03 October 2012

Government Assaults On Online Freedom


A growing number of governments are seeking to deprive their citizens the last of their freedoms and rights. These rulers — some duly elected by their peoples, others foisted upon unwilling but fearful populace — are either chipping ever gradually at or drastically removing their people’s right to unfettered access to the Internet. Some of them cite security issues, as most rulers afraid of their people often do, as their main reason for putting in place viselike grip and controls on their respective corners of the online world. Most of them install firewalls designed to keep their citizens from accessing the larger part of the Internet that citizens of other more enlightened countries enjoy and often take for granted.
Most of them also put in place controls that keep at bay Web sites they perceive as threatening to their hold on power. They hide behind what they claim as genuine and pressing concern for peace and public order, revealing unwittingly that what they are afraid of really are their people rising up and demanding what is theirs in the first place.

They fear their subjects becoming enabled, empowered, and emboldened by unbiased and unafraid information the Internet brings to whatever place it reaches.
Brazil vs. Google
Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, Google’s head of operations in Brazil, was arrested by the country’s federal police. This came after the online search company failed to obey a local judge’s order to remove YouTube videos that the court determined violate local election laws. Unlike most other countries that claim to be democratic, Brazil has some strict electoral laws that limit what critics can say on TV, newspapers, radio, and, of course, the Internet about politicians running for office. Apparently, Google has received repeated “requests” to remove online videos that the courts found violating those limits. Hence, Coelho was arrested.
Apologies to an Alleged Pirate
Law enforcers in several countries might have a prima facie case against Mr. Dotcom, the alleged head of an online copyright piracy ring, but this has not stopped the leader of the country that played the lead role in his arrest from apologizing to him.
No, New Zealand did not find out that Mr. Dotcom is innocent. The “strong case” against him, however, has just lost one of its legs.
New Zealand’s prime minister said he was sorry because one of the country’s law enforcement agencies was found out to have illegally spied on Mr. Dotcom. Lucky for the alleged pirate, that agency is prohibited by the country’s laws from spying on citizens. Under New Zealand’s laws, it can only snoop on foreigners.
Mr. Dotcom reportedly became a citizen in 2010.
Hence, the prime minister had to apologize, as the country, especially its legal enforcers, had to eat some humble pies. The case might have turned into something unpleasant for opponents of copyright infringement and piracy. Nevertheless, it is always great to see a government doing its best to protect and respect the rights of its citizens.
By ALLAN D. FRANCISCO
mb.com.ph

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