Text of an email I have just sent to Cafe Nija of the Tin Foil Hat Show podcast. Cafe Ninja does not have a G+ presence, and I think this is worth general discussion
Hi there Cafe Ninja,
I have just listened to your episode 18 and thank you for the pointer to EFF articles on ACTA. I am generally in agreement with what you say in your podcast, favouring the aphorism; "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you". However, I do not agree that ethically minded services should generally facilitate censorship by governments.
While principles are strongly expressed in this area, and the principle of non-censorship is often weighed against a right of maximum access, or any access, it is my opinion that a course of action should be decided tactically.
The objective that I assume we share is for a free and open internet with universal access and without censorship. The SOPA/PIPA campaign demonstrates that publicity and public opinion is a strategic influence that we may wield to bring our objective closer. And it is a historical point that when people are riled up, all but the most determined autocrats will take some notice.
We may see here the beginnings of a popular Internet citizenship consciousness. It may be that the immediate reaction of our 'democratic' governments is to try to rush freedom-hating laws through in secret. But for the moment, we have a bit of head of steam and they have left a bit of an opening. We should push at that opening with some vigour.
I see each acquiescence to national censorship as a page turned in the campaign. In Google's case, when they gave in to the Chinese government they lost support in the opinions of internet freedom lovers and are heavily criticised for that decision still. Google bought commercial freedom in China and did not by doing so buy any information or intellectual freedoms. It damaged the idea that a free and open internet is worth fighting for. Had Google maintained from the beginning a principled refusal to be censored, the world would have been put on notice. Twitter's situation is similar. If they operate under restriction nobody except internet freedom activists would give a damn since the service blackout would be for the activists only. If they boycott the censorship regime then everyone suffers the blackout and everyone gives a damn, one way or the other.
It is to be expected that commercial interest will feel the pressure to follow the profit, but the choices that all businesses take to operate ethically or unethically is conditioned by public opinion. It is the public inside and outside the censorship/blackout zone who must be stirred up. Each boycott is a public speech in favour of internet freedom and each internet voice in favour of a boycott is a campaign leaflet.
Maybe in another time it would be good tactics to try to sneak in under the censor's radar, but now is not that time. Like I said, it's tactical, and good tactics win.