Secretary Clinton on #NetFreedom … excuse me for not clapping …

Below are some excerpts from Secretary Clinton’s speech, Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World at the George Washington University yesterday.

The goal is not to tell people how to use the internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it’s Tahrir Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces provide an open platform, and so does the internet. It does not serve any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the world are going come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.
Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet. And because the internet must work evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet today, which has consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions across networks, borders, and regions.
At the same time, the internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search requests to error pages. In Burma, independent news sites have been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down.
For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs.
Security is often invoked as a justification for harsh crackdowns on freedom. Now, this tactic is not new to the digital age, but it has new resonance as the internet has given governments new capacities for tracking and punishing human rights advocates and political dissidents. Governments that arrest bloggers, pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their access to the internet may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path. Those who clamp down on internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.

While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle against internet repression. There’s no app for that. 

Photo from

Please feel free to read the entire transcript here.

Nice speech, I supposed … intelligent and inspiring to some although Evgeny Morozov calls it “powerfully confusing.”

AlecJRoss tweeted:
#SecClinton “There is no silver bullet in the struggle against Internet repression. There’s no “app” for that.” #netfreedom #Egypt #Iran

Um, okay… but excuse me for not clapping.

Secretary Clinton’s “freedom to connect,” whether she knows this or not is not/not always true in her very own big house at Foggy Bottom and its satellite sites in over 260 posts worldwide.

Even as she claims that “we place ourselves on the side of openness,” that is not always the case when an employee of the State Department blogs in his/her private capacity.  I’ve heard it said more than once that HR/Recruitment absolutely love the Foreign Service blogs.  But if true, some parts of the State Department, absolutely hate/hate the FS blogs, too.

Because how else can you explain the quiet pressures exerted by the State Department to its staff and their spouses … to quit. that blog. of theirs.  

I can understand certain restrictions to limit a free for all environment for its own employees. After all, there are rules we all abide to whether our work is in the public sector, the private sector or even my own nowhere place.  The trade-offs, see?  But even obscure blogs can catch the eye of higher ups in the ladder. And personal musings and opinions can quickly cross that chalked lines, if your boss so decides that what you write about all fall under the large umbrella of “official concern.”  
As to spouses, well, they are not employees of the US Government or the State Department. Of course, that has not prevented post (embassy) management in some places from threatening diplomatic spouses if their blogs do not come down. But what can management possibly do to diplomatic/FS spouses who are not government employees? After all, the 1972 directive recognizes them as private persons, and with that the recognition that the performance of employees may not be rated based on the actions of their unpaid “dependent” spouses. 

But it’s not what they can do to the spouses, silly!

The truth is you won’t get too many State folks to admit to that take down “request” publicly. Here’s why….

One take down request I’ve seen was extremely polite. Far from a memo format but there was no mistaking that the language was far from a request. Of course, with freedom of expression as muse, you can choose to ignore the warning (not/not advisable), pull down your blog, or argue about the merits of your blog posts (non-security related, freedom to connect, right to free expression, mental health, etc).  But in the end, if you make too much waves — you can get very, very wet.  Nobody is going to defriend you outright, see? But phone calls will go unreturned, emails will go unanswered, and about that next assignment you want to talk about ….well, good luck with that …you can perhaps talk to the wall…

As to the FS spouse blogs, the harassment continues but there are no marks, and no paper trail.  And there will be no show of hands today.  What happens when you’re ask to pick between your blog or your husband’s career? Your blog or your spouse’s promotion prospects? Dead blog or life can be bad at post or next post?  Oh, hmmn, let’s see — how crazy bad is that?!  Of course, the blog goes down to sleep pronto, and fades away quietly; sometimes with a quick goodbye, sometimes without.  I cannot blame any spouse for staying quiet given the repercussions to their employee-spouse careers … and their lives.

Yes, lives. Management tells you where to live, where to send your kids to school, what jobs you may/may not take, etc. etc. As the parody song goes, “the answer my friend is all the FAM.”          

This is a particularly sad, sad business because there are no remedies. Spouses are not employees, and there is no grievance process for it.  You quit. The blog. Because why would you put your loved one in such a bureaucratic mess?  And the darn old tigers, even in the 21st century are counting on that.  

Never mind that the blog is still cheaper than therapy.  

I’ll have to say — the State Department may not be running a systematic management suppression of employees/spouses using the public square of the 21st century but it. is. happening. Oh, I know, I know — suppression is such a nasty, ugly word, isn’t it?  I’ll accept any nicer, more diplomatic word you can come up with for arm twisting that doesn’t leave any purple marks.

And for the State Department geeks who did the webchat after the speech who insisted that there is no generational disconnect — oh, dudes!  I’d bet that neither one has ever worked overseas at an embassy where their boss has pulled down the web switch on them.

Anyway, my question of the day — if an FS blog goes down in the 21st century public square and no one heard it, does it make a sound?

Would you please, pretty please, ask that question in the next webchat on #netfreedom?

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Can you still blog if trouble is already your call sign?| Sunday, May 16, 2010