Clinton: net censorship the new Berlin Wall

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an unfettered worldwide internet and urged global condemnation of those who conduct cyber attacks.

Clinton: net censorship the new Berlin Wall

Clinton’s comments come as China sought to contain tension with the United States over the hacking and censorship of Google.

We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas

“A new information curtain is descending across much of the world,” she said, calling growing internet curbs the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall. “We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas,” Clinton said in a major address that cited China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among countries that censored the internet or harassed bloggers.

Countries that built electronic barriers to parts of the internet or filtered search engine results contravened the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom on information, she said.

Addressing concerns about cyber-spying in China that have prompted Google to threaten to quit that market, Clinton said “countries or individuals that engage in cyber-attacks should face consequences and international condemnation.”

“In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation’s networks can be an attack on all,” Clinton said. “We look to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make this announcement.”

Mixed blessing

Clinton warned that internet technologies were a mixed blessing because along with the benefits of spreading knowledge and empowering citizens, the web is used by al Qaeda to spread hatred and by authoritarian states to crush dissent. “The same networks that help organise movements for freedom also enable al Qaeda to spew hatred and incite violence against the innocent,” she said.

“And technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.”

China, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up censorship of the internet, while Vietnam has cut access to popular social networking sites and Egypt had detained 30 bloggers and political activists, she said. Saudi Arabia, China and Vietnam have also blocked internet access to religious information or silenced people of faith, Clinton added.

The US recognised limits to freedom of speech and the need to combat use of the internet to spread hate speech, recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property. “But these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the Internet for peaceful political purposes,” she claimed.

China plays down row

In Beijing, comments by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei appeared to be part of an effort to play down the dispute and avoid further straining ties with Washington.

“The Google incident should not be linked to bilateral relations, otherwise that would be over-interpreting it,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted He as telling Chinese reporters.

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