Intrinsic to the concept of Internet freedom is recognition that human rights and fundamental freedoms must be protected both online and offline. Just as people must be able to exercise their rights to freedoms of expression, association, religion or belief, and peaceful assembly offline, they must also be able to exercise these same rights online.
We promote Internet access for all and the design, development, governance, and use of digital technologies in a manner that supports democratic values and institutions, advances societal and economic progress, and protects and promotes human rights. At the same time, we seek to counter the misuse of digital technologies to repress, control, divide, discriminate, and/or disenfranchise. In doing so, we work on policy and programming related to a multitude of technologies, including surveillance technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), anti-censorship tools, and blockchain.
We advance these priorities globally through a multifaceted approach that combines bilateral diplomacy, engagement in multilateral and multi-stakeholder fora, and funding to civil society-led policy and advocacy projects.
- Bilateral Engagement: We engage with our government counterparts in other countries, informed by the perspectives of multi-stakeholders, such as civil society and industry, on laws, policies, and activities that impact human rights online and work to elevate concerns through appropriate channels and public diplomacy.
- Multilateral and Multi-Stakeholder Engagement: Working through multilateral and multistakeholder bodies – with civil society organizations and the private sector – we aim to advance norms, rules, and approaches so technology is developed and used in ways that reflect democratic values and ensures all people everywhere have access to an Internet that is open, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure. We also engage in international standards setting bodies to ensure that international technology standards are developed with respect for privacy and the protection of human rights. Our efforts include engagement in groups such as the:
- Freedom Online Coalition
- U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council
- United Nations
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
- Programming: Since 2008, the Department has invested over $320 million in global Internet freedom programs, which support digital safety, policy advocacy, technology, and research to help global Internet users overcome barriers to accessing the open Internet. Department programs support leading anti-censorship tools that allow millions of Internet users worldwide to safely connect to the uncensored Internet, which helps to:
- Advance U.S. business opportunities abroad,
- Foster the free flow of information across borders,
- Counter political repression around the world, and
- Protect journalists and activists operating in repressive environments from online censorship and malicious cyber activity.