John Kerry calls for more Internet freedom around the world
The United States Secretary of State John Kerry recently called for more Internet freedom around the world, but his talks come at a time during where the state of the cyberspace at home has come under heavy scrutiny.
Internet freedom is a hotly debated topic around the world. There are different conceptions of what a truly open cyberspace looks like, with issues of censorship, privacy and corporate interests all being intertwined within the debate. As a result, many different governments have very different policies when it comes to regulating Internet traffic.
Malpractice when it comes to online freedom takes on a variety of forms. There are explicit violations such as the blocking of certain websites and posts, while others are more subtle, such as online tracking and surveillance. Because of this, Internet freedom as a human right becomes a cloudy topic for discussion, but one that few are worried about shying away from.
Kerry chimes in
Recently, Kerry spoke via video stream to the Freedom Online Coalition Conference to discuss the merits of online freedom around the world. He compared some of the major blocks to Internet freedom in the world today to the Cold War.
"[T]he unmistakable symbol, obviously, of the Cold War was a wall, a wall that was made of concrete," he explained. "Today we've all learned that walls can be made of 1s and 0s, and the depravation of access even to those 1s and 0s. And that wall can be just as powerful in keeping us apart in a world that is so incredibly interconnected."
This comparison is certainly a unique one when it comes to concepts of Internet freedom. It implies that people should be allowed to access any of the information they would like without the limitation of firewalls and other restrictions.
He pointed to both Russia and Venezuela as places where Internet controls have prohibited the democratic process from taking place. In the former, the head of the country's largest social network was forced to leave the country, while in the latter, Internet access has been limited in order to quell protests in certain parts of the country.
Trouble at home?
The saying goes, "Every time we point a finger, there are three fingers fingers pointing back at ourselves." Kerry's statements are certainly true but they seemed to gloss over the points of controversy in the U.S. One of the biggest was the state of online surveillance within the U.S. which became abundantly clear after the Edward Snowden leaks.
He explained that the U.S. have implemented a series of reforms in order to limit online surveillance throughout the country, but according to the Washington Post, they failed to address one of the biggest invasions to privacy, which was the PRISM program. The program allowed the government to access the the servers and communications that are stored by companies like Google and Yahoo, though it is still unclear as to the extent of the companies participation.
A recent development at home that he neglected to acknowledge was the debate that has been stirring about Net Neutrality. Recently the Federal Communications Commission issued rules about the how Internet Service Providers can regulate Internet traffic, following a court ruling that would allow broadband operators to charge content providers more for faster delivery rates.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the FCC said that it would make sure it would make sure to stop a division between the have and have-nots, however, many consumer groups are skeptical of this. While the ends of these rules and Net Neutrality remain to be seen, it is certainly a topic that needs to be discussed both domestically and on a global scale.
Internet freedom is certainly a liberating force, but it is something that needs to be addressed equally at home and abroad.