Foreign Policy Blogs

Freedom to Connect

Clinton at the Newseum

Clinton at the Newseum

Attended Secretary of State Clinton’s policy address on Internet Freedom yesterday. It’s fun to see HRC on the big stage; I worked for her during the 2008 primary, and always enjoy hearing her speak.

This was by definition a major address; the Secretary does not do many of these in a year, and as such sends a strong signal that this is a priority for her and for the administration. It’s worth reading the full transcript.

This speech represented the US Government putting down a big marker saying that Internet freedom – the “Freedom to Connect” – is a core value that America will emphasize and fight for. Clinton called out the bad boys by name in this speech, especially China. Now, the fact that the US plans to “address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship” may not sound particularly threatening, but in diplo-speak the Secretary was warning China and others that the American concern with Internet freedom will not go away.

Incidentally, “connect” and “connection” were tossed around a lot. I get a sense this maybe is the new focus-grouped branding for the rather nebulous Internet freedom concept. I like it.

Clinton also talked extensively about the role of corporations doing business in authoritarian states. She suggested that part of the “American Brand” could be that US companies would not participate in censorship or such, and that this would be better for the long-term interests of the companies.

Under current policies, I find that doubtful – corporate do-goodery for its own sake – but this may mean the administration will move to put some incentives in place to make firms behave. It is a violation of Federal law for a US business to engage in bribery*; while there are still countries that do this *cough France cough* it certainly has helped transform the climate to make it illegitimate for anyone to get caught doing it.

More to come on Clinton’s address. There’s a lot to digest.

* Update, later: Fellow FPBer Sarah Repucci had a great rundown on the role of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act