The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Across the centuries it has been said many times by many different people. Thomas Jefferson phrased it in the Revolutionary war style as “The price of liberty…” George Marshall used it; as did Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln. It has been used in one form or another by British politicians.
Last week in Dubai, freedom was once more on the docket. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations, met to write a new U.N. telecommunications treaty. This would be the first rewrite since the beginning of the Internet age.
Arab nations, initially supported by Russia and China, proposed curbs on the free flow of information to and from their countries. They depended on the United States and the West to acquiesce to their demands and allow them to regulate the Internet within their borders.
In the ten days of the conference, the negotiations essentially pitted the West’s desire to preserve the unregulated nature of the Net against developing countries yearning for better Web access and strong-arm states such as Iran and China that closely filter cyberspace.
More than 20 countries joined the U.S. on Friday in refusing to sign the protocols by the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union, claiming it opens the door to greater government controls of the Net and could be used by authoritarian states to justify further crackdowns on cyberspace.
Using the fig leaf of providing greater Internet access to the world’s least developed regions, the opposing side insisted that they should have a greater sway over Internet affairs and seek to break a perceived Western grip on information technology.
As Americans who love freedom in its most unfettered form, we should be proud of our representatives who fought for the freedom of the Internet. “A free and open Internet with limited restrictions has been critical to its development into one of the greatest tools for empowering people to connect and share information globally,” said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who represents part of Silicon Valley, in a statement from Washington.
“But there are countries and groups who wish to exert greater control over the Internet in order to restrict or censor it for political or cultural reasons,” she added. “We need to stand firm against those kinds of threats if we want the Internet to continue as a vibrant engine for innovation, human rights, cultural and economic growth.”
In the end, it was supported by 89 countries in the 193-member U.N. telecoms union. Fifty-five did not sign, including the U.S.-led bloc of more than 20 nations, and others needing home country approval. The remainder did not have high-ranking envoys in Dubai.
Hamadoun Toure, the union’s secretary-general, is one of those who just doesn’t get it, saying that he was “very much surprised” by the U.S. led opposition. Of course, being educated in Moscow, he simply doesn’t understand that the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance.
A ghostly parade of patriots, however, would understand that freedom isn’t always free and we need to defend every effort by any government or international organization to curtail it.