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Thursday, 28 January 2010 13:42

Ex Swedish PM: "Tear down these walls against Internet freedom"

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In 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate, US President Ronald Regan uttered those now famous words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  In response to Secretary Clinton's recent speech on Internet freedoms, ex-Swedish PM Carl Bildt has modernised that demand.

It took just 29 months for Regan's demand to become a reality.  Now, 23 years since those words, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton makes very strong assertions about the importance of Internet freedoms and Ex Prime Minister Bildt clarifies and strengthens the argument, making a direct comparison with Regan's words.

Bildt writes, "Two decades ago a wall made of concrete, built to divide the free and unfree, was torn down. Today it is the freedom of cyberspace that is under threat from regimes as keen as dictatorships past to control and limit the possibilities of their citizens. They are trying to build firewalls against freedom.

"At the end of the day, I am convinced they are fighting a losing battle - that cyber walls are as certain to fall as the walls of concrete once did."

Clinton's comments very clearly set the scene for this fight when she said, "Both the American people and nations that censor the Internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote Internet freedom."

Bildt adds, "Much like the way the rule of the law is critical to protecting the freedoms we enjoy as citizens in our societies, and international law protects the peace between our nations, we must seek to shape the rules that will protect the rights and the freedom of cyberspace."

In her speech, Clinton made it very clear that the United States would strongly oppose any country that chose to censor the Internet.


Secretary Clinton said, "Both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote internet freedom."

iTWire has written in the past about how Clinton's speech must have caused some consternation within the rarefied confines of Federal Cabinet.  After-all, being on the opposite side of the fence from the US isn't a particularly happy place to be.

Soon after Clinton's speech, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy responded by initially praising the speech but then continuing with a defence of the proposed filter  with the same twisted half-truths that have been the mainstay of the Government's support of it. 

The filter is defended on the basis of blocking access to material which is illegal to access of supply in Australia (isn't that the Federal Police's job?) and continues by observing that "URLs of known child abuse content will also be added to the RC content list through international cooperation with law enforcement agencies." 

I defy ANYONE in Federal Government to point to one single website with such material in existence ANYWHERE on the Internet.  There aren't any - the peddlers of such filth are simply not that stupid.

As Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia noted, "This is a cynical twisting of Clinton's words by a Minister on the defensive. To use a speech that includes the lines 'governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other' and 'censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere' to justify a censorship policy is nothing if not brazen."


Jacobs continues, "It's clear from their announcement that the Government sees this speech as inconvenient rather than uplifting. We at EFA think that's a shame, but thankfully, we think the Australian people with feel otherwise."

Curiously, a commenter to the EFA's response noted that in Clinton's speech, reference was made to "grainy cell phone footage of a young woman's bloody murder" in the protests following the recent Iranian Presidential elections.

This footage was blacklisted by ACMA on the basis of the Classification Board's refusal to give it a classification.  An interesting irony.

Returning to the opening theme; it seems that the world is telling our Federal Government, if you must build this wall, we will cause you great pressure to tear it down.

Clinton again, "Now, ultimately, this issue isn't just about information freedom; it is about what kind of world we want and what kind of world we will inhabit. It's about whether we live on a planet with one internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that benefits and unites us all, or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors."

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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