The case against Wikileaks is not a case against Internet freedom but a case involving theft of government documents. This is according to the U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton was speaking at the George Washington University on the 15th of February. The U.S considers the foreign policy of “freedom to connect” a priority and acknowledges that a restricted internet bears significant economic repercussions. Investors may be afraid of venturing into countries with such restrictions. Businesses operating in those regions also risk having their websites shut down without notice or even have their staff arrested over their activities on the internet.
There are a number of countries which restrict internet use including China, Syria, Vietnam, Iran and Cuba. China for instance redirects users to error pages when they search for restricted information. Iran on the other hand hunts down people using information they obtain from the social networking sites. Clinton said that the freedom to assemble and associate is not any different when it comes to the cyberspace.
In a show of the U.S Government’s commitment towards the maintenance of these freedoms on the internet, the Secretary of State pledged $25 million in support of the fight against the repression imposed by certain governments. The money will be given to technologists and activists as well in a bid to keep them one step ahead of the governments which also are pursuing their own innovations that would allow them to restrict the use of the internet to their citizens.
The funding will take a venture capital approach to support technologies that will serve this purpose. Technologies of interest include ways to bypass a national block such as was experienced in Egypt during the protests that took place recently, ways of deleting sensitive information from mobile devices in such cases as when activists are arrested and detained and also ways of hiding the activities of users while on the Internet.
Although there are governments that are squarely determined to keep at it for the longest time possible, internet restriction is bound to fail sooner or later. It is almost impossible to maintain a separation between religious, social and political activity on the internet as there is only one internet.
Although the Internet can be used for a great deal of good the same is true about it being used for evil intentions. There must be surveillance over possible terrorist and cyber crimes but this is no excuse for a government to pry into its citizens’ activities or even limit access to the internet. The arrests connected to Wikileaks should not be treated as a case of restricting the flow of information on the Internet but rather a crime. The same would have happened even if the channel used was not the internet because theft was involved. Clinton also added that the government took no part in influencing companies to sever links with the Wikileaks sites.
In the meanwhile the Government is working on an international strategy for cyberspace which is expected to be completed later in the year. The strategy will detail the rules that the U.S wants in place in regard to achieving the online path desired.