May 17, 2011, 10:20 AM — Yesterday the U.S. launched a "new national strategy on cyberspace" that boils down to a bland set of aphorisms and platitudes about openness, freedom and the rule of law imposed in ways likely to eliminate openness and freedom, which is OK as long as it's the U.S. doing it instead of big, bad China.
As articulated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the policy codifies the principles on which the Obama administration has been acting in pushing a vision of the Internet as a communications mechanism that encourages political reform and discussion like the kind that led to overthrown governments and civil war during the "Arab Spring."
The U.S. position calls for rules that make the Internet open, so as to foster economic development and self expression, but also protected by the rule of law so evil-doers such as WikiLeaks can't publish things that embarrass the U.S. or that are as aggressively anti-administration as any of the protests the governments of Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran tried to quash partly by restricting public use of the Internet.
The Obama position is opposite that of China, which also likes using the rule of law as a good reason to stop online activity it dislikes, but takes a more overt, top-down authoritarian approach.
China also uses the open Internet to attack other countries, according to reports – including nearly constant attacks on U.S. civil engineering facilities and military networks that have gone on for nearly a decade.
Clinton also called for international cooperation to fight cyberwar attacks from foreign powers as well as commercially-inspired attacks from organized criminal groups. Today the U.S. called on NATO allies to help fight back against the attacks.
"History has shown us that repression often sows the seeds for revolution down the road," Clinton said in a similar policy speech Feb. 15. "Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever."