Authoritarian-minded states in Central Asia and the Caucasus are expanding efforts to restrict access to the Internet, according to a top US State Department official. In response, the United States is funding the development of new technologies to circumvent unwanted controls, sponsoring training programs for Internet activists, and launching diplomatic initiatives to build “a global coalition of governments committed to advancing Internet freedom.”
Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, described ensuring the free flow of information on the Internet as a core mission of US diplomacy, one that “derives from universal and cherished rights—the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association.” He made the comments during a July 15 hearing, titled “Internet Freedom in the OSCE Region,” held by the US Helsinki Commission in Washington, DC. The commission, an independent US government agency, monitors compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and other Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe commitments.
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Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.