What Makes America Different

This story by the BBC about bloggers around the world being at risk for speaking their minds makes me think about my own country, the United States of America.  We are truly fortunate to have a constitution that codifies freedom of speech as a basic right of citizenship.  This is one of the most fundamental aspects of the American experience and something I value deeply the more I come to recognize how rare it actually is.

However, this freedom is always at risk and, indeed, encroached upon by non-government factions (and also by government factions themselves, though this is not my biggest concern).  Corporations increasingly seek to exert control over public expression.  This is what makes  America different.  Though our laws grant a right to speak whatever we may, private interests can take this away from us.  With regards to bloggers and the internet, the private control of access by a few companies almost guarantees that our freedoms will be curtailed.  If Verizon is my internet provider, they have EVERY interest to prevent me from accessing the search results for “verizon sucks my balls.”  If I’m a blogger, these corporations have every interest in preventing me from blogging about their shitty service or from posting damning information on wikileaks.org.

As an American reading this post, one should be aware that although our government does not (regularly and openly) arrest and detain citizens for speaking out, our freedom of speech is vulnerable to much more subtle and insidious means of restriction.  When ISPs try to enact things like net neutrality and tiered access, they are essentially making it more difficult and expensive for us to access non-mainstream information, and therefore making it easier to exert control over what information is accessible to the public.  This is not based on reactionary alarmism, but rather, a simple examination of whose interests are threatened the most by free speech and the internet’s multitude of new voices.


~ by Daniel on 16 June, 2008.

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