Repression of free speech fuels the fire

What do a ninth-grader surfing for porn at school and a citizen journalist in Myanmar have in common?

Their Internet surfing and chatting can be kept in check by software from U.S. company Fortinet. The company said two years ago that it would investigate claims that its software was sold to Myanmar in breach of a U.S. embargo. The Open Net Initiative gives details.

While some worry that laziness or boredom will be the death of Web 2.0, I’m confident that repression of free expression will in fact fuel the use of Internet tools just as the American Revolution helped launch the newspapers and pamphleteers of that time. Sure, the conversation will be at times rude and crude, as Leonard Pitts notes. But U.S. leaders wrote the First Amendment because they saw how repression of free speech fuels the fire.

Online and offline reaction encouraged Verizon to retreat from a plan to refuse text messages promoting abortion rights from NARAL.

In other countries, people are using Flickr, Youtube and social networking sites to expose repressive government, and the governments are fighting back.

I’m humming Peter, Paul and Mary, circa 1967.

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