Free speech

Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia was in Oxford yesterday at the launch of an Oxford project which aims to generate global debate about free speech. Along with Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of SOPA, which I don’t know enough about to comment, it seems the citizens of the internet are feeling the ground start to shake with rumble of tanks rolling into their territory. I guess it’s always the nature of government to want to control the people, and without a government for the internet, governments of countries will attempt to fill that gap and control the people on the internet within their geographic boundaries.

And then today, Megaupload and Megavideo have been shut down for piracy with the sites owners facing court and most likely jail. But I wonder what the charges will be against them? If it’s not paying tax on their earnings from the site, then that’s justifiable in my book. But it’s the piracy bit which is more messy. I think it comes down to a clash of world views.   Virtual vs. real. Trying to apply the way the real world works to the online world is never going to succeed in any clear or satisfactory way.

I think this realisation is going to have to be one of the big things that comes out of the information age. The online world that we exist in as online citizens is to all intents and purposes a separate country from the geographic countries we live in, and as such has it’s own language, customs, cultures, currency. Not accepting this and dealing with people as if they are only physical entities, and not virtual ones too, is not only an out-dated way to consider a human being, but is also destined to fail because of that. Maybe the UN needs to look at and recognise the Human Rights of the virtual aspect of the citizens of the world.