This year, Turkey's protesters have turned their attention from small, endangered urban parks to the slightly more on-trend issue of online freedom. The reason: a new law was announced over the weekend that would award the Turkish government tighter control over the internet, allowing them to block websites without seeking a court ruling first. Considering the country's mainstream media is already widely controlled by the government, it's no surprise that news of these restrictions on the country's primary source of objective information didn't go down very well.
Internet freedom is a foreign policy priority for the United States, and has been for many years. Our goal is to ensure that any child, born anywhere in the world, has access to the global Internet as an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and express herself free from undue interference or censorship. Indeed, during his time in Congress, Secretary Kerry worked closely with then-Secretary Clinton to make certain that we could effectively promote long-standing values of openness and human rights in a networked world.
China's leaders have tried honoring Ai Weiwei and bribing him with the offer of high positions. They have tried jailing him, fining him and clubbing him. In desperation, they have even begged him to behave — and nothing works... “China still needs help from the U.S.,” he said. “To insist on certain values, that is the role of the U.S. That is the most important product of American culture. When Hillary Clinton talks about Internet freedom, I think that's really beautiful.”
China's ambassador to the UK defended the country's internet crackdowns on Friday during an interview with the BBC. Liu Xiao Ming told Newsnight's Gavin Essler that there was a "misperception" about the internet in China and the way the Communist Party dealt with it. He also denied that it was difficult for Chinese bloggers to publish their opinions because of crackdowns on free speech.
This past week, even as net users across the country were discovering that China’s Great Firewall has been upgraded and that many VPNs no longer work, China’s state-run Xinhua wire service was busy using Twitter. It’s the kind of frustrating irony that Chinese web users are used to by now; the nation embracing popular foreign web platforms to try to get its own message out while simultaneously working tirelessly to ensure that its citizens cannot access those same platforms.
The open Internet, available to people around the world without the permission of any government, was a great liberation. It was also too good to last. Authoritarian governments this month won the first battle to close off parts of the Internet.
The United States, along with a host of other nations, has refused to sign the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) put together by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the World Conference on International Communications (WCIT) in Dubai this week.
Representatives of more than 190 countries will convene as an official body, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in Dubai. It is the first time the ITU has assembled to write critical new rules since 1988. Today, the internet has reached a crossroads, and decisions made this month could set it on a distinctly new path.