As I’ve written before, America’s increasingly heavy-handed, anti-free speech campaign finance laws threaten to eventually ensnare the entire Internet and our new innovative, bottom-up world of organic “we-dia” (WE-MEDIA). Blogs are already in their crosshairs and lawmakers will be targeting other technologies of freedom in coming years.
Want to know where we might be headed? Look at Singapore. They’ve got a long history of stifling political speech and now their drawing up a blueprint to quash dissent via alternative digital outlets.
Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Communications, Information and the Arts (and you thought the FCC was bad!) recently said that “Anyone, anywhere can blog anything, anyhow. We have adopted a light touch approach in dealing with the everyday use of the Internet.” Well, that sounds encouraging, but then… “However, during the election period when such free-for-all may result in undesirable situations, we cannot take a completely hands-off approach,” he said. “We will review our policies on the Internet and new media during the election period bearing in mind the changes taking place.”
According to this AFP story, Singapore has already been criticized by human rights groups and opposition parties for placing restrictions on political discussions on the Internet. The rules apparently already ban the use of use of podcasts and videocasts for advertising during elections.
Whether or not this all works remains to be seen. It’s one thing to regulate the signals being beamed out from a big broadcast tower. (After all, it’s pretty easy to find those towers and their programmers). Internet “broadcasters” are another matter, however, and enforcement will become a nightmare for the regulators as more and more people get online.
But that doesn’t mean the regulators won’t give it their best shot. And while lawmakers here in the States have given blogs and the Internet a reprieve for now, you’d be fooling yourself to believe that that’s the end of the story. Regulation expands. Always and everywhere.