Cyberlibertarianism sounds great to me; complete freedom of information, the end of authority and regulation, where every user is equal and can ‘enter without privilege or prejudice’ (Perry, 1996). Like most things, the theory of cyberliberty seems incredibly desireable, and relatively simple to put in effect, but its reality is far more complex.
I stumbled across A Short Guide to the Internet’s Biggest Enemies by Jillian York. Having explored the notion of the state as an enemy occurring as a motif under the cyberlibertarian paradigm, I was curious to discover who these ‘big enemies’ were. The blog post discussed the recently released list, created by Reporters Without Borders. It was introduced in 2006 and has since been updated yearly. Skimming my eyes across the list, I saw the expected competitors; China, North Korea and Iran, all nestled in the ‘World’s Worst Offenders’ section.
Reading onwards, I was surprised by two of the nations that starred in the newcomers list. Both the United States and the United Kingdom had found themselves on the list of the Internet’s Biggest Enemies. The UK however had, what I deemed, a legitimate excuse.
While it was noted for spying on individuals, and using terrorism laws to attack journalists, the country has apparently sharpened its sword against pornography. Turns out that only last month, the UK had 660 individuals arrested for downloading and distributing child pornography.
Among these were scout workers, care workers and doctors. One particular doctor was charged for having access to over one million pornographic images, and found to have met up with young boys on numerous occasions. A number of sex aids and ropes were also found in the boot of his car.
I know, it’s completely disgusting and you feel the need to scoff at your screen while shaking your head, but how does giving each user complete online freedom seem now? Cyberlibertarianism neglects the inevitable; people are not perfect, and are often cruel and vile.
In order for cyberlibertarianism to be a reality, it cannot regulate any individual’s actions in cyberspace. Cyberlibertarians believe true ‘internet freedom’ is freedom from state action. It grants every individual with liberty of conscience, thought, opinion, speech and expression online, and grants the liberty of contract and exchange in an online environment. This includes the doctor whose conscience doesn’t deem child pornography as wrong, and the scout worker who has complete freedom to distribute and exchange pornography online. While the daydream of cyberliberty is flawless, it’s reality is like handing a large city’s safety and security, lets say New York for example, into the hands of a dorky, insecure college boy. It’s mindless! Can we really entrust ourselves with such power? After all, with great power comes great responsibility… potentially great regulation and review would be helpful too.
Barlow, J P 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, 8 February, viewed 14 August 2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/mod/url/view.php?id=160751
BreakingNEWS, 2014, ‘UK police arrest 660 in massive child pornography crackdown’, BreakingNEWS, 16 July, viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/uk-police-arrest-660-in-massive-child-pornography-crackdown-636518.html
Reporters Without Borders 2014, Enemies of the Internet 2014, Reporters Without Borders, For Freedom of Information, viewed 17 August 2014, http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/enemies-of-the-internet-2014-entities-at-the-heart-of-censorship-and-surveillance/
York, J, A Short Guide to the Internet’s Biggest Enemies, Electronic Froniter Foundation, blog, 13 March, viewed 17 August 2014, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/03/short-guide-internets-biggest-enemies