Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Clinton Pledges $25 Million For Net Freedom Fighters

Authoritarian governments tend quickly lose control of their people when they lose control of the message. Helping the dissidents to get the word out and around is a low cost, low risk, highly effective way spread the ideals of freedom and democracy.

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed on Tuesday to invest $25 million for developers to build tools that will let online dissidents get around “thugs, hackers and censors.” It’s her attempt at giving teeth to the so-called “Internet Freedom Agenda” that she unveiled last year.

In a speech at D.C.’s George Washington University — one full of glowing references to the Egyptian revolution — Clinton pledged to take a “venture capital approach” to funding tools that allow online activists, dissidents and ordinary citizens to circumvent internet censorship in repressive countries. If that means setting up proxy sites for online dissidents or employing tools like those of the U.S. military to get bandwidth into denied areas, Clinton declined to say, arguing that there’s “no silver bullet” against internet repression.

Since “there’s no app for that,” Clinton said the U.S. would instead work with technical and policy experts to develop a “portfolio of technology, tools and training” for getting around firewalls. As repressive governments adapt their techniques at blocking connectivity, so too will U.S. measures to help “digital activists… adapt to the challenges they face.” Whether $25 million — a pittance, really, in the massive federal budget — will really help is another matter.

Before the year’s end, Clinton said, the Obama administration will release an “international strategy for cyberspace,” outlining in greater detail the rules of the online road that the U.S. wants to see in place.

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