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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For many, the immediate reaction to government censorship is disbelief or even anger. These are appropriate reactions to news of the Marines banning access to social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Marine Corp reasons these sites provide a "haven for malicious actors" and "are particularly high risk due to information exposure." Yes, like the "malicious actors" that exposed information on protests in Iran via Twitter. The U.S. Department of Defense is considering extending the censorship to all branches of the military.

However, perhaps anger and disbelief are not the appropriate reactions when the Iraqi government censors the Internet. The government is ordering Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access within the country to websites that incite violence or provide pornographic material.

Yes, this represents a step away from increased human freedom in Iraq, but this may not necessarily be a negative development. Iraq cannot and must not be held to the same standards of countries like the United States. Its citizenry falls on a drastically different location along the path of human development (as outlined by the World Values Survey [WVS]).

For example, in 2006, the most recent WVS results, when asked "How much freedom of choice and control," 12.3% of Iraqi citizens answered "None at all," with 53.2% answering that it is not important. By contrast, only .8% of U.S. citizens answered "None at all," with 13.2% answering not important.

Iraqi citizens currently favor survival values over self-expression values. Until a shift toward self-expression values occurs, censoring websites that incite violence and propagate extremist materials fits Iraq's current position along the path of human development.

Additionally, the Iraqi Constitution states the following:

Article 36:

The state guarantees in a way that does not violate public order and morality:

A. Freedom of expression, through all means.

B. Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication.

It is not the proper role of government to legislate morality. However, by specifically stating, "in a way that does not violate public order and morality," the Iraqi government holds the constitutionally-alloted power to censor the Internet for pornographic and violence-inciting material.

If we are to condemn the attacks on countries like Honduras for acting in accordance with their constitutions, we must not attack Iraq for acting in accordance with its constitution.

Posted by Eleutherian

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