With China's latest clampdown on the internet, it is worth taking a look at the downside of internet regulation, a topic which has been discussed on this page in the past.
I have had the privilege since starting this blog just three months ago to be found by Google search engines, have my page linked to by prominent blogs and websites and be cited by a number of Twitter pages hosted around the world. This interconnectivity is an incredible phenomenon which results in an outlet for creativity which would not have been viable a relatively short 15 years ago in the US due to technology limitations. This outlet for creativity and opinion remains unavailable in many of the world's nations, including China. However, it is not limitations to technology which are stifling the voice of the Chinese people, it is the current state of the nation's regulatory regime. This clampdown on creativity and dissent leads only to negative results, including the bottling of innovation and progress.
There are of course some things that should be regulated on the internet, such as libel. However, in many nations, including China and Cuba, the internet is regulated for everything, including 'harmful ideas,' which, under those regimes, includes 'anti-state content.' However, there are incredible societal and economic benefits that stem from the free-flow of well considered ideas that should not be stifled. I understand that this view may be seen as self-serving as my thoughts reach you courtesy of the blogosphere. However, I do not believe that impeaches their validity or truth.
Over the past two decades, Americans have increasingly received even everyday news via the internet. This activity has grown exponentially in the current decade with the advent of blogs, twitter and handhelds with realtime capabilities. It has come to a point where some of the biggest news stories of the day appear on a website or a blog before they can be found on NBC or ABC. Aside from these societal benefits, idea sharing via chat rooms and the posting of research including vital scientific study results increases the capacity for learning and innovation in our economy. However, none of this is currently possible in China, where the internet is increasingly being seen as a tool for the government to control and utilize rather than one that serves the people.
The current crackdown on the internet in China is a step backwards for a society which is otherwise being liberalized in so many ways. Great progress in the human rights area was made in the country leading up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, a development which was rightly praised by the developed world. Hopefully the positive pressure put on the current leadership leading up to the Olympics will be replicated in support of the Chinese people after the most recent developments, because further internet regulation can only be seen as three steps back from recent single steps forward.