In my very first blog entry, I am going to highlight a petition that I have signed and so have many other people. Say No to internet censorship. If you still want the free and open internet that we enjoy today, sign this petition. The link for it is here: https://www.google.com/intl/en/takeaction/whats-at-stake/ People all over the world have signed it and it even has a Twitter hashtag #freeandopen. Thousands of people have signed it so far and many more signatures are expected. So many people are standing up for internet freedom.
There is another one of those petitions here too called Project Internet Freedom and it can be found here: http://www.protectinternetfreedom.org/ Thousands of organizations have joined forces, from different parts of the world, to fight this cause.
This is the world of the 21st century, the information world, or the “knowledge society” (heard the term on Al Jazeera). And yet our access to information is under a grave threat thanks to this ongoing conference in Dubai. Governments are holding a closed door meeting to decide the future of the internet. And the “treaty” that they are going to sign is going to remain secret and confidential, so we are never going to know what the hell is in it. Internet has billions of users, and this is an age, where thanks to the internet, there is a flow of information. Things remain get in, things go out. Things no longer remain hidden.
However, instead what is happening is that a treaty regarding communication, which was ratified in 1988, I believe, is being re-negotiated in Dubai right now. Users of the internet have no say. The engineers who developed and worked on the technology have no say. Internet companies who do business on the internet have no say. Only the governments have a say. And governments have hidden agendas behind this. It will turn into a situation that Marx has described, in a way, where a few is in control of what the many receive. The few control the many. Or to quote someone I heard on Al Jazeera, “a body of a few people will be in control of the whole internet”.
Currently, they say that in Syria they have shut down the internet. When the revolution took place in Egypt, their government shut down the internet because bloggers were getting the word out. Places where there is unrest, Blogspot has been banned because bloggers were getting the word out about what was happening in their country. Examples are Syria, Iran and Egypt. They even have been cases where bloggers of these countries have been detained and arrested because they were getting the word out, something the governments did not want.
In China, Google is different. The most famous example of this is what occurs when you put the words “Tiananmen Square” into Google Images. Google it anywhere in the world and you will see army soldiers and tanks and a person protesting the tanks. Put it in China, and Tiananmen Square is portrayed as a major tourist destination. No sign of anything close to a massacre ever occurring there.
Pakistan is another nation where internet censorship by the government occurs. A few years back Facebook was banned because of the content some random user posted. Youtube is currently blocked over some filmmaker posting some video. Government don’t like something someone posted on a website, whole website is banned.
They are many other examples too as around over 40 countries are believed to practice internet censorship to some extent or the other. And this is not just political messages only that are impacted. I know my earlier words may have given that impression. Social media and centres of knowledge get blocked too. Its like the government is saying, “I will control everything you should and shouldn’t know”. The world isn’t in a position that it will shut up and quietly listen to whatever propaganda is fed to them.
In my opinion, if something just has to be censored or blocked, it should be websites that promote hatred or self harm. Like for example websites that say, “Anorexia is cool and awesome and fashionable” or “Become a suicide bomber, blow yourself up in a busy shopping district, God will be so impressed that He will grant you heaven”. But then the question does arise, they do have every right to voice their opinions, like anyone else, don’t they? Yes, there is some content that needs to be regulated, but regulation is different than outright censorship. But regulation is a totally different matter, so I am not going to get into that over here.
I will end with a quote on Google, “A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”
If you still want to be able to enjoy the free and open internet that you have become accustomed to, sign the petition. Because this ongoing International Telecommunications Union conference is a threat to basic freedom of speech. Instead of moving a step forward to create the free and open world and globalization, we will be moving a step backwards. Restricting the internet will also restrict globalization and possibly wash away some of the benefits globalization has achieved at the same time. We need a free and open world, raise your voice for one.