A Human Right To Connect On The Internet: Wow

Sounds like the Obama government is picking up the cause of what Nick and I called the Digital Deal. Amazing! This is powerful stuff, coming not from some fringe group but from the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Here are quotes from her speech today:

Franklin Roosevelt … delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941 …. principles adopted as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…

The final freedom, one that was probably inherent in what both President and Mrs. Roosevelt thought about and wrote about all those years ago, is one that flows from the four I’ve already mentioned: the freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate.

This is exactly how I would have put it. It’s assembly, just on a different type of town square, and just as important as the other fundamental human rights.

It’s smart she puts it as “flows from” what more countries signed already than they are now comfortable with.

She continued:

The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic, and technological resources necessary to advance these freedoms…

We’re including internet freedom as a component in the first resolution we introduced after returning to the United Nations Human Rights Council…

We are providing funds to groups around the world to make sure that [new tools that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship] get to the people who need them in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely…

Now, ultimately, this issue … [is] … about whether we live on a planet with one internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that benefits and unites us all, or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors.

… Historically, asymmetrical access to information is one of the leading causes of interstate conflict. When we face serious disputes or dangerous incidents, it’s critical that people on both sides of the problem have access to the same set of facts and opinions.

For companies, this issue is about more than claiming the moral high ground. It really comes down to the trust between firms and their customers. Consumers everywhere want to have confidence that the internet companies they rely on will provide comprehensive search results and act as responsible stewards of their own personal information. Firms that earn that confidence of those countries and basically provide that kind of service will prosper in the global marketplace. I really believe that those who lose that confidence of their customers will eventually lose customers…

This is exactly how I put it over at Upon 2020 when discussing Google’s China move a few days ago. 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered. 10 years in the future it will be decisive in the marketplace. These are the early rumblings. Mark my words.

And censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere. And in America, American companies need to make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand. I’m confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles…

We cannot stand by while people are separated from the human family by walls of censorship. And we cannot be silent about these issues simply because we cannot hear the cries.

There is of course always the issue of how sausage is made, in international politics even more so than domestically. But it’s a good start, certainly better than I would have dreamed.

P.S. Spot the worst offender in this list from her today: “Violent extremists, criminal cartels, sexual predators, and authoritarian governments…” ;-)

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