Jeffery Rosen, in an article for Time Magazine, wrote “[Internet companies] decisions about whether to cooperate with government surveillance requests will determine the future of free speech as much as any prosecutor or judge.”
If this is true, it is quite troubling. Especially when you consider how the companies that Edward Snowden named such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc. gave direct access of their servers to the government. All of these companies systematically denied this initially and are now tacitly admitting that they did have knowledge of this although they claim it is not as broad as reported.
Time will give us the answer to that particular question, but I wouldn’t trust Google or Facebook either to determine the fate of free speech world wide or to guarantee the free space and sovereignty of the internet.
It has become a necessity to create a more democratic model for which people can express themselves via the internet without constraints. This has already happened to the degree in the past for example 4chan but these sites are nearing extinction because of the move towards social networking control sites such as Facebook. There is an immediate danger being posed to our democracy based on a select few controlling the moderating abilities of entire channels of communication and information. As long as this is true, we will never be safe from censorship or surveillance. I wouldn’t expect Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page to come to our defense when it comes to that, since they quite clearly had no ethical problem in allowing government access to their servers so we can be spied upon. What would happen if they suddenly decided to flip the switch and increase censorship? With these new revelations, nothing is too farfetched.
Freedom of Speech is a sensitive issue and there is a fine balance between security and civil liberties. However, when you give the government an inch, they tend to take a mile. That’s why it is important that we keep the conversation going.
Cheers, Mr. Snowden.