Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister of France and a founder of Doctors Without Borders, has an interesting but somewhat unsettling op-ed in today’s New York Times. Entitled “The Battle for the Internet,” it’s a call to arms in
the battle of ideas . . . between the advocates of a universal and open Internet — based on freedom of expression, tolerance and respect for privacy — against those who want to transform the Internet into a multitude of closed-off spaces that serve the purposes of repressive regimes, propaganda and fanaticism.
It’s a subject dear to my heart, as you probably know; I, too, believe that preserving what the Center for Democracy and Technology aptly calls the “free, open, and innovative Internet” is of the deepest importance for the future — literally — of human society on the planet. I like where Kouchner’s coming from:
The Internet is above all the most fantastic means of breaking down the walls that close us off from one another. For the oppressed peoples of the world, the Internet provides power beyond their wildest hopes. It is increasingly difficult to hide a public protest, an act of repression or a violation of human rights. In authoritarian and repressive countries, mobile telephones and the Internet have given citizens a critical means of expression, despite all the restrictions.
He’s right about that – at least, I agree wholeheartedly. (Libertarian blogger Adam Thierer called my book about the Net “an extended love letter to both cyberspace and Jefferson,” and though I’m not entirely sure he meant it as one, I took it as a compliment. Though we academics are supposed to take the posture of ironic detachment from pretty much everything we encounter, I happen to think, and I’m happy to say to whomever is listening, that [...]