The dangers of Internet censorship

by Harry Lewis is professor of computer science at Harvard and fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He is co-author of “Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion.”Suppose that government regulators proposed to read all postal mail in order to protect families from things they should not see. Anything not legally prohibited would be delivered. Any unlawful words, pictures, or videos would be thrown away.Sound like Orwell’s “1984,” or China? Perhaps.Yet change the technology from ink on paper to bits in wires – the zeroes and ones that flow through the Internet – and these are the plans of significant democracies. France is targeting copyrighted music and movies. Australian officials are going after child pornography – but may check for other bad stuff while they are at it. Objectionable snooping? Both governments say that law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about.

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