Jun 30, 2015
This report examines the portfolio of tools funded by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor that help support Internet freedom and assesses the impact of these tools in promoting U.S. interests (such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the free flow of information) without enabling criminal activity.
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The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), as part of its broader effort to protect and advance political and economic freedoms and human rights, champions the United States' strategy for cyberspace to advocate for fundamental freedoms of speech and association through cyberspace; empower civil society actors, human rights activists, and journalists in their use of digital media; and encourage governments to limit neither the freedom of expression nor the free flow of information.
To this end, DRL funds the development of many cyber security and privacy software programs. However, there are trade-offs associated with any such investment. On one hand, security and privacy tools can provide safe, reliable, and anonymous Internet access to people who would otherwise be censored, filtered, or punished for communicating electronically. On the other hand, these tools could also be used to conceal or commit illegal activity. This report examines the portfolio of tools funded by DRL that help support Internet freedom and assesses the impact of these tools in promoting U.S. interests.
First, we note the benefits of these tools in promoting DRL's mission of Internet freedom across the world. Second, we examine their potential for, and examples of, their illicit use. Third, we consider the ability of comparable tools, not funded by the DRL, to be used for such purposes. And fourth, we examine safeguards and design and service models that could limit or restrict the use of the technologies for illicit purposes.
The report concludes that DRL's support for Internet freedom tools has not made them more likely to be used for illicit purposes, relative to alternative technologies not funded by DRL.
Why Internet Freedom Tools?
Internet Freedom Tools Are Countermeasures to the Efforts of Repressive Countries
How Could DRL Funding Affect Criminal and Netizen Behaviors?
Do Netizens and Criminals Seek the Same Things from Internet Freedom Tools?
Analysis of DRL Internet Freedom Projects
Additional Mitigating Safeguards