Monday, February 21, 2011

Clinton reiterates call for global commitment to Internet freedom

Monday 21st February, 2011

Clinton reiterates call for global commitment to Internet freedom
Hillary Clinton Monday 21st February, 2011

A few minutes after midnight on January 28th, the Internet went dark
across Egypt.

During the previous four days, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had
marched to demand a new government. And the world, on TVs, laptops, cell
phones, and smart phones, had followed every single step. Pictures and
videos from Egypt flooded the Web. On Facebook and Twitter, journalists
posted on-the-spot reports. Protestors coordinated their next moves. And
citizens of all stripes shared their hopes and fears about this pivotal
moment in the history of their country.

Millions worldwide answered in real time, "You are not alone and we are
with you." Then the government pulled the plug. Cell phone services were
cut off, TV satellite signals were jammed, and Internet access was
blocked for nearly the entire population. The government did not want
the people to communicate with each other and it did not want the press
to communicate with the public. It certainly did not want the world to

The events in Egypt recalled another protest movement 18 months earlier
in Iran, when thousands marched after disputed elections. Their
protestors also used Web sites to organize. A video taken by a cell
phone showed a young woman named Neda killed by a member of the
paramilitary forces, and within hours, that video was being watched by
people everywhere.

The Iranian authorities used technology as well. The Revolutionary Guard
stalked members of the Green Movement by tracking their online profiles.
And like Egypt, for a time, the government shut down the Internet and
mobile networks altogether. After the authorities raided homes, attacked
university dorms, made mass arrests, tortured and fired shots into
crowds, the protests ended.

In Egypt, however, the story ended differently. The protests continued
despite the Internet shutdown. People organized marches through flyers
and word of mouth and used dial-up modems and fax machines to
communicate with the world. After five days, the government relented and
Egypt came back online. The authorities then sought to use the Internet
to control the protests by ordering mobile companies to send out
pro-government text messages, and by arresting bloggers and those who
organized the protests online. But 18 days after the protests began, the
government failed and the president resigned.

What happened in Egypt and what happened in Iran, which this week is
once again using violence against protestors seeking basic freedoms, was
about a great deal more than the Internet. In each case, people
protested because of deep frustrations with the political and economic
conditions of their lives. They stood and marched and chanted and the
authorities tracked and blocked and arrested them. The Internet did not
do any of those things; people did. In both of these countries, the ways
that citizens and the authorities used the Internet reflected the power
of connection technologies on the one hand as an accelerant of
political, social, and economic change, and on the other hand as a means
to stifle or extinguish that change.

There is a debate currently underway in some circles about whether the
Internet is a force for liberation or repression. But I think that
debate is largely beside the point. Egypt isn't inspiring people because
they communicated using Twitter. It is inspiring because people came
together and persisted in demanding a better future. Iran isn't awful
because the authorities used Facebook to shadow and capture members of
the opposition. Iran is awful because it is a government that routinely
violates the rights of its people.

So it is our values that cause these actions to inspire or outrage us,
our sense of human dignity, the rights that flow from it, and the
principles that ground it. And it is these values that ought to drive us
to think about the road ahead. Two billion people are now online, nearly
a third of humankind. We hail from every corner of the world, live under
every form of government, and subscribe to every system of beliefs. And
increasingly, we are turning to the Internet to conduct important
aspects of our lives.

The Internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the
world's town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub.
We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us
and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an Internet
that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to
have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us,
what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be
encouraged or discouraged and how.

The goal is not to tell people how to use the Internet any more than we
ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it's Tahrir
Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the
variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to
selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces
provide an open platform, and so does the Internet. It does not serve
any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the
world are going come together every day online and have a safe and
productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.

One year ago, I offered a starting point for that vision by calling for
a global commitment to Internet freedom, to protect human rights online
as we do offline. The rights of individuals to express their views
freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs –
these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public
square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate
also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come
together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.

Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online
comprise what I've called the freedom to connect. The United States
supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other
nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to
exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people
who have access to the Internet. And because the Internet must work
evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the
multi-stakeholder system that governs the Internet today, which has
consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions
across networks, borders, and regions.

In the year since my speech, people worldwide have continued to use the
Internet to solve shared problems and expose public corruption, from the
people in Russia who tracked wildfires online and organized a volunteer
firefighting squad, to the children in Syria who used Facebook to reveal
abuse by their teachers, to the Internet campaign in China that helps
parents find their missing children.

