Learning Gateways: Internet Freedom and the United States

Vol. 12 Spring

From blocking or closing down blogs and social networking sites, to simply shutting down Internet access, authoritarian governments have made it clear that the control of information has become even more of a central priority than in years past. The United States has issued multiple statements about the need for Internet freedom and offers proxy servers for individuals wishing to skirt government censorship, complicating the role of the nation in these international debates. These teaching ideas encourage students to think about how the United States fits into international debates about Internet censorship.

China Versus Google

Ask students to examine the cartoon and read the captions. Discuss the meaning of the cartoon with students:

  1. What do you think this cartoon suggests?
  2. Do you think the cartoonist is making a fair comparison? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think should be the relationship betwen the two characters in the cartoon?

Internet Freedom as Foreign Policy

“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks on Internet Freedom,” January 21, 2010.

Ask students to read the excerpt from the speech made by Secretary Clinton. Discuss the meaning of the excerpt with students:

  1. What do you think this excerpt suggests?
  2. Do you agree with the Secretary's statements? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think the Secretary's statements have any implications for American companies? Why companies? Why?
  4. The U.S. Secretary of State handles matters of foreign policy and diplomacy. Do you think the Internet is part of this work? How so?



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Insights on Law and Society is edited by Tiffany Middleton. She can be reached at tiffany.middleton@americanbar.org