May 23, 2011

Internet Freedom: A Foreign Policy Imperative in the Digital Age

By Richard Fontaine and Will Rogers

From Egypt to Tunisia to Iran, the world has borne witness to the power of the Internet and new digital tools used to communicate across borders, organize protests, topple some dictators and possibly strengthen others – actions that all affect U.S. foreign policy. This report examines Internet freedom through the lens of American foreign policy and explores two central questions: What does access to an open Internet mean for U.S. foreign policy, and what should the United States do about it?

In this report, authors Richard Fontaine and Will Rogers argue that America needs a comprehensive Internet freedom strategy, one that tilts the balance in favor of those who would use the Internet to advance tolerance and free expression, and away from those who would employ it for repression or violence. This requires incorporating Internet freedom as a key element of American foreign policy.

This report examines the complex role new communications technologies play in political change abroad, and how those technologies intersect with the array of American foreign policy objectives. The authors propose a comprehensive set of principles and policy recommendations that should comprise a robust Internet freedom strategy, one that balances competing foreign policy, economic and national security priorities and that leverages the tremendous potential of the private sector.


  • Richard Fontaine

    Chief Executive Officer

    Richard Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). He served as President of CNAS from 2012-19 and as Senior Advisor and Senior ...

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