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The openness and freedom of the internet must be protected at all costs, the Foreign Secretary has claimed.

Speaking at the Budapest Conference on Cyberspace, William Hague said companies must seek to combat economic and security threats on the internet without infringing on individual rights.

He said the openness of the internet is "the root of its success", meaning broadband customers should not be subject to online censorship.

"We see growing evidence of some countries drawing the opposite conclusion," Mr Hague stated.

"Some appear to be going down the path of state control of the internet - pulling the plug at times of political unrest, invading the privacy of net users, and criminalising and legislating against legitimate expression online."

The former Conservative Party Leader claimed that efforts to suppress the internet are "wrong and are bound to fail over time".

"Governments who attempt this are erecting barricades against an unstoppable tide, and acting against their own long term economic interests and their security," he stated.

Mr Hague said democratic governments must also resist the calls to censor a wide range of content just because they or others find it offensive or objectionable.

"If we go down that path, we begin to erode the hard won rights of freedom of expression," he added.

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