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By KEN PAULSON
First Amendment Center
The use of social media to organize and fuel riots in Great Britain has led some Western public officials to speculate about limits on BlackBerry messages, Twitter and Facebook.
Such talk has not gone unnoticed by more-repressive nations.
Chinese media have claimed hypocrisy by the West and have used the news events as justification for “proper web monitoring.”
From Xinhua, China’s state-run news organization:
“Learning a hard lesson from bitter experience, the British government eventually recognized that a balance needs to be struck between freedom and the monitoring of social media tools … . We may wonder why Western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet … and the Internet is also a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. For the benefit of the general public, proper web monitoring is legitimate and necessary.”
From the Communist Party’s Global Times:
“Media in the U.S. and Britain used to criticize developing countries for curbing freedom of speech. Britain’s new attitude will help appease the quarrels between East and West over the future management of the Internet.
“As for China, advocates of an unlimited development of the Internet should think twice about their original ideas.
“On the Internet, there is no lack of posts and articles that incite public violence. They will cause tremendous damage once they are tweeted without control. At that time, all governments will have no other choice but to close down these websites and arrest those agitators.”
The Chinese media reaction is a reminder to advocates for freedom of speech and press worldwide.
It’s not enough to talk the talk.
Ken Paulson is president and chief executive officer/First Amendment Center. Previously, Paulson served as editor and senior vice president/news of USA Today and USATODAY.com.