Consumer advocates say that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's sweeping call Thursday for global Internet freedom lends support to their calls for new domestic laws about matters like text messaging, net neutrality and privacy.
In her broad remarks, Clinton criticized repressive regimes for censorship of all types of new media, including text messages. "Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship," she said.
Clinton also broadly touted the Internet's role in enabling free speech. "The internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that's why we believe it's critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms. Freedom of expression is first among them," she said.
She also spoke of the "freedom to connect" -- calling it a "final freedom" that was inherent in Franklin Roosevelt's famous "four freedoms" speech of 1941. "It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate," Clinton said of the freedom to connect. "Once you're on the internet, you don't need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society."
The neutrality advocacy group Open Internet Coalition seized on those remarks to support the need for net neutrality laws in the U.S. that would require Internet service providers to let consumers access all lawful content.
"We must also protect the rights of individual free expression on the Internet at home as well as abroad because neither government nor network provider should be able to interfere with this freedom," the Open Internet Coalition said after Clinton's speech. "The current effort at the FCC to enact common-sense rules to ensure the Internet remains a platform for free expression at home is critical to making sure that the freedom of choice for our own citizens is protected."
Advocacy group Public Knowledge added that Clinton's remarks about texting highlighted the need for laws banning censorship of SMS. "While Secretary Clinton commented on the benefits of text messaging as a means of expression abroad, there are no legal protections for text messaging here," Public Knowledge president and co-founder Gigi Sohn said in a statement.
She then urged the FCC to act on the petition filed by Public Knowledge and other groups in late 2007 seeking to have the commission prohibit wireless carriers from blocking text messages based on content. That request was largely sparked by Verizon's brief refusal earlier that year to issue a short code to the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America.