Technewsworld.com ran an article by Richard Adhikari entitled “Freedom of Online Speech in a post-Wikileaks World” that featured quotes from Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Milton Mueller.
“Free speech online is under fire,” Mueller was quoted as saying, “but it has always been under fire to some degree. What’s new is that governments are developing new institutional mechanisms to control Internet expression.”
WikiLeaks, the web site that released a number of sensitive United States government documents and sparked a number of “denial of service” attack from both pro and anti Wikileaks hackers brings to light instances of overt and subvert government censorship. Wikileaks supporters, who attacked web services that denounced Wikileaks claimed they were acting in support of free speech. Those opposing Wikileaks, claimed they were U.S. patriots.
In addition to the attacks on web sites from those outside the government, a report conducted by the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society found that recently some governments conducted a number of attacks against independent media and human rights sites, though no governments would actually take responsibility for the attacks. Coupled with the rhetoric from elected U.S. government officials that labels media outlets publishing information from WikiLeaks as “spies” and “cyberterrorists,” it is the concern of Adhikari and Mueller that free speech on the Internet is under attack itself.
Mueller also pointed out that governments have the ability to influence the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in such a way that could further restrict free speech on the Internet. Specifically, governments have been lobbying ICANN to add a provision that would allow objectors to “anonymously protest the allocation of top-level domains (i.e. .com, .net) on the grounds of public interest, morality and public order.”
Adhikari wrote, “The invocation of morality and public order are ‘an attempt by governments to impose a very vague standard of suppression,’ Mueller added. ‘Surprisingly, the strongest pressure to do this has come from the U.S. government, which ostensibly must uphold a constitutional commitment to free expression.’”
Mueller continued that the attempt to control the top-level domain allocation, “can be considered the first truly globally coordinated attempt to restrict Internet expression indirectly.”
Mueller teaches courses on information and communication policy and telecommunication management at the iSchool. His research focuses on property rights, institutions and global governance in communication and information industries. In October, MIT Press released Mueller’s pivotal book, Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance, a book analyzing the conflict between the culture of the open and free Internet and the governments of territorial nation-states. His earlier book Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace (MIT Press, 2002) was the first book-length analysis of the political and economic forces leading to the creation of ICANN. Currently, he is doing research on the legal and regulatory responsibilities of Internet service providers, Internet Protocol addressing policy, the policy implications of Deep Packet Inspection technology and the security governance practices of network operators.
Mueller was one of the founders of the Internet Governance Project, an alliance of scholars in action around global Internet policy issues. (http://blog.internetgovernance.org) As co-founder of the Noncommercial Users Constituency he has played a leading role in organizing and mobilizing public interest groups in ICANN. Mueller is on the Advisory Council of Public Interest Registry (.org).