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Quiet in the Library! Controlling the Internet

February 5, 2009

Just a quick one: Boing Boing covered the story of an Australian EFF information rights campaigner, Geordie Guy, who has received a death threat from supporters of the government´s plan to control the Internet – just like so many other states around the world.

Surveillance cameras in Dajuyuan, Shenzhen (Rolling Stone)

Surveillance cameras in Dajuyuan, Shenzhen (Rolling Stone)

It is no accident that the EFF campaign in Australia makes reference to their government´s plan as a ‘great wall’.  The first government to do this was, of course, China with its jīndùn gōngchéng (‘Golden Shield’) system which was exposed by Greg Walton.

As Naomi Klein´s more recent investigations have shown, it seems that western governments and companies are not only deeply involved with supplying equipment and expertise to China´s new surveillance state, but also see the development of the combined physical and virtual surveillance infrastructure being built by the authoritarian Chinese government as some kind of model for their own supposedly more liberal nations.

The Internet seems to worry all sorts of otherwise level-headed and well-meaning people. I was invited to speak at a recent conference in Finland on security in the Baltic states, and I got into a small argument with the rapporteur of one of the working groups, who said that one of their conclusions was that ‘we’ must stamp out hate-speech on the Internet. I asked the rapporteur how they would intend to do this without destroying the structures which enabled the creativity and freedom of the Net, and the response was that stamping out hate-speech was too important and just must be done. I suspect this is how a lot of supposedly liberal politicians and bureaucrats are thinking. For them the Internet is just a library of information, and we all know that libraries must be quiet and orderly, used responsibly and under the supervision of trained librarians. If enforcing order destroys everything that makes the Internet so revolutionary and so important, so what? Order must be maintained. There must be quiet in the library!

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