Enemies of the Internet...
Last week, Reporters Without Borders released its annual report on countries with the worst records of internet censorship. Read it here as a PDF file on Google Docs.
Most of the names aren't surprising: China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, etc. Essentially, this reads like a Who's Who of totalitarian regimes.
However, it's turning a few heads that the democracies of Australia and South Korea also made the list. Australia, which I've criticized before, has tried implementing a draconian filtering system under the guise of eliminating child pornography (which it fails to do). Meanwhile, South Korea, the world's most wired nation with 90% of its citizens online, has attempted to censor criticism of the government through a "liberticidal legislative arsenal" that aims to fight against the spread of "false information".
Those who believe that the internet's decentralization will naturally bring about freedoms are dead wrong. As Lawrence Lessig famously argued, the internet will only come to embody those political values that we create for it, and "architectures of control" will arise without specific efforts to counteract them.
Treading that fine line between freedom of expression and protecting citizens from the worst of social elements always requires a delicate balance. But when journalists cite that they fear retribution simply from reporting the news within these nations, the line has clearly been crossed.