The Uncertain Future of Free Expression

Aram Sinnreich says,

I just co-authored an article in Truthdig on what we call "e-speech" — freedom of expression in digital media. The article attempts to pull several issues (e.g. net neutrality, electronic privacy, walled gardens, asymmetrical access) together under one umbrella, and to propose market- and technology-based solutions to these challenges.

His co-author, tech journalist Masha Zager, also happens to also be his mom. Says Aram, "It's the first thing we've written together since I was in grade school!" Snip from the piece:

Although no one is slowing down or opening your posted letters, spying on your face-to-face conversations or restricting your physical ability to make music, all of these barriers to free speech–and more–are becoming increasingly prevalent in the world of digital communications. And as tools like the Web, e-mail, voice over IP, Internet video, mobile phones and peer-to-peer file sharing become increasingly vital to our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, businesses and government institutions, these limitations on speech and threats to our privacy are becoming increasingly important civil rights issues.

When we talk about unequal access to computers and other digital communication technologies, we speak about the "digital divide." When we talk about the concentrated ownership of the Internet access business, we can point to a simple, powerful statistic: Four companies control nearly 60 percent of the American ISP market, and four companies control nearly 90 percent of the American mobile phone market. But there's no simple way to talk about the interrelated issues of electronic surveillance, network neutrality, asymmetry and "walled garden" technologies that collectively threaten free expression in the digital world.

Without a name for the big picture, it's difficult to do anything about it. Imagine trying to reverse global warming, reduce pollution and save species from extinction without the umbrella of the word environmentalism connecting the issues. Therefore, we propose the term e-speech as a concept to unite these issues, and to discuss potential solutions to the problem they collectively pose.

E-Speech: The (Uncertain) Future of Free Expression (Thanks, Noah Shachtman)