The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was codified on December 15, 1791 by the Founding Fathers of the United States government in part to protect the intrinsic right of its people to exercise freedom of expression without government interference. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations put forth its own version of this law called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which similarly stated: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
Flashing forward to 2013, there is a growing sense of urgency among anti-censorship activists worldwide who are concerned with the threats against internet access and worried that many governments in today’s world are vigorously trying to roll back laws against freedom of expression and using the example of the whistle-blowing website Wiki-Leaks as a bludgeon against free speech and “the people’s right to know”. Groups like EFF – Electronic Frontier Foundation which describe themselves as a nonprofit digital rights organization founded in 1990, have placed themselves at the forefront of this struggle and unequivocally declared that shutting down Wiki-Leaks website and limiting internet access to similar offshoots is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression.
It must be said however, that many people, including quite a few involved in world government who generally have a pro freedom of speech record, regard the actions of Wiki-Leaks as not defensible due to possible incidents of theft associated this website.
EFF, which claims over a million followers on Google Plus, Google’s social media site, have taken a number of steps in their war against internet censorship, including funding legal defense efforts to help protect “individuals and new technologies from what it considers baseless and misdirected legal threats”, has started mass mailing dealing with protecting internet access from world government oversight and works to legally challenge actual and potential legislation which EFF believes would jeopardize personal liberties in regard to internet access.
The United States Government is reported to be contributing 30 million dollars to this anti-censorship crusade, in a way described by Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for human rights. “We are responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game”. Posner was referring to the United States funding new technologies to help break up internet censorship used by repressive regimes in China and Iran. Posner likened these efforts to a “slingshot”, identifying censored material and throwing it back on the web for users with internet access to find and investigate.
On a more unconventional level, Nick Farr, who is commonly referred to as a “hacker activist” has publicly stated in an interview on BBC: “The first goal is an uncensored Internet in space. Let’s take the Internet out of the control of terrestrial entities.” Farr was referring to the future possibilities of using satellites as part of a computer hacking program in space which is not governed by countries over which it floats.
One fact is certain – the fight over government control of internet access and content will surely be a continuing lighting rod of controversy and activism in the ongoing century.
About the Author:
Dee is a contributing writer for various sites online. She does freelance writing/blogging on the side and enjoys ghost writing as well.