Free Speech Cannot Exist Without Strong Encryption
By Rick Falkvinge
Freedom of Speech is not just the freedom to say whatever you want. It’s the freedom to say those words to somebody. It follows that strong encryption is not just a strong right in itself, but that it is inherent in Freedom of Speech, as the normal case for today’s speech is to take place across a distance.
In the United States, we’re now on something like the third wave of clueless politicians trying to score cheap points by waging war on encryption. The first was in the early 1990s, when Phil Zimmermann’s encryption software PGP – Pretty Good Privacy – actually was classified as military material and couldn’t legally be communicated out of the United States. That ended with a significant court battle which established that code is speech, and therefore, free speech includes free code. (Activists in the courtroom were wearing T-shirts with the source code.)
Between there and now, there have been a low-intensity war on liberty waged by various politicians who want to outlaw encryption. (Are we on the second or third crypto wars? Doesn’t really matter, what matters is that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.) These politicians are generally so technically illiterate that they are best described with their proposed technology regulation as the equivalent of drunken elephants trumpeting about in a glassware factory.
Freedom of Speech was never the freedom to sit alone in a padded room and mutter incomprehensibly to yourself. The concept necessarily involves communicating a thought to one or more other people, and therefore, includes your right to select those people. This was obvious when we only spoke face to face, and freedom of speech was enshrined; now, technology has changed our ability to talk to people at a distance, but not the basic concept. Therefore, strong encryption is a prerequisite today to maintain the very concept of Freedom of Speech.
The problem is that encryption, like the Internet itself, is seen a separate phenomenon. But it’s not. It deeply integrated into how we exercise our freedoms and safeguard our liberties today. It used to be that all freedoms not just could, but typically would be exercised in an analog manner.
Today, however, we exercise our fundamental liberties like the freedoms of assembly, speech, opinion, the press, and thought through the Internet. And therefore, the internet itself has become just a fundamental a right as all the other rights we exercise through it.
Therefore, free speech today does not exist without strong encryption.
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December 16, 2015 at 09:51PM
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