How the Internet Times Have Changed

«It’s not to control, but to protect the citizens of Singapore. In our society, you can state your views, but they have to be correct.»
Ernie Hai, coordinator of the Singapore Government Internet Project

Over a decade ago, I stumbled upon the quotation above. For me, it exemplified censorship — here by the state — with the common doublethink.

Unthinkable in our Western democracy.

But how the times have changed.

Looking at what happens with what people say online, people being fired for tweets or sanctioned for “likes” done with their private accounts — or the rise of the nebulous idea of hate speech … yeah, we’re there as well.

What the state cannot do itself — those pesky basic rights — it delegates to companies with the threat of heavy fines, which is further enforced by a loud minority of people hunting those they see as evil, if only to feel good.

The mechanisms are different, but the overall effect is the same. Even worse, if the direction continues. I’m reminded of Pratchett here:

But this is Hunghung. You can’t think like that in Hunghung. This is where people have learned to do what they’re told. The Horde worked that one out.
The Empire’s got something worse than whips all right. It’s got obedience. Whips in the soul. They obey anyone who tells them what to do. Freedom just means being told what to do by someone different.
Interesting Times

We’ve come a long way from an open exchange of ideas, from free speech and wild uninhibited creativity.

But luckily, the Internet’s history doesn’t have to end here.