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9/6/04 - PROMOTING INTERNET FREEDOM - 2004-09-07

The free exchange of ideas in all media, including the Internet, is essential to building a modern successful society. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recently held a conference on the media. One of the speakers was Matthew Berry, a senior counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Berry says government policies that try “to limit Internet access are seriously misguided and threaten to prevent the Internet from realizing its full potential”:

“Some governments certainly seem to see the Internet as something to be feared. They wish to control the Internet. They wish to either deny citizens Internet access, or strictly filter the sites which their citizens may visit. We think that’s a fundamental mistake, and the Internet should be open to all viewpoints, and that governments should take steps to encourage their citizens to have Internet access, and be able to access a wider range of information.”

Some governments have even passed legislation trying to criminalize speech that potentially propagates hate on the Internet. These laws are often vague and can be selectively applied by governments as a means to silence opposition voices. As U.S. Justice Department official Matthew Berry said, the “extraordinary difficulty in defining the boundaries of ‘hate speech’ strongly counsels against any attempt by governments to restrict such expression.”

The Internet has made the proliferation of information amazingly efficient. It has made communication among people instantaneous and mutually beneficial. Access to the Internet and its use by citizens exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression are to be encouraged, not hindered.