General

AngelList Launches 2011 Yearbook: 500 Startups, 2,500 Investors & 12,500 Introductions

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

Screen shot 2012-01-29 at 11.10.11 PM

AngelList was founded back in 2010 as a community for startups — part social network, part communication tool — designed to connect first-time entrepreneurs with respected angel investors. At the time, veteran venture capitalist and angel investor Mark Suster said that it was one of the most important contributions by the Web to angel investing “to come along in awhile.” He elaborated in a TechCrunch post in February. Many agreed, and some disagreed.

Regardless, AngelList got hot in 2011, and Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi’s startup community was oft-talked about as a service with potential to transform dealflow and give young entrepreneurs access to hard-to-reach investors — with value proposition being evident on both ends, for founder and investor. In the latter half of the year, they partnered with Seedcamp, which combines an early-stage seed investment fund with a world-class mentoring program for European entrepreneurs, and opened up their data set to access by developers with the launch of its API.

The introductions were many last year, and to get the year started off right, AngelList is giving users a chance to review all the craziness that 2011 had to offer, as it this weekend soft-launched its “2011 Yearbook”. The Yearbook offers the public an opportunity to get a more detailed look at AngelList’s activity over the course of last year, with CrunchBase data to boot.

The top line numbers show that it was indeed an active year for the community, as 500 startup joined with more than 10 introductions facilitated by each, 2,500 investors joined the community, resulting in a total of 12,500 introductions during 2011.

AngelList’s Yearbook allows users to drill down into the data by category (Education, Health Care, Hardware, Mobile, etc.) and by location (Silicon Valley, New York, LA, etc.), which gives one a great opportunity to parse the community’s data set in manageable chunks. The Yearbook also features an addictive “Shuffle,” which will take you to the landing page for a randomly-chosen startup. You can then view their profile from there.

From the Yearbook’s main page, if one selects a startup, you’ll be able to view the name of the company, their tagline and category, the team, and most recent news. On the right side of the page, there’s a timeline with relevant info presented chronologically, complete with funding information pulled from TechCrunch’s very own CrunchBase.

It’s a fantastic resource, which gives AngelList fanatics a great way to see year-in-review information, along with relevant funding information — who’s funding, how much they’ve invested, and when. Look out, it’s a great resource, but also a dangerous time sink.

For more, check out the Yearbook in action here.


General

AngelList Launches 2011 Yearbook: 500 Startups, 2,500 Investors & 12,500 Introductions

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

Screen shot 2012-01-29 at 11.10.11 PM

AngelList was founded back in 2010 as a community for startups — part social network, part communication tool — designed to connect first-time entrepreneurs with respected angel investors. At the time, veteran venture capitalist and angel investor Mark Suster said that it was one of the most important contributions by the Web to angel investing “to come along in awhile.” He elaborated in a TechCrunch post in February. Many agreed, and some disagreed.

Regardless, AngelList got hot in 2011, and Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi’s startup community was oft-talked about as a service with potential to transform dealflow and give young entrepreneurs access to hard-to-reach investors — with value proposition being evident on both ends, for founder and investor. In the latter half of the year, they partnered with Seedcamp, which combines an early-stage seed investment fund with a world-class mentoring program for European entrepreneurs, and opened up their data set to access by developers with the launch of its API.

The introductions were many last year, and to get the year started off right, AngelList is giving users a chance to review all the craziness that 2011 had to offer, as it this weekend soft-launched its “2011 Yearbook”. The Yearbook offers the public an opportunity to get a more detailed look at AngelList’s activity over the course of last year, with CrunchBase data to boot.

The top line numbers show that it was indeed an active year for the community, as 500 startup joined with more than 10 introductions facilitated by each, 2,500 investors joined the community, resulting in a total of 12,500 introductions during 2011.

AngelList’s Yearbook allows users to drill down into the data by category (Education, Health Care, Hardware, Mobile, etc.) and by location (Silicon Valley, New York, LA, etc.), which gives one a great opportunity to parse the community’s data set in manageable chunks. The Yearbook also features an addictive “Shuffle,” which will take you to the landing page for a randomly-chosen startup. You can then view their profile from there.

From the Yearbook’s main page, if one selects a startup, you’ll be able to view the name of the company, their tagline and category, the team, and most recent news. On the right side of the page, there’s a timeline with relevant info presented chronologically, complete with funding information pulled from TechCrunch’s very own CrunchBase.

