against internet freedom


On its face, Internet freedom is a cause around which all Americans would naturally rally. It is consistent with our commitment to an open and free society. As Clinton notes, technological change makes new demands on American diplomacy, and the administration should be applauded for its attempt to carry American values into new technological realms. That said, even a cursory examination suggests that the concept of Internet freedom may be as troublesome as it is seductive. At best, freedom to use the Internet, or a right to access cyberspace, is a subset of the broader freedoms that Americans value. The cause of Internet freedom surely ought to be part of a broader campaign to promote those freedoms globally. Such a campaign would address many of the concerns that Secretary Clinton properly expressed about tyrannical regimes and the Internet. Therein may lie the ultimate shortcoming in the administration’s campaign for Internet freedom as a component of twenty-first-century diplomacy: freedom and democracy must be actively promoted abroad as a precondition for promoting Internet freedom. As Morozov pointedly observes, if unabashedly championing freedom and democracy themselves seems too backwards and Bush-like to policymakers today, the “nearly magical qualities” of the Internet from their perspective leave it as “the only ray of light in an otherwise dark intellectual tunnel of democracy promotion.”

more from Eric R. Sterner at The New Atlantis here.