Internet freedom, net neutrality, even the very concept of freedom of speech are all hot button topics right now, and even citizens in the respective countries can be left confused as to the meaning of the terms. One former Google employee is currently learning the hard way, for example, that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
In other regions, these concepts are far more foreign, such as that social media and communications sphere in China. The government is now investigating three widely popular tech platforms for allowing what they consider illegal communications, such as “spreading violence, terror, false rumours, pornography and other hazards to national security, public safety, social order.”
So far, the three highly popular platforms, Weibo, Baidu’s Tieba, and WeChat, are under investigation, which will likely result in stricter self-policing action in order to avoid government takeover or being shut down altogether. The authorities keep a tight rein on what sites can be accessed, blocking a number of internationally popular foreign sites like Facebook and Google. The government also recently cracked down on the use of VPNs as a way of getting around the blockages or masking identities in order to speak more freely without repercussion.
Lest anyone think this is a matter strictly limited to an “oppressive” political regime, it was only a matter of weeks after the 2016 election that Trump began voicing support for “shutting down” parts of the internet and enacting policies that would have been “unthinkable” only a short time ago. He took direct aim at freedom of speech at one rally when he openly stated that the internet needed to be more limited. As there are provisions for the US government to take such action legally during times of immediate crisis–say, during a possible pending nuclear strike against another country–this is an issue that affects everyone.