Experts warn against tighter Internet restrictions worldwide

A panel of experts addressed international governments’ attempts to control their citizens’ use of the Internet at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Tuesday.

“Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace” — designed to promote a new book with the same title — featured a conversation between four speakers, including two principal investigators of the Open Net Initiative and Bob Boorstin, Director of Public Policy in Google’s D.C. office.

Moderator Moises Naím opened the session by explaining that at the Internet’s inception, it was clearly making a positive impact on democracy; now, “governments have caught up” and discovered that it’s a powerful tool they can use to control people. Censorship and limitations on access are evolving from firewalls and filtering to “next-generation” controls that and leverage existing agencies and enforce restrictions through user behavior with Web 2.0 technologies.

Ultimately, many of these problems are social, not technological, and organizations invested in freedom of access can’t rely solely on technology to foster democracy, said panelist Ronald Deibert, co-founder and principal investigator of the Open Net Initiative.

For more information about the participants and the book, visit the NED’s Web site.

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