WASHINGTON, November 22, 2009 - Speakers at a telecommunications law conference held last week touched on the importance of having unfiltered access to the Internet around the world.
"The freedom of speech implies a freedom of access," said Jeremie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature Du Net. "This is a form of participating in politics and with other citizens,” he continued at the second annual University of Nebraska College of Law’s Space and Telecom Law Conference held in Washington on Thursday.
“In repressive countries, the internet is the only way journalists can get their information out. Even then journalists in these countries have to still watch out for what they write about,” said Clothilde Le Coz of Reporters Without Borders. “In repressive countries, everything is regulated by the government, including the press. When [the] press reports anything that is in the negative light, the journalist could be thrown in jail. However, with the expansion of the internet, even bloggers have been targeted,” he continued.
Le Coz said Reporters Without Boarders considers any filter on the Internet set up by the government to be an infringement of a person’s right to access information. According to Le Coz, Australia is planning to enact a law to filter out pornography online but the problem is that such a law would require an entity, likely the government, to decide what is considered pornography.
“Every time you restrict access, you restrict our freedom,” said Zimmermann. Andrew McLaughlin, deputy chief technology officer for policy in the Obama administration, said in Korea “if a person posts a comment on a blog or a forum, they have to officially identify themselves.”
According to McLaughlin, if one region in the world is restricting access to material online, there can be no exchange of information, and therefore, no growth. He said the United States should take interest in what information is open and available to all. Having free speech helps the exchange of ideas around the world, McLaughlin added.
Jan Malinowski, director of human rights and legal affairs for the Council of Europe, said “Communications is constructed under fundamental rights. Given the importance of how people are relying on the internet, it has become important that it is accessible, reliable, affordable, and secure.”