At the same time, the Internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of
ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search
requests to error pages. In Burma (Myanmar), independent news sites have
been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the
government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing
their citizens to access the global Internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who
criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the
authorities block opposition and media Web sites, target social media,
and steal identifying information about their own people in order to
hunt them down.

These actions reflect a landscape that is complex and combustible, and
sure to become more so in the coming years as billions of more people
connect to the Internet. The choices we make today will determine what
the Internet looks like in the future. Businesses have to choose whether
and how to enter markets where Internet freedom is limited. People have
to choose how to act online, what information to share and with whom,
which ideas to voice and how to voice them. Governments have to choose
to live up to their commitments to protect free expression, assembly,
and association.

For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of Internet
freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize
that an open Internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules
to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And Internet freedom raises
tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed
the costs.

And today, I'd like to discuss several of the challenges we must
confront as we seek to protect and defend a free and open Internet. Now,
I'm the first to say that neither I nor the United States Government has
all the answers. We're not sure we have all the questions. But we are
committed to asking the questions, to helping lead a conversation, and
to defending not just universal principles but the interests of our
people and our partners.

The first challenge is achieving both liberty and security. Liberty and
security are often presented as equal and opposite; the more you have of
one, the less you have of the other. In fact, I believe they make it
each other possible. Without security, liberty is fragile. Without
liberty, security is oppressive. The challenge is finding the proper
measure: enough security to enable our freedoms, but not so much or so
little as to endanger them.

Finding this proper measure for the Internet is critical because the
qualities that make the Internet a force for unprecedented progress –
its openness, its leveling effect, its reach and speed – also enable
wrongdoing on an unprecedented scale. Terrorists and extremist groups
use the Internet to recruit members, and plot and carry out attacks.
Human traffickers use the Internet to find and lure new victims into
modern-day slavery. Child pornographers use the Internet to exploit
children. Hackers break into financial institutions, cell phone
networks, and personal email accounts.

So we need successful strategies for combating these threats and more
without constricting the openness that is the Internet's greatest
attribute. The United States is aggressively tracking and deterring
criminals and terrorists online. We are investing in our nation's
cyber-security, both to prevent cyber-incidents and to lessen their
impact. We are cooperating with other countries to fight transnational
crime in cyber-space. The United States Government invests in helping
other nations build their own law enforcement capacity. We have also
ratified the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, which sets out the steps
countries must take to ensure that the Internet is not misused by
criminals and terrorists while still protecting the liberties of our own

In our vigorous effort to prevent attacks or apprehend criminals, we
retain a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United
States is determined to stop terrorism and criminal activity online and
offline, and in both spheres we are committed to pursuing these goals in
accordance with our laws and values.

Now, others have taken a different approach. Security is often invoked
as a justification for harsh crackdowns on freedom. Now, this tactic is
not new to the digital age, but it has new resonance as the Internet has
given governments new capacities for tracking and punishing human rights
advocates and political dissidents. Governments that arrest bloggers,
pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their
access to the Internet may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they
may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path.
Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the
full expression of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever.

The second challenge is protecting both transparency and
confidentiality. The Internet's strong culture of transparency derives
from its power to make information of all kinds available instantly. But
in addition to being a public space, the Internet is also a channel for
private communications. And for that to continue, there must be
protection for confidential communication online. Think of all the ways
in which people and organizations rely on confidential communications to
do their jobs. Businesses hold confidential conversations when they're
developing new products to stay ahead of their competitors. Journalists
keep the details of some sources confidential to protect them from
exposure or retribution. And governments also rely on confidential
communication online as well as offline. The existence of connection
technologies may make it harder to maintain confidentiality, but it does
not alter the need for it.

Now, I know that government confidentiality has been a topic of debate
during the past few months because of WikiLeaks, but it's been a false
debate in many ways. Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an
act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they
had been smuggled out in a briefcase. Some have suggested that this
theft was justified because The United States could neither provide for
our citizens' security nor promote the cause of human rights and
democracy around the world if we had to make public every step of our
efforts. Confidential communication gives our government the opportunity
to do work that could not be done otherwise.

Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose nuclear
material. By keeping the details confidential, we make it less likely
that terrorists or criminals will find the nuclear material and steal it
for their own purposes. Or consider the content of the documents that
WikiLeaks made public. Without commenting on the authenticity of any
particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables released by
WikiLeaks relate to human rights work carried on around the world. Our
diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists, and citizens
to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments. It is dangerous
work. By publishing diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even
greater risk.

