Are you passionate about freedom of speech, and internet freedom? Did you find yourself rebelling against SOPA and PIPA? Still grieving over Swartz’s death? Head to freespeechdebate.org, a web resource and organization run under the direction of Oxford historian, Timothy Garton Ash. This is research programme has been undertaken by the Dahrendorf Programme for the study of freedom at St. Anthony’s college in Oxford University. This website contains well-researched articles by scholars on the latest international developments that could affect freedom of speech on the internet. So it’s firstly a fairly good resource for acquainting yourself with the challenges that lie head.
There are interviews and videos of journalists and writers who have worked on these issues — be it Tarun Tejpal on investigative journalism and corruption in India, or Arundhati Roy on government censorship. But the real benefit of this website lies in its ability to give you a global perspective on this issue. Other articles explore the risk to free speech and women’s rights in post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the need for both free speech as well as media regulation in Rwanda and Libya, the rise of the far right in Hungary and how Facebook’s policy of automatic filtering for words led to the cancellation of a Hungarian anti-fascist group’s post. Alison Powell’s article offers significant insight into the debate between western democracies and authoritarian governments like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia on the issue of government control over the internet. When the debate seems to be mostly about the West vs. China, Russia, etc., Powell shows readers the problems with the US-dominated NGO model of internet governance.
The site can be read in thirteen languages, and all discussions on the site will be digitally archived by Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, in order to enable future generations to track the evolution of the debate. Readers are free to comment and contribute to the debate, especially on the ten principles of free speech that the site outlines.