Mike Godwin (2003). Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age (revised & updated ed.). (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). xxiii + 402 pp. ISBN 0-262-57168-4. $21.95 (paper). Notes, index.
Mike Godwin has been writing as a journalist and working with public interest organizations (Public Knowledge, and Center of Democracy and Technology) for a number of years. His goal, and the goal of this volume, is to preserve freedom of speech on the Internet. He explores major cases and issues (including law enforcement of anti-hacker legislation, the Church of Scientology's attempts to prevent its documents from being posted, copyright, and what he calls "the great cyberporn panic.").
In the 10 chapters of this book, Godwin makes a strong case for the position that the only solution many see to these problems is to censor content on what may well be the most democratic ("liberating") medium ever-and that this idea should be fought. He believes that members of the lay public can use the Internet to hold media and political institutions accountable with respect to "the truth," something never before practical.
Godwin's fears are valid (scary!) ones, but it remains to be seen whether his principles, values and solutions-"constitutional restraints on even well-meaning government power, the refusal to make decisions about the Internet based on reflex or fear, and the insistence on our obligation to trust fellow citizens with the power of computers and the Internet"-will shape the future, either in the near or the far term.
The above article was published in Media Ethics , Fall 2003 (15:1), p. 53.