The Internet Iron Curtain

Since the printing press, no technology has had a greater capacity than the Internet for individual empowerment, economic development, and human expression.

How telling then that, while countries around the world are devoting precious resources to expanding their citizens’ access to the Internet, Russia is doing the opposite.

Just yesterday, Russia’s Parliament passed a package of new restrictions on blogging and the Internet, a potent legislative cocktail of regression and repression.

It is part of a pattern. Russian-backed militias operating in Ukraine have been detaining legitimate journalists and knocking down television towers to block the truth from getting out. While the world celebrated the Internet’s potential for positive change at NETmundial, Russia isolated itself by objecting to the principles and ideals of Internet freedom.

Not satisfied by its stranglehold on traditional media, the Russian government has lunged at digital media, one of the last bastions of independent voices in Russia. While so many will be commemorating World Press Freedom Day on Saturday, Moscow forced the founder of its largest social network, Pavel Durov, to flee after he had refused to disclose personal information about the protesters in Ukraine’s Euromaidan.


As I said on Monday when I spoke via the Internet to the Freedom Online Coalition’s Conference in Estonia, actions to squelch free expression reflect a government’s basic insecurity everywhere and anywhere it happens. Open societies understand that a free and open press, including the Internet, is vital to holding governments accountable.

As someone who spent two years of my own life as a young veteran trying to end a war, I believe in dissent and I love that in my country, we welcome dissent. But make no mistake -- as someone who has been in public life for four decades, it doesn’t mean I think every story I read is fair -- or accurate -- or balanced. I’ve got the scars to show it. But, what’s important is, I believe our values must be strong enough to withstand criticism. Together, we must remind authoritarian states everywhere that the Internet is not a tool of oppression -- it is a tool of growth, freedom and transparency.

In today’s world, there’s no sustainable way for a country to seal itself off electronically by dropping an iron curtain on the Internet. No one can hide behind a wall of 1s and 0s.

Tear down that wall -- demand a single, global, and open Internet.

Go to and follow @JohnKerry on Twitter for more from the Secretary of State.

About the Author: John Kerry serves as the 68th Secretary of State.



Mark H.
United Kingdom
April 30, 2014
I note that the State Department did not publish my comment yesterday on that absurd article on "Russia Today". Clearly you have no stomach for freedom of opinion that does not reflect your own propaganda perspective. Never mind, it was ridiculed by Ron Paul. Your censorship is easily by-passed in a world where we still have a global, open and free internet. Now let's consider Secretary Kerry pompous posturing in todays DipNote briefing. You really are getting into the "Cold War" mentality. In fact, your getting quite carried away with it. What you are still are not seeing is how others see you - and the US. Sad to say, for the State Department to put out this puerile opinion, it is clear that you do not understand social media in a globalised world - folk can see for themselves the truth. The Truth is not on your side. Now, a "single, global and open internet" - I am strongly in favour. Most folk would happily sign up to that....... everyone it seems would, except for the US Federal Government. Taking as a given that the world does want a "single, global and open internet", then why Secretary Kerry, has the USA put such a "chill" on the use of the internet? Why has the NSA been allowed to run riot? Why has "security paranoia" been allowed to trump common sense? Spying on Chancellor Merkel? Give me a break. Spying on Petrobas in Brazil? Which numpty thought that these escapades were a good idea? Now, exactly how do you justify these flagrant abuses of the internet by the US? Who is being held to account? When can we expect to see them in court? Ideally, if the US would sign the Treaty on the the International Criminal Court we could let an international tribunal judge the extent to which the US has contravened basic principles of international Human Rights Law. We are putting journalists before courts in the UK because they failed to know where the line was drawn - when are we going to put a few Government officials - or politicians - in jail? Unfortunately, America is "Exceptional" is it not, which means the rules you seek to impose on others, you believe do not apply to you. The rest of the world regards that as hypocrisy - but then, what do you care about what others think of you? Well, you should - what others think does matter. Failure to take the others into account took you into a disastrous war in Iraq - a war opposed in France and Germany, among others in Europe. Your response? You banned "French Fries" and renamed them "Freedom Fries" - hubris .... learn to take advice. You clearly are being poorly advised by the Washington neo-con "think tanks". If your actions lack legitimacy, then regardless of your military prowess, you are not a leader - no one likes a delusional bully. You a a threat to world peace. The rest of the world does not trust the US as the "guardian" of the internet - it is too important to leave to the control of a paranoid schizophrenic on steroids. That is why Germany and Brazil among others, are seeking to protect their citizens from abuse by the NSA, GCHQ and the so-called "five eyes". The Age of Empire has passed - welcome to a multi-polar world. Europe and Brazil want to put firewalls between themselves and the US. Understandably, Silicon Valley is becoming very agitated - they will be excluded from major markets because their integrity has been compromised by the US Federal Government. No one wants to put sanctions on the US Tech sector - your innovation is appreciated, and the world likes Americans --- its just the American Government that leaves people feeling uneasy. The US Government alone is responsible for the balkanisation of the internet. Only if you step back - gain a proper sense of perspective - can that balkanisation be prevented. Your choice? Has the whole Snowden revelation as to the abuse of the internet by the US not yet sunk in? He is a patriot - he is held in very high regard - for that reason he was elected as Student Rector of the University of Glasgow. He is held in very high regard for his courageous expose of abuse of the internet by the US Government - recognise that - and you may regain some of the credibility you have squandered. Secretary Kerry, do you not think this DipNote reeks of rank hypocrisy?
Alice F.
United States
May 1, 2014
I was about to express my own disgust at Secretary Kerry's hypocritical propaganda outburst, but I believe that Mark H. has said exactly what needs to be said.
Lawrence D.
United States
May 2, 2014
What do you expect from a blog that says they are expanding the liberties of internet users while our government simultaneously introduces legislation to reduce our internet liberties and monitor us more closely under the Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014. I should be able to hate as I desire without regulation and this gives them one more way to legally observe our actions. Yet they have the audacity to criticize Russia!? Despicable.
User of Russia's Social Network Site VKontakte Poses Holding an iPhone Showing the Account Page of Pavel Durov, Recently Forced To Flee Russia
Posted by John Kerry
April 30, 2014


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