US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has backed up her comments last week on the China Google hack, saying that the US government will work actively to keep the internet free.
Clinton said in a speech at The Newseum in Washington DC that countries which censor internet access leave their own companies at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, and that it is vital to keep the internet open for all.
"On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the US does," she said.
"We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
"This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic."
Clinton declined to criticise China implicitly, but did call for the Chinese government to conduct an immediate and transparent review of the hacking allegations raised by Google and others.
"Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world's networks. They have expunged words, names and phrases from search engine results," she said.
"They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world."
Clinton maintained that US companies should take a "principled stand" on behalf of internet freedom, and that this should become part of the "American brand".
"We are urging US media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance," she said.
"The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply what's a quick profit."
The US government will be holding meetings with key industry players to hammer out a more coherent policy, she said.
Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of think-tank Public Knowledge, commended Clinton for raising internet freedom to the level of foreign policy.
"Her speech this morning served to highlight the incredible benefits that come from a free, interconnected network," she said.
"At the same time, we should be aware of the benefits of an open internet and telecommunications network which must be protected domestically as well.
"While Clinton commented on the benefits of text messaging as a means of expression abroad, there are no legal protections for text messaging here."
The Chinese government announced yesterday that it will begin censoring citizens' text messages.
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