The story appears on

Page A7

August 25, 2014

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Opinion » Opinion Columns

How to balance marketplace of ideas with reasonable Internet laws and controls

EDITOR’S Note: Mark Grabowski is a professor at Adelphi University in New York, where he teaches Internet law and ethics. Shanghai Daily reporter Li Xinran held an interview with him on August 15. Due to space limit, Shanghai Daily has condensed the interview.

Q: Is Edward Snowden a spy or a hero?

A: I think everyone was pretty shocked about the revelations, and certainly I think some of the spying was engaging in this questionable behavior.

There was a lot of surveillance going on which seems to be a violation of the US Constitution, but on the other hand you know Snowden also revealed a lot of information that I don’t think maybe was necessary for the American public to know.

If his motives were purely to expose the constitutional violation by the US government, fine. I think he went a little bit more beyond that and you just wonder what his motivations were, because we know he made trips overseas before all the revelations came out.

So some people wonder, was he talking to a foreign government and was he paid off?

But there is no question that the US lost authority on the issue of Internet freedom, because before this Obama was going to talk about how governments should let their people use the Internet freely or how controlling the Internet is abusive. It turns out that the US is actually doing the same thing.


Q: More and more countries have tightened their controls on the Internet via legislation or new technology. Do you agree with the trend?

A: We have got this in US, too, like some parents going to buy special software to keep their kids from accessing certain websites. I think obviously there should be some regulations and I think reasonable people can agree that child pornography is bad. We need to restrict that.

Intellectual property should be protected, because if you don’t go and protect artists and filmmakers and photographers and writers, they won’t produce that sort of content, because they’re not going to have a way to get compensated.

Cyber crimes also, we need to have protections against that.

But beyond that, I think it just goes to your political viewpoint: How much freedom do you want and how much government protection do you want?

When the Internet first came to the general public in the late 80s or 90s, it was largely self-governed because governments had no idea how important it would become. They also lacked technical expertise to regulate it. But now most lawmakers are regulating the Internet. We could see more and more regulations, and the problem is everyone has different ideas about how the Internet should be regulated.


Q: Some people may use the Internet to gain more popularity, to show off their lavish lifestyles. Do you think the Internet is a free world?

A: We have the same phenomenon. We call them Youtube celebrities.

We are seeing in the US a lot of times when people do bad things there is a lot of public shaming on social media.

People just regulate themselves, you know, showing some good taste and some basic etiquette. So the society can tolerate. There has become a marketplace of ideas.


Q: What do you think of China’s latest rule on instant messaging tools, like WeChat and Weibo, which bans any unlicensed public account from publishing news stories?

A: The Chinese government just wants to make sure information is credible, and they are concerned as well how you define what’s credible information.

You know it’s the same concern with European rules and policy. The European High Court recently issued a ruling saying that individuals had the right to go and have information removed from Internet searches on Google.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend