Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Internet Freedom; or 'Be Careful What You Wish For'

"Threat to Internet Freedom Growing, Report Claims"
FoxNews.com (April 19, 2011)

"Iran is the worst country in the world -- at least when it comes to web freedom, claims a new report.

"Among the reports eye-opening findings: The number of Internet users has doubled over the past five years, and governments worldwide are trying to find ways to control the heightened online activity -- sometimes relying on extreme measures to send a message.

" 'Freedom On the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media' evaluates a country based on factors that potentially violate a users' rights, such as limitations on content and barriers to access. According to the report released Tuesday by watchdog group Freedom House, an alarming 11 out of 37 countries received a ranking of 'Not Free,' while only eight were granted 'Free.'...

'Be Careful What You Wish For'

The Lemming doesn't particularly like seeing hateful screed online - or otherwise. The Lemming thinks that some "adult" content isn't good for people.

And the Lemming is very, very concerned when public-spirited citizens start clamoring for more 'hate crime legislation,' or vow to rid the Internet of pictures they don't like.

Right now, at least in America, the Internet allows folks who are not part of the establishment to publish their ideas. The Lemming doesn't agree with quite a bit of what's online - but that's not the point. Right now, in some parts of the world, we've got a system where you don't have to get an editor's approval, or know the right people, to get published.

Old-school information gatekeepers are having conniptions about that - but the Lemming likes living in world where the marketplace of ideas isn't limited to what the 'good old boys' think should be discussed. (see "What is an Information Gatekeeper?," Another War-on-Terror Blog (August 14, 2009))

Internet Freedom in Iran: So What?

The Lemming doesn't live in Iran, and could take the 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' approach to this issue. Or even rant about the innate superiority of Yankees.

Not gonna happen. For one thing, the Lemming looks Anglo - but isn't "Yankee." Not in the 'New Englander' sense, anyway. And the Lemming's skittered off-topic again.

For another - goofy as some "global village" rhetoric is, in the Lemming's opinion, the 6,920,000,000 or so folks alive today are far more connected than we were a generation ago. Back in the 'good old days,' what happened in, say, Uzbekistan or Ghana, affected folks living in Indonesia or America - eventually. Today, it's harder to ignore the 'no man is an island' aspect of existence. In the Lemming's opinion.

Back to that article:

"...In 22 of the countries online users have been jailed for posting something online, and it's getting easier for some of these governments to make arrests thanks to developing programs that enable a government to track down users looking up specific keywords.

"Social networking websites like Facebook, YouTube and Flickr were among the top websites to be blocked by these governments, while some find ways to disrupt e-mail services provided by Google in an effort to frustrate users and push them towards more easily monitored programs.

"The bottom ten, in order from bad to worst, were: Bahrain, Belarus, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Tunisia, China, Cuba, Burma and Iran."

Freedom: Precious, and Easily Lost

'It can't happen here,' right?

Wrong, in the Lemming's opinion. Not all that long ago, by the Lemming's standards, frightfully virtuous folks were warning their flocks about the evils of the Internet. The Lemming got the impression that some of the radio personalities of the day might think that "WWW" stood for "Wicked, Wicked Web."

Oddly, they didn't rail against the evils of movable type - even though Playboy magazine was one of the results of Gutenberg's invention. And that's almost another topic.

I was particularly concerned when an odd couple of advocacy groups joined forces - the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority.1 (Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 9, 2008))

The Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority didn't describe their goal quite this way: but what they wanted was a Federal agency that would decide who was allowed to put what online.1 They didn't get what they wanted, for which the Lemming is duly grateful.

That was then, this is now.

It's been a few months since the last time America's old guard tried to muzzle the Internet - in the Lemming's opinion. Folks in this country are still free to express their ideas, even if it annoys the powers that be.

The Lemming likes it that way. The Lemming also thinks it's just a matter of time, before some well-intentioned outfit decides to 'protect' us from stalkers, or [insert a political party you don't loathe], or people who say naughty things.

The proposal may sound very nice, and quite harmless. And the Lemming hopes it gets stopped, before we all lose the freedom to say what we think.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 "Commentary / Net Neutrality: Telecom Policy and the Public Interest" Neil Barratt, Leslie Regan Shade, Concordia University. Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol 32 (2007) 295-305. Available through Canadian Research Alliance For Community Innovation And Networking.


Brigid said...

There's something funny here: "one of the results of Gutenberg invention"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Possessive form. I couldawouldashoulda used possessive form. Thanks!

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