New Delhi: The internet is diminished when "ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices", US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.
Clinton`s remark comes just days after Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said the Indian government will not allow social networking sites to host "objectionable" content and will take steps to screen and remove these. Sibal said this Tuesday, a day after representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft during a meeting with him declined to remove offensive content.
Speaking at a freedom online conference in The Hague, Clinton said: "...when ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us."
She added that over two billion people are now connected to the internet, but in the next 20 years, that number will more than double, a press communique from the US embassy here said.
"And we are quickly approaching the day when more than a billion people are using the internet in repressive countries," she said.
Clinton said that as people increasingly turn to the internet to conduct important aspects of their lives, "we have to make sure that human rights are as respected online as offline".
"After all, the right to express one`s views, practice one`s faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change - these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room."
She stressed this was all the more necessary for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another.
She cited the examples of Syrian blogger Anas Maarawi who was arrested July 1 after demanding that President Asad leave and Russian blogger Alexei Navalny, who was sentenced Tuesday to 15 days in jail after he took part in protests over the Russian elections.
Talking about China, Clinton said that several dozen companies signed a pledge in October committing to strengthen their "self-management, self-restraint, and strict self-discipline".
"Now, if they were talking about fiscal responsibility, we might all agree. But they were talking about offering web-based services to the Chinese people, which is code for getting in line with the government`s tight control over the internet," she added.