It’s a fantastic resource, which gives AngelList fanatics a great way to see year-in-review information, along with relevant funding information — who’s funding, how much they’ve invested, and when. Look out, it’s a great resource, but also a dangerous time sink.

For more, check out the Yearbook in action here.


General

LivingSocial CEO: Lumping Us With Groupon Is Like Lumping eBay With Amazon

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

Tim O'Shaughnessy

The local commerce industry as represented by daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial is still barely learning to walk, even though Groupon has 10,000 employees and LivingSocial has 5,000. While the two companies look nearly identical today, don’t be surprised if they diverge.

LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy reminded me in a conversation last week that “a lot of people lumped eBay and Amazon together 10 years ago” because they both were “ecommerce” companies. And while there were plenty of similarities and direct competition, each one ended up taking a different path. He suggests the same thing will happen with local commerce between Groupon and LivingSocial. “Fundamentally, I am sure we don’t think about things exactly the same way,” he says, “so we will have different strategies.”

And just as it would have been foolish to define Amazon as nothing more than an online bookseller in the mid-1990s, thinking of LivingSocial or Groupon as only daily deal sites is too limiting. “Where do you go to search?” asks O’Shaughnessy. “The answer for most people is Google.” Where do you share things with your friends online? The answer is Facebook or Twitter. “Where do I go to interact with local merchants in my city?” he continues. There is no default answer yet.

“Daily deals can clearly be part of that equation, but they are not sufficient to answer that question. It is the start,” says O’Shaughnessy, “what allows us to build and scale a substantive member base and base of merchants. There are a host of opportunities where we can be that catalyst between our members and merchants.”

Which opportunities is he planning to go after? He wants LivingSocial to “be viewed much more as the local commerce platform.” Imagine more dashboards and tools for local merchants which help them figure out things like the lifetime value of a customer or their retention rate. ” You need automated closed-loop capabilities to do that,” he says. (Closing the redemption loop is the big challenge right now in local commerce—how do you track offers all the way through to payment?)

The offline component of the business is just as important as the online. “We are an online to offline business,” he points out. “People focus on the online portion, not the offline portion. Over the course of the year that will be an area of emphasis, real touch points. Something physical and real can be more emotive than a click.”

Photo credit: Fortune Brainstorm


General

LivingSocial CEO: Lumping Us With Groupon Is Like Lumping eBay With Amazon

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

Tim O'Shaughnessy

The local commerce industry as represented by daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial is still barely learning to walk, even though Groupon has 10,000 employees and LivingSocial has 5,000. While the two companies look nearly identical today, don’t be surprised if they diverge.

LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy reminded me in a conversation last week that “a lot of people lumped eBay and Amazon together 10 years ago” because they both were “ecommerce” companies. And while there were plenty of similarities and direct competition, each one ended up taking a different path. He suggests the same thing will happen with local commerce between Groupon and LivingSocial. “Fundamentally, I am sure we don’t think about things exactly the same way,” he says, “so we will have different strategies.”

And just as it would have been foolish to define Amazon as nothing more than an online bookseller in the mid-1990s, thinking of LivingSocial or Groupon as only daily deal sites is too limiting. “Where do you go to search?” asks O’Shaughnessy. “The answer for most people is Google.” Where do you share things with your friends online? The answer is Facebook or Twitter. “Where do I go to interact with local merchants in my city?” he continues. There is no default answer yet.

“Daily deals can clearly be part of that equation, but they are not sufficient to answer that question. It is the start,” says O’Shaughnessy, “what allows us to build and scale a substantive member base and base of merchants. There are a host of opportunities where we can be that catalyst between our members and merchants.”

Which opportunities is he planning to go after? He wants LivingSocial to “be viewed much more as the local commerce platform.” Imagine more dashboards and tools for local merchants which help them figure out things like the lifetime value of a customer or their retention rate. ” You need automated closed-loop capabilities to do that,” he says. (Closing the redemption loop is the big challenge right now in local commerce—how do you track offers all the way through to payment?)

The offline component of the business is just as important as the online. “We are an online to offline business,” he points out. “People focus on the online portion, not the offline portion. Over the course of the year that will be an area of emphasis, real touch points. Something physical and real can be more emotive than a click.”

Photo credit: Fortune Brainstorm


General

For Those Who Can’t Let Go Of The Past: The Techmeme Re-Underliner

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

HeadlinesFixed

Remember the old Techmeme of a week ago, before the new design took effect? Sure, the new design is easy on the eyes. But is it better?

