Censorship and the Internet

Recently, I wrote about the concept of an Internet that knows no boundaries in relation to how content is distributed and consumed, but today I would like to talk about it in the broader sense of free speech and censorship.

I find Internet censorship to be a deplorable concept, not because it prevents me from consuming things that a jurisdictional entity considers inappropriate or immoral, but because it stymies the legitimate aggregation and consumption of ideas.

One of the more interesting side effects of the Information Revolution has been the unification of our people--not in some patriotic or otherwise political sense, but our entire race. We can now explore and understand the world around us in ways that were not previously possible. I can converse with someone that was present in the Mumbai attacks last week, talk to an Islamic jihadist, converse with my parents across the country, and participate in a discussion on the election of a black president. I can read about the newest innovations in the scientific world, find the latest juice on my favorite celebrity, watch a movie produced by some indie director, and play a game that some 12 year old wrote in his mom's basement. The Internet is free (libre) to our imaginations and thoughts to explore.

Therefore, it is not too hard to imagine that there are those that have expressions that differ from our own tastes and acceptances. Does that mean that the we have the right to muzzle them?  Remember, the Internet is free (libre) from jurisdictional bounds, so who are we to restrict what is published there?  Is child pornography justification enough to silence the innocent voices of those who may become collateral damage in the censorship fight against it?  Is copyright so sacrosanct that it should smother legally distributed content as well?

Australians are in the fight of their lives to take back their freedom of speech, revoked by the government, a victim in the so called fight against child porn. It is very easy to say that these new powers won't do very much as far as stopping and preventing child porn, but it isn't too much of a stretch to say the sole purpose of these laws is to grant the government self-anointed power to control the things that its constituents publish and view.

The Internet is still new territory, that is for sure, but we have an opportunity to break down language, cultural, racial, educational, and political barriers with it.  Why would we destroy it with crusades against things over which there is little or no control?  Are we so myopic that we think the the tragedies of child pornography and human trafficking will be reduced (or even end) with maiming the one medium of humanity's greatest achievement of interpersonal communication?

I trust no man, not even myself, to control such power because even the wisest of the wise are not infallible, incorruptible, or undeceivable.  No, let the Internet be what humanity shapes it to be.  Through the portals of this great experiment in human discourse, we get to peel back the layers of filters to see what humanity really is.  And maybe that is what makes it so uncomfortable to ponder--because we may not like what we see.

Posted on Dec 3
Written by Wayne Hartman