Should We View Internet Censorship as a Human Rights Violation?
Posted by Bob Warfield on January 28, 2011
This is an uncomfortable topic because it sounds petty. Lori Kozlowski must feel uncomfortable too when she starts by saying, “Without being dramatic, it makes one wonder if access to the Internet at this point in history is actually a human right.”
After all, much worse things are being done to people in this world than Internet censorship. Why even consider it for the list?
The Internet is certainly up in arms about Egypt being taken off the Internet. There’s a Monster long tail of articles on Techmeme about it. GigaOm tells how it was done. It only took about 2 hours to completely isolate the country. That’s pretty scary, and there is talk of an Internet Kill Switch for the US too, although more to stop cyber terrorists than to use as Egypt has, one would hope.
Is this just the Digerati contemplating their navels, or is it something truly important? Does it rise to the level of Human Rights?
Our Founding Fathers were very keen on the right to free speech. It is an essential freedom in our culture. The Founding Fathers understood that it is silence and isolation that lead to tyranny getting away with it. That’s where I’m coming from on this. That’s what makes it an essential human right. It isn’t the speech itself, it’s what’s being talked about. Think about what it would mean to you to suddenly be cut off completely amid violence over the span of 2 hours.
I have been a bit disturbed when we look too greedily at lists of where the Internet growth is highest and make those our targets without wondering what else is going on in those places and whether their Internet is our Internet. Fortunately, there seems to be only one entry on that list where this is a concern, but it sure is high up the list. Do you want to do business with a place like that? Can you make a buck some other way? Despite some of my recent negativity towards Google (no link on purpose), you have to give them their props for pulling out of China, even for a time.
Sounds like President Obama views the Internet as a basic human right. Good for him.