Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Even moderate countries and "democracies" are censoring anti-government speech

Craig Newman has an important op-ed on p. A13 of the Washington Post, July 30, “Advancing Internet freedom doesn’t come for free”.  No, Internet freedom doesn’t lend itself to a “Bill.ing” or “Reid.ing” video.

Newman points out that serious censorship occurs in countries we think of as advanced, reasonably democratic, and civilized.  In Singapore, a blogger like me would have to post a $40,000 performance bond and remove objectionable content within 24 hours.
That would mean that individual, unsupervised journalistic speech would be impractical – at least meaningless if only rich people could do it.  People of ordinary means would have to become engaged in social competition and reciprocity, like it or not. 
Even Australia, according Polliter (link) , is forcing Twitter to censor political debate.
The Post link is here
Twitter has a policy on “country withheld content” here  but says it works with Chilling Effects.

Britain has become more aggressive in censoring anything that looks like pornography.

Thailand has jailed people for insulting the monarchy.

We all know about censorship in China, and Muslim countries.
And Russia, while technically allowing gay behavior, has draconian laws against gay speech, scapegoating it as a cause of Russia’s low birth rates.

Could American bloggers be detained in these countries if they travel there while their critical blogs are up and easily accessed and searched?
To a westerner, censorship sounds like an admission of illegitimacy or weakness.  But a government like Syria doesn’t care if it is legitimate.  One wonders, though, why more moderate mainstream governments fear free “amateur” speech so much.

There is a moral blowback from the right to distribute individual speech, and it leads back to more direct involvement with others. 

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