Social order, corporate dominance vs free speech and the taming of the internet. How important is this?
Can and should governments be able to shut down social media and disable citizens access to the internet during times of social unrest? And if they can do that, what else can they do? Have a read of this:
One of the anti-riot measures recently suggested by British PM David Cameron is to prevent rioters from using Twitter and other social networking websites. Such a tactic, which was slammed as a trick resorted to only by authoritarian governments in the past, has had a great impact on world media.
The bold measure indicates that Britain is at its wit’s end on how to stop the country’s worst riots in decades.
Cameron’s suggestion to block social networking websites smashes basic concepts of freedom of speech in the West, which always takes the moral high ground in criticizing the reluctant development of Internet freedom in developing countries.
The violence has brought a comprehensive and diverse influence on the whole of the West. Created by globalization and the development of the Internet, the headache of governance suffered by developing countries has now spread to their developed peers.
Democracy and freedom of speech should have their pragmatic connotations and denotations. The Chinese edition website of the Financial Times carried an article on Friday titled “What is the bottom line of freedom of speech?” Fanned by the rapid development of the Internet, the requirement for freedom of speech is trespassing the boundaries of the current political system in the West, it warned.
I wrote a post in January about this after the riots in Egypt when the government attempted to shut down the internet. Back then it seemed unthinkable that a western democracy would contemplate such a thing. But in the UK that’s what’s now being discussed.
There is a much wider context to this debate. It’s called net neutrality. And yes, it’s about power and vested interests. So watch out.
Net neutrality is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. But all that could change.
I believe any government should be very very careful before it rushes out in the heat of the moment promising to shut down communication channel in order to preserve social order. Doing that affects all of us. And some fundamental principles upon which our society and our political system is built.