Liberation Technology: Whither Internet Control?

Issue Date April 2011
Volume 22
Issue 2
Page Numbers 62-74
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Leading liberal democracies such as the United States have begun promoting “Internet freedom” and, by extension, opposing “Internet control.” But what exactly is this control, and how best may it be combated? The argument of this essay rests on two basic assumptions. First, “Internet control” is a rather broad, catch-all category that subsumes both censorship and surveillance. As such, it is sensitive to violations of both the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Second, “Internet control” has two separate but often overlapping dimensions, of which one is technological and the other one is sociopolitical. Most talk of “liberation technologies” as ways of weakening “Internet control” turns out to be about the technological rather than the sociopolitical dimension. But what if success in the technological area is met with larger and more sophisticated efforts at exerting sociopolitical control?