Standing Up For Internet Freedom

{Cross-posted from TalkingPointsMemo}

The recent dispute between China and Google should matter to everyone in the United States and around the world. Everyone accepts that any sovereign nation has the right to establish their own laws and regulations. But businesses that grow internationally have rights as well. America is the most open, inclusive, and fair place to conduct business in the world. Our international businesses deserve similar treatment from our trading partners.

The size and scope of the China market are too big to ignore and Google is gutsily taking real risk in standing up for principle. Google and other businesses should be able to engage in commerce free from discrimination or persecution. This is a critical component of community and free exchange of ideas that is denied when governments set up firewalls to free speech..

The use of Twitter during the uprising in Iran made many aware for the first time of the potential for technology to aid those standing up for change. It belongs in our foreign policy discussion.

Today, Secretary Clinton is laying out the Obama administration's strategy for protecting freedom of speech and commerce in this new globalized world. America's central values of freedom of expression, assembly, association and the press are rooted in our belief that all people are born with these inalienable rights, no matter where they're born.

China provides just one example of government suppression of its own citizens' access to wide-ranging information from an uncensored Internet and the social media that are bringing the people of the world together, flattening the playing field for competition, and giving investors and entrepreneurs the confidence to engage in international commerce. It shocks the conscience that in 2010, 31 percent of the world's population lives under regimes that censor the Internet and as a result work against their own best interests and that of the international community.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, I join in Secretary Clinton's call for governments to provide their populations open access to the media, and freedom of expression and assembly. I also want to find ways to press these nation's to work cooperatively and openly to establish the basic rules for Internet access that are fair and respectful of individuals.

The Secretary announced today a number of Department initiatives and will elevate Internet Freedom as a matter of our foreign policy. That's the right thing to do. We need to ensure that the State Department can effectively promote long-standing American values in a networked world. We need to look at what governmental, private, and foundation efforts Americans can make to advocate for the destruction of walls denying the people of the world access to each other's ideas on the Internet.

I have tracked and encouraged the development of information technologies at home and I am especially encouraged by its rise worldwide. There are now 4.6 billion mobile handsets on the planet, and 3 out of every 4 new handsets are used in the developing world. This is a powerful platform to bring information and resources to people who have historically been isolated, so they too have the chance to become active, prosperous, and engaged participants in the world community.

I will find ways to continue working with the Obama administration on this initiative and will press within the Congress to help mobilize all of our tools in favor of more open and dynamic systems of communications.