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EU to outline Internet freedom strategy

world Updated: Dec 09, 2011 22:03 IST

Reuters
Highlight Story

The European Union will outline a strategy on Monday to support activists living under repressive governments who are using technology to organise, mobilise and exercise their rights, European Commissioner Neelie Kroes said on Friday.



Echoing remarks made on Thursday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Internet restrictions in Russia, Syria and China, Kroes said the Arab Spring had been a wake-up call about the relationship between technology and human rights.


The use of social networking websites during this year's popular uprisings in the Arab world helped bring down authoritarian governments in Egypt and Tunisia and prompted counter attacks by governments against the Internet.

In Russia, prominent anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny was jailed this week for 15 days after taking part in anti-government protests over ballot-stuffing and other irregularities in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Kroes, responsible for the EU's digital policy, told a Dutch conference on Internet freedom she had been inspired by meetings with activists fighting for democracy in their countries.

"I am committed to doing whatever I can to support their cause," Kroes said. "On Monday we will be announcing further details about how we can take this forward."

Kroes also urged technology companies to be transparent about equipment they were selling to governments who might use it to repress their citizens.

"If technology is used by certain repressive governments to identify innocent citizens and put their life or freedom in danger, we ought to know," she said.

"I think it is high time for the industry to decide where they stand, and what they are going to do. If not as a moral issue, then as an issue of corporate reputation. Being known for selling despots the tools of their repression is, to say the least, bad PR."