For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in
the Internet age when dangerous information can be sent around the world
with the click of a keystroke. But of course, governments also have a
duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and
that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious
about when we close off our work to the public, and we must review our
standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United
States, we have laws designed to ensure that the government makes its
work open to the people, and the Obama Administration has also launched
an unprecedented initiative to put government data online, to encourage
citizen participation, and to generally increase the openness of government.

The U.S. Government's ability to protect America, to secure the
liberties of our people, and to support the rights and freedoms of
others around the world depends on maintaining a balance between what's
public and what should and must remain out of the public domain. The
scale should and will always be tipped in favor of openness, but tipping
the scale over completely serves no one's interests. Let me be clear. I
said that the WikiLeaks incident began with a theft, just as if it had
been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase. The fact that
WikiLeaks used the Internet is not the reason we criticized its actions.
WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom.

And one final word on this matter: There were reports in the days
following these leaks that the United States Government intervened to
coerce private companies to deny service to WikiLeaks. That is not the
case. Now, some politicians and pundits publicly called for companies to
disassociate from WikiLeaks, while others criticized them for doing so.
Public officials are part of our country's public debates, but there is
a line between expressing views and coercing conduct. Business decisions
that private companies may have taken to enforce their own values or
policies regarding WikiLeaks were not at the direction of the Obama

A third challenge is protecting free expression while fostering
tolerance and civility. I don't need to you that the Internet is home to
every kind of speech – false, offensive, incendiary, innovative,
truthful, and beautiful.

The multitude of opinions and ideas that crowd the Internet is both a
result of its openness and a reflection of our human diversity. Online,
everyone has a voice. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
protects the freedom of expression for all. But what we say has
consequences. Hateful or defamatory words can inflame hostilities,
deepen divisions, and provoke violence. On the Internet, this power is
heightened. Intolerant speech is often amplified and impossible to
retract. Of course, the Internet also provides a unique space for people
to bridge their differences and build trust and understanding.

Some take the view that, to encourage tolerance, some hateful ideas must
be silenced by governments. We believe that efforts to curb the content
of speech rarely succeed and often become an excuse to violate freedom
of expression. Instead, as it has historically been proven time and time
again, the better answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can
and should speak out against intolerance and hatred. By exposing ideas
to debate, those with merit tend to be strengthened, while weak and
false ideas tend to fade away; perhaps not instantly, but eventually.

Now, this approach does not immediately discredit every hateful idea or
convince every bigot to reverse his thinking. But we have determined as
a society that it is far more effective than any other alternative
approach. Deleting writing, blocking content, arresting speakers – these
actions suppress words, but they do not touch the underlying ideas. They
simply drive people with those ideas to the fringes, where their
convictions can deepen, unchallenged.

Last summer, Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and
Combat Anti-Semitism, made a trip to Dachau and Auschwitz with a
delegation of American imams and Muslim leaders. Many of them had
previously denied the Holocaust, and none of them had ever denounced
Holocaust denial. But by visiting the concentration camps, they
displayed a willingness to consider a different view. And the trip had a
real impact. They prayed together, and they signed messages of peace,
and many of those messages in the visitors books were written in Arabic.
At the end of the trip, they read a statement that they wrote and signed
together condemning without reservation Holocaust denial and all other
forms of anti-Semitism.

The marketplace of ideas worked. Now, these leaders had not been
arrested for their previous stance or ordered to remain silent. Their
mosques were not shut down. The state did not compel them with force.
Others appealed to them with facts. And their speech was dealt with
through the speech of others.

The United States does restrict certain kinds of speech in accordance
with the rule of law and our international obligations. We have rules
about libel and slander, defamation, and speech that incites imminent
violence. But we enforce these rules transparently, and citizens have
the right to appeal how they are applied. And we don't restrict speech
even if the majority of people find it offensive. History, after all, is
full of examples of ideas that were banned for reasons that we now see
as wrong. People were punished for denying the divine right of kings, or
suggesting that people should be treated equally regardless of race,
gender, or religion. These restrictions might have reflected the
dominant view at the time, and variations on these restrictions are
still in force in places around the world.

But when it comes to online speech, the United States has chosen not to
depart from our time-tested principles. We urge our people to speak with
civility, to recognize the power and reach that their words can have
online. We've seen in our own country tragic examples of how online
bullying can have terrible consequences. Those of us in government
should lead by example, in the tone we set and the ideas we champion.
But leadership also means empowering people to make their own choices,
rather than intervening and taking those choices away. We protect free
speech with the force of law, and we appeal to the force of reason to
win out over hate.

