U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) today announced the formation of a new Senate caucus, the Global Internet Freedom Caucus.  Kaufman and Brownback were joined by caucus members Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA).  The caucus, formed to underscore the importance of Internet freedom globally, formalizes the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators who have been working together for more than a year to advocate for global freedom of expression through the Internet and other connective technology.  Other caucus members include Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mike Johanns (R-NE), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Risch (R-ID) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
 
Brownback, caucus co-chair, said, “Today I proudly join a bipartisan group of my colleagues to launch the Global Internet Freedom Caucus.  Walls of oppression today are built out of networks and software as much as bricks and mortar.  In China, Iran, and around the world, authoritarian governments censor information, suppress communication, and persecute free speech.  Just as we stand against physical brutality of oppressive regimes, so too we must stand against this new digital tyranny that violates human rights and threatens all free nations.”
 
“The Internet has presented infinite opportunities for communication throughout the world,” said Kaufman, caucus co-chair.  “The free exchange of ideas in a globalized world is essential to economic and political progress….The Caucus will provide bipartisan leadership within the Congress supporting robust engagement by the public and private sectors to secure digital freedoms throughout the world.”
 
 “Cyberspace is a critical battlefield in the global struggle for human freedom. The United States has both a strategic interest and a moral imperative to ensure that the Internet works to empower people everywhere to secure their inalienable human rights—rather than allow the dictators who hope to use new technologies to achieve greater control and stifle dissent,” said Lieberman.
 
“Our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the founding of our Republic,” said Casey.  “This caucus will help us to build on the Senate’s strong record of defending universal human rights and provide additional support to the Obama administration’s efforts to promote the rights of all people to use technology to exercise the freedoms of expression, press, speech and assembly.”
 
“The fundamental freedom of all people to speak, associate, and develop their full potential is inextricably linked to the freedom of the Internet and all communications online,” said McCain.  “But governments that deny the basic rights of their people are now building new and better means to expand their oppression into cyberspace.  This caucus will help the United States to further our goal of keeping the Internet free, everywhere and for all people.”
 
“I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of Senators in launching the Global Internet Freedom Caucus. Like the printing press, radio, and television before it, the Internet is a powerful tool for informing the public, spreading democracy, and protecting civic freedom. Historically, an informed and engaged public has been an effective guard against government overreach and abuse, whether at home or abroad.  I am proud to stand with Senators from both sides of the aisle in promoting this worthwhile goal,” said Johanns.
 
“It is imperative we support technologies that promote free speech and thought around the world,” said Risch.  “In too many cases, the Internet is the only means for those in difficult situations to be heard.  This bipartisan caucus will work to ensure those communication lines remain open to allow the free exchange of ideas.”
 
“The Internet has revolutionized our exposure to new ideas, information, and cultures around the world.  I look forward to working with my friends on the Global Internet Freedom Caucus to ensure that all people can use the Internet to freely obtain and share information across geographic and cultural boundaries,” said Barrasso.
 
"The U.S. has a long history of working to help people who suffer under iron fists in closed societies around the world.  From support for underground publications, trade unions, and human rights organizations in Eastern Europe to supporting women’s empowerment in the Middle East, the United States has long made efforts to reach people who are marginalized by illegitimate authorities.  We stand behind trying to promote basic freedoms, basic communication, and the basic tenants of democracy.  Only in the most repressive societies are such activities seen as a crime. Impediments to communication and freedom of information have been hallmarks of closed societies around the world for centuries – ones by which we cannot abide and we must work actively to overcome,” said Menendez.
 
Last year, Sens. Kaufman, Lieberman, McCain, Casey and others authored the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act, which authorized funds for the development of technologies to help the Iranian people evade Internet restrictions.  In addition to the VOICE Act, which was signed into law in October 2009, these Senators have worked to pass numerous resolutions supporting Internet and press freedom in Iran, China, and elsewhere around the world.  Kaufman has advocated for these issues in the Foreign Relations Committee.