American figure heads chime in on Internet freedom
Internet freedom is important to all of cyberspace, but plays a unique role in the United States, where a lot of online policy has been developed.
Internet freedom is largely contingent on the way that governing bodies create their policies for cyberspace. In China there are numerous controls enacted by the government, so that it can maintain strict control over the kinds of content that its citizens are exposed to. However, in the U.S., these kinds of controls have generally been much smaller, with only illegal content really being restricted.
This is not to say that the U.S. is free from its own problems when it comes to online freedom and privacy. The Edward Snowden leaks revealed that that National Security Administration had been monitoring the activity of Internet users in the U.S. and around the world quite extensively. What's more concerning is that new revelations regarding the leaks continue to come out to the public.
America's role on Internet freedom
This puts the country in an odd position when it comes to making sure that online policies around the world can promote Internet freedom. At the moment, policy making bodies such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers are under U.S. control, but there is shift to making the control of this organization a more international endeavor.
The BBC reported that this is due in part to the ongoing NSA revelations that leveled a more critical eye against the U.S. and its regulation of the Internet. On the one hand, the U.S. has played an integral role in allowing the Internet to become the pervasive force that it is today. But on the other hand, its surveillance policies mean that the U.S. is also looking to expand its control over cyberspace.
Clinton speaks on U.S. control
Recently former President Bill Clinton spoke on what he thought were the major issues in the U.S. relinquishing control over ICANN and other Internet governing bodies. While he agreed, in theory, that the multi-stakeholder approach could work, he believes that in reality, many governments want greater control to silence dissent in the U.S.
"A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the United States want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protecting their backsides instead of empowering their people," he said, according to the BBC.
The news source noted that Mr. Clinton believed that the U.S. has historically allowed the Internet to thrive because of the strong democracy thriving in the country. He made these remarks at a global debate that was sponsored by his organization, the Clinton Global Initiative. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, agreed with Clinton's sentiments.
Michelle Obama pushes for online freedom in China
The Guardian reported that First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke at Peking University in Beijing to promote educational exchanges between the U.S. and the world's most populous country. In her speech, she noted that free speech and open access to information were both essential to thriving countries.
"And that's how we decide which values and ideas we think are best by questioning and debating them vigorously, by listening to all sides of every argument and by judging for ourselves," she said according to the news source.
China is notorious for its censorship policies, which are collectively referred to as the Great Firewall. The first lady's sentiments are particularly important if the U.S. continues to follow through in yielding its control over the Internet. Clinton's concerns will certainly become at least partially realized if China continues its strict control over online activity in the country.