Net Freedom Starts at Home

David Ignatius is one journalist whose work I greatly respect. I followed his PostGlobal project with Fareed Zakaria for its duration and know that, as a journalist, he tends toward openness and honesty, with a definite global (and sometimes even developing world) slant.

Yesterday, in a Washington Post op-ed entitled, “The case for spreading press freedom around the world,” he made the case for spreading press (and Internet) freedom globally, a sentiment I typically agree with, assuming it’s done right.

Utilizing a forthcoming “press-freedom manifesto” by Lee Bollinger, Ignatius argues that “‘America’s “Manifest Destiny’ in the 21st century is to extend to the world the standards of our own First Amendment.” Though there are subtleties to that argument that I might disagree with, generally speaking, I agree with Ignatius (and by extension, Bollinger), that it’s in the best interest of the United States to support press and Internet freedom globally.

But as the old adage goes, such sentiments must start at home.

As I’ve written before, the U.S. often acts as a de facto
censor toward other countries when it comes to certain technologies. Recently proposed HR 2278, for example, would block certain satellite TV stations not only from US consumption, but (were the satellite providers to follow U.S. diktats) from their intended audiences as well. And while the Department of Treasury recently loosened restrictions barring certain downloads from netizens in Cuba, Iran, and Sudan, Department of Commerce restrictions still make basic use of certain Internet sites and tools nearly impossible for citizens in Syria.

Ignatius notes that private companies are often affected by other countries’ censorship, but fails to mention how his own government affects private companies’ ability to remain open in other countries.

If you ask me, the U.S. needs to walk the walk before it starts talking the talk.

2 replies on “Net Freedom Starts at Home”

David Ignatius. Respect.

The US can start walking the walk by removing support of oppressive regimes: two jump to mind – Tunisia and Egypt, where bloggers are arrested, and journalists harrassed.

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