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Too many states are crushing net rights, says Foreign Sec

Hague not vague on need for uncensored web

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LCC Too many countries are interfering in their citizens’ right to internet freedom, the Foreign Secretary told the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC).

“[These states] are seeking to go beyond legitimate interference or disagree with us about what constitutes ‘legitimate’ behaviour,” William Hague said.

“Some governments block online services and content, imposing restrictive regulation, or incorporate surveillance tools into their internet infrastructure so that they can identify activists and critics. Such actions either directly restrict freedom of expression or aim to deter political debate.”

The LCC kicked off this morning with discussions on internet freedom, cybercrime legislation and international development, as the UK seeks to bring businesses and governments from around the world together to try to reach agreements on the future of cyberspace.

Hague said that the UK’s message on the internet was simple: “That behaviour that is unacceptable in the ‘real’ world is also unacceptable in cyberspace.”

“This emphatically includes the curtailing of human rights,” he said.

“Human rights are universal, and apply online as much as they do offline… Everyone has the right to free and uncensored access to the internet. States should only interfere with these rights in exceptional situations and then only if it is appropriate, effective, proportionate and in accordance with international legal obligations,” he added.

Despite recent government talks with social network outfits following the London riots, Hague seems to be firmly on the side of freedom of expression online as well.

“We saw in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that cutting off the internet, blocking Facebook, jamming Al Jazeera, intimidating journalists and imprisoning bloggers does not create stability or make grievances go away,” he said. “Journalists and bloggers must be allowed to express themselves freely and safely and within international standards.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is running the LCC and Hague will be returning to the conference about 11.30am to make a keynote speech, which will be live-tweeted from @regvulture.

A keynote speech from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been cancelled as she decided to stay in the US after her mother fell ill. Clinton was also due to visit Turkey, but will instead be staying at her 92-year-old mother’s side. ®

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