The US state department is providing funds to the tune of $30m for developing technologies which help guarantee freedom of expression online, according to the Guardian. China’s heavily fortified (at least in some respects) cyberspace, along with that of states such as Iran and Burma, is expected to be a specific focus, as the US increasingly recognises the importance of who controls the online sphere.
Michael Posner, the US assistant secretary of state for human rights, said projects being funded by the US government included technology that acts as a “slingshot” – identifying censored material and throwing it back on to the web for users to find.
“We’re responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game. We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the cat,” Posner said. Censored information would be redirected to email, blogs and other online sources, he said. He would not identify the recipients of funding for “reasons of security”.
The comments are part of an overall US strategy to raise the importance of cyberspace in foreign affairs. The Pentagon is preparing to unveil an “international strategy for cyberspace” that will make online security an official domain of warfare like land, sea and air.
In a recent interview with the Atlantic magazine, Clinton said China had a deplorable human rights record and was involved in a “fool’s errand” trying to hold off democratic changes like those sweeping the Middle East.
In her speech in February, the US secretary of state called the internet “the public space of the 21st century” and hailed the way it had been used to support uprisings in Egypt and protests in Iran. She pledged US support for freedom of expression and association online. “For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness,” she said.