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!