THE BLOG
05/07/2011 07:55 BST | Updated 04/09/2011 06:12 BST

The Essential US - UK Relationship In The Internet Age

Every day I look out from my office window across Grosvenor Square - on a corner of London that is forever America. The view - of Presidential statues, buildings with American connections, and memorials to World War II and 9/11 - is a powerful reminder of the special relationship and our shared commitment to liberty and democracy.

Every day I look out from my office window across Grosvenor Square - on a corner of London that is forever America.

The view - of Presidential statues, buildings with American connections, and memorials to World War II and 9/11 - is a powerful reminder of the special relationship and our shared commitment to liberty and democracy.

What I also see on a daily basis is the great working relationship that our two countries enjoy today. We consult and collaborate closely and frequently on matters of mutual interest.

Together we champion the rights of individuals, fight international terrorism and violent extremism, and tackle climate change and the threat of nuclear weapons. We promote peace and prosperity through development and free trade.

Less well known is how we work together to use the internet as an effective instrument of public diplomacy.

It is part of what Secretary Clinton calls 21st century statecraft - meeting old challenges in new ways.

Senior officials from Washington, the Foreign Office and No. 10 are involved in developing networks and technologies to connect with citizens from other nations at an intensity and a level never seen before.

Traditional face-to-face interactions are still important. They remain the key ingredient of our public diplomacy exchanges.

But social media means we can reach people without them ever having to leave their town or village for a formal exchange program.

The speed of the internet allows us to respond immediately to events and crises.

The technology also helps us reach a wider, more diverse audience. Twitter feeds from Embassy London are now in Arabic and Urdu, as well as English.

This power of the internet to bring together diverse communities and disparate groups is most obvious in the momentous events of the Arab Spring.

These are largely leaderless revolutions held together by social media and networking sites.

But the internet is no panacea. Authoritarian regimes, criminals, hackers, and others exploit it for harmful purposes.

As Secretary Clinton has said, the internet is neither good nor bad, liberating nor repressive - it can be a force for all those things.

One very real danger to the U.S. is a large-scale cyber attack that could threaten power, finance, security and government institutions. The same is true for the UK.

The IMF, the U.S. Senate, the Serious and Organized Crime Agency here in Britain, and Sony have all been recent targets.

Leon Panetta - former head of the CIA and now Secretary of Defense - underlined the magnitude of the threat.

He said that the next Pearl Harbor could come from a cyber attack. Our governments need to be prepared to respond.

Meanwhile, in China, Iran, Vietnam, Cuba and elsewhere the authorities censor online material, and limit the availability of the internet to help maintain control.

That is ultimately unsustainable. It suffocates trade, education and opportunity. An internet connection is now as indispensible to most people's daily lives as supplies of gas, electric and water.

So, as part of defending and promoting freedom and prosperity, we are looking at ways to help citizens get around the barriers and the shutdowns, to use the internet without being unfairly targeted by their governments.

The U.S. remains committed to open access. In our view, we believe all citizens deserve the "freedom to connect": the ability to exercise their rights to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online.

In the long term, an unrestricted internet will lead to stronger and more prosperous countries.

Our motivation is simply an extension of what the United States and the United Kingdom have always done: promoting the values reflected in the historic landscape of Grosvenor Square.