UK Warns Countries Over Internet Freedom At Cyberspace Conference

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LONDON – British foreign secretary William Hague issued a warning on Tuesday to countries that try to restrict internet freedom as he opened a global conference designed to set up cyberspace “rules of the road”.

Government officials, technology firms, NGOs, bloggers and security experts

from more than 60 countries are at the two-day talks in London, although the main speaker, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, pulled out at the last minute.

In his opening speech to delegates including those from Russia and China, Hague said the social and economic benefits of the internet were immense and warned that any states that sought to block online activity would lose out.

“We must aspire to a future for cyberspace which is not stifled by government control or censorship, but where innovation and competition flourish and investment and enterprise are rewarded,” the foreign secretary said.

Hague warned that human rights, particularly the right to privacy and freedom of expression, “should carry full force online”.

“We reject the view that government suppression of the internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable,” he said.