Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, has an op-ed piece today in the printed newspaper Expressen where he criticizes some of Sweden’s most known activists for not understanding the politics of the Net. In doing this, he shows his bright censorship colors as he derides the protection of fundamental rights as “anarchy”.
In this piece, he attacks Måns Adler (founder of Bambuser), Christopher Kullenberg (Intensifier at Telecomix), and Anna Troberg (leader of the Swedish Pirate Party) and claims that they don’t understand the Net. That’s a tall order. A tall order indeed. I’m willing to bet that these three individuals are a whole lot more known in the world for their understanding of the Net than Mr. Bildt is. As we can see from his arguments, this becomes painfully obvious: the ego of Mr. Bildt is writing checks that his logic and understanding are unable to cash.
Mr. Bildt is trying to distinguish “good flows” from “bad flows” on the net, wanting to safeguard the former but prevent the latter. With considerable derision, he labels a lack of such governmental control as “anarchy”. However, as the attacked people have tried to point out to the Swedish minister, it is not possible to harm unwanted activities without harming wanted activities as well. You can technically safeguard the right to communicate in private, and what people choose to use that for depends on the people.
It is important to understand that somebody’s activity on the net is one of the most revealing pieces of information you can get about an individual: looking at somebody’s net activity is as close as we have ever come to mind reading. Therefore, dividing this activity into “lawful” and “illegal” is also the closest we have come to thoughtcrime.
Mr. Bildt is painfully defending his idea of censorship by pointing out that heresy was a crime before World War II, so censorship now should be no different (!!). This is where it stops being logical and I become angry at having people in charge who are not even making an effort.
The Swedish administration recently passed a general wiretapping law where a governmental agency wiretaps all net traffic that happens to cross the borders, which you never know if yours will. It puts the MFA’s efforts into perspective: his pretend shining armor is certainly tainted and in need of a bit of polishing, and any statement from this administration about safeguarding liberties on the net simply lacks credibility.
As Niklas Dougherty writes, the key problem with Mr. Bildt’s reasoning is that he is unable (or unwilling) to distinguish freedom of expression from freedom of information. Freedom of expression can indeed have some limits, though always post facto. The most famous example is that you can’t shout Fire! in a crowded theater, but there are plenty of other examples: you can’t distribute military secrets, people’s medical records, et cetera.
However, the freedom of information is a different beast. This is the freedom to seek, fetch and research information and the expressions of other human beings unfettered, and has nothing to do with sending a message to any other human being. The freedom of information must be absolutely unhindered, with no exceptions. None. Not one. If you are cracking down on this, you are interfering with private correspondence and the right to partake of the ideas of others. Such behavior would also in sharp violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (article 8).
It would not be the first time this administration had failed to uphold fundamental constitutional rights.