Personally, I’m already used to the new look, other than the sponsored posts stuck in your face in the new middle column (push those to the right, please, where ads belong). But some people just can’t let go of the past—people like Eric Marcoullier (founder of OneTrueFan, Gnip, and MyBlogLog).

Marcoullier hates the new design so much that he created a Chrome extension to revert it back to its old look. The main feature he cannot live without is the underlined links. In the new design, the underlines are gone, making the site much cleaner with more room to breathe. But it also removes a key part of the information density which makes the site so useful, argues Marcoullier.

Techmeme’s headlines and excerpts now makes it look more like a blog or other primary news source than a link aggregator. Partly that is because the links have been de-emphasized. Marcoullier thinks it is easier to parse the different sources when they are underlined than when they are separated only by a comma and spaces that make them look too similar to the excerpted text below the main headline. You can see a before and after below.

Which one do you think is more scannable? I always found the underlines too cluttered. But seeing them here next to the new look, Marcoullier does have a point that the source names in the “More” section now tend to bleed into each other when the conversation gets too dense.


General

For Those Who Can’t Let Go Of The Past: The Techmeme Re-Underliner

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

HeadlinesFixed

Remember the old Techmeme of a week ago, before the new design took effect? Sure, the new design is easy on the eyes. But is it better?

Personally, I’m already used to the new look, other than the sponsored posts stuck in your face in the new middle column (push those to the right, please, where ads belong). But some people just can’t let go of the past—people like Eric Marcoullier (founder of OneTrueFan, Gnip, and MyBlogLog).

Marcoullier hates the new design so much that he created a Chrome extension to revert it back to its old look. The main feature he cannot live without is the underlined links. In the new design, the underlines are gone, making the site much cleaner with more room to breathe. But it also removes a key part of the information density which makes the site so useful, argues Marcoullier.

Techmeme’s headlines and excerpts now makes it look more like a blog or other primary news source than a link aggregator. Partly that is because the links have been de-emphasized. Marcoullier thinks it is easier to parse the different sources when they are underlined than when they are separated only by a comma and spaces that make them look too similar to the excerpted text below the main headline. You can see a before and after below.

Which one do you think is more scannable? I always found the underlines too cluttered. But seeing them here next to the new look, Marcoullier does have a point that the source names in the “More” section now tend to bleed into each other when the conversation gets too dense.


General

DreamHost’s Unhappy January Continues: First, A Database Breach, Now An Outage

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

dreamhost

DreamHost has been having a rough couple weeks. The low-cost hosting provider and domain name registrar found some unauthorized activity in its databases back on January 20th, which they later admitted were a series of attacks that may have led to the theft of some of their customers’ FTP passwords. The company required mandatory password resets for all their Shell/FTP accounts — you can read our coverage here.

DreamHost’s bad dream continued today, as they’ve been reporting outage problems, as Web, SSH, and FTP services were down for many of the company’s virtual private servers, shared, and dedicated machines. The outage was first reported at 4am PST on Sunday, and has continued throughout the course of the day, with the company offering updates on its blog.

In the company’s initial blog post, the team said that “the apache (web), SSH, and FTP services on a subset of our VPS and dedicated servers are currently down. FTP services on some shared servers are also experiencing downtime. Our system administration and data center operation teams are currently on the case and we are attempting to restore services as soon as possible.”

Furthermore, the post said that the outage only affected web VPS/dedicated and shared web server FTP services, while other services or servers, i.e. mail were unaffected. They also, unfortunately, did not specify which “subset” was affected in particular. Yeesh. And, judging from the parade of comments and subsequent updates, users were apparently experiencing problems with MySQL and webmail services as well. The majority of the large problems seem to have been addressed as of DreamHost’s last posting at 6:30 pm on Sunday, although there’s been no final word.

DreamHost plays host to thousands of small websites and personal blogs across the Web, and for many of them, it was a surprise to find their sites offline for most of the day. By now, most of the sites are back up, but from what these site owners have learned from DreamHost, the VPS server was damaged by new software they were installing this morning, leading to a sizable outage with ripple effects across their services. Even though the outage lasted nearly 24 hours for some, many could not even access files to move to another host.

Unsurprisingly, the outage caused a flurry of DreamHost users to flock to Twitter to express their chagrin, with some saying that it might cause others to consider moving to other services. Veteran tech journalist Dan Frommer and his SplatF were among them:

Props to @swein for his reaction. Clearly, other hosting providers may be seeing some new clients in the near future. Though as of now, it remains unclear whether the software installation this morning had anything to do with the database breach on January 20th. As far as I can tell, they were unrelated.

