has unveiled a new policy it says will help protesters worldwide evade curbs to internet freedom. Drawing on the key role of online organizing in the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. will help bloggers and activists evade state censorship.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom, whether they’re technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online, will eventually find themselves boxed in. They will face a dictator’s dilemma and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing. Governments that arrest bloggers, pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their access to the internet, may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path.”
In an unacknowledged irony, Clinton’s comments came just as government lawyers appeared in a Virginia court to argue their case for cracking down on the online whistleblower WikiLeaks. The U.S. Department of Justice has subpoenaed the internet company Twitter for personal information from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and four other people linked to WikiLeaks, including Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament. The subpoena asks Twitter for all records and correspondence relating to their accounts, including apparently private direct messages sent through Twitter. On Tuesday, lawyers for civil rights groups argued that the subpoena should be declared unlawful and that its details should be fully disclosed.