An advocate for Washington's "Internet Freedom" agenda has second thoughts.
- By FP Staff
Evgeny Morozov and I disagree fairly frequently about issues relating to the effect of the Internet on public life. Whatever disagreements we may have about the potential for democratization, however, I must reluctantly agree with the conclusion of his latest article: that the United States has not merely done a poor job of establishing digital freedoms elsewhere in the world, but may in fact have damaged that cause ("Freedom.gov," January/February 2011).
This is a painful realignment for me, as I was an early participant in and supporter of the State Department’s "Internet Freedom" agenda. That agenda’s success has always depended on two conditions: America’s willingness both to be evenhanded in its rhetoric directed at other countries and to insist on tolerant treatment of public speech by the commercial firms that provide the backbone of public speech online — Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. As Morozov notes, in the year since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inaugurated the agenda, the United States has underperformed on both counts.
Washington undermined its claims to leadership when it allowed commercial firms like Amazon and PayPal to cut off payments to WikiLeaks with less due process than is required to get a firm on the terrorist watch list. The United States was likewise hypocritical when it responded to the recent persecution of Tunisian Internet activists with relative silence, after having so vocally objected to the suppression of free speech in Iran over the past year.
The U.S. "Internet Freedom" agenda was always meant to be a long effort. A year is much too short a time frame to offer a definitive verdict on it. But unless the United States exhibits the same restraint it expects of other countries and objects equally loudly to the censorious behavior of its allies as it does its enemies, it’s hard to see how its support of Internet freedom can succeed.
New York University
New York, N.Y.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements.| Marc Lynch |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |