Tag Archives: internet

Free Press = Free Society

Information is power. Few people can make a living, hold their governments accountable, and educate their children without a healthy supply of free- flowing information. Citizens need accurate, timely, independent news they can trust. So do businesses and markets. And so do governments. Media freedom keeps societies and economies vibrant, energetic, and healthy. When the free flow of news and information is cut off, individuals suffer. Societies suffer. Economies suffer.

But even as we observe World Press Freedom Day this year, threats against journalists are rising. As of last December, the Committee to Protect Journalists counted 179 reporters in jail around the world. And journalists continue to be threatened, attacked, disappeared, or murdered for trying to report the news.

In the past year, the world witnessed both the promise of, and the peril to, a free press. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and pundits chronicled the protests sweeping across the region, while some citizens armed with nothing but cell phones risked their lives to upload the truth – by text, tweet, and pixel. In doing so, they were exercising a fundamental freedom enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Yet too many governments attempt to censor the media, directly or indirectly. Too many investigative journalists are being silenced, many for exposing corruption – at local, state, or national government levels. Too many attacks and murders of journalists go unpunished.  In some cases, it is not just governments attacking, intimidating, and threatening journalists. It’s also criminals – drug cartels – terrorists or political factions. When journalists are threatened, attacked, jailed, or disappeared, other journalists self-censor. They stop reporting stories. They tone down stories. They omit details. Sources stop helping them. Their editors hesitate to print stories. Fear replaces truth. All of our societies suffer.

Like Estonia, the United States looks to all governments to take the steps necessary to create the same space we Americans and Estonians have enshrined in our societies for independent journalists to do their work without fear of violence or persecution. We pay special tribute to those courageous journalists, bloggers, and citizens who have sacrificed their lives, health, or freedom so that others could know the truth. And we honor the role of free and independent media in creating sustainable democracies and open, healthy societies.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information

Internet Freedom AND Intellectual Property Rights

The positive power of the internet has changed the paradigm of international diplomacy, of global governance, and indeed the human condition.  Secretary of State Clinton articulated most clearly last year that the United States, “On the spectrum of internet freedom, [places itself] on the side of openness.”

Over the course of the last several weeks, interested parties in America and around the world have reacted strongly for or against efforts in the U.S. to maintain internet freedom while attempting to find a way to protect the vested property rights that creators, artists, and engineers have in their product.  At issue were two proposed pieces of legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (“PIPA.”) Amongst all the complexity of this issue is a rather clear goal we Americans share with our democratic partners and friends around the world:  Full, unfettered and free access to the internet by the global citizenry AND the protection of the intellectual wealth of our innovators and creative minds from on-line theft.  

As we seek to address both of these interests, it should come as no surprise that our efforts of protecting intellectual property online cause legitimate attention to the scope of any regulation of the internet.  Of course neither our government nor the American people wish unintentionally to provide a pretext to those who wish to suppress democratic rights under the guise of “legal protections.”  Once completed, U.S. legislation that would protect the rights of American intellectual property and internet freedom would likewise serve to protect such rights and values the world over.  Again, Secretary of State Clinton has confirmed that “there is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement and ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet.”

The White House meanwhile has set U.S. Administration policy regarding intellectual property legislation, stating that while piracy is a serious problem on the internet, the President will not support any proposed legislation that would reduce freedom of expression or otherwise detract from the Internet’s potential.  Both the President and our Congress have called for legislation that is narrowly-tailored with a focus on criminal activity.  Such tailoring should address U.S. and international concerns about internet freedom and its liberating role for people seeking free expression and democratic rule from one corner of the world to the other.

Two important engines of America’s economy, represented by places like Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and their international counterparts, should work together and help tailor workable laws in all our countries that will protect property rights, freedom of speech, and internet assembly.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, diplomacy, freedom of information, good governance, Intellectual Property

Building Excellent Cyber Security

Tomorrow,  November 17, the flags of the United States and Poland will be raised  during a formal ceremony at the NATO Cyber Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.  Our Estonian allies established the Center in 2004.  It’s mission is to “enhance the capability, cooperation, and information sharing  among NATO, NATO nations, and partners in cyber defense.”  The U.S. has had staff at the Center since 2007  and we are very active at home, in the Alliance, and internationally on cyber security.  Now we are finally saying count us in officially as full members!  

President Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace declares that we will seek to ensure as many stakeholders as possible are included in our vision of cyberspace.  That vision calls for an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure that supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation.  That is why we are joining the NATO Cyber Center in Tallinn.

I was introduced to Estonia’s NATO Cyber Center shortly after my arrival in Tallinn as U.S. Ambassador in 2009 and I have ever since admired the Center’s work, including it’s impressive annual conferences on cyber conflict.  Estonia’s standing as a cyber-savvy nation is firmly established internationally and the NATO Cyber Center contributes to that reputation.  The cyber world is a rapidly evolving environment and threats to our cyber -based infrastructure, both public and private, as multiplying with equal of not greater speed.  With our new membership in the Tallinn Center we look forward to working with all the current and also future members, in fact with all NATO member countries, to increase cyber awareness and to create the secure cyber environment outlined in the U.S. cyberspace strategy.  We expect to join our Estonian allies in leading the Center and to enhancing the public profile of the Center’s work and the collaboration between private sector and Alliance efforts.

When the Polish and U.S. flags are raised on November 17,  look also for the curtain to rise on the next chapter of an important collective asset of the NATO Alliance.

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Filed under Peace and Security, Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

There is an App for That! U.S. iEmbassy Tallinn, Estonia

I know what you’ll say.  “Where have you been?  Smart phones and tablet computers were hardly invented just yesterday! And havn’t you been using an iPhone and an iPad for years?”  You are right and you are right again.  But for my Embassy as a diplomatic platform for America today is a new day:  Our entire staff will receive new iPhones today as a uniform technology platform and a new tool in our diplomatic arsenal.  In addition, we are employing tablet computers — iPads to be exact — to use for Embassy tasks that until now required lots of paper and heavy briefcases.  In Estonia, our diplomats on duty to assist American citizens and Estonians in need of our consular services will now carry all the information they need in a single iPad that connects them directly to the Embassy, to Washington, and to the world.  Also, as part of our outreach to our Estonian hosts, by the end of this year we will roll out the U.S. Embassy Tallinn Mobile American Corner — an iPad-based ultralight mobile mini-Embassy if you wish — that our diplomats will be able to set up in minutes virtually anywhere in the country to bring America to the Estonian people.  And no surprise, it is an Estonian software company that is helping us design the application to run our new system!

But back to our iPhones.  In a few minutes from writing this short blog, I will be meeting with my American and Estonian team to encourage them to let their imaginations run wild (legally that is)  as we come up with new ways to deploy this tool in the service of the American people.  I am determined not to sound like the government official that I am during this meeting, but rather as the closest I can get to a garage brainstormer in the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates tradition.  I won’t be able to hide that I am already 57 years old, but I will also not highlight it.  In my vision and in my mind I feel  like I a twenty-something, terribly excited about the possibilities of new information technology in the service  of diplomacy — a centuries old information profession.

So I am off now to rouse my diplomatic troops, but I am first taking off my tie.

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Filed under American Values, good governance

It’s Internet Freedom, Stupid!

Read a piece in the New York Times of June 12, 2011, entitled: U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors.   Great story.  Great reading.  The ultimate point of the article is freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom to participate in the 21st century communications revolution – the internet and all other forms of wireless communications technology.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made the vigorous defense of internet freedom a central element of U.S. foreign policy.  This policy has nothing to do with a fascination with modern communications technology (although it is cool!)  The policy is based on the simple realization that values first embraced by the young United States more than 200 years ago have found a new medium of electronic transmission.  It bridges distances, borders, cultural differences, political repression and violence, and virtually all other obstacles, to lend a voice to freedom, a voice to people in many parts of the world who have been silenced for too long.  “Let freedom ring!” has become “Let freedom byte!”  That is of course why repressive regimes everywhere do what they can to control or even shut down internet access to anyone who opposes them.  And that is why those of us who live in freedom must do the opposite by insisting on preserving unfettered internet access to all.  The June 12 NYT article notes that is exactly what a group of smart geeks is up to. 

So here is another great way for smart Americans and smart Estonians to work together in support of shared values!  Soon after arriving in Estonia more than a year and a half ago, I invited this country’s IT community to work on internet freedom hard and software.  Let me reissue this invitation.  Please read the NYT article Estonia and lend your considerable IT prowess to liberation technology.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information, good governance, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

Serious About Cyber Defense

I understand there is a bit of concern among some in Estonia regarding the country’s past, current and future performance in cyber defense.  There has also been some implication that Estonia may not have been nearly as prepared as it should have been when the 2007 large scale denial of service attack ocurred.  Some may even argue that Estonia talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk of cyber protection.  I disagree.  This country has done exceedingly well in dealing with a rather new threat that is now on many countries’ strategic planning agenda — after Estonia.  In 2007  Estonians not only overcame a unique challenge on their own, but they also learned a great deal and went about planning for future cyber security.  And with the establishment of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and the creation of Estonia’s Cyber Defense League, our allies in Tallinn have done much more than just help themselves.  The U.S. will join the NATO Center this year to share even more in the common effort of  a growing number of Alliance countries to build the NATO cyber defense strategy agreed at the Lisbon NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting last November.  In addition, the strong relationship between Estonia’s National Guard and our Maryland National Guard is yielding solid bilateral results, among them the appreciation of the public-private sector community of purpose in protecting civilian as well as governmental infrastructure from cyber attack.  Now, do we all have more to learn and more actions to take?  Of course.  As information technology and its applications in our daily lives advance and change at lightening speed, so does the capacity of criminal actors to disrupt our societies using these tools.  But when it comes to hands-on cyber defense, both Estonia and the United States remain committed and capable of maintaining leadership roles.

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Filed under good governance, Peace and Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations, Uncategorized

Intellectual Property Belongs To Someone!

April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day.  May 7 I pick up my new Apple IPad on a trip back to the U.S.  Although I am technologically challenged when it comes to understanding computers, I depend on them and love to use them, both for business, information, and entertainment.  I am excited about the IPad and its possibilities — fast and easy web access, e-book reading, movies and music on the go, even simple word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software!  And the iPad is just such a cool bit of industrial design! 

But it would be little more than a pile of aluminum, glass, and plastic without the intellectual property employed to design it, produce it, and give it the content that makes it come alive.  If we want future iPads and other tablets, notebooks, netbooks, desktops, 3-D films and televisions and the “Avitar,” music files, mobile phone applications, and other software of all kinds to flourish and ease and enrich our lives, we MUST protect the rights and yes, income, of the creative minds from which these innovations stem.   Downloading intellectual property from the net or buying illegal copies of DVDs or CDs is not different than stealing a car or shoplifting in a department store — and in the end even more damaging.

Good citizens respect their neighbor’s car, home, and a department store’s shelves.  Good citizens respect what flashes on the screen of an iPad.

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Filed under economy, Intellectual Property