UK prime minister David Cameron and William Hague, the UK’s foreign secretary, have spoken out against government web censorship in countries like China and Russia, warning that the internet must remain free and open.
According to ITPro, David Cameron spoke about web freedoms at the London Conference on Cyberspace, saying, “Governments mustn’t use cyber security as an excuse for censorship… Government doesn’t own the internet, Government does not shape the internet.”
Hague also pontificated on the dangers of ‘the heavy hand’ of state censorship, arguing that ‘stifling’ internet access will only lead to a ‘fragmented and ghettoised’ web.
Hague told delegates, “The internet must remain open and not become fragmented and ghettoised, subject to separate rules and processes in different regions set by isolated national services; with state-imposed barriers to trade, commerce and the free flow of information and ideas.”
“I believe we must aspire to a future for cyberspace which is not stifled by government control or censorship, but where innovation and competition flourish and investment and enterprise are rewarded,” he said.
“Nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of State control on the internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation.”
As well as freedom to access the web, Hague also spoke of the importance of other human rights online.
“It is my passionate conviction that all human rights should carry full force online: not just the right to privacy, but the right to freedom of expression.
“Human rights are universal. Cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human rights, nor can the exploitation of digital networks by criminals or terrorists be a justification for states to censor their citizens.”
Naming no names…
Although he was careful to avoid name-checking any specific countries, it seems likely that China and a number of Arab states were on Hague’s mind as he spoke.
Certain websites and news outlets, including Google, have been blocked and, in some cases, internet access has been completely cut off by respective governments.
William Hague isn’t the only one who thinks that internet access is a human rights issue; creator of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, agrees.