Clinton to High-Tech
Firms: Don't Aid Web Repression
December 26, 2011
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday urged software
companies and high-tech firms not to sell technology that would help
repressive governments restrict Internet freedom.
Delivering a keynote address in the Netherlands at a 23-nation
Dutch-sponsored conference at the Hague, convened to launch a coalition
of countries that work with companies and civil society groups to
advance Internet freedom, she also warned against the imposition of
national barriers to the Internet.
Explaining that there are cases where the repressive use of products may
or may not be foreseen by high-tech companies that make them, she said
private firms need to embrace their role in protecting Internet freedom
and avoid offering authoritarian regimes, in the Middle East and
elsewhere, "the tools of repression."
"Today’s news stories are about companies selling the hardware and
software of repression to authoritarian governments," she said. "When
companies sell surveillance equipment to the security agency of Syria,
or Iran, or in past times to Gadhafi, there can be no doubt it will be
used to violate rights."
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said it is "vital" that technology
developed in democratic countries not become "complicit" in human rights
"I say it clearly and loudly here: Export of certain technologies to
certain countries must simply be prohibited if we know that they will be
used to limit freedoms," he said. "We are worried about the
proliferation of Internet filter technologies reaching repressive
environments. As a government, it is our responsibility to prevent
Clinton, ending a five-day European trip, also warned of efforts by
authoritarian states to use global organizations to impose national
barriers to the Internet, replacing the loose public-private partnership
that now governs it.
we’re not careful, governments could upend the current Internet
governance framework in a quest to increase their own control. Some
governments use Internet governance issues as a cover for pushing an
agenda that would justify restricting human rights on-line," she said.
"We must be wary of such agendas and united in our shared convictions
that human rights apply on-line."
Clinton did not specify countries having such an agenda, but aides say
she was referring to, among other things, a proposed "code of conduct"
for information security introduced at the U.N. General Assembly earlier
this year by Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The Secretary of State said governments erecting barriers to Internet
freedom will eventually face a "dictator's dilemma" of having to resort
to greater oppression to keep barriers standing at the price of missed