February 08, 2012

[BLANK] the Police?

Any policing strategy should advance liberty and tolerance.

The key is to recognize that the panoply of human rights and democratic liberties should exist on the Internet just as they do offline. The police will track criminals, but they must do so under the law and in accordance with due process. The military will chase terrorists online, but they should do so under established rules.

Of course, the rules governing online behavior, and the limits to governmental intrusion in it, are not always well established—certainly not internationally. Thus, America’s global Internet freedom promotion efforts are critical. They must include an effort to shape norms and establish rules that will both protect the free flow of information online and bolster our security.

This is no easy task. For more than two centuries, America has wrestled with the competing demands of security and freedom. But whether we act at home or abroad, we should keep at the fore of our minds a guiding principle: America should pursue an online freedom strategy that helps tilt the balance in favor of those who would use the Internet to advance tolerance and free expression and away from those who would employ it for repression or violence. It’s not a bad place to start.