Online sunshine leads to better behaviour
ITU secretary-General Hamadoun Touré is not given to exaggeration, so it’s interesting to hear him warn governments not to mess with the internet.
Cut off access at your peril, he says. Which is not news to presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Syria, among others, but may come as a bit of surprise to the heads of western nations.
Reason is simple: people regard access to the internet as a human right, something the UN endorsed last week, so mess with that, you are messing with something people hold personally very dear, even if they don’t use Facebook quite as much as they used to.
Which is why Touré is calling for a common code of conduct negotiated between governments, ISPs, the security mob, civil society and users. We can all (mostly) agree online kiddie porn is a no-no. But reading the Wikileaks cables is a matter of debate.
With the UK thinking of filtering and blocking websites to prevent us all from turning into terrorists, perhaps the government needs to pause to consider alternatives to co-opting the ISP community to block stuff it considers objectionable.
To quote US judge Louis Brandeis, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Access to information via the net is clearly online sunshine.
Perhaps, as Touré says, access to the net will help all of us, governments’ included, behave better.