Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a blunt defense of unfettered Internet access Thursday in a speech at Washington’s Newseum, saying the United States will defend the right to information around the world.
The speech comes in the wake of Google’s announcement last week that it would no longer censor results on the Chinese version of its search engine, saying it could pull out of China and shutter Google.cn if the government wouldn’t allow unfiltered search.
To help make sense of the situation, we spoke to Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and former journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong. She’s writing a book about Internet censorship and freedoms.
“We’re in this new age now where the Internet and telecommunications are a platform on which both diplomacy and warfare and politics are happening,” MacKinnon said. “Both governments and companies need to think clearly about what they want their role to be in this arena.”
Clinton didn’t mince words here: “We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas,” she said. “Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century.”
Her full remarks are here.
One thing we should note here: Even if Google closes Google.cn, its main search engine, Google.com, could still be available in China.
And while the government has tightened restrictions on the Web over the past year–blocking YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other sites at times — many Internet users can still reach those sites using proxy servers that make it appear they are searching from outside of China.
For more on Google and its future relationship with China, watch this panel discussion between McKinnon, Evgeny Morozov of Foreign Policy and Timothy Wu of Columbia University Law School.
Video production and additional reporting by Carolyn O’Hara and Quinn Bowman