IT IS EITHER FREE OR NOT!
“A MAN IS EITHER FREE OR HE IS NOT. THERE CANNOT BE ANY APPRENTICESHIP FOR FREEDOM.”- Imamu Amiri Baraka (1934 -2013) (U.S. author, editor, playwright, and political activist)
Dear reader, we apologise for our inability to publish this column last week. It is to ensure a better court process, improved hearings and representations of parties. You are the reason why we write, our thoughts live in your voice. Once again, we tender an unreserved apology.
My lords, this past week did more than open our eyes to the multifaceted nature of the internet. The platform for such a revelation is not far to seek, it is the Official University of Ibadan students Union Facebook group.
Freedom is never complete without the word “Free”. What defines freedom is the ability to act and live freely without being subjected to unnecessary restrictions. For cyber freedom to exist, free will must be emphasised.
A 2012 internet society survey shows that about 83 Percent of the respondents agreed that access to the internet should be considered a basic human right and 86 Percent agreed that freedom of speech should be guaranteed on the internet.
Internet censorship, which is often the offspring of arguments for restriction, is the suppression of what can be published or assessed on the internet. An attempt to restrict the access to the internet will certainly create a new form of autocracy. A question that never ceases to come up is, “who checks the checker?” The restriction measures will inevitably create two groups out of a society that is generally believed to have been levelled (to some extent) by the internet: an extremely powerful group and a weak group.
Perhaps nothing empowers like knowledge; the free flow of information has helped to build participatory system of governance and stronger societies. Information has never been so easily accessible. There are increasingly new ways to broaden ideas to a large number of persons. Even in authoritarian nations, the internet has created for the people ways to get facts and make the governments more accountable. Internet censorship is the fastest way to destroy this flow, it will make the government the sole “producer and distributor” of information (think “1984”).
Bureaucracy is one the commonest killers of any government controlled enterprise or process. It will in no time put an end to the increasingly acceptable options of the internet as an alternative to the non-functioning systems. In the academics, the internet has helped to expand the frontiers of knowledge (through E-libraries, blogs et Cetera), thereby dislodging the “teachers” as the sole custodians of knowledge. An attempt to introduce censorship will naturally end the existence of such platforms.
The press has perhaps benefited the most from internet freedom. The decentralisation of the internet has advanced the course of press freedom and dissemination of information. It has also enhanced the possibilities of journalists working without external pressure. Citizen journalism is also one of the products of the many opportunities. In autocratic nations where all news media are state owned, the internet remains the only tool for independent communication. Cyber freedom has no doubt enhanced creativity and propagation of new ideas. In a short time and few clicks of the mouse, one can create a blog site and get to share one’s ideas with the world. Censorship will definitely limit such possibilities.
The Hash-tag has undoubtedly redefined the nature of protests and agitations. In no time, a “protest” within Nigeria could get support from other countries because of the speed in communication and most importantly, cyber freedom. Cyber restriction is the fastest means to kill the new voice; is it not the person that plays the piper that also dictates the tune?
Finally, my lords, cyber censorship is the fastest means to formally restore autocracy and withdraw the all-round tool of the society. For freedom to exist it has to be total; cyber censorship should not be allowed.
I rest my case
TOTAL FREEDOM? Capital “NO”!
“FREEDOM IS SLAVERY” – GEORGE ORWELL (1984)
From the development of electronic computers in 1950s, to the origination of packet networking in the 1960s, down to the eventual invention of World Wide Web in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, an argument had been born with the baby internet and has evolved over time. This argument, like a placenta, was and is still firmly fixed to the concept of networking the world and two schools of thought have risen to fiercely campaign for and against the cutting of this placenta. This placenta, of course is no other thing than the concept of “Cyber Censorship”. One school of thought has advocated that the internet should be freed and separated from the placenta of censorship; that everyone should be free to do anything on the internet. While the other school of thought has argued that it’s too dangerous to cut the placenta; they are of the opinion that the ocean of contents available to everyone should be censored lest they be consumed by the voluminous waves. And this week, my Lords, I have pitched my tent with the later school of thought.
My Lords, we are presently in a civilization that boasts of 7,996 tweets, 46,257 Google searches, 91,209 YouTube videos views, 24,227GB of Internet traffic, 1,583 Skype calls, 1,578 Tumblr posts, 1,462 Instagram photos uploaded and 2,347,620 Emails sent per just 1 second! (www.internetlivestats.com). This is an era where billions of gigabytes of data are being churned out every day, with a large percentage of which account for explicit, illicit, offensive and obscene contents. The freedom of the internet has birthed a lot of crimes like Cyberstalking, Phising scams, fraud and Identity theft, Cyberbullying, spamming, Cyberwarfare and ultimately Cyberterrorism among a host of others. If necessary restrictions are not being meted out to curtail the excesses of users of the internet, we might as well be on our way, loading explosively to “Cyber Anarchy“! And whatever follows anarchy, no matter how fair cannot be better than “nasty, brutish and short” as Thomas Hobbes has noted.
At this stage, we need to discard every notion that the Cyberspace is an entirely different world from our “real” life, far from it, there is nothing like “online life”. The virtual world is just an extension of the physical world and whatever we do on the Cyberspace has a way of crawling back to our “Real world”. If every Tola, Chima and Danjuma is at liberty to pass insensitive and inciting comments and defame people as they wish, the aftermath of such acts will not just stay in that “cyberspace” it’s most likely to result to physical conflicts, crisis and aggression, which in turn require the law enforcement officials to resolve. This would result to wastage of the government’s revenue and the tax payers’ money that could have been averted by automatic censoring, prevention has been proven to be better than cure!
My Lords, some people may argue that they have been guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression and freedom of information under our constitution. However, it must be duly noted that total freedom is a myth in a civilized society, one’s right of swinging one’s arms stops immediately an inch to another man’s nose. Of course, you have the right to post pictures on the social media as you like but that right stops immediately you post another man’s picture with comments accusing him to be “gay” without any substantial evidence to corroborate your allegation. That act is a defamation of another man’s reputation. And if these wrongs are not allowed in the physical world, then obviously, they should not be allowed on the internet!
Finally, my Lords, the internet is like the wild waves of an angry ocean, and if we refuse to build barriers and ducts to protect our home, its final flooding will not only be imminent but also inevitable. Censorship is necessary to ensure the safety and protect the dignity of our vulnerable children. It is necessary to avert unnecessary religious, racial and moral conflicts fuelled by fanatics who hide behind the fluidity of the web. And except we want to behold horrible scenes, we should never give a madman total freedom over his mother’s corpse for things will definitely go wrong.
I rest my case!
CYBER SPACE: FREEDOM OR CENSORSHIP?
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