Why doesn't Washington understand the Internet? by Rebecca MacKinnon

Posted in: Governance at 29/01/2012 23:01

In late 2010, on the eve of the Arab Spring uprisings, a Tunisian blogger asked Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah what democratic nations should do to help cyber­activists in the Middle East. Abdel Fattah, who had spent time in jail under Hosni Mubarak's regime, argued that if Western democracies wanted to support the region's Internet activists, they should put their own houses in order. He called on the world's democracies to "fight the troubling trends emerging in your own backyards" that "give our own regimes great excuses for their own actions."

The ominous developments that Abdel Fattah warned about are on display in Washington today in the battle over two anti-piracy bills. This fight is just the latest example of how difficult it is for even an established democracy to protect both intellectual property and intellectual freedom on the Internet -- all while keeping people safe, too. It is a challenge that Congress has historically failed to meet.

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