These sentiments were exacerbated by the fact that the American technology giants—Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft—dominated online life, raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits through the relentless growth of their increasingly indispensable digital products.
See id. The United States relinquished this control in Government Ends Oct. More than any other nation, China fought back against these trends. It developed powerful systems of censorship and control over the internet in order to protect the Communist Party and the nation from what the Party viewed as subversive online forces. And it forced American firms seeking to do business in China to play by its rules or be denied access. Since the s, European regulators have held American technology firms to higher standards of privacy and competition than American regulators have required of them.
European regulators have also sought to eliminate from their networks hate speech that is tolerated by the First Amendment but is illegal in Europe. Below the surface of disputes about content was a different but no less fierce battle about theft of private and proprietary data. Computer systems are inevitably filled with vulnerabilities that can be exploited to gain entry. When a computer is connected to the internet, actors from around the globe have potential access.
The combination of these factors sparked a growing wave of cybertheft in the first decade of the twenty-first century. See Samuel J. But the United States was also among the most digitally dependent of nations, and a good deal of its military and economic and cultural power was embedded in digital networks. American government networks suffered embarrassing intrusions that resulted in the exfiltration of cherished intelligence and military secrets.
Just as alarming was the digital theft from abroad of the commercial secrets of American firms.
The Internet, Human Rights, and U.S. Foreign Policy: The Global Online Freedom Act of | ASIL
China was public enemy number one for this great digital heist. But other nation-state adversaries and sophisticated organized crime networks also figured out how to steal information from American computer systems. The hypocrisy in the linkage between internet freedom and internet security was apparent even before Clinton finished her speech.
These tools—which, as noted above, were supported by tens of millions of dollars in U. Authoritarian states had worried since the s about ties between the U. Their fears grew as U. Iran and other authoritarian governments saw U. That perception intensified after Secretary Clinton delivered a second speech on internet freedom in January , during the early days of the Arab Spring.
That same month, the State Department intervened with U. Authoritarian nations got the message. The United States also seemed to be militarizing cyberspace in ways that were hard to square with its rhetorical commitment to digital security. Cyber Command to integrate American cyber operations, including offensive military cyber operations abroad. Cyber Command Under U. It was no accident that the administration placed the director of the NSA in charge of Cyber Command. NSA is responsible for breaking into and extracting intelligence from communications and computer systems abroad—activities that are typically prerequisites to the computer network attacks contemplated for Cyber Command.
The astounding degree to which the U. In November , diplomatic cables pilfered by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks showed that Clinton herself had sent diplomatic directives about ways to break into the communications channels of diplomats from several nations as well as of the secretary general of the United Nations. David E.
Times June 1, Olympic Games, on top of Cyber Command, accelerated the global arms race for cyber weapons and cyber forces, with ominous implications for internet freedom. And finally, in the spring of , Edward Snowden stole many thousands of documents from the NSA and gave them to a group of journalists to publish. The documents revealed that the NSA had penetrated every conceivable form of computer and communications system around the globe, sweeping up unfathomable masses of electronic intelligence about foreign governments and foreign citizens.
They also showed that it had set up a system to collect huge quantities of intelligence information, not just by breaking into foreign networks but also by among other means demanding information from Google, Yahoo! These revelations concerned collection primarily under Section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act..
Eileen Donahue, Hum. The Snowden disclosures, on top of everything else, gravely damaged the internet freedom project. They thus exacerbated the resentment that had been building against the United States due to U. The disclosures also showed that the NSA was heavily involved, on a global scale, in the very forms of surreptitious network surveillance that the U. They indicated that the NSA was secretly trying to undermine the very encryption tools that the State Department and other U. And the disclosures revealed that the United States was acting directly contrary to the cybersecurity imperative that Clinton had linked to the internet freedom agenda in The harm to internet freedom from the Snowden and related disclosures went beyond mere revelations of U.
The disclosures chilled certain forms of online communications for fear of government snooping. Most significantly, they gave nations a powerful incentive and a powerful excuse to exert more control over their domestic networks in response to perceived U. Some in still had doubts that China would succeed. See Gary King et al. China has established digital filters at the border that allow in only the types and quantities of information the Party wants.
Inside the country, an intricate regime of surveillance, counter-speech, censorship, and targeted disruption enables additional Party control, often in real time. Post Sept.
The key to sustainable development: technology and an open, free, secure internet
Apple is typical among U. A core assumption of the U. China is in the process of proving this assumption false. At the same time, China permits its nearly million internet users to communicate with each other and the rest of the world on a vast array of topics.
