My friend Jiew might go to jail for 70 years because of her website. She runs an online publication in Thailand. Unfortunately, someone made a comment on an article and it badmouthed their king, which is illegal there. Despite deleting it soon after, she was indicted under the new Internet law that holds the owner responsible, not the person who wrote the comment.
To put this into perspective, imagine if Mark Zuckerberg were responsible for anything anyone ever wrote on Facebook. This multi-billion dollar company wouldn't exist, nor would the innovation and revolutionary potential it brings.
This is important to remember as the G8 is meeting in France discussing policies that will shape the future of the internet. While it's interesting to see this on the agenda, it's a crucial time to reiterate the principles agreed to upon all nations in the universal declaration of human rights. Those that encourage freedom and prevent cases like Jiew's from proliferating. It's my hope that these principles will even help to protect her from going to prison for the rest of her life.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who convened the so-called e-G8 meeting, recently declared that "the Internet is a new frontier, a territory to conquer." This approach seems contrary to the freedom currently experienced by many on the net or the attempts to spread that ideal by netizens and the U.S. Internet freedom agenda alike.
It's not a coincidence that repressive regimes are increasingly shutting off the Internet before they shoot their citizens in the streets. The deterioration of this right is proving to be the cornerstone for the deterioration of all rights. We can make sure that citizens in those countries can continue to get the word out about atrocities and organize freely to defend their liberties by upholding the freedom of information.
It's vital to defend the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st century by moving ahead to define what the right to free expression means. Combating digital censorship and surveillance, expanding access for all, upholding principles of net neutrality and limiting liability for journalists and activists like Jiew.
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