Untangling the Web For Persecuted Bloggers

Allen Roth at One Jerusalem sends this important article from the Wall Street Journal that could not be more timely considering the tragic blogger news from Egypt and similar news from Bahrain (and now Kuwait!).
Here is part of that WSJ article:

Tangled Web

The past few weeks have seen a chilling crackdown on Internet freedom by American allies. An Egyptian appeals court upheld a four-year prison term for Abdel Kareem Soliman (pictured below), a blogger who outraged religious authorities, while a Turkish judge ordered that Internet companies block YouTube, citing videos that disparage the memory of Turkey’s founder, Ataturk.

This is nothing new: Bahrain, where the U.S. 5th Fleet is based, has been hounding bloggers and Internet activists for the past three years. While the United States has focused its attention and outrage on China, Internet censorship has become a problem with friends and foes alike. Adapting the U.S. approach to China elsewhere would mean singling out U.S. allies for opprobrium at a time when America needs all the friends it can find. The smart alternative is to shift from a bilateral approach to making the promotion of freedom on the Web a genuinely global policy.

The Internet has been hailed as a technology that empowers average citizens to make their voices heard. Its dispersed nature, most assume, makes it difficult to control. Yet countries generally route Internet traffic through a small number of checkpoints, allowing governments to efficiently monitor and control what happens on the Web…

When corporate leverage is limited, governments must step in. U.S. efforts have, so far, been anemic. The Global Internet Freedom Task Force, the highest profile effort launched so far, has been little more than a talk shop…

…Making investment in information technology dependent on good Web citizenship has the potential to encourage meaningful change in emerging economies like Turkey and Egypt as well as small but important countries like Bahrain. Leaders in all three
countries are hungry for Silicon Valley to invest in their economies.

The U.S. should also exert global leadership. A first step would be to sponsor a United Nations Declaration of Internet and Electronic Freedom. To be sure, the U.N.’s enforcement mechanisms are hopelessly weak, but the declaration can serve as a standard against which countries can be judged.

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