Still recall former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on “Internet Freedom?” Our first reaction on this blog was that America wanted unfettered access to citizens around the world. From a propaganda perspective, that idea enables the U.S. State Department to bypass foreign governments in reaching their citizens directly. Clinton herself has said the Internet would be a more viable means to reach into certain countries than, say, Voice of America (VOA), which often gets its signals jammed. This is also good business for the likes of Google and other American Internet services companies. The more users on Google, the more advertising dollars. And, it was no surprise at the beginning of that speech, Clinton pointedly acknowledged contributions from Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt. She affectionately described Schmidt, “co-conspirator from time to time” for that policy formulation.
Now, fast forward to today, and think especially about what Edward Snowden has revealed about the U.S. and the U.K.’s extensive spying of everyone on the Internet. This is a big deal around the world. Those of us who are confined to U.S. and generally anglophone media, are likely not exposed to reactions from around the world. For example, did you know that at a recent U.N. meeting, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called U.S. actions a “serious violation of human rights?”
The following TED talk in Brussels was recently given by Mikko Hypponen, a computer security expert from Finland which does an excellent job in tying together what the revelations mean. You may not follow the Snowden revelations closely, so I highly recommend watching this short video to bring yourself up to speed.
Now, coming back to the Clinton speech on “Internet Freedom.” She said:
On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.
Well, actions speaks louder than words don’t they? As you just saw in Hypponen’s talk where he showed a timeline of NSA’s access to Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet services, in fact, accessing these services is a guarantee that you loose your privacy.
If a country wants to protect its citizens, wouldn’t it make sense that country put up a firewall? Or as Hypponen proposes, everyone on the planet should opt out of American Internet services and build open-source equivalents. Or build their own.
In regards to China, Clinton said:
During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship. The United States belief in that ground truth is what brings me here today.
Think about what I highlighted above for a moment. Knowing what we know today, isn’t that “freely access information” actually meant to admonish China for kicking Google out?
As Ms. Dilma Rousseff said in her admonition of the U.S. at the U.N.,
if there is no right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy
And this was a message for two countries who often invade other countries in the name of “democracy.”