It’s a substantial blog article, but the recurring theme is, unsurprisingly, the tension between the urge to be safe and the urge to be free. Tellingly, Luis contrasts the much-quoted view from Benjamin Franklin – “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both” – with the more equivocal views of Hilary Clinton, who expresses support for people using the internet as part of their struggle for freedom (whatever you understand by the term) in countries with authoritarian regimes, while apparently reserving the right to compromise in the name of security (internet kill switch, anyone?).
Well, most of us have no wish to surf in an environment that favors terrorists, child pornographers and other traffickers in human misery, but some of us are old enough to have learned that expediency and security are not always compatible with the preservation of human rights (again, whatever you understand by that term). An appeal to emotions – like the revulsion most of us feel when reminded of such trafficking – often heralds restrictions on civil liberties.
Kevin Townsend, another friend and colleague with a passionately libertarian worldview, makes no bones about drawing parallels with the European Commission for the Digital Agenda’s equivocal view of “net neutrality”:
“Our political leaders are intent on removing net neutrality while persuading us that they are protecting it. And the tragedy is that too many of us will believe them, and allow them.”
Well, within 24 hours of my coming across Luis’s blog, I happened upon a newser.com article describing how Iran plans to replace the internet as we know it with a “state-censored, fully internal version…as a way to uphold Islamic moral values…”
Iran’s view of the internet (and Iran is not the first nation to work toward methodically containing the threat it holds to its values) still looks very different to the USA’s. But the world (as have the media) has changed dramatically in my lifetime as regards the sharing of information (and misinformation, even more abundantly). The internet isn’t quite anarchic, but it’s closer to anarchy than most governments – and many security geeks – are comfortable with, and it’s worth lending an ear to Franklin’s ghost occasionally. Paranoia and security theater could cost you a lot more than a martini.