The State Department works to advance Internet freedom as an aspect of the universal rights of freedom of expression and the free flow of information.
The Internet and other digital technologies enable an unprecedented level of communication and connection among individuals. They empower people across the world with the tools to share ideas and information as never before. In many ways, the Internet is the largest collaborative effort humankind has ever seen, magnifying the power and potential of individual voices on a global scale.
Yet just as people use these technologies to express themselves and advance freedom worldwide, numerous governments seek to deny the rights they enable. Repressive regimes are censoring search results, jailing journalists and activists, and imposing laws that restrict online discourse and access to information. Threats to Internet freedom are growing in number and complexity. The State Department not only works to combat Internet censorship, but to ensure the safety of communication and access to information on the new terrain of the 21st century.
Under the leadership of the Under Secretary for Democracy & Global Affairs and the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs coordinates the work of the NetFreedom Taskforce. The Taskforce is the State Department’s policy-coordinating and outreach body for Internet freedom. The members address Internet freedom issues by drawing on the Department's multidisciplinary expertise in international communications policy, human rights, democratization, business advocacy, corporate social responsibility, and relevant countries and regions.
The U.S. stands for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. Our work on Internet freedom is grounded in international commitments to free expression and the free flow of information as fundamental human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that all people can “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Recognizing the Internet as the newest forum to exercise these rights, the State Department is using a wide variety of tools to advance Internet freedom.
The State Department engages vigorously with foreign governments when bloggers or Internet activists come under attack or when access to content is curtailed. With the support of Congress, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor facilitates programming worldwide to increase access to the Internet and the free flow of information online. Internet freedom is also a key area of concern in the Bureau’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights.
Advancing Internet freedom is a challenge that governments cannot tackle alone. The State Department supports efforts by Internet-related companies to promote free expression on the Internet, such as the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort that includes both companies and human rights organizations.
Given continued threats to the world’s information infrastructure, it will be essential to continue and intensify the concerted efforts of government, the private sector, and civil society to defend an interconnected and open Internet and harness the power of these technologies to advance freedom and progress worldwide.
-07/15/11 Promises We Keep Online: Internet Freedom in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Region; Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Statement Before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) ; Washington, DC
-06/15/11 Senior State Department Officials on Internet Freedom Programs; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC
-05/16/11 Remarks on the Release of President Obama Administration's International Strategy for Cyberspace; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; The White House; Washington, DC [Also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Persian, Russian and Spanish]
-02/18/11 Conversations With America: The State Department's Internet Freedom Strategy; Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Washington, DC
-02/15/11 Internet Freedom; Office of the Spokesman; Washington, DC
-02/15/11 Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; George Washington University; Washington, DC
-02/04/10 Internet Freedom in the 21st Century: Integrating New Technologies into Diplomacy and Development [ PDF version ]
-01/21/10 Remarks on Internet Freedom; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; The Newseum; Washington, DC
-12/10/09 Remarks to U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum; Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats; San Francisco, CA
-09/11/09 Remarks Upon Receipt of the Roosevelt Institute's Four Freedoms Award at the Roosevelt Institute's Four Freedoms Medals Gala Dinner; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Waldorf-Astoria; New York City