More here from DreamHost.

Will update should we hear any updates.


General

Sony Rolls Out A Trio Of New Cyber-Shot Point And Shoots

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

DSC-TX200_Red_Right

In the market for a new point and shoot? Didn’t think so. Why don’t you take a gander at the new Sony shooters anyway?

You’ve basically got two models worth looking at. First is the rather expensive TX200V:

It’s expensive for a reason, though. They’ve made it look as much like an iPhone as possible, flat glass on both sides. Unlike the iPhone, however, this thing is waterproof down to 5m. It’s got a 5x non-protruding zoom, for which they provide no F numbers, so it can’t be very fast — though the camera’s back-illuminated 18-megapixel sensor makes up for that a bit. It’ll shoot 1080/60p of a sort.

On the back is a 3.3″ OLED touchscreen of the “Xtra Fine™” variety, which I presume is a higher resolution than the previous 3.3″ OLED they put on a camera. Should be nice, high contrast, and decent resolution. There are no buttons on the thing except power, shutter, and a zoom rocker. Looks like a fun little camera, though for my money I’d want something with a brighter, bigger lens. This thing will set you back

Next you have the WX70 and the WX50:

They share the same internals, but are different on the outside. The WX50 has normal controls: switches and dials and all that, and a 2.7″ normal LCD. The WX70 is like the TX200V, all touchscreen on the back, and with just power, zoom, and shutter controls on the top. The screen is 640×480 and 3″, which should be nice and sharp.

The lens for both is a 5x zoom, F/2.6-6.3. Nothing special, but F/2.6 isn’t bad for a compact wide-angle. Inside they both have the same 16-megapixel back-illuminated sensor, which will shoot 1080/60i, though if it has a progressive mode (the press release doesn’t say) I’d recommend that. Anyone shooting interlaced in 2012 should have their camera confiscated. I wish somebody would tell Sony that.

The WX50 will cost around $200, and the WX70 will be $30 more. If the touchscreen works well (can’t tell until there’s a hands-on), the extra $30 will be well-spent.


So which is the best? Obviously the expensive, waterproof one, though for $500 you can get a better camera these days as far as lens and sensor are concerned. And you can get waterproof ones for under $150. Hell, I got a waterproof smartphone for $80 on Craigslist. So although it’s nice, it doesn’t strike me as a bargain.

Meanwhile, the WX70 is pretty fancy for $230, and with the BSI sensor and F/2.6 you should be able to get most shots without bumping the ISO too high. I’d go with that over the more traditional WX50 and the nice but expensive TX200V. And there you have it!


General

Turning Two: FoundersCard Pulls Back The Curtain On Its Membership Community For Entrepreneurs

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

FoundersCard

The top executives in today’s largest corporations not only travel in style, but they have access to an absurd array of perks while they travel, from awards and complimentary products to discounts on just about everything. On the IPO “road show” for his company VarsityBooks (now part of eFollet.com), serial entrepreneur Eric Kuhn remembers being “amazed” by witnessing firsthand “the rates and privileges that top executives at the underwriting investment banks received.”

After leading VarsityBooks to be twice-listed as a public company on NASDAQ (the only company I’m aware of to do so), Kuhn got out in 2006 and started FoundersCard in 2009 — determined to bring the same rewards and opportunities to entrepreneurs and founders — “the true risk-takers and value-creators,” he says.

Kuhn wanted to create a dedicated community for entrepreneurs, which would provide them with the kind of exclusive rates, elite programs, and networking opportunities that are traditionally reserved for top executives at public companies. Capitalizing on the likes of American Express’ Centurion Card, also known as “the black card,” Kuhn made FoundersCard into an invite-only membership community for entrepreneurs and founders known for its eponymous card shown above.

FoundersCard is now entering its second year in existence and today has over 5,000 members, who, for an annual fee of about $495, receive discounts and perks from hundres of business, like 10 percent off of everything at AT&T, 10 percent off Groundlink cabs, instant “Silver access” on Virgin Atlantic (and the ability to fast-track to “Gold” after buying two first class tickets), 50 percent off domains at Hover, a free account at Shoprunner, 20 percent off Indochino’s custom suits — to name a few. There are currently 96 companies that offer FoundersCard member benefits, including 44 lifestyle companies, 16 travel companies, and 36 business companies.

Any entrepreneur is welcome to apply to FoundersCard, but the company is careful to admit only those that it thinks will benefit from its offers and actually get something useful out of it in busy, high travel-rate lifestyles. FoundersCard currently accepts about 70 percent of its applicants.