Now, these three large principles are not always easy to advance at
once. They raise tensions, and they pose challenges. But we do not have
to choose among them. Liberty and security, transparency and
confidentiality, freedom of expression and tolerance – these all make up
the foundation of a free, open, and secure society as well as a free,
open, and secure Internet where universal human rights are respected,
and which provides a space for greater progress and prosperity over the
long run.

Now, some countries are trying a different approach, abridging rights
online and working to erect permanent walls between different activities
– economic exchanges, political discussions, religious expressions, and
social interactions. They want to keep what they like and suppress what
they don't. But this is no easy task. Search engines connect businesses
to new customers, and they also attract users because they deliver and
organize news and information. Social networking sites aren't only
places where friends share photos; they also share political views and
build support for social causes or reach out to professional contacts to
collaborate on new business opportunities.

Walls that divide the Internet, that block political content, or ban
broad categories of expression, or allow certain forms of peaceful
assembly but prohibit others, or intimidate people from expressing their
ideas are far easier to erect than to maintain. Not just because people
using human ingenuity find ways around them and through them but because
there isn't an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political
Internet; there's just the Internet. And maintaining barriers that
attempt to change this reality entails a variety of costs – moral,
political, and economic. Countries may be able to absorb these costs for
a time, but we believe they are unsustainable in the long run. There are
opportunity costs for trying to be open for business but closed for free
expression – costs to a nation's education system, its political
stability, its social mobility, and its economic potential.

When countries curtail Internet freedom, they place limits on their
economic future. Their young people don't have full access to the
conversations and debates happening in the world or exposure to the kind
of free inquiry that spurs people to question old ways of doing and
invent new ones. And barring criticism of officials makes governments
more susceptible to corruption, which create economic distortions with
long-term effects. Freedom of thought and the level playing field made
possible by the rule of law are part of what fuels innovation economies.

So it's not surprising that the European-American Business Council, a
group of more than seventy companies, made a strong public support
statement earlier this month for Internet freedom. If you invest in
countries with aggressive censorship and surveillance policies, your Web
site could be shut down without warning, your servers hacked by the
government, your designs stolen, or your staff threatened with arrest or
expulsion for failing to comply with a politically motivated order. The
risks to your bottom line and to your integrity will at some point
outweigh the potential rewards, especially if there are market
opportunities elsewhere.

Now, some have pointed to a few countries, particularly China, that
appears to stand out as an exception, a place where Internet censorship
is high and economic growth is strong. Clearly, many businesses are
willing to endure restrictive Internet policies to gain access to those
markets, and in the short term, even perhaps in the medium term, those
governments may succeed in maintaining a segmented Internet. But those
restrictions will have long-term costs that threaten one day to become a
noose that restrains growth and development.

There are political costs as well. Consider Tunisia, where online
economic activity was an important part of the country's ties with
Europe while online censorship was on par with China and Iran, the
effort to divide the economic Internet from the "everything else"
Internet in Tunisia could not be sustained. People, especially young
people, found ways to use connection technologies to organize and share
grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to
revolutionary change. In Syria, too, the government is trying to
negotiate a non-negotiable contradiction. Just last week, it lifted a
ban on Facebook and YouTube for the first time in three years, and
yesterday they convicted a teenage girl of espionage and sentenced her
to five years in prison for the political opinions she expressed on her

This, too, is unsustainable. The demand for access to platforms of
expression cannot be satisfied when using them lands you in prison. We
believe that governments who have erected barriers to Internet freedom,
whether they're technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on
those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online, will
eventually find themselves boxed in. They will face a dictator's dilemma
and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the
price to keep them standing, which means both doubling down on a losing
hand by resorting to greater oppression and enduring the escalating
opportunity cost of missing out on the ideas that have been blocked and
people who have been disappeared.

I urge countries everywhere instead to join us in the bet we have made,
a bet that an open Internet will lead to stronger, more prosperous
countries. At its core, it's an extension of the bet that the United
States has been making for more than 200 years, that open societies give
rise to the most lasting progress, that the rule of law is the firmest
foundation for justice and peace, and that innovation thrives where
ideas of all kinds are aired and explored. This is not a bet on
computers or mobile phones. It's a bet on people. We're confident that
together with those partners in government and people around the world
who are making the same bet by hewing to universal rights that underpin
open societies, we'll preserve the Internet as an open space for all.
And that will pay long-term gains for our shared progress and
prosperity. The United States will continue to promote an Internet where
people's rights are protected and that it is open to innovation,
interoperable all over the world, secure enough to hold people's trust,
and reliable enough to support their work.

