Washington, DC – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech tomorrow on global Internet freedom, in which she is expected to discuss the vital role the Internet has played for the Iranian opposition movement. According to the State Department, the speech will lay out the Administration’s strategy for “protecting freedom in the networked age of the 21st Century.”
Since the disputed presidential election in June, the Iranian people have utilized Internet services like Facebook and Youtube to share news and information with each other and the outside world, filling the void of objective journalism due to the government’s media crackdown.
In the speech, Secretary Clinton is expected to discuss recent actions the US has taken to promote Internet freedom in places like Iran. Until now, US sanctions have imposed barriers on the provision of certain Internet communications services to Iran. In late 2008 and early 2009, Microsoft and Google stopped providing instant messenger programs in Iran, citing US sanctions.
NIAC has engaged with members of Congress and the Obama Administration to call for changes in US sanctions so that American companies would not be penalized for providing access and online tools to ordinary Iranians. Following NIAC’s outreach, the State Department formally recommended that sanctions be waived to allow for the export of software that enables Iranians to communicate and share information online.
NIAC has called on the Obama Administration to codify the State Department’s recommendation by issuing a General License for the export to Iran of software and Internet services that aid Iranians’ online communication and access to information, including anti-censorship and anti-surveillance software. NIAC has also called on Congress to make the sanctions changes permanent by passing H.R. 4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act.
Secretary Clinton is expected to discuss recent developments in Iran and China tomorrow, in addition to looking at what role the United States might play in fostering the Internet as a tool for greater access to information for citizens living under repressive regimes.