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Internet Freedom

Take a few minutes (ok, maybe about 30). Read this transcript of Hillary Clinton’s presentation on internet freedom. Leave the politics out of it. It is, I think, an important speech that has the prospect of serving as a touch point for advancing the freedom online discussion – delivered by a senior government official who recognizes that the internet is more than an add on to our daily lives. It has become a “new nervous system for our planet”. The speech is at times practical, touching, and idealistic. But mostly it raises the importance of theoretical discussions of democracy, rights, and freedoms in a networked age.

The final freedom I want to address today flows from the four I’ve already mentioned: the freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate in the name of progress. Once you’re on the internet, you don’t need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.


  1. Don’t leave the politics out of it. This is political. The principles she expresses regarding the internet are consistent with, and part and parcel of, her other principles. The people opposing these principles are the people opposing Clinton and – frankly – the people opposing us.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  2. Ken Allan wrote:

    Tēnā kōrua!
    Kia ora e George. Kia ora e Stephen.

    You have pointed to a very interesting facet of the issue in this post – that of politics. For as sophisticated as we may try to make it, politics is to do with belief.

    A characteristic of the human species is that it attempts to categorise, often too simply when it comes to belief, so that the ultimate sorting is far too mundane to be any real use.

    The simplest categorisation is that of for and against. Democracies are built on that axiom, unfortunately. So too are many judicial systems. George Bush illustrated it globally in 2001 when he said about ‘the war against terrorism’, “If you’re not with us you’re agin us.”

    When will we learn to navigate between the two extremes of any complex situation that ends up in an argument between (apparently) opposite tenets? The issue is complex. Let’s not try to simplify it.

    Catchya later

    Catchya later

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:00 am | Permalink
  3. Jon K. wrote:

    I’ll just echo what Stephen said, freedom is a political statement.

    Ken – your statement that democracies are built on the for/against axiom is true – only if we consider that democracy as we know it is not really democracy (in the truest sense of the word) – it’s representational democracy built on capitalism. It’s a veneer of democracy.

    And I think extremes are what allow us to speak to the thousand shades of grey in between black and white. Most issues are far more complex than we realize, and simplification sometimes is the mechanism that we can use to begin to understand larger issues. If we reject simplification as a sense-making process, then we are depriving ourselves of learning opportunities. I think what needs to happen is that people accept that while things are complex, they can understand a part of it. If people don’t simplify things to make them understandable, they will ultimately reject any knowledge of the subject. How many people refuse to learn something because it’s too hard or too complex?

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  4. gsiemens wrote:

    @Stephen – you’re right – it is political. In my hasting posting, I wanted to emphasize that the issue at stake is bigger than one party. Regardless of political views, open and free access to the internet is vital. My statement of “not political” was directed at seeing this as more than a Democrat concern.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  5. gsiemens wrote:

    @Ken – thanks for your thoughts. It is a complex issue. The complexity arises in trying to implement the ideals. Democracy, for example, is a reasonably simple concept. It becomes enormously complex when we try and apply it to real life situations like politics, education, economics, etc.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  6. gsiemens wrote:

    @Jon – many people are likely turned off of subjects that are complex. Reduction to simple principles is potentially useful in gaining broad appeal of the subject. But, like the recent round of conversation of the connectivism blog, ideals need to be emphasized. Implementation is measured by those ideals – regardless of how complex they may be.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink