Monday, June 6, 2011

The truth can set you free but you need Google to search for it.

Its 22 pages long, but worth a read I suppose if you have a lot of time and nothing else to do.  United Nations report: Internet access is a human right

It seems like the special rapporteur is trying to emulate what Thomas Jefferson would say about the symbiotic relationship of liberty and the internet if he were around to see this amazing invention at work.  The internet is proving to be the most powerful enabler for the demise of despots and the spread of liberty around the world.  I wrote more about this very topic back in February here.   I am quite sure TJ3 would be a strong advocate for a free internet and would smile on how the internet has given every single person the opportunity to fact-check politicians, reporters, and hucksters of all sorts as well as report events and chronicle government abuse and violations of civil rights.

Now, a "free" internet doesn't imply you won't have to pay for it.  It's a question of how it should be controlled, if at all.  It's easy to see how people could interpret the word free incorrectly here.  The headline in the UN Press Release didn't help at all   Secretary-General, Addressing Asia Media Summit, Urges Free Access to Internet .  You see that and think, sweet.  I'm paying like $30 a month now.  But from the context, Moon was referring to unfettered access, not free-of-charge access.  Still, some have jumped all over it as a harbinger of an expensive new UN giveaway program and they fired up the outrage machine.  Here is the actual quote from Moon..
"Let us work together to bridge the digital divide, so that all people can benefit.  Let us promote multiple languages in new media.  And let us ensure free access to the Internet and social media tools everywhere.  Freedom of expression, information and association are not abstract principles; they are bedrock rights that States have an obligation to fulfil."
I do think the report makes some decent points about the digital divide, as in the gap between the rich and poor regarding access to the internet and how it makes some people "freer" than other people, but it doesn't propose any solutions to alleviate the divide, just makes a case for why it's not fair.  But clearly this wave of revolutions in very poor areas was born on Youtube and on social media so it's not like the digital divide is the Grand Canyon.  Besides, a little dab'll do ya.  One person with a cell phone and a Twitter account can use it to reach millions around the world.

Another section of the UN report discusses how private corporations as the stewards of the internet have control over access to the internet and can use that control to censor web content and/or monitor people in a manner inconsistent with legal civil rights of internet users.   Access to the internet is an enabler of personal expression, liberty and intellectual freedom, so privacy issues and restrictions to access are matters for the courts and lawmakers to decide, not corporations.

One somewhat disturbing paragraph shows some evidence of carefully crafted weasel wording regarding child pornography.  Did they really need to include disclaimers about mission creep in the effort to remove child pornography from the internet?  Odd because the UN itself still exists because of mission creep.
With regard to child pornography, the Special Rapporteur notes that it is one clear exception where blocking measures are justified, provided that the national law is sufficiently precise and there are sufficient safeguards against abuse or misuse to prevent any "mission creep", including oversight and review by an independent and impartial tribunal or regulatory body.

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