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Clinton Says Internet Censorship Harmful to Governments


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Countries that continue to censor the Internet face long-term economic and social costs, with oppression leading to civil unrest and not security, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday.

Even though some countries, including China, are now growing economically while censoring the Internet, that growth is not sustainable, Clinton said during a speech on Internet freedom at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Clinton called on governments in China, Iran, Vietnam, Burma and elsewhere to end Internet censorship while pointing to recent attempts at censorship in Egypt and Tunisia that failed.

Countries will not be able to maintain divisions that separate economic activity on the Internet from social, religious or political activity, Clinton said. Some countries have tried to get the economic benefits of the Internet while blocking other activity, she said.

"Walls that divide the Internet, that block political content, or ban broad categories of expression, or allow certain forms of peaceful assembly but not others, or intimidate people for expressing their ideas are far easier to erect than to maintain," she said. "There isn't an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There's just the Internet."

Attempts to censor the Internet while reaping its economic benefits will lead to "moral, political and economic" costs that are not sustainable in the long run, she added. "There are opportunity costs for trying to be open for business but closed for free expression, costs to a nation's education system, its political stability, its social mobility, and its economic potential," Clinton said. "When countries curtail Internet freedom, they place limits on their economic future."

Clinton's speech Tuesday is her second major address on Internet freedom. In January 2010, she announced several new Department of State initiatives to fight Internet censorship.

The Chinese government criticized her first speech and denied that it restricted Internet freedoms.

Clinton mentioned China several times during Tuesday's speech. Some observers have noted that China's economy is growing while the country censors the Internet, she said.

But Internet restrictions will have "long-term costs that threaten one day to become a noose that restrains growth and development," she said.

Countries censoring the Internet should look at recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, Clinton added. In Tunisia, the Internet provided an economic tie to Europe, while censorship was "on par with China and Iran," she said.

"The effort to divide the economic Internet from the everything-else Internet could not be sustained," she said. "People -- especially young people -- found ways to use connection technologies to organize and share grievances, which as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change."

Businesses should be wary of operating in countries with heavy Internet censorship regimes, Clinton said.

"If you invest in countries with aggressive censorship and surveillance policies, your website could be shut down without warning, your servers hacked by the government, your designs stolen, or your staff threatened with arrest or expulsion for failing to comply with a politically motivated order," she said. "The risks to your bottom line and to your integrity will, at some point, outweigh the potential rewards, especially if there are market opportunities elsewhere."

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This is a very good point.. Egypt being a great example... and China's growth is for other reasons.. when you examine the GNP for China in the way of Exports and take a look at how much manufacturing plays a role and why.. BUT at the same time you have much of Asia going against some severe rules.. once again.. for that manufacturing.. Apple suppliers being one small example... and 1-800-FLOWERS and there problem in how they treat their workers and the problems caused by those work conditions... So endpoint being it may not even be forthright.. because of the points being left behind... and ignored while the people themselves and children come under forced living standards which should not be tolerated.. all in all which could be solved if these countries would be more open to doing well as a planet.. and not as single corporate entities or countries with something to hide and protect themselves against. - huge sense of mistrust.. These decision are hard to make to positively effect these situations.. but they must be undertaken... I mean we either find another way..or we find another way.. The lives involved themselves are the most horrible thing.. and the global economy as a whole as well pushing humanity backwards 50 years in progress to try to pull it together...but it will never end unless something is changed.. Broad scope I know and reaches far beyond the immediate subject but it is very much so a part of the bigger picture..

China alone is not to be singled-out either.. many other situations exist like this.. in many places where it should not exist

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