A group of U.S. senators launched a bipartisan caucus aimed at promoting global Internet freedom, saying the Web should allow free speech and not be used by governments to crack down on dissent.
"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," said Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, the Republican co-chair of the caucus.
"Digital tyrants, beware. Your days are numbered," Brownback told a gathering at the U.S. Capitol launching the group.
Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, the other co-chair, and a Democrat, said the group formalized work of the senators on Internet issues and followed the creation of a similar caucus in the House of Representatives.
"The power to connect and access information is a fundamental right which we seek to protect, and the caucus establishes an additional vehicle for doing so," Kaufman said.
The announcement came two days after Google halted censorship in China, heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing and drawing more attention to the issue of Internet freedom.
Brownback said the Global Internet Freedom Caucus would address issues in China and elsewhere.
"Walls of oppression today are built out of networks and software as much as bricks and mortar," he said. "In China, Iran, and around the world, authoritarian governments censor information, suppress communication, and persecute free speech."
Other top senators in the caucus included Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona.
"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."
© AFP 2013