It is probably ahead of the United States in digital payment systems, mobile commerce, and next-generation wireless technology, and it appears to be holding its own in the important fields of artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Its technology firms, meanwhile, are making the turn from copycats to innovators and are starting to compete abroad, especially in Asia.
Since Snowden destroyed its remaining moral leverage and Donald Trump became president, it has practically stopped trying. Proposals to invoke international trade law to fight back against what the United States sees as the digital protectionism of the Great Firewall have gone nowhere and are unlikely to succeed even if pursued with more vigor. China is an extreme case. At the dawn of the Arab Spring, it seemed that the internet, especially social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, had a better chance of fostering freedom in Arab nations. Many of the leaders of the — uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain were trained to use digital technologies by organizations sponsored by the U.
But whatever advantages these technologies initially brought—a debated point—they now appear to have been reversed. The communications tools that seemed to mark a decisive advantage against Arab governments reflected only a temporary advantage due to government incompetence and inattention. In the last five years, authoritarian Arab regimes have reasserted control. They have done so by using tanks, to be sure. Democracy, July , at 64, These governments have also grown adept at employing internet shutdowns and slowdowns, at blocking encrypted communication tools, and at cracking down on circumvention efforts.
The trend of increasing internet control by governments extends beyond China and the Arab states. While it is generally agreed that individual rights can, in appropriate circumstances, give way to matters of public interest e. The necessity, legitimacy, proportionality, and fairness of a situation must be determined before a lower level of protection is justified. A current example is found in discussions to restrict or weaken encryption technologies on the grounds that they may be used to conduct harmful activities.
Beyond the question of whether such approaches would be effective, these proposals raise specific concerns, such as: are the benefits of undermining encryption for all Internet users greater than the risks posed by such an approach? We believe that weakening secure communications could lead to negative effects in terms of financial transactions, e-commerce, and anonymous speech in challenging environments. Ultimately, these would harm the trust that Internet users put in the network. Potential chilling effects must be considered when policy measures are proposed or implemented.
The Internet Society believes that security should not be sought at the expense of individual rights. In a context of growing calls to overcome trade-off mindsets between security and online freedoms in other words, that more of one means less of the other , we should consider ways in which security can be achieved without disproportional risks to expression or privacy online. Principles toward that end are included in our approach to Collaborative Security.
Digital Rights Funding Sources
Policymakers, legislators, and regulators around the globe want to combat illegal online activities, such as child pornography, terrorism, intellectual property infringement and other activities. The Internet Society agrees that these are critical issues to address, but we also believe that proposed solutions must not undermine the global architecture of the Internet nor curtail internationally recognized human rights.
Unfortunately, Internet freedom has been quite volatile around the world. Over the past few years, both democratic and authoritarian countries have enacted laws empowering government agencies to punish online dissent or to block access to online content or services, often under the claim of national security. For example, policies and regulations that require interruption of the Domain Name System DNS infrastructure, whether by filtering results or via domain name seizure, have serious deficiencies.
These techniques usually do not solve the problem, they interfere with cross-border data flows and services, and they undermine the Internet as a single, unified, global communications network. DNS filtering and seizure raise human rights and freedom of expression concerns and often curtail international principles of rule of law and due process. These negative impacts far outweigh any short-term legal and business benefits. We encourage technical and policy collaboration to identify solutions based on international cooperation that do not harm the overall stability and interoperability of the Internet and that respect all human rights.
One of the key ways in which people can protect their data—whether in the cloud, on a hard drive, or in transit—is by using encryption technology. Encryption is the process of encoding messages so only those authorized to view it are able to do so.
Help keep the internet open and secure
Despite the enabling role of encryption to protect our privacy and expression, many governments, including strong supporters of an open Internet, have made public statements on the necessity to restrict the use of encryption so that those people undertaking illegal activities cannot hide from law enforcement. Other proposals relate to governments having special access to encrypted material in order to monitor whomever and whenever they choose in the context of security goals.
While governments may have interests in crime prevention, such approaches would likely be ineffective. As technology expands these possibilities, many governments have placed greater restrictions on innovative new digital services. These are sobering numbers that the Trump administration will have difficulty ignoring, if only because internet freedom can affect both national security interests and trade imbalance concerns.
The U. However, there has been radio silence to date about this issue from the White House and the Department of State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should provide both symbolism and substance for a new U. This phrase alone would send a strong diplomatic signal to the international community that the United States still considers internet freedom to be a critical area of foreign policy engagement.
Equally important, it would mark the start of an updated internet freedom agenda based on success metrics and aimed at reversing the all-too-apparent downward spiral of repression. Stuart N.