Clinton, Internet Freedom and the Russian Response

by JenniferCobb on 03/03/2011

The response to Clinton’s Internet Freedom speech has been less than enthusiastic abroad.  Gregory Asmolov, a grad student at GW focusing on social media, recently posted a great overview at Global Voices about the reaction to the speech in the Russian blogosphere.  In sum – it was hardly happy.  The overall tone implies that the US is taking control of global internet policy, establishing the conversation on our terms.  This sense is underscored by the fact that the primary technology platforms are commercial US companies.

According to Asmolov, the two most objectionable elements for the Russians were the establishment of a $25m fund in the US State Department to seed new “Internet Freedom”  projects and the establishment of the State Department’s new Russian Twitter account.   Among the most skeptical responders, the US was accused of trying to foment revolution in Russia and co-opt all bloggers as US sympathizers.  Even the more liberal bloggers adopted a dismissive tone.  One tweeted –“Someone just called me and said that the State Department is going to pay bloggers for popularization of democracy in blogs.  Finally!!!”

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Reactions like these should be carefully watched among US policy-makers.  If the rest of the world perceives that the US is directing the conversation about Internet Freedom, much of what is said will fall on deaf ears.  Collaborative leadership is going to be the most effective way forward.  I hope we can pull that off.

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