Apr 17, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

The Guardian’s Battle for the Internet

Discussions on the nature of technology’s role in governance and technologies and the internet are recognized as contributing to the development are many and varied, yet increasingly mobile development of both economies and societies. At least in part this contribution is rooted in the decentralized nature of communication and the spread of information via these technologies.  Yet, just as these tools become cheaper and the possibility of a reasonably priced and broadly accessible smart phone grows nearer, governments around the world appear increasingly uncertain about what role if any they’d like the internet to play in their societies.  A current series from the Guardian titled “Battle for the Internet” should be of interest not only to those interested in technology and internet freedom, but also those interested in the relationships between governments and the governed.


Over seven days the Guardian will be discussing issues relevant to the internet and the ever developing struggles around its future.  Not surprisingly several of these topics touch directly on issues of governance, either in its traditional form or in relation to the role of private enterprise in the laws that govern nations.  As has been observed in past efforts in democracy promotion, when avenues for progress present themselves, they are quickly addressed by society’s elites.  The focus in recent years, and certainly since the events of the Arab Spring, on regulating the internet do not bode well for its future as a venue for free expression of ideas.

Historically the US has served both as one of the greatest supporters of and the greatest threats to concepts of internet freedom. It is increasingly clear in recent days that the stance of our nation on issues of internet freedom is headed into questionable territory.  Certainly China’s heavy-handed toward internet censorship and Iran’s almost unimaginable proposal of a national and “clean” version of the internet for its citizens deserve to be highlighted in the public sphere; yet in light of one piece of proposed US internet legislation after another, the promotion of internet freedom abroad grows ever more hypocritical.  We would do well to observe our conflicts between foreign and domestic policy on the issue of the internet and come to some sort of conclusion on what our nation actually believes in on this subject.

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Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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