Home People LibTech: Dan Calingaert on US Policy

Disclaimer: I have done my best to transcribe the comments of these speakers at the conference on Liberation Technology in Authoritarian Regimes, and I apologize for any errors.

Dan Calingaert, Deputy Director of Programs at Freedom House, clarifies that addressing supporting Internet freedom is merely an extension of defending human right in general. He presents five ways that organization like his own can carry this out:

  1. Support and defend international norms of cyberspace
  2. Condemn human rights abuses
  3. Support human rights defenders by acting as advocates and through material assistance
  4. Use diplomacy channels where available
  5. Prevent private companies from contributing to human rights abuses


In terms of US policy, he argues that US should try to shift international policy norms to openness on the net, not attempt to bring freedom through the Internet, which is too ambitious. He then analyzes current US policy on international Internet freedom:

  • US govt. speaks out on some digital freedom of expression cases, such as Iran, but not all.
  • Funding on Internet freedom, both effective and less effective.
  • When there are competing interest, the decision is usually made against Internet freedom.
  • The US does not criticize the closed Internet policy of its friend, like Saudi Arabia.
  • US policy is reactive, speaking out when an abuse is made, but not trying to prevent these abuses.
  • Secretary Clinton publicly urged US companies to not take part in foreign censorship and surveillance, but this is not a reasonable request, especially for smaller companies.


Here are his policy suggestions:

  • Help US companies resist cooperation in censorship that goes beyond the Global Network Initiative (GNI), such as mandating some level of transparency, such as Google’s Transparency Report initiative. Regulation would put all companies on a level playing field in what they could and could not participate in.
  • Support the open and unitary structure of the Internet by resisting efforts to create national intranets.
  • Limit Internet freedom only in a way that is narrowly defined, transparent, and subject to judicial oversight.
  • Cooperate with other democratic nations, particularly in Europe, to create and promote international norms, such as getting these nations to sign on to the GNI.

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