The State Department announced plans Tuesday to step up a campaign to combat efforts by foreign governments to restrict use of the Internet.
At a news conference, Josette Shiner, a top State Department trade expert, called the Internet "the greatest purveyor of news and information in history" but said too often the flow is blocked by government censors.
Shiner announced the formation of a task force that will consider, among other issues, the foreign policy aspects of Internet freedom, including the use of technology to restrict access to political content.
She said it is a top U.S. government priority "to do all we can to ensure maximum access to information over the Internet."
The United States, she said, has "very serious concerns" about the protection of privacy and data throughout the Internet globally, and in particular, some of the recent cases raised in China.
Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky said a U.S. team was en route to China on Monday to discuss the issue with Chinese authorities.
Separately, another official characterized China's use of U.S. Internet companies to abuse its citizens' rights "chilling and outrageous." He mentioned Yahoo! Inc., which has been accused of helping Chinese police identify and convict a journalist who criticized human rights abuses in China.
U.S. lawmakers have criticized China's use of U.S. Internet companies to abuse its citizens' rights. Yahoo! Inc. has been accused of helping Chinese police identify and convict a journalist who criticized human rights abuses in China.