International officials met in The Hague for a two-day conference on internet freedom sponsored by Google and the Dutch government. Much of the focus was on how nations can better prevent their companies from exporting goods to oppressive, authoritarian regimes (you can read here for a blog with more background info on this issue). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Thursday, calling on nations and private businesses to fight the use of Western technology for tyrannical purposes.
Secretary Clinton lauded the right of all people to a free and open Internet, saying, "When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us." She added, "There isn't an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There's just the Internet."
European Commissioner Neelie Kroes also pledged the support of the European Union for activists currently living under repressive regimes who have been using social media and technology to organize. Kroes said that the EU will announce a strategy for helping them on Monday. The plan is expected to outline several tools available to cyber activists to bypass internet restrictions and to shield themselves from surveillance.
Kroes urged companies to notify their governments when they find their technology to be in use by autocratic governments, saying "If technology is used by certain repressive governments to identify innocent citizens and put their life or freedom in danger, we ought to know." She added that this is a moral issue while also being bad for business, claiming that "being known for selling despots the tools of their repression is, to say the least, bad PR."