Friday, June 12, 2009

Internet censorship and the good life

Having just completed a 5 months academic stint in Turkey followed by a 3 week stay in Syria, I am itching to give my two cents regarding internet censorship by authorities. Both countries practice it widely.

I am completely and unequivocally against it. No matter what the side benefits may be (such as protecting children from pornographic content), the principle of censoring open-source information, and the slippery-slope risks that usually arise when authorities - especially unelected and undemocratic ones - begin to determine what is and what is not appropriate for civil society to see, have no place in our 21st century 'global village.'

Turks had YouTube blocked, while Syrians did not allow Blogger, Facebook and a host of other online content to be viewed by their populations.

Besides the fact that in both countries tech-savvy young generations laughably bypassed the filtering efforts by simply using different IP addresses or software such as UltraSurf, the thought of having some narrow-minded technocrat, judge or security official decide what is appropriate for me to read and think is anathema to my idea of progressiveness, freedom and the good life.

Which brings me to China. Many people will almost reflexively bring up the Rising Dragon as living proof of the absurdity of my claim that censorship needs not impede development. This assumption misses the point that tall buildings, nice shopping malls and a richer population do not equal an emancipated people who are free to think, inovate and hold their governments accountable as they see fit. Besides, when was the last time China invented a revolutionary invention? Gun powder and the printing press. But how many thousands of years ago?

(photo from Newsline)

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