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Issues: Internet Freedom

Internet Freedom

"I would say that freedom without interdependence is impossible. The internet has linked us all in a human chain that spans the globe, and the freedoms that we seek in the virtual square and public square are absolutely one and the same." Secretary Kerry gives remarks via teleconference to the Freedom Online Coalition Conference, April 2014

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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 key governments, including China and Vietnam;
  •  Multilateral coordination through initiatives such as the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a forum for like-minded governments — with 30 members spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East — committed to collaborating to advance Internet freedom;
  •  Outreach to industry and civil society through multi-stakeholder engagement on specific issues related to Internet freedom, including on the margins of the Internet Governance Forum, and other venues.

Internet Freedom Programming

Since 2008, Congress has appropriated over $145 million to the State Department and USAID for activities that advance Internet freedom. These funds are programmed in accordance with the 2011 International Strategy for Cyberspace.

DRL takes a “venture capital” approach to its Internet freedom programming 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 – improve technologies to safeguard online activists, protect people and organizations at risk, give them the capacity to communicate safely going forward, and push for reform of the policies that repress human rights. The DRL portfolio constitutes the most comprehensive support for Internet freedom of any funder, private or public. Areas of activity include:

  • Technology Development
  • Digital Safety
  • Rapid Response
  • Advocacy
  • Research

Internet Freedom News

Press Release
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Jun 13, 2017 | U.S. Delegation to the UN Human Rights Council
We note the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Turkey. We are concerned by the crackdown on dissent, free expression, and independent media during the ongoing state of emergency, including through blocked websites and censorship of internet-based media. We continue to urge authorities to respect the freedom of expression of all people in Turkey and note the detentions of individuals such as Taner Kilic, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, chill public debate and undermine the quality of democracy. ...Read More
Press Release
Joint Statement on U.S.-Argentina Partnership on Cyber Policy
Apr 27, 2017 | Office of the Spokesperson

Recognizing the benefits and risks of our increasing dependence on networked information systems for the daily functions of our society, the Governments of the United States and Argentina acknowledge the importance of cyber policy cooperation and express our intent to strengthen our engagement on cyber issues bilaterally, regionally, and globally.

In support of our shared goal to promote an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet that fosters innovation and serves as a tool of economic ...Read More

Press Release
NSC Spokesperson Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with State Councilor Guo Shengkun of China
Dec 8, 2016 | NSC Spokesperson Ned Price

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met today with State Councilor Guo Shengkun of China to emphasize the importance of fully adhering to the U.S.-China cyber commitments from President Xi's September 2015 State Visit.   The meeting occurred following the conclusion of the third U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues, which State Councilor Guo co-chaired along with Attorney General Lynch and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson on December 7.

Ambassador Rice ...Read More

Freedom Online: The Global Rise in Intentional Internet Disruptions
Nov 21, 2016 | Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski
Earlier this year, we joined consensus at the UN Human Rights Council in passing a resolution condemning intentional disruptions of access to or dissemination of information online, in violation of human rights law. This Internet freedom resolution, which calls on States to refrain from and cease network disruptions, echoes a FOC joint statement from 2011 that labeled “mandatory blocking” of social networking technologies and platforms to be “an extreme measure” strictly subject to human rights law. ...Read More
President Obama at YLAI Town Hall
Nov 20, 2016 | President Barack Obama
And I would just suggest that you look at the evidence over the last 20, 30, 40 years. Those countries that pursue democracy, that pursue transparency, where their leaders are held accountable -- those are the countries that are doing best. Those countries that are repressive, that don’t respect democracy, that silence critics -- they go backwards economically. ...Read More
The Internet of Things: Challenges and Opportunities
Nov 2, 2016 | U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Daniel Sepulveda

The IoT can be broadly defined as a network of physical devices such as thermostats, cars, and pacemakers that benefit from data sharing. Although initially IoT technologies catered to tightly defined applications, like a network of environmental sensors tracking the air quality of cities, today developers are creating applications with broader impact on human life. For example, flood maps can be fused with data about vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, the mobility impaired, etc., ...Read More

Remarks for Youth Outreach in New Delhi
Oct 27, 2016 | Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda

As prepared for delivery

Good afternoon and welcome. I look forward to engaging you in a conversation about your aspirations for the future of the Internet, the role that India will play in the development of the platform, and how you think a digitally connected world could evolve.

For the past three and-a-half years I have had the privilege to serve as a United States Ambassador traveling the world to promote the cause of the ...Read More

Social Media and Hate Speech: How Can We Become #BetterTogether?
Oct 14, 2016 | DipNote Bloggers

Caption: Members of Coexister, Human Rights First, the French Foreign Ministry, DCM Paris Zeya (Center), and Jerome Copulsky S/RGA (third from right) at the #BetterTogether Summit. [Human Rights First photo]

The remarkable advances in technology and social media have allowed us to grow closer to each other than ever before. An idea or message can cross thousands of miles in just the time it takes to click a button. ...Read More

Press Release
On Ethiopia's Declared State of Emergency
Oct 12, 2016 | State Department Spokesperson, John Kirby

The United States takes note of the Government of Ethiopia’s October 8 declaration of a State of Emergency in response to recent protests and violence in the Oromia and Amhara regions.  We are troubled by the potential impact of the decision to authorize detention without a warrant and to further limit freedom of expression, including by blocking Internet access, prohibiting public gatherings, and imposing curfews.  This declaration, if implemented in these ways, would further enshrine ...Read More

President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum
Sep 28, 2016 | President Barack Obama
I’m here because, as the world gathers in New York City, we’re reminded that on so many key challenges that we face -- our security, our prosperity, climate change, the struggle for human rights and human dignity, the reduction of conflict -- Africa is essential to our progress. Africa’s rise is not just important to Africa, it’s important to the entire world. ...Read More
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      “Even something as seemingly goofy as a selfie in the right context can be a call to action, a subversive act, or a bold statement.” Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowsi's remarks at the Internet Freedom Technology Showcase, September 2015

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