I think I’ve made it pretty clear that in general, I’m not one for politics. Of course, like anyone else, when politics start to encroach on my everyday life and business, that changes. Internet freedom is someone we’ve discussed here before and it’s a subject that for most of us, hits directly home both personally and financially.
Freedom, fundamentally, requires that everyone must have it or none will. So if you and your neighbours are free, but your fellows the next town over aren’t, then you aren’t really free either. Whomever took the freedom from those next to you will surely attempt to take yours. The Internet is global and thus, if the entire Internet is not free of censorship and tyranny, then none of it is. Sure, it may not hurt you or I if they block certain sites or suppress certain types of speech in Iran or China, but those small chinks in Internet freedom’s armour mean that, eventually, someone will get the idea to do it here too.
Currently, despite being the world’s largest democracy, India is seeing some decided non-democratic censorship online. Websites like Vimeo (the video sharing site) are blocked from use in India and activists are finding their web blogs and websites being seized and closed. To their credit, Indians aren’t just sitting back and watching and have staged protests and hunger strikes to promote Internet freedom.
In China, where much of the Internet is inaccessible thanks to government firewalls, an active underground industry of hackers and activists routinely circumvent those blockades and get out to the world anyway – bringing some of the world back in with them when they return. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other places that have restrictions on what can be accessed online, the same phenomenon happens.
‘But those are faraway places,’ many people would say. ‘They aren’t Canada. They aren’t the USA.’
Sure. Not yet, anyway.
But Internet freedom is being challenged here as well. A few months ago, ‘SOPA’ was all the rage in the news as activists and pundits went back and forth about whether or not this legislation would have helped or hindered, destroyed or bolstered freedom. Even I said a few words about it. Most people believe that with the demise of that and similar legislation, things are now well and good.
Except they aren’t. Things are still happening. Rumbles, grumbles, mentions, little amendments here and there in Washington and Ottawa. Although freedom of speech in our countries is largely open and unrestricted, there are those who want to change that. Their primary target is the Internet.
Why? Because it’s been the single most connecting and prolific source of political turmoil and paradigm change since the telephone. More than television, phones, radio, or any other communications medium, the Internet has fundamentally altered how we as humans interact and share information. For people who crave power and control, this is not a good thing.
So they seek to stop it.
I’m not going to tell you that you should get active or call your elected representatives. I’m just telling you that if the Internet doesn’t remain open and free, then we’ll lose the single greatest tool we have for exercising our own freedom of speech and the best way we have of freely communicating without restriction or restraint. The only people who fear the Internet’s open communications are those who fear freedom and want to control it. Beware of those people.