We've discussed how US political attacks on Julian Assange and Wikileaks have really hurt
the US's supposed moral high ground on internet freedom -- something our leaders have long insisted they're in favor of
. Yet, with the recent events in Egypt and the attempts to shut down internet communications there, Tim Wu is noting that the federal government should drop the attempt to charge Julian Assange
with anything, or else risk looking like total hypocrites:
It is time for the United States to drop the case against WikiLeaks. Pressing forward with efforts to prosecute an Internet publisher at home while standing up for an open Internet in Egypt and the world at large is an increasingly tenuous position. The WikiLeaks case endangers the reputation of the United States as a defender of free speech and an open Internet globally, while forcing the Obama administration to take uncomfortable constitutional positions better suited to the Nixon administration. The importance of this issue is hard to overstate: At a time when the Internet is increasingly recognized as a medium of global resistance to authoritarian rule and when protestors in Tahrir square are holding up signs that say "Thank you, Facebook!", the Obama administration and the United States must make sure that they stand on the right side.
Of course, it seems unlikely that this will actually happen, but I think that US officials significantly underestimate the ammo they're about to hand critics around the world, and what the resulting backlash will create. This one issue will be thrown up in our faces any time the US steps in or complains about a lack of internet freedom elsewhere. It will make pretty much all statements about the importance of internet freedom around the world a punchline
rather than an issue worth taking seriously.