CI responds to Clinton's speech on Internet freedom
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Washington today about the Obama administration's commitment to promoting online rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and access to knowledge - and, as a necessary precondition, access to the Internet itself. In her speech she said:
On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
These are ideals that have the strong and active support both of Consumers International, particularly through our global programme on Access to Knowledge (A2K), and also of our members around the world through their grassroots activities. (For example, just last week CI announced the six successful recipients of funds from our A2K project for conducting national advocacy and campaigning work, which will include measures to reduce the price of textbooks, to broaden the use of open educational resources, and to campaign for copyright reform.)
However, governments and the consumer movement are not always in accord on access to knowledge. Whilst the United States has recently shown leadership at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) for the rights of the blind, at the same time it is jointly leading negotiations for an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that includes excessively harsh IP enforcement measures. In fact, just next week, several of our members will be participating in events protesting against the exclusion of consumer voices and public oversight from the negotiation of this agreement.
Similarly, governments alone cannot be relied upon to secure their citizens' other rights and freedoms online, as highlighted by Google's recent discovery of a concerted programme of hacking attacks against democracy activists, apparently emanating from the Chinese regime. Can consumers, then, rely on the private sector such as Google to protect its online interests? No again. Google itself has been criticised for some of its privacy practices, and there are many other online businesses that show far less regard for consumers' interests than Google usually does.
It is the global consumer movement, together with other civil society activists, who supply the missing link. We play a unique and essential role, in partnership with governments and the private sector, in securing an open and accessible, but also safe, online environment for consumers. This is an endeavour that has received a boost today with Secretary Clinton's announcement, which Consumers International welcomes and supports.
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