U.S. outlines global cyberspace agenda

[Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson]The Obama administration has repeatedly put Internet and cyberspace policy in the center of its foreign policy agenda, and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has articulated a new set of priorities for the United States in cyberspace that includes creating a “global consensus” for Internet policy that fosters American values like innovation and freedom of expression, while at the same time enhancing security and strengthening law enforcement’s ability to combat online criminal activity. The new International Strategy for Cyberspace (PDF) outlines seven key priority points the U.S. intends to pursue with governments around the world in an effort to ensure the Internet remains a vehicle to economic, educational, and technical empowerment, rather than a tool used to repress and control.

“While the Internet offers new ways for people to exercise their political rights, it also, as we have seen very clearly in the last months, gives governments new tools for clamping down on dissent,” Clinton said in her remarks introducing the policy framework. “We seek to maximize the Internet’s tremendous capacity to accelerate human progress, while sharpening our response and our tools to deal with the threats and the problems and the disputes that are part of cyberspace.”

Broadly, the seven policy areas focus on:

  • economic development through open markets and international standards
  • improving network security and resiliency
  • enabling law enforcement through improved communication and collaboration
  • working with allies to confront online military threats and protect military assets
  • support multi-stakeholder Internet governance bodies that ensure “networks work the way they should”
  • build out and develop digital infrastructure and security in emerging countries
  • ensure online freedom of expression, association, and assembly

Although long on generalizations and short on specifics, the new U.S. Internet policy priorities will no doubt garner support among western economies and U.S. allies; however, the same points will no doubt ratchet up tensions with China, which already characterizes the U.S. stance for an “open Internet” as akin to cultural imperialism. The policy framework will also no doubt meet resistance in other nations, particularly in the Middle East, where some governments are actively suppressing Internet access and communications in an effort to stifle political unrest.

[Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson]