Hillary Clinton champions Internet freedom, but cautions on WikiLeaks
In a policy address, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls Internet freedom of expression a vital agent of change. But security is still important, she adds, calling WikiLeaks documents 'stolen.'
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Leadership role for US
The speed at which the Internet is evolving, says Mr. Austin, providing new opportunities and challenges, means that “the questions we need to be asking are as important as the answers.” With the Internet governing body based in California, he adds, the US by default is in a global leadership role, making it all the more important to define the territory moving forward.Skip to next paragraph
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Not that any single entity can encompass such a wide-ranging and powerful communication tool, he says, because of its decentralized structure.
The 50-minute speech was also an opportunity for the US to weigh in on a event that has been a thorn in the discussion over freedom of speech since it began, namely the WikiLeaks document release, says Depauw University communications professor Kevin Howley. [Editor's note: original version of this story misspelled Kevin Howley's name.]
He noted the “surprisingly small” amount of mainstream attention given to the fact that WikiLeaks was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize two weeks ago.
Clinton called the leaked documents “stolen,” as surely as if they had been snatched from a top-secret safe and spirited out in a briefcase, carefully separating them from the issue of freedom of speech.
“This Clinton analysis is important in that it gives us insight to how the government will approach such leaks going forward,” adds DePauw University media expert Jeffrey McCall.
However, downplaying the connection between the WikiLeaks documents and the issue of free speech is clearly obscuring their true impact, says Moez Limayem, associate dean for research and graduate programs at University of Arkansas.
Documents fueled change
A Tunisian, he was in that country when the unrest began. The leaked documents provided key fuel for the pro-democracy movement, he says.
“People everywhere were talking about two things that were clear from the documents,” he says. First, they provided clear evidence of massive corruption in the country’s leadership. “It called them a mafia,” he says.
The diplomatic cables also revealed to the Tunisians that the US was not behind their government, “so they thought perhaps it would not be so hard after all to get rid of them with protests.”
A political movement takes two things, he says, “hunger and anger.” The WikiLeaks documents provided the fuel for both, he adds, hunger for change and anger at the abuses of power.