Tag Archives: us state department

Hilary Clinton’s net freedom speech: analysis from Index on Censorship

Press freedom organisation Index on Censorship has consulted a number of experts over US secretary of state Hilary Clinton’s recent speech on internet freedom.

They include Chinese internet activist Wen Yunchao and former Guardian head of digital and Tow Center professor Emily Bell, who says:

There are many contradictions in how the US government has tackled the issue of the internet; from a rather ambivalent approach to net neutrality, through the involvement in industry of providing cyber security to overseas repressive regimes, to its extremely hostile reaction to the Wikileaks disclosure of diplomatic cables …

The irony of the timing of the speech was not lost on the Twitterverse. As Clinton spoke, lawyers from the department of justice were defending their pursuit of information on Wikileaks operatives, which involved ordering platforms such as Twitter to hand over user data on individuals it linked to the organisation.

Full post on Index on Censorship at this link.

Politico: Amid WikiLeaks battle, Clinton to assert US support for internet freedom

Hilary Clinton is due to give a speech on internet freedom later today. In the wake of Egypt’s shutting off of internet access during recent protests, and in the midst of her department’s ongoing battle with WikiLeaks, it has the potential to be interesting.

Politico has published extracts from the speech Clinton is expected to give. Certain parts closely resemble previous attempts by the US administration to carefully chastise China for its severe curtailments of internet freedom:

History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road. Those who clamp down on internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever… Leaders worldwide have a choice to make. They can let the internet in their countries flourish, and take the risk that the freedoms it enables will lead to a greater demand for political rights. Or they can constrict the Internet, choke the freedoms it naturally sustains—and risk losing all the economic and social benefits that come from a networked society…

While others are clearly there to speak to the problem of WikiLeaks, and clarify the pro-freedom stance of an administration currently attempting to subpoena private information from Twitter accounts belonging to members and affiliates of the whistleblowers’ site.

Our allegiance to the rule of law does not dissipate in cyberspace. Neither does our commitment to protecting civil liberties and human rights. The United States is equally determined to track and stop terrorism and criminal activity online and offline, and in both spheres we pursue these goals in accordance with our values… Liberty and security. Transparency and confidentiality. Freedom of expression and tolerance. There are times when these principles will raise tensions and pose challenges, but we do not have to choose among them. And we shouldn’t. Together they comprise the foundation of a free and open Internet…

See more on Politico at this link.

After Twitter revelation, WikiLeaks suspects US of pressuring Google and Facebook

WikiLeaks suspects that Google and Facebook may be under pressure from the US Government to reveal information relating to the whistleblower’s site or its members.

The claim follows a court order issued by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in December and published by Salon.com [PDF], which ordered micro-blogging site Twitter to hand over information about five accounts associated with WikiLeaks, including one belonging to Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks tweeted on Saturday:

Note that we can assume Google & Facebook also have secret US government subpeonas. They make no comment. Did they fold?

The subpeona issed to Twitter claims that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the site had information “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation”. This information included IP addresses, contact information, private messages and the addresses used to access the accounts, allowing investigators to establish potential connections between users.

Despite being ordered to the contrary, Twitter notified those targeted by the subpoena, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp, Bradley Manning and Icelandic collaborator and MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir. It is over the request for Jónsdóttir’s information in particular that Iceland has requested an explanation from US authorities.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said in an interview with Channel 4 News that the U.S Department of Justice is seeking to target not just WikiLeaks’ main collaborators but also the organisation’s 634,000 followers on Twitter in an “intimidatory” act.

Yesterday, The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond commented that the news of this subpoena may change the way people react to social networking sites:

There’s also a risk that cases like this one will deter people from using social networks to express controversial opinions.

What has come out of this weekend’s events is the contrast in the types of information and their availability and use. As both Richmond and Stephens note, WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified government information reflects the reporting journalists have done “for years”. The American DOJ’s demand of personal details, however, may impact upon how individuals share information in future. Richmond highlights the warning Columbia students were given regarding public online discussion of WikiLeaks, but could similar discussion soon hold risks for journalists?