FoundersCard currently has events in cities all over the world; however, their 5,000+ members are currently predominantly based in the U.S. The company has given TechCrunch an exclusive look into the breakdown of its membership base, which today includes, aggregate, 55 percent of their members are in technology, 16 percent in entertainment, 6 percent in fashion, 9 percent in finance, with the rest falling into that pesky “Other” category.

In addition, 32 percent are in the angel-backed phase of funding, 18 percent have self-funded ventures, 5 percent are part of public companies, and 32 percent are part of venture-backed startups. The average age of members is 35, 94 percent are the founder (or a C-level executive) at their companies, 67 percent are men, 33 percent are women, average net worth is $1.7 million, average company size is 17, and just for good measure, their average number of Twitter followers is 10,000.

(In terms of revenues, members’ companies break down as such: 8 percent have under $1 million, 41 percent between $1 million and $10 million, 24 percent between $10 million and $25 million, 18 percent between $25 million and $100 million, and 9 percent have over $100 million.)

Next up in 2012 for FoundersCard? Making this into an international business. This year, FoundersCard plans to begin catering to more businesses around the world, and is specifically looking to expand its hotel network (which now includes approximately 111), as it will be adding 50+ new properties (like Four Seasons, Viceroy W Hotels, Mandarin Oriental, Kimpton, and Park Hyatt) in over 20 new locations, including Anguilla, Berlin, Istanbul, Munich, Melbourne, Prague, Vienna, Zurich, and more.

On Friday, FoundersCard launched a deal with Cosmopolitan Vegas. In total, that’s approximately 111 properties around the world. And because FoundersCard monetizes based on membership fees, it doesn’t charge commission or take lead generation cuts from the discounts and deals it offers on hotels, so it has the ability to offer some great ongoing rates and upgrades (and flexible cancellation policies) that are fairly exclusive to its members.

Now, if you’re like me, some of these fancy deals won’t exactly apply to you, as I don’t find myself jetting to Dubai on business as frequently as I’d like. But, 15 percent of TaskRabbit, 20 percent of Zipcar, for example, and perks on Virgin flights and credit from GiltCity? You can see why, especially when the membership rates drop to $295 when you are recommended to FoundersCard by a current member, these fees quickly pay themselves off and can eventually result in a whole armload of savings. Plus, you get to feel like you’re an exclusive member of cool entrepreneurs — and that right there is priceless.

Alex Payne, the guy formerly responsible for developing the Twitter API and current co-founder and CTO of Simple told us that, from the get-go, discounts on AT&T service and Apple hardware were immediately useful: “I’ve needed to do a ton of travelling for work and family over the last 18 months, and the discounts on hotels and airfare have really helped make that less painful. FC does a great job curating the discounts they offer; if I’m travelling to an unfamiliar city, I know I can rely on the hotel options to be high-quality.”

Micah Baldwin Co-founder and CEO of Graphicly, too, is a fan: “I’ve been a member of FoundersCard since it first launch … and it’s been amazing in helping us at Graphicly keep costs low while growing our business. I spent almost 200 days on the road in the first year of Graphicly, and it was amazing to have a benefit like this with me,” he said.

Some others, who wished to remain anonymous said that while they weren’t sure that FoundersCard was worth the price of admission for tiny companies without a lot of revenue, they did throw great parties. Networking events with other founders of the same brood are always good for business, even if you’re not a frequent flier.

FoundersCard has been growing steadily, and is looking to up its services big time in 2012. It’s something worth checking out, especially as they’ve been making a big effort to begin supporting and catering to their international members — and will continue with big international expansion in the coming year.

For TechCrunch readers interested in applying, head over to founderscard.com/membership and use the referral code “FCRUNCH12″, where you will be eligible for lifetime guaranteed annual rate of $295 (40 percent discount off standard $495 rate).


General

Twitter, Democracy, and Internet Freedom

January 30th 2012 | Posted by admin

1620349_pic_1299261234

Editor’s Note: Richard Fontaine, a Senior Advisor at the Center for a New American Security, is the co-author of Internet Freedom: A Foreign Policy Imperative in the Digital Age. Follow him @rhfontaine.

Twitter has taken fire in recent days from activists and bloggers who fear that the company’s new censorship policies will muffle online freedom. News reports recall the ways in which protestors have had made use of Twitter to oppose dictatorships, and dissidents express concern that their ability to communicate will be harmed. The more immediate issue, however, may lie elsewhere. Twitter’s new policies demonstrate vividly the complicated relationship between Internet freedom and democratic government.

