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Hillary Clinton: Internet 'new nervous system for the planet'

25 January, 2010
By Allison Orr

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has delivered a speech on Internet freedom in Washington DC, highlighting the role of the Internet in global communications, describing it as a "new nervous system for the planet", which allows us to be "connected in ways we weren’t a generation ago".

She also used the speech to criticise those countries that filter Internet content, stating that it contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century," Secretary Clinton.

In the speech, Clinton singled out several countries for special mention, including Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Egypt.  China’s Internet censorship regime was also particularly highlighted.

While Australia was not referred to, the speech has renewed calls for the Rudd Government to abandon its plans to filter the Internet.  In December last year, the Government announced it will go ahead with its cybersafety plan, introducing compulsory Internet filtering to block overseas sites which contain criminal content.  Colin Jacobs, vice-chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, says this puts Australian in the censorship "club" of nations.

In response to the speech, Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to ensuring a "thriving digital future" for Australia, agreeing with Secretary Clinton that the Internet can transform societies and empower individuals to engage and connect.  The Minister also highlighted Secretary Clinton’s point that "all societies recognise that freedom of expression has its limits".

China has also responded to the speech, saying that Secretary Clinton’s criticisms of China’s Internet administration are "against the facts" and such language may harm US-China relations.

In other filtering news, the Open Net Initiative has reported that more than 40 countries worldwide are filtering the Internet, and they estimate that more than half a billion Internet users (563,018,414) or 32% of all users worldwide are being filtered.

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