During the years following the impact of Internet as a new channel of communication accessible to, if not all then very large groups of people, hope was born for a new and virtually overwhelming breakthrough for freedom of speech and thereby for democracy. Internet could not be supervised! Who would be able to get a grip on this medium, with no centre, to which anyone at all could connect their computer and publish their ideas?
And in the beginning that was how it was. We can see what an important role the new digital means of communication played in various popular uprisings and “revolutions” – from as far back as the ”Velvet Revolution” in former Czechoslovakia up to the revolts this spring within the Arab world. But it has also been apparent how various groups in power have done their utmost to get a grip on digital communications. Internet is no longer the free arena for ideas it was in the beginning. The Chinese power-elite have perhaps gone furthest in controlling what their own citizens may or may not see on the Web. Look in the wrong place and the police come knocking. And after the demonstrations last winter in Minsk, Belarus, the KGB knocked on the doors of many of the citizens who had participated in the peaceful demonstrations against what they regarded as ballot rigging – at any rate of those who had had an active cellphone in their pocket while exercising their rights of freedom of expression. And in Sweden we have had our own debate on the so-called ”FRA-law” (Swedish Defence Radio Authority law, allowing warrant-less wiretapping of all telephone and internet traffic crossing Swedish borders).