The complications take on greater importance in light of America’s global Internet freedom strategy. The U.S. government began an active policy of promoting Internet freedom in the second George W. Bush term, and its efforts have accelerated in the Obama administration. The State Department devotes tens of millions of dollars to support technology and training for online dissidents, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given a series of major speeches highlighting the issue. In one, she invoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous four freedoms, added a fifth — the “freedom to connect” — and observed that “the spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet.”

It is easy to imagine two sides locked in pitched battle over Internet freedom: The democracies, embracing the freedom to connect for all, and the dictatorships, who censor, monitor, and disrupt. Indeed, pressing the cause of Internet freedom has thus far generally meant taking on autocracies, like Beijing and its Great Firewall, the Mubarak regime when it shuttered Egypt’s Internet during the 2011 protests, or Iran as it systematically monitors domestic dissidents. But it has become increasingly clear that autocracies alone do not challenge Internet freedom; democracies do as well.

In the blog post explaining its new policy, Twitter hit on this truth, noting that the company will be active in “countries that have different ideas” than the United States “about the contours of freedom of expression.” All democracies restrict speech to some degree, and the forms of banned expression vary, ranging from child pornography (which is illegal virtually everywhere) to hate speech (banned in Europe and other places but not the United States) to country-specific expression (such as criticism of national heroes or monarchs).

America, however, is an outlier. The United States recognizes some limits on free expression – slander, perjury, “fighting words” and certain other forms of expression are illegal online or off – but its commitment to free speech is nevertheless the most absolute of any major country. This puts it in potential conflict with fellow democracies about what constitute legitimate restrictions on online expression. Given Washington’s role as the world’s most active proponent of Internet freedom, it also complicates its efforts to rally fellow democracies behind the cause.

The examples of differing democratic practice abound. Witness, for example, the recent request by Indian telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal to Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others that they remove content deemed insulting to leaders of the Indian Congress party. Mr. Sibal pledged that his government would take unspecified steps to act if the private sector would not. This month, during a hearing on a related case, an Indian high court justice said that, “like China,” the government could block websites entirely if their hosts do not remove offensive content. Turkey banned YouTube for two years because it refused to remove videos that Turkish courts deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Germany and other countries prohibit Holocaust denial online, and France bans the sale of Nazi paraphernalia over the Internet. Governments in Britain, Italy and Germany have established lists of blocked websites – generally those containing child pornography, hate speech, or online gambling platforms – even though those lists are not always transparent.

The differences arise not only in national policy, but in international law as well. A number of European democracies, including Denmark, France, Slovenia and Switzerland, have signed an additional protocol to the European Convention on Cybercrime, which requires them criminalize such acts as using computers to distribute xenophobic material or insult people because of their race, religion, or ethnic origin.

The United States faces its own potential contradictions. Secretary Clinton used one of her major addresses on Internet freedom to explain why the notion did not apply when Wikileaks published thousands of classified cables online. A district court recently ruled that, as part of its lawful intercept authorities, the Justice Department can seize Twitter feeds. And then there is the tremendous debate that has emerged over the Stop Online Privacy Act.

The truth is that the U.S. government will always enforce some limits on free expression, and our political system will continually wrestle with where the limits should be drawn. But we should not allow this to undermine the important cause of promoting global Internet freedom. Authoritarian governments will inevitably attempt to shield themselves from criticism and pressure by pointing to democracies that ban online expression. Denying them the opportunity to do so successfully will require the United States and other to articulate, publicly and consistently, the critical distinction between the restrictions placed on online speech by democracies and the repression favored by many autocracies.

The distinction rests not only in the kind of banned speech, but also in the process by which the decision to restrict it is made. True democracies bar forms of expression based on law and regulation, and they make decisions to do so in accordance with due process. Their pronouncements are generally transparent, with decision makers accountable to the law, to legislatures, and ultimately to the people, who can turn them out of office in periodic elections. There is a world of difference between a democracy banning speech on “security” grounds when the citizens know what the decision is, who made it, and how to change it, and a dictatorship banning its own “security”-infringing speech by autocratic fiat.

It is crucial to make that distinction clear. Doing so can benefit America’s diplomatic effort to promote Internet freedom, and it may also help guide policymakers at home. Resolving tough new issues often involves complex considerations of technology, law, and fundamental principle. In remembering what makes a democratic approach to the Internet distinctive, we might avoid falling prey to measures that would suggest we are otherwise.