The Right to Bear Ar–, Or Is It Access the Internet?

scissors2.JPG CNET reports that the government of Burma a.k.a. Myanmar has apparently cut-off Internet and cell phone access as a way to suppress information about the protests occurring there right now. The claim is that an undersea cable is damaged but given the convenience of such a coincidence that claim is being viewed with suspicion. As many know the information that has come through has been via cell phones, blogs, and text messages. Apparently some have even used FaceBook or e-cards to get messages out.

All of these events make we wonder whether the Bill of Rights would explicitly state that there is a right to free access and distribution of information over the Internet had the American Revolution occurred today. Now before everyone gets into a dither about the nature of the free press and what the First Amendment encompasses, I am suggesting that the situation described above shows the precarious nature of sharing information given the choke-points in place today. In other words, it seems that the benefits of technology also offer a much easier way to clamp down on society. Many have made this observation in the privacy context. Neil Richards’s post about the First Amendment gets to this point as well. We must consider what is at stake in today’s context. Put differently, could it be that the individual’s ability to access and use the Internet is now one of the key ways individuals serve to balance the power of the state?

Cross posted at Madisonian

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3 Responses

  1. How does the “net neutrality” debate look through this lens?

  2. Deven says:


    Great question. I am suggesting that such debates have another component, perhaps a political one that relates to issues beyond the creative and productive ones that are in play so far. The problem is that I am not sure that I have an argument regarding a guarantee for use of materials. But it seems that insofar as a law stopped someone from operating or connecting to the net or doing so in an anonymous manner, that could be the problem. I am still sorting these ideas so I could easily find that changes and the consideration of several issues are needed.

  3. lens, thanks for the answer. I had the same question with John`s.