Advancing Internet freedom doesn’t come for free

Submitted by LDieringer on Tue, 07/30/2013 - 1:58pm

From Craig A. Newman, chief executive of the Freedom2Connect Foundation, via The Washington Post:  When events unfolded in Egypt two years ago, it was a historic moment both because political change was sweeping through the Middle East and because political revolution had finally entered the digital age. Citizens harnessed the power of the Internet and mobile communications to topple an authoritarian regime.

But as the great promise of the Arab Spring turns into a much darker reality, it is increasingly clear that the United States is failing in its commitment to use technology to advance worldwide democracy.

In 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave one of the most powerful speeches a U.S. leader has delivered on the topic of Internet freedom, declaring that “we cannot stand by while people are separated from our human family by walls of censorship. . . . Let us make these technologies a force for real progress the world over.”

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The federal financial commitment to Internet freedom amounted to about $30 million in 2012 — a tiny sum to begin with and a scant annual increase from the $76 million spent between 2008 and 2011.

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It’s time to put actions behind the words Clinton delivered so passionately and finally commit significant funding to the research, testing and deployment of technologies that allow citizens to freely communicate in the face of repressive censorship. Technology is not the only answer to advancing global democracy, but it is the most powerful and cost-efficient weapon at our disposal.

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