Over 100 representatives from companies, civil society groups, universities, and the U.S. Government discussed today’s toughest Internet freedom challenges at an Internet Freedom Policy Workshop hosted by the Department of State on Monday, October 1.
Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero underscored the principle of openness by emphasizing the need to preserve the involvement of all stakeholders – the private sector, civil society, governments and others – in the future of Internet policy. Assistant Secretary Michael Posner facilitated a discussion on how to incorporate freedom of expression and privacy into Internet policy discussions with developing nations. Christopher Painter, Coordinator for Cyber Issues, spoke to U.S. advances promoting Internet freedom as part its comprehensive international cyber policy strategy.
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Bob Hormats noted the importance of the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications negotiations for the preservation of Internet openness. He also encouraged U.S. companies to seek export licenses for certain connective technologies that can help the people of Syria, Iran, and other sanctioned countries to better communicate with each other and the outside world.
Workshop participants discussed how to reconcile the goal of promoting Internet and mobile phone connectivity for people living in repressive environments, with the goal of denying repressive governments the capacity to track, monitor, and surveil their own people. Participants also reviewed practical steps that businesses can take to address their human rights impacts, including establishing systematic processes for handling human rights issues, engaging stakeholders before problems arise, and considering retroactive disclosure of decisions when immediate disclosure is not possible.
The workshop builds on the accomplishments of the second Coalition for Freedom Online conference, which coordinates international diplomatic actions related to Internet freedom, hosted by Kenya on September 6-7. The Coalition also launched the Digital Defenders Partnership, an unprecedented collaboration among governments to provide emergency support for Internet users under threat for peacefully exercising their universal rights through new technologies. Tunisia announced it would become the Coalition’s 18th state and host the next conference in 2013.
For more on the U.S. Government’s engagement on Internet freedom, visit www.humanrights.gov.