Bruce Schneier, whom I respect tremendously, points out that freedom and security are opposing ends of the same spectrum, people balance out freedom and security based on what they perceive. In other words, people would sacrifice their freedoms if they thought they needed more security.
A way to think about this, is the amount of Gated and Guarded communities we have sprawling through the Klang Valley (and even beyond). People are willing to sacrifice the extra money and give up some freedoms to live in a Gated and Guarded area, in some cases the premiums reach 100% just to live in a area that is guarded. Residents of these communities also experience the hassle of having to ‘tap-in’ and ‘tap-out’ of their areas in addition to the tremendous difficulty hosting visitors in these neighbourhoods.
Yet, people still live in them.
The answer is simple–security. People perceive a high rate of crime and are therefore willing to give up some personal freedoms to live in a secure neighbourhood.
Notice it isn’t the actual rate of crime that drives these behaviours, it’s the perceived rate of crime that causes people to give up their freedoms (and a whole load of cash) in order to live in them.
We see this in technology as well. The internet was meant to be free, a place for the free flow of ideas and thoughts–but this scares people, particularly governments who want to remain in power. So the Government tries to control it, but has to contend with citizens that want their freedom online.
From the governments perspectives it’s really easy problem to solve. As long as people perceive there is a ‘danger’, they’d be willing to give up freedoms to achieve security.
So the government begins campaigns like arresting bloggers, and blocking sites–all in the name of security. However, are we going to idly stand by and allow the government to censor the internet–even when it’s censoring hate speech?
Yes, I’m talking about Papagomo, who was accused of posting that the “Chinese in DAP ‘wajib ditendang’ even though if it means bloodshed”. I won’t comment on what was said here, but the fact remains we don’t (or rather shouldn’t) censor the internet.
Papagomo’s site has been pretty hard to access these past few days, now we could say it may be the extra traffic the site is getting, but Papagomo host his site on Blogspot, which means he runs on Google Servers, and those servers don’t break a sweat even under the harshest of traffic conditions. So what’s the deal here? Is Malaysia censoring the internet?
If you put yourself in the Malaysians Government shoes, your way to get people to give up their freedom is to allow them to perceive the threat of racial violence, and then bank on the predictability of human nature–that eventually people will allow the government to censor the internet in the name of security. Once again, this isn’t about the real danger of racial violence, merely the perception of it.
While I wasn’t around in 1969–I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that the probability of racial riots in Malaysia is infinitesimally small–yet as long as the perception of it is high, the government can always bank on people supporting a movement to censor it–all in the name of security. Just like those gated and guarded communities.
So in my mind, we should never censor the internet. We should make rational decisions based on the information we have, and all the information suggest that we should not give up our freedom to information just because some guy named Papagomo wants to post up some racially offensive postings. To me, that means nothing, the fact that he said it and nothing happened is proof enough we have nothing to worry about.
Well maybe not true, I am worried about the government censoring my internet, and the massive harm it can bring.