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US Promotes Internet Freedom By Licensing Exports To Three Countries
March 9, 2010
By: Randi Zung
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On March 7, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration will now permit the export of internet services to the countries of Cuba, Iran, and Sudan.  According to an unnamed senior administration official, the United States Treasury Department will soon be issuing a statement that outlines “the export of free personal Internet services and software” to the three countries.  The Obama administration hopes that providing increased access to internet services will offer an outlet for promoting freedom of speech and expression in societies that are plagued by state-sponsored media censorship.  The anonymous senior official, specifically addressing Iran, stated: “The more people have access to a range of Internet technology and services, the harder it’s going to be for the Iranian government to clamp down on their speech and free expression.” 

The official added that the focus on internet freedom is part of the US’s overall strategy to force the Iranian government to change their current practices.  In Iran’s June 2009 election, activists used Twitter to report on-the-ground conditions, drawing in worldwide support.  In January 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for worldwide Internet freedom, citing that it had become a major component of US foreign policy.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that despite the US’ new internet export policy, the governments of Cuba, Iran, and Sudan will continue to exercise varying degrees of control over the Internet.  The US internet sanction does not influence the three countries’ internal laws.  In addition, Robert Boorstin, head of Google's communications division, stated that Google has made several investments towards promoting global Internet usage, including: partially funding a underwater cable to East Africa, developing cellular telephone technology, and developing a satellite network that will boost Internet connectivity in developing countries.

Individuals in the aforementioned three nations will now potentially be able to use services like blogging, instant messaging, picture messaging, and will be able to access social media networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  The new internet sanctions went into effect on March 8.

Sources:

New York Times - U.S. Hopes Exports Will Help Open Closed Societies

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty - Google Welcomes U.S. Easing Of Internet Export Rules For Iran, Others

AFP - US to allow web service exports to strict nations

Also see:

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on Internet Freedom

 

 

 

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