Net censorship

Reuters reports:

has attacked Washington’s call to lift censorship and warned the Obama administration to heed alarm bells over trade, Taiwan and Tibet.

China said that US calls for greater internet freedom were harmful to bilateral ties and that the Chinese government banned any form of hacking, in response to a speech by the US Secretary of State.

The US Secretary of State called for China and other authoritarian governments to lift their curbs on citizens’ use of the internet in a speech on Thursday (Friday NZ time).

It was a good speech which is in full here.Also an interesting Q&A.

This is not just about what China do behind their own borders, but the threat they may pose to the greater Internet with state sanctioned cyber attacks.

“A new information curtain is descending across much of the world,” said Clinton, calling growing internet curbs the present-day equivalent of the Berlin Wall, contravening international commitments to free expression.

Clinton also urged Beijing to investigate the complaint about cyber spying from China that Google said targeted it and dozens of other companies, as well as Chinese dissidents.

One of the best parts of the speech was:

As I speak to you today, government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. Now, these leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.

The Berlin Wall symbolized a world divided and it defined an entire era. Today, remnants of that wall sit inside this museum where they belong, and the new iconic infrastructure of our age is the internet. Instead of division, it stands for connection. But even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls.Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. They’ve expunged words, names, and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world. And beyond this partition, viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.

A speech by itself won’t change anything, but the focus of the US Government at the highest levels is a good thing.

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