Did The State Department's Support Of 'Internet Freedom' Put A Target On Silicon Valley Companies Around The World?

from the unintended-consequences... dept

Hillary Clinton’s famous speech on internet freedom a year ago has received plenty of scrutiny lately, mainly because of the contradictions between that speech and the State Department’s more recent reactions to the Wikileaks release of State Department cables. It’s easy to be about freedom when that freedom’s not directed at you. However, Evgeny Morozov is now arguing that the speech was a lot worse than just being hypocritical, it served to make life a lot more difficult for Silicon Valley companies around the world. That’s because, before this, many countries didn’t think much of various social networking tools but as soon as the US government started championing them, the inevitable conclusion was that these companies were specific tools of the US government designed to infiltrate foreign countries:

By aligning themselves with Internet companies and organizations, Clinton’s digital diplomats have convinced their enemies abroad that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism.

< ...>

Today, foreign governments see the writing on the virtual wall. Democratic and authoritarian states alike are now seeking “information sovereignty” from American companies, especially those perceived as being in bed with the U.S. government. Internet search, social networking, and even email are increasingly seen as strategic industries that need to be protected from foreign control. Russia is toying with spending $100 million to build a domestic alternative to Google. Iranian authorities are considering a similar idea after banning Gmail last February, and last summer launched their own Facebook clone called Velayatmadaran, named after followers of the velayaat, or supreme leader. Even Turkey, a U.S. ally, has plans to provide a government-run email address to every Turkish citizen to lessen the population’s dependence on U.S. providers.

It’s an interesting argument, but I’m not sure I buy it. Europe has been trying to get out from under US tech companies since long before these moves. Remember Quaero? This was the hugely funded move by a bunch of European countries to create a “competitor” to Google, so that European culture wouldn’t be controlled by a US company. Similarly, China has a long history of trying to build its own clones of US tech companies and of keeping the US versions out. It’s not clear that these efforts got any stronger after Clinton’s speech. It may be true that her speech didn’t help matters, but I haven’t seen any big shift in policy because of that speech.

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Comments on “Did The State Department's Support Of 'Internet Freedom' Put A Target On Silicon Valley Companies Around The World?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Obama trying to foster transparency in other countries.

US wants SOIs(Statements Of Interest) on ?internet freedom programs?

The US department of state?s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) have issued a Joint Request for ?Statements of Interest? (SOI) from organisations ?interested in submitting proposals for projects that support Internet freedom under the ?Governing Justly and Democratically? Foreign Assistance program objective.?

Countries may have realized the battles will be fought on the internet too for the hearts and minds of people.

MD2000 says:

Forgot to mention...

How about Blackberry and their secure email servers, which recently countries like Saudi Arabia and India have objected to?

I don’t think it’s become “bashing America” so much as the penetration of the inernet is now so great that other countries are realizing how much information is available to whoever holds the servers – not them. Datamining works great if you own the motherload. Some things we take less seriously – like banning auctions or even google indexing relating to Nazis… other countries take much more seriously.

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