Protecting Internet freedom is everyone’s responsibility
The modern Internet has been accessible to the public for almost thirty years. With each generation, the Internet has been reshaped to capture how society expresses, shares and accesses information. There are a few people who work to ensure that the Internet remains open and free.
The importance of Internet freedom
Ben Blink, a senior policy analyst at Google, recently discussed the importance of Internet freedom and how it impacts the world. Blink is a founding member of Google's free expression and international relations team, working in more than 40 countries to combat Internet censorship. Blink argued that the future of human rights, democracy and economic growth, rely, to a large extent, on Internet freedom, reported The Daily UW. Blink spoke at an event titled, "Freedom and Power in the Digital Age," hosted by the World Affairs Council, and expanded on the importance of Internet freedom.
"A free and open Internet is the foundation of a creative future… As individuals, we have the responsibility of taking actions to speak to our governments or others."
As a policy analyst, Blink's responsibilities include solving policy issues and research. He also provides advice on product policy and user rights to Google teams. He places particular emphasis on privacy, safety and security.
According to Blink, approximately 2.7 billion people, well over a third of the world's population, are connected to the Internet. Despite this, he argues, there are numerous efforts made to undermine the free and open nature of the Internet and censor Internet content. Around the world, there are many examples of governments censoring their citizens. Blink gave the examples of Iran, Pakistan, China and Turkey, and said that the approximately 30 percent of the total Internet population operates under censorship.
Jacqueline Miller, president and CEO of the WAC, said that Internet freedom is an issue that affects everyone – not just people living under censorship regimes.
"The global Internet that we all use and rely on could fragment into multiple national Internets," Miller said, according to The Daily UW.
Blink also pointed to universal human rights as being supportive of a free Internet.
"[The] Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. … If you care about human rights, [censorship] strictly is an issue you should care about," Blink said, the news source noted.
Internet freedom good for the economy
Another argument for keeping communication lanes open is that freedom, security and safety each affect how the overall economy operates as well as the businesses that make it up. Blink added that any disruption to the Internet ultimately affects, in a negative way, the development of people and society.
"If the Internet is restricted, so is the potential and prosperity of people who are connected to it," Blink argued.
At the Internet Governance Forum that took place in Turkey last month, two of the key issues discussed were privacy and online surveillance, reported The Huffington Post. These topics were seen as being important factors that affect how the right to freedom of expression is protected in an evolving digital world.
The Internet has revolutionized the way people share ideas, access information and communicate. It is good to see that there are concerned parties that aim to protect information from censorship, and work to ensure that people around the world are empowered by the right to free expression and access to information. The last few decades have seen vast technological changes which offer the opportunity to strengthen the protection of rights to expression and information. There are adversities and challenges of course, but ultimately, the will of the people will be heard.