Internet Freedom

Posted by Craig Mundie 
Chief Research and Strategy Officer

Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer

This morning, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered remarks on the topic of Internet Freedom and, in particular, the role of technology in enabling “21st Century Statecraft.” Appropriately, her remarks were streamed live on the Internet, and news sites, blogs, twitter feeds, and a variety of Internet-connected applications and devices brought her thoughts to people who could not attend in person. This application of technology to meet basic human goals related to access to information, communications, civil engagement, and expanding mutual understanding, is something we think a great deal about at Microsoft. I wanted to share some of our perspective on her speech.

First, we very much welcome Secretary Clinton’s remarks and applaud the heightened attention she’s brought to the important issues of free expression and privacy. These issues are at the heart of what we do to help people and organizations use technology to reach their full potential. In particular, we agree with Secretary Clinton that both governments and the private sector have important roles to play. We also agree that the issues of Internet freedom and economic development are critical and interrelated.

The Secretary also highlighted that the United States cannot address these challenges alone, and in this light the emphasis on international cooperation is important. As I’ve said elsewhere, many Internet policy challenges require us to look at issues from a “supra-national” perspective. Just this week, my colleague Brad Smith emphasized that we need to address privacy in the cloud, in part through better international cooperation. And to help protect freedom of expression and privacy around the world, we partnered with Google, Yahoo!, leading human rights organizations, academics, and investors to form the Global Network Initiative. We agree that online freedom is a question of global concern, and that it is not culturally unique to the United States.


We also agree with Secretary Clinton that Internet freedom involves not only access to information, privacy, and the free exercise of universal rights, but bridging the “digital divide” – the objective of connecting many more of the world’s nearly 7 billion people to the information and applications available online. In many parts of the world, the technological capabilities that 21st century statecraft requires will not come from domestic companies alone.

Bringing all the capabilities of the Internet to those markets requires the engagement of US and other foreign firms. We agree that it should be part of the Internet Freedom agenda to foster domestic technology and economic development.  We also agree it is most often good policy to support engagement by foreign companies, even in countries where freedom of expression is at risk.  Unquestionably, the US government should continue to promote the benefits that fair competition and open trade policies bring to these societies.

The PC has been a central component of the Internet’s growth, and will remain important even as more people gain access through Internet-enabled phones, TVs and other devices in the future. We are working in a wide variety of ways, including Microsoft Unlimited Potential programs, to help bring access to these technologies to more and more people. We look forward to responding to Secretary Clinton’s call for innovative ideas from the private sector, and working with a broad set of stakeholders to further Internet Freedom. As Secretary Clinton said earlier this year, “there is no limit to the potential for technology to overcome obstacles to progress.”