Hillary Clinton just wrapped up an hour-long speech at the Newseum that had been billed by the State Department as a "major address" on "Internet freedom." If people were hoping for Clinton to start putting meat on the bones of her 21st-century statecraft approach that I wrote about for the Prospect here, this speech wasn't exactly the answer. Development, not the merits of some new model of diplomacy, was center-stage for most of the morning. Clinton, for example, seemed most animated when telling a story about a few Haitians who had been rescued from underneath earthquake rubble because they were able to text message their locations to the outside world.
That said, Clinton's talk this morning was the strongest articulation we've arguably ever heard from someone high up in the U.S. government that the United States is willing to present itself to the world as a defender of a free, open, accessible and truly global information network. I'm not talking about a generalized articulation of support for the free flow of information. Clinton gave voice to the idea that the U.S. is now in the business of protecting the Internet itself, that pro-Internet-ism is a political value this country holds dear. "We stand for a single Internet," she said. On the Google in China situation, Clinton said refusal by American companies to comply with online censorship "needs to be part of our national brand."
Is that a shift in U.S. policy or an amplification? Debatable. How will this affect the Google China debate? Dunno. But it is encouraging to see someone of Clinton's stature and position give weight to the idea that the Internet isn't just a collection of agnostic technology but an embodiment of a free and networked approach to living with other humans that's worth throwing some political weight behind.
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