Five United States senators are publicly urging Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to move faster to support organizations that are helping people in countries like Iran and China circumvent restrictions on Internet use.
In a letter written by Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and made public on Wednesday, the senators ask Mrs. Clinton to quickly spend $45 million that has been earmarked over the last two years to support Internet freedom but has not been spent.
The senators also complain that restrictions on who may apply for the money, recently outlined by the State Department, appear to exclude the organizations that are creating the most popular tools for getting around censorship.
The letter was drafted before Google accused China last week of attacking its computers and said it was no longer willing to censor its search results there. But it has picked up more supporters since then.
Efforts to give financial support to groups creating such software recall anticommunist programs during the cold war, when the United States government backed broadcasters like Radio Free Europe.
But in the online age the nature of censorship has changed, and regimes like those in China and Iran often deny their populations access to Web news outlets and sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Political advocates and others are also subject to having their online activities scrutinized.