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New Global Internet Freedom Task Force

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC February 14, 2006

Secretary of State Establishes New Global Internet Freedom Task Force

The Internet is a potent force for freedom around the world, but challenges to its independence by repressive regimes threaten its transformational power. In order to ensure a robust U.S. foreign policy response to these challenges, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice established the Global Internet Freedom Task Force (GIFT) on February 14, 2006. In addressing challenges to Internet freedom, this internal task force will draw on the Department of State's multidisciplinary expertise in international communications policy, human rights, democratization, business advocacy, corporate social responsibility, and relevant countries and regions. The task force will report to the Secretary through Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Josette Shiner and Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky.

President Bush has stated: "Historians ... will point to the role of technology in frustrating censorship and central control and marvel at the power of instant communications to spread the truth, the news, and courage across borders." Nearly six decades ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Governments reaffirmed these rights in 2003 and 2005 at the UN's World Summit on the Information Society.

The task force will consider foreign policy aspects of Internet freedom, including:

* The use of technology to restrict access to political content and the impact of such censorship efforts on U.S. companies;
* The use of technology to track and repress dissidents; and
* Efforts to modify Internet governance structures in order to restrict the free flow of information.

Consistent with existing interagency and advisory institutions and processes, the task force will focus the State Department's coordination with other agencies, U.S. Internet companies, non-governmental organizations, academic researchers, and other stakeholders. The work of the task force will support State's participation in existing interagency processes run by the National Security Council and National Economic Council. State Department offices participating in the task force include the Bureaus of Economic and Business Affairs; Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; International Organizations; International Information Programs; relevant regional Bureaus; and the Secretary's Policy Planning Staff.



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