In the past year, we have welcomed the emergence of a global coalition
of countries, businesses, civil society groups, and digital activists
seeking to advance these goals. We have found strong partners in several
governments worldwide, and we've been encouraged by the work of the
Global Network Initiative, which brings together companies, academics,
and NGOs to work together to solve the challenges we are facing, like
how to handle government requests for censorship or how to decide
whether to sell technologies that could be used to violate rights or how
to handle privacy issues in the context of cloud computing. We need
strong corporate partners that have made principled, meaningful
commitments to Internet freedom as we work together to advance this
common cause.

We realize that in order to be meaningful, online freedoms must carry
over into real-world activism. That's why we are working through our
Civil Society 2.0 initiative to connect NGOs and advocates with
technology and training that will magnify their impact. We are also
committed to continuing our conversation with people everywhere around
the world. Eailier in February, you may have heard, we launched Twitter
feeds in Arabic and Farsi, adding to the ones we already have in French
and Spanish. We'll start similar ones in Chinese, Russian, and Hindi.
This is enabling us to have real-time, two-way conversations with people
wherever there is a connection that governments do not block.

Our commitment to Internet freedom is a commitment to the rights of
people, and we are matching that with our actions. Monitoring and
responding to threats to internet freedom has become part of the daily
work of our diplomats and development experts. They are working to
advance Internet freedom on the ground at our embassies and missions
around the world. The United States continues to help people in
oppressive Internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead
of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison
them for what they say online.

While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various
ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know
some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single
technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle
against Internet repression. There's no app for that. And accordingly,
we are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach, one that matches
our diplomacy with technology, secure distribution networks for tools,
and direct support for those on the front lines.

In the last three years, we have awarded more than $20 million in
competitive grants through an open process, including interagency
evaluation by technical and policy experts to support a burgeoning group
of technologists and activists working at the cutting edge of the fight
against Internet repression. This year, we will award more than $25
million in additional funding. We are taking a venture capital-style
approach, supporting a portfolio of technologies, tools, and training,
and adapting as more users shift to mobile devices. We have our ear to
the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and
our diversified approach means we're able to adapt the range of threats
that they face. We support multiple tools, so if repressive governments
figure out how to target one, others are available. And we invest in the
cutting edge because we know that repressive governments are constantly
innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them.

Likewise, we are leading the push to strengthen cyber security and
online innovation, building capacity in developing countries,
championing open and interoperable standards and enhancing international
cooperation to respond to cyber threats. Deputy Secretary of Defense
Lynn gave a speech on this issue just yesterday. All these efforts build
on a decade of work to sustain an Internet that is open, secure, and
reliable. And in the coming year, the Administration will complete an
international strategy for cyberspace, charting the course to continue
this work into the future.

This is a foreign policy priority for us, one that will only increase in
importance in the coming years. That's why I've created the Office of
the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, to enhance our work on cyber security
and other issues and facilitate cooperation across the State Department
and with other government agencies. I've named Christopher Painter,
formerly senior director for cyber security at the National Security
Council and a leader in the field for 20 years, to head this new office.

The dramatic increase in Internet users during the past 10 years has
been remarkable to witness. But that was just the opening act. In the
next 20 years, nearly five billion people will join the network. It is
those users who will decide the future.

So we are playing for the long game. Unlike much of what happens online,
progress on this front will be measured in years, not seconds. The
course we chart today will determine whether those who follow us will
get the chance to experience the freedom, security, and prosperity of an
open Internet.

As we look ahead, let us remember that Internet freedom isn't about any
one particular activity online. It's about ensuring that the Internet
remains a space where activities of all kinds can take place, from
grand, ground-breaking, historic campaigns to the small, ordinary acts
that people engage in every day.

We want to keep the Internet open for the protestor using social media
to organize a march in Egypt; the college student emailing her family
photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose
corruption; the teenager in the United States who is bullied and finds
words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using
mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading
academic journals for her dissertation; the scientist in Brazil sharing
data in real time with colleagues overseas; and the billions and
billions of interactions with the Internet every single day as people
communicate with loved ones, follow the news, do their jobs, and
participate in the debates shaping their world.

Internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things
occur so that it remains not just for the students of today, but their
successors and all who come after them. This is one of the grand
challenges of our time. We are engaged in a vigorous effort against
those who we have always stood against, who wish to stifle and repress,
to come forward with their version of reality and to accept none other.
We enlist your help on behalf of this struggle. It's a struggle for
human rights, it's a struggle for human freedom, and it's a struggle for
human dignity.

(Hillary Clinton is U.S. Secretary of States. She was speaking at George
Washington University, in Washington, DC).

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