I was privileged to be among a couple hundred students and press who attended Hillary Clinton’s on campus speech today about Internet Freedom. After the happenings in Egypt, the new protests in Iran, Yemin and elsewhere, and the whole Wikileaks broohaha, she came forward with a clear, firm policy position on keeping the Internet free. Regardless of what one thinks of Hillary, it was very exciting to be in the room. She is totally in command of her space, polished, poised and on point. A heckler was tackled by police a few feet away from her, yet she never even glanced. In the wake of the Tuscon shootings, I was impressed [although security at today’s venue was tight!].
She referenced 3 key Internet challenges – 1) Achieving libery and security; 2)protecting transparency and confidentiality; and 3) protecting free expression while fostering civility. All of these are obviously timely and are big issues associated with the Internet that are only going to increase. Her point, of course, was that the U.S. was trying to balance all of these. With regard to Wikileaks, she flat out called it a theft akin to smuggling confidential documents in a briefcase. It was interesting to see her directly address this issue, which caused the State Dept so much embarrassment and trouble. She contended, and in my opinion rightly, that governments need to keep some secrets for good reason – security, safety of those working in risky positions, etc. She also offered that a better answer to ‘offensive’ speech online was more speech – but of the nature to express what’s right, rather than ignoring or brushing what’s wrong under the rug.
Of the many points she made, the speech was obviously a timely policy statement on how the Administration is regarding and approaching Internet Freedom in this incredibly tumultuous time. The fact that such a speech was made by so prominent a person was indicative of the importance of the issue. The State Dept has an enhanced public diplomacy campaign of tweeting in Arabic, with Chinese, Farsi and other languages spoken in internet-repressed areas being added soon. Fascinating stuff.