Monday, December 28, 2009

Information and freedom go hand in hand

Information is at the root of freedom.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental ingredient to our democratic republic. And, as much as right-wingers want to point out that the mainstream media sleeps under the same tent as President Obama, there are other media available for an opposing voice.

The Internet has essentially eliminated the barriers-of-entry for those espousing a different viewpoint. This panacea of open debate brings with it some challenges as well.

When Jay Rockefeller implied that we would be better off, from a national security standpoint, if the Internet didn’t exist, I took his comments in the context they were made; that is, our nation’s security is vulnerable from a new front: cyberattacks.

The senator produced a bill, Senate 773, that would allow the president to take whatever action is necessary to counter a declared cybersecurity emergency, including taking control of nongovernmental computer networks.

This is where balance and cool-headed reasoning is necessary. To shut down private sector use of the Internet in a declared cyberemergency should require nearly apocalyptic circumstances before such an emergency be declared.

In my opinion, we should put our resources into chasing down or staying ahead of the cybercrooks, just like we always have when it came to more earthy criminals, like Al Capone and Richard Nixon.

In fact, rather than to propose limits on the Internet, I think we should follow the Radio Free Europe model and come up with a way to bombard nation states like Cuba, Iran and North Korea with WiFi.

Imagine the transfer of power to the people of Iran, some of whom are demonstrating in the streets right now and being slaughtered for it, if we could make the uncensored Internet available to everyone in that totalitarian country. I’m imagining that laptops with the requisite wireless cards would somehow arrive to meet the demand of the Iranian people.

You see, information is power. And information in the hands of the right people can bring about sweeping change. The corollary to this is equally true and efforts by our government to limit the access to information can also lead to sweeping change.

Change we don’t want.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

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