U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticized China, Iran and other countries for restricting the freedom of people to express their ideas on the Internet.
Clinton said in Washington Thursday that freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can protest against their governments in a town square without fear of retribution. She said instant messaging, blogs and e-mail have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship.
Clinton said countries or individuals who engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. She specifically criticized Internet censorship in China, Iran, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Vietnam.
The secretary of state praised Iran's "citizen journalists" - those who circulated photos and videos of opposition protests that did not appear on state-controlled media. Referring to cell phone footage circulated worldwide of a young Iranian woman's death during a protest last year, Clinton said this was a "digital indictment" of the Tehran government's brutality.
On China, Clinton said the U.S. wants to encourage and support openness there by "candidly and consistently" addressing important issues on which the two countries disagree.
Clinton's well-publicized speech Thursday follows the recent dispute between China and U.S.-based Internet giant Google, which recently said it may end its operations in China due to censorship concerns. Google has reported that some of the e-mail accounts it hosts in China, including those used by Chinese human-rights activists, have been penetrated by cyber attackers. Human-rights activists in China have reported that Chinese authorities possess private information about them that could only have come from their "hacked" e-mail files.
Beijing says it does not condone cyber attacks, but that foreign companies must comply with local laws.