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Thoughts on Egypt

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This week Egypt erupted in protest as the people cried out for change. The government responded by cutting off their internet access, causing even more outrage among the people.

I spent this morning reviewing what information I could find, and the situation is basically chaos. All the experts are at a loss as to what might eventually occur, and governments can't commit to anything until they see how it plays out. Interestingly enough, though, what I'm starting to hear from the talking heads is a simple question "Is access to the internet a basic human right?"

I come from a right-leaning libertarian background, and I absolutely hate this fuzzy-headed thing we do where we've made "rights" out of everything from health care to pubic sinecures, but I think internet access is a right. Here's why.

The internet is our right to speak and assemble. Computers are becoming extensions of our brains and not just machines you play movies and tunes on. As such, I think there's no avoiding the fact that internet and computer access is a fundamental right. More to the point, it's evolving as a human right. Not completely there yet, but it's only a matter of time.

That doesn't mean I have to pay for your cable modem -- rights are not about making one person pay or do something for another. But it does mean that things like where the secret service uses cell phone jammers, or the NSA evesdrops on internet traffic, or the local government sells out broadband access because of cable company payoffs -- these things need to be looked at in terms of human rights violations and not just murky bureaucratic and criminal issues.

I'm afraid where the law needs to be (both international and national law) is nowhere near being where it actually is.

Two things to watch in Egypt: First, will the cutoff of internet access result in a changeover or not? Now that Egypt has cut off net service, if things don't change, this will set a precedent for other governments. When they have uprisings, the first thing they will do will be to cutoff net access too. Either way this goes, this is setting a precedent for future rebellions. For that reason alone, Egypt has to change governmental structures. There's just too much on the line with the rest of the world for it not to.

Second, assuming Egypt changes governments, will the new government make constitutional promises not to cut off the net again? Once again, this is going to set a precedent. If they do, then there's a good chance people still might remain free. If they don't? We could easily see one bunch of corrupt egocentric leaders change places with another one. This is all too common in the world. Let's hope it doesn't play out that way.

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This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on January 30, 2011 1:53 PM.

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