Internet Freedom

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) works to advance the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms online through a diverse set of Internet freedom policy and programming activities. As President Obama has said, “We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody – from those who are expressing an idea to those who want to start a business.”

DRL works to advance Internet freedom through bilateral and multilateral engagement, partnership with civil society and the private sector, and foreign assistance programming efforts. Our activities include:

Representative Policy Engagements:

  • Raising Internet freedom in bilateral human rights dialogues with countries including China and Vietnam;
  • Multilateral coordination through initiatives such as the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a forum for like-minded governments — over 23 and growing — committed to collaborating to advance Internet freedom. Internal USG leadership to support Internet communications of activists through, e.g., trade and commerce policy;
  • Outreach to industry and civil society, including through informal stakeholders meetings on specific issues as well as organized Tech@State events on Internet freedom and other venues.

Internet Freedom Programming

Since 2008, Congress has appropriated over $120 million to the State Department and USAID for activities that advance Internet freedom. Internet Freedom funding takes a “venture capital” approach and invests in diverse responses to Internet repression. This means providing seed money for new ideas as well as supporting more-established programs that could scale rapidly and have high impact. Some programs create and leverage technological innovations, while others focus on training, research, and advocacy. All programs seek to advance fundamental human rights such as the freedoms of expression, association, assembly. DRL strives to advance short, medium, and long term Internet freedom – protect people and organizations at risk, give them the capacity to communicate safely going forward, push for reform of the policies that repress human rights, and improvement of technologies to safeguard online activists. The DRL portfolio constitutes the most comprehensive support for Internet freedom of any funder, private or public. Areas of activity include:

  • Technology
    • Anti-censorship
    • Secure communications
  • Advocacy
    • Capacity-building for local advocates to discourage bad laws and encourage good laws
    • Support for advocacy in international venues
  • Training
    • Digital safety training that is both locally tailored and globally generalizable
    • A focus on “training the trainers” for maximum impact and sustainability
  • Research
    • Analysis of what is being blocked and who is being targeted
    • Tracking of legal developments worldwide
  • Rapid Response
    • The Digital Defenders Partnership
    • DDoS and other attacks on activists

2013 Solicitations:

Freedom Online Coalition & Digital Defenders Partnership

The Freedom Online Coalition is a group of governments, spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, committed to collaborating to advance Internet freedom. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal launched the Coalition at a conference in the Hague in December 2011; the Coalition conference has since been hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Tunisia, and most recently the Government of Estonia. The Coalition conducts diplomatic coordination, engages with the private sector and civil society, and provides concrete aid in the form of emergency support for Internet users under threat through the Digital Defenders Partnership.

Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.