Tear Down This Firewall!

Berlin Wall, photo by siyublog@flickr

The copyright industry has discovered it. Now Arab League dictatorships are discovering it. Tunisia has fallen. Egypt is burning. Yemen, Albania, Sudan, Algeria, and Syria are on the brink of catching fire, a crimson glow in the night. When people have access to networking, they will not accept repression.

If and when Egypt falls, it is going to set off a domino effect in the Arab League like when the communistships of East Europe fell. And all of this is made possible because of people’s ability to communicate, to assemble, and to observe and report over the Internet.

In this fight against free speech, the copyright industry is standing shoulder to shoulder with all of the dictatorships on the planet and demanding the right to cut off people from the Internet at will. Well, that’s what Egypt’s Mubarak did yesterday. That has immediately reinforced the view of the Pirate Party across the world that uncensored and unconditional Internet access should be seen as a basic human right and utility, beside electricity and water.

The reason is quite straightforward. As Michael Love put it so eloquently;

In the 21st century, the internet IS speech, IS assembly, IS the press.

You can’t have freedoms of speech, assembly and press without considering uncensored and unmonitored access to the Internet a basic human right. There are many incumbents fighting against this development — I don’t want to single out just the copyright industry; the entire old media world stands at an adapt-or-die brink, as do governmental agencies who depend on secrecy (defense, anyone?), anybody who has previously been an information middleman, or profited from people’s lack of information.

It is ironic beyond description that the Foreign Minister in the Swedish government is criticizing the Egypt government for enacting internet clampdowns, ubiquitous and wanton surveillance, moral laws, and bans on photography, and at the same time, the Minister of Justice is enacting exactly such laws in Sweden. Perhaps hypocritical is a better word. It shows why we must take freedom of speech, assembly and the press — that is, internet access — seriously.

In the West, it is time to put our money where our mouth is. We cannot credibly criticize dictatorships for using mass surveillance technology, when it was Western authorities who forced the telecom companies to put in that technology in the infrastructure in the first place. It is time for politicians to wake up and see the whole picture.

I will end this post with a toast, credit, and honor to the Tor people and the Telecomix people who worked all day and night trying to enable communications for Egypt and elsewhere. These heroes of our generation are the opposite of the hypocritical politicians.

In the words of the late 1980s, when the same events unfolded in Eastern Europe:

Tear Down This Firewall!

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Falkvinge, Falkvinge, planetinspace, lillebrorsan, Doktor FrankenTan and others. Doktor FrankenTan said: RT @Falkvinge: A toast to @Tor and @Telecomix, heroes of our generation as opposed to hypocritical politicians http://is.gd/BvvLqr #info … […]

  2. M

    “as does governmental agencies who depend on secrecy”

    Subject/verb concord… As ‘do’ governmental agencies – not ‘does’.

    /just helping out.
    “In the 21st century, the internet IS speech, IS assembly, IS the press” Couldn’t be more true!

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks! Fixed.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nikos Drandakis and Cyberella, coolplatanos. coolplatanos said: RT @drandakis: Tear Down This Firewall! http://bit.ly/dYic9Z "Mubarak and the copyright industry, standing shoulder to shoulder" […]

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I’m not sure what you mean by the question. It is a link to Wikipedia, referencing the speech I am referring to in the title.

  4. Magnus

    Some one needs to say exactly that part about the minister of justice to Mr Bildt, in prime time TV, anything less is just waste of time.

  5. Gnejs

    Rick maybe its not such a good idea to in any way claim that the internet networking or PPs ideas has anything to do with the chaos and mayhem which is happening in the countries mentioned.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I do not understand your comment. Claiming that the Internet facilitated these uprisings would be quite pointless, like claiming that the Earth is round. The Internet and mobile networking have been absolute key to these uprisings against dictatorships. They could not have happened otherwise. Also, it provides security against oppression, since it can be reported to the outside world in real time.

      If nothing else, the Egyptian shutdown of their entire Internet shows how desperate the regime was to stop the people from sharing thoughts, ideas, and observations with themselves and the outside world.

      1. Visp

        Its absolute nonsense to claim that the Internet facilitated the uprising and chaos, I understand that your narrow point of life totaly centered on the net would like to believe that the internet started the whole thing but that is just not true..

      2. Rick Falkvinge

        Its absolute nonsense to claim that the Internet facilitated the uprising

        You might as well claim that the Earth is flat. What planet are you from, anyway?

  6. Visp

    “Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.

    However, the population of Egypt has a much lower level of education than Tunisia. Illiteracy is high and internet penetration is low.

    There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, our Cairo correspondent says, yet Egyptians are almost as disillusioned with the opposition as they are with the government; even the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist movement, seems rudderless.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12272836

  7. Albert

    Have you read this article?
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell
    It has another view on the same subject.

  8. Brittany

    Exactly! Freedom of speech, press and assembly today means access to the Internet as well. We are lucky to have this and should do our part to spread information while so many Egyptians cannot.

    Egypt: A Nation Forced Offline
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M-Xz9fIPx8

  9. Geo in SF, CA

    Good post. I agree with you… although we must remember ALL revolutions before 2000 happened of course without the internet! Still, it has changed our world and made possible the uprisings in the Middle East these last few weeks.

    Here is a good article about the very beginnings of the revolution in Tunisia that shows how the web and mobile phones were effectively used: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/01/2011126121815985483.html

    Let me add that forces of oppression will continuously invent new ways to do their dirty work, including using the internet itself. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

  10. Horace Rumpole

    The Tunisian revolution was originally labelled the ‘Wikileaks revolution’, as some of the cables about Ben Ali’s corruption seem to have struck a chord with the people. That is not to say that increasing food prices, unemployment, etc did not play a primary role. when it comes to Egypt, I saw at least one photo of a protester carrier a plackard reading ‘We want the Internet’.

    I’m surprised to hear people refer to the Egyptian situation as ‘chaos and mayhem’. It may be true, but the ‘order’ that existed prior to it was based on a huge secret police force, dictatorship and the liberal use of torture – it was time for a little ‘chaos and mayhem’ to get rid of it. After all, it took a lot of ‘chaos and mayhem’ to get rid of Hitler too.

  11. Horace Rumpole

    Just swa this in the Guardian – it makes my point about the significane of wikileaks in Tunisia http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/feb/02/wikileaks-exclusive-book-extract

  12. Christoffer

    Rick, now that Mubarak has fallen and the military has promised free elections, are there any way of getting in touch with young educated activists in Egypt and discussing the possibility of forming an egyptitian pirate party? It seems to me that a country so familiar with censorship, corruption and state oppression would be more likely to like Pirate Party politics. After all, Tunisia already has a party.

    1. Hosa

      I am an Egyptian and i was scanning the internet to know if an Egyptian pirate party exists, your post is the only thing that came close, obviously there is no pirate party until now. I am 19 and i sure do want to create one here, in all honesty i think i would be the perfect person for this unbiasedly compared to other Egyptians. BUT i do not have any experience building a website, i am just a regular windows user. if you are interested in getting in touch to give me advice or whatever my email is http://scr.im/hosa

  13. […] more; the copyright industry. They — like record labels — are also the ones pushing for the eradication of the Internet as we know […]

  14. […] any more; the copyright industry. They — like record labels — are also the ones pushing for the eradication of the Internet as we know […]

  15. […] the copyright industry. They — like record labels — are also the ones pushing for the eradication of the Internet as we know […]

  16. Syreeta Roso

    Where are all the pro- knife control hacks at? Oh, wait, Liberals only attack the freedom of gun owners, not knife owners.

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