May 17, 2011 / 12:50 AM / 8 years ago

U.S. lays out priorities for future of cyberspace

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States launched a new initiative Monday designed to stamp the Internet with U.S. values such as freedom of expression, saying cyberspace must remain open, secure and reliable.

Customers use computers at an internet cafe in Sao Paulo March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a host of other senior government officials unveiled a new national strategy on cyberspace that seeks to enshrine open international standards for the Internet while protecting network security and strengthening law enforcement.

“There is no one-size-fits-all, straightforward route to this goal. We have to build a global consensus about a shared vision for cyberspace,” Clinton said.

The new strategy codifies the Obama administration’s aggressive attempts to define the future of the Internet in the face of competing models such as that promoted by China, which practices greater control.

Clinton, who has repeatedly underscored the centrality of Internet freedom to U.S. foreign policy, said the goal was an open global system that both fosters innovation and economic growth while strengthening security and free expression.

“While the Internet offers new ways for people to exercise their political rights, it also, as we have seen very clearly in the last months, gives governments new tools for clamping down on dissent,” Clinton said.

The U.S. approach has put it on a collision course not only with Beijing but also with authoritarian governments elsewhere — particularly in the Middle East, where some governments have sought to use Internet controls to block expressions of political unrest sweeping the region.

The United States funds programs to both develop new technologies and train activists to evade government controls. But activists accuse the U.S. government of hypocrisy for insisting the Internet must also have “rule of law” — a signal that unauthorized information breaches such as the WikiLeaks dump of classified State Department cables will not be tolerated.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to China, said he intended to keep pressing “to advance these goals and the broader set of cyberspace issues with our Chinese counterparts.”

The new U.S. strategy contains few specifics but outlines priorities which include building Internet capacity, improving Internet governance and promoting military cooperation on cyberspace issues to protect networks from attack.

The U.S. military’s new Cyber Command became fully operational last year and is working to prevent break-in attempts by more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations seeking to hack into some of the 15,000 U.S. military computer networks, U.S. officials say.

The Obama administration is also pressing Congress to pass strong cybersecurity measures to protect consumers’ personal information and safeguard the U.S. financial system and electric power grid from potentially devastating attacks.

Several cybersecurity bills have limped along in Congress over the past year despite high-profile hacker attacks on Nasdaq OMX Group and Sony Corp. Some companies resist what they say is regulatory overreach by the government.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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