WaPo on the Myanmar Internet Crackdown

Roby Alampay nails some of the key issues related to Internet governance and international law in an editorial today in the Washington Post. It’s well worth a read, especially if you’ve been following the Myanmar crackdown. Alampay also makes a key link: the issue of Internet access should be perceived to be a human rights issue, and one which those thinking about Internet governance ought to take up.

In relevant part: “States have come far in such discussions and in reaching some levels of consensus. International standards have greater impetus, evidently, when they seek to cap that which they perceive as threatening to the civilized world: child pornography, organized crime, terrorism, and SPAM. This much is understandable.

“What the international community has barely begun to discuss, however, is the other side of the dilemma: What should be the international standard on ensuring Internet accessibility and openness?

“The more compelling Internet story last week took place as far away from Europe as one can get. It was from Burma — via defiant blogs, emails, and phone-cam videos posted online — that the world witnessed the other argument: that when it comes to the Internet (and all forms of media, for that matter) ‘standards’ is a legitimate topic not only with respect to limiting the medium’s (and its users’) potential harm, but more importantly in setting and keeping the medium (and its users) free.”

2 thoughts on “WaPo on the Myanmar Internet Crackdown

  1. I did follow the Myanmar crackdown (and help research/write the ONI country report actually), and my first reaction was similar to this op-ed: Internet access – and online communication, as importantly – should be defended like all other human rights, and Internet governance negotiated accordingly.

    But I began thinking that describing an ideal outcome – an “international consensus” around minimum access to “the Web” (if there is still such a thing as One Web) – doesn’t help much with respect to states that remove themselves from the international system. And while monitoring Internet filtering helps us know which governments are “up to no good”, this function is quite irrelevant in times of gross human rights violations.

    As I asked in my blog, should we not explore counter-filtering too? I’ve done no research whatsoever on this, but I’m curious to know how difficult/costly it would be to provide Burmese people with wireless Internet or SMS networks via satellite, for instance.

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