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A constituency of censors

  • To: <cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: A constituency of censors
  • From: "Alexander R. Cohen" <arc3w@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 10:04:52 -0400

The proposed "CyberSafety Constituency" is a constituency of censors,
inimical to the spirit of the Internet and organized out of hostility
towards a substantial group of Internet users. It must not be recognized.


The Internet has historically been a liberating force. The ideal of the free
flow of information has been deeply embedded in its structure; a proverb
says it routes around censorship. It has brought people together in
conversation who, without it, would never have encountered one another.
"Safety" online -- which cannot mean physical safety in any direct sense,
because there is not yet any technology for sending bullets through
bandwidth -- can only mean restricting the flow of information and cutting
off these conversations. Granted, some people have done risky things after
meeting malicious people online, but those decisions, made by human beings
of their own free will, do not warrant interfering with the freedom of


Among the biggest beneficiaries of the Internet's freedom are young people,
who are often subject to oppressive restrictions on their communication by
political authorities, school authorities, and authorities in their own
homes. The online "safety" movement often targets them in particular for
further restrictions, in order to reinforce the oppression. As a result,
they may be unable to call for help if abused -- or to realize they are
being abused, if abuse is all they know. They may be unable to explore ideas
contrary to those of their parents -- for example, to discover Darwin if
they are being raised on nothing but literal Genesis. They may be denied
access to lifesaving information about sexually transmitted diseases. They
may be prevented from getting to know people from different cultural
backgrounds. In short, online "safety" may prevent them from protecting
themselves against death, beatings, and mental stagnation. Moreover, by
enforcing intellectual dependence, it stunts their mental and spiritual
growth as free human beings even if used with the most perfect benevolence. 


The advocates of this dangerous "safety" must not be given special
privileges within the ICANN structure. 



Doctoral student in philosophy

University of Virginia



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