[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]
“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
This statement was first uttered in 1993 by John Gilmore, Internet pioneer and co-founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Since it was first quoted in Time magazine, it’s become axiomatic, an unanswerable trump card to be played whenever the issue of Internet censorship arises.
There’s a good reason for this. Numerous efforts by governments, institutions and organizations to impede the free flow of information have achieved mixed results at best and, more often than not, failed. Only in places like Tibet and Burma, where the government owns and closely controls the information networks, has any kind of comprehensive censorship been successful.
The Internet was designed as a ‘network of networks’ – that is, a communications medium that effectively had no centre of control. While it never completely achieved that aim, it’s still a vast departure from the monolithic telecoms networks that we used to have.
The presence recently of Sulu Censors (so called for the skirt-like traditional dress many of them wear) in all television, radio and print media outlets has largely neutered Fiji’s traditional media. But the flow of information has simply found a route around this ‘damage’. In recent weeks, Fijians at home and abroad have flocked en masse to the Internet to get their fix of national and local news, uncensored by the Bainimarama regime.
Internet Pioneer Mitch Kapor’s assertion that “[Internet] architecture is politics” has never been more true.