Defeat the Internet Berlin Wall

The president and Congress can strike a blow for freedom by enacting pending legislation that would provide support for those who would use the Internet to promote truth in our times and counteract those who would turn the Internet into an instrument of the state by building the digital version of the Berlin Wall.

Across the borders and around the globe there is a new battle raging — what President Kennedy once called the “battle of ideas” in what futurist Alvin Toffler once called the Age of Information.

Today this battle is played out from the corners of China to the streets of Tehran, where Big Brother detains reporters, closes down media and deforms the truth while the sons and daughters of the Iranian future beam the truth to the world through telephonic cameras and Twitter messages.

In this war of the worlds, in one corner stand the protesters, dissidents and advocates of freedom and democracy who use the Internet in the service of truth, against the clenched fist of the Big Brother state.

In the other corner is Big Brother, who abuses many systems, speaks in many languages and uses Internet censors and spying in the service of the iron fist, the big lie and the Abu Ghraibs that are given many names in many places.

It is often a battle between the young, who use technology in the service of freedom, versus the old, who build their Berlin Walls against the spread of truth and information, in the service of repression.

Some use Twitter to write of the wonderful espresso they drank this morning, others to tell the world of their life-endangering march for freedom and the beatings and maimings that Big Brother seeks to hide with his latest incarnation of the Berlin Wall.

Sadly but predictably, sometimes with the support of companies that have reaped great fortunes taking advantage of our great freedoms, dictatorships from left to right work overtime to build Internet firewalls to prevent the truth from being told and to imprison and torture those who tell it.

Brilliantly, and equally predictably, the advocates of freedom and truth are fighting back. From survivors of Tiananmen Square to supporters of Mousavi in Iran, they are creatively finding new ways to beat Big Brother.

Groups such as the Global Internet Freedom Consortium are making these technologies available to many people in many places. Great minds in universities around the world are inventing new technologies to use the Internet to keep the truth beyond the reach of Big Brother.

The Washington Post, in its editorial Tuesday calling for support for “freedom v. the firewall” noted, correctly, that these technologies exist, and what is needed is more capacity. The Post is right. I would add that what is also needed is support for the technology of freedom always remaining one step ahead of the technology of oppression.

The Senate should join this battle and join those from left to right, across the borders and around the globe, who stand against Big Brother in his many forms.

This cause should be supported by Democrats and Republicans, by progressive bloggers and conservative radio hosts, by the full diversity of the American people in support of the global diversity of the friends of freedom, whoever they are, wherever they battle, whatever Big Brother they stand against.

It is the truth that sets us free, and we should stand with those who spread the truth until this latest Berlin Wall comes tumbling down, which sooner or later it surely will.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at