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Coons: Cybersecurity, IP enforcement don't need to undermine web freedom

Robert Craig/AP file photo

Internet freedom and issues like cybersecurity and copyright enforcement are “complementary, not contradictory,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on Thursday.

The idea of Internet freedom as a human right has gained support in recent years, but debates over an open Internet in the United States have revolved around attempts to secure cyberspace and crack down on online piracy.

Those issues don’t have to be mutually exclusive, Coons told an audience at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Center for a New American Security.

“U.S. global advocacy on this issue is complicated somewhat by the false perception that Internet freedom it is at odds with domestic cyber security measures and the protection of American intellectual property,” Coons, a member of the Senate Global Internet Freedom Caucus, said in remarks prepared for the event.

Rebecca MacKinnon of the New America Foundation argued that the conflict between freedom and security is an age-old problem that won’t be solved through new technology.

“There always a tension between the need for security and the need for freedom,” she said at the event. “You’re not going to resolve this problem, ever.” The key, she said, is to continuously work to find the right balance between the two.

While security and other fears make many countries around the world hesitant to allow full Internet freedom, the U.S. needs to point out the benefits that come from an open Internet, said Michael Posner, assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

“We need to make the case that it is in the national interest of states to have a free and open internet,” he said.

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