The Online War Between Free Speech and Internet Censorship: Part 1 – Students For Liberty (2023)

This is part one of a blog on Reconnecting Freedom of Speech

The year 2020 has made it clear that the United States is a country suffering from rapid geopolitical decline alongside moral and cultural decay.

The fact that Trump is threatening to ban itTick ​​Thank youhave come under more scrutiny than China's human rights record, and hostile actions against the United States have been one example.

The Founders created a system designed only to govern moral people, and we are left with the question of whether Americans are still such a people. But part of being a moral people is upholding the norm of moral and limited government.

How TikTok is fueling conversations about internet censorship

Loyalties and ideologies aside, opponents of the TikTok ban raise a compelling point. Are we now going to allow the US government to decide which apps people can install on their phones?

While this may be trivial compared to human rights and national security issues, opponents of this ban are right to question what will become of the land of the free, and indeed the free world, if we choose to go down this path.

While the idea of ​​a TikTok ban is a smart move from an information security, intelligence, and privacy perspective, it's just a band-aid on a gash as the US attempts to thrive against China in the long run.

Government encroachment today is a product of information warfare

This is especially true when it comes to not having to resort to Chinese-style internet censorship yourself. Allowing governments to decide what information people are allowed to consume, what programs and data they have on a device they own sets a very dangerous precedent.

A precedent like thatCOVID-19 lockdown restrictions, may confer on the government powers well beyond what is necessary to fulfill the original purpose of exercising those powers.

To address this issue and create alternatives to the government simply banning certain apps in the future, the United States must move away from the reactionary, oversimplified, and fear-based approach to China, geopolitics, and the internet that it has long advocated.

To win the information war against China, the United States must be proactiveFreedomas part of a campaign of active measures against the Chinese regime, its internet authoritarianism and its allies. The only question that remains for those who are serious about preserving the United States and the freedom it represents is how this can be accomplished.

To answer this question, we must first examine the true nature of the US-China confrontation, what is at stake, and the relative strengths and weaknesses that the US possesses compared to China and other authoritarian regimes.

In the second part, we will discuss what the United States can do to compete more effectively against China.

Geopolitical confrontation and information warfare: investigating positive and normative perspectives

The first important point to understand is that the competition between the US and China in the online space is diverse. It is an extension of the geopolitical conflict between the two countries trying to gain more power.

One component is the positive element, driven by power politics and divergent national interests. The United States has numerous economic, military, political, and diplomatic interests that it must protect while undermining the interests of enemies like China.

The United States has an economic interest in ensuring that its companies dominate the Internet, an information security interest in ensuring data is safe from the Chinese government, and a military interest in ensuring that it pioneers and protects dual-use Technologies that are part of control and control that may have military applications.

While China seeks to weaken the United States and seek world domination, as evidenced by its colonial ambitions in Africa, mercantilist trade strategies, and history of arming terrorists and other US enemies, it is attempting to pursue the same goals, but for its own benefit, and at the expense of the United States.

USA and China: two competing world orders

However, there is also a normative component that makes this situation more complicated than it otherwise might be. The USA and China not only represent two competing superpowers, but also two diverging worldviews and concepts of world order.

The stakes for the United States are more than reclaiming its status as a world power from China. It also faces the challenge of preserving a free and open Internet, an Internet that embraces American values ​​such as freedom of speech,Free expression, and the free exchange of ideas as this structure is projected worldwide.

Although the United States has not supported unlimited internet freedom, it is still a long way from China, which is trying to ensure that information is fully controlled by the Communist Party's goals and ideology. A worldwide social credit system, a global great firewall, and extensive internet surveillance are being used to prevent freedom of expression and the spread of ideas online that the Chinese Communist Party deems dangerous.

Both regimes are built on an ideological foundation, and neither can afford to admit a set of core beliefs that underpin their soft power and cultural influence.

With theChinese regimeWielding massive influence over US and global media, norms and culture, it is clear that the US has lost this information war. But why is that and how can we reverse it? The answer is that the United States is playing out its weaknesses in both the positive and normative arenas of geopolitical conflict online.

The dragon and the eagle: assessing strengths and weaknesses

Democracies and authoritarian regimes each have different advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their ability to compete in an information-rich environment.

Democracy has the benefit that free and open debate can allow better ideas to be formulated by the freemarketplace of ideas. Freedom of expression also helps create fertile ground for the kind of disruptive ideologies that force people to question the status quo and resist the will of authoritarian governments.

However, democracy is also extremely easy to subvert. A system of limited government faces obstacles from checks and balances that prevent it from coordinating an effective response to foreign disinformation, propaganda, media influence, intelligence gathering, and other such tools.

Authoritarian regimes, on the other hand, are the opposite. These regimes are highly resistant to subversion because they can counter enemy movements before they even become strong enough to pose a threat. They do not uphold freedom of expression and face few or no restrictions on government power. Thus, they can use any means necessary to prevent foreign actors from manipulating the country's population.

Ideologies that threaten regime stability or favor the interests of enemies can be eradicated without much fear of backlash. However, these types of regimes do not benefit from the free market of ideas, which complicates innovation and prevents them from challenging and resisting ineffective ideas when such ideas are presented or supported by those in power.

This can lead to stagnation and ineffective government, which is as dangerous to an authoritarian regime as subversion is to a democracy.

Increasing surveillance without end in sight

Like much of the world, the United States has caught on to censorship andmonitoringInsect. In particular, since September 11, 2001, the United States has attempted to increase government powers to remove illegal Internet content, monitor religious minorities such as Muslims, and restrict access to information deemed dangerous.

These strategies can serve a purpose in certain limited cases, e.g. B. combating the spread of child pornography or dismantling known terrorist networks. However, they are ineffective when used as a universal solution to the country's problems, especially when trying to compete with authoritarian regimes in the online world. This is because they exploit the weaknesses of democracy in both the positive and normative realms.

Why China has a huge lead in information warfare

These strategies lose out on the positive component of geopolitical confrontation in the information space, because a democratic state can never controlInformationas well as an authoritarian one.

We can ban apps, shut down websites, prosecute criminals and terrorists, etc., but checks and balances always get in the way of such actions. Regularity, lawsuits, burden of proof and the question of public consent limit the state's ability to act. Countries like China, Iran, Russia and North Korea face few or no such restrictions.

The failure of such an approach becomes even clearer at the normative level. If the US resorted to censorship and surveillance, we would be leaving the normative soil almost entirely to China and its authoritarian allies. The US might be a mighty empire in this situation, but its life as a free country and leader of the free world would be over.

China would emerge victorious from the normative conflict by cementing authoritarian control of the Internet and disregarding freedom of expression as an international standard. Worst of all, the US would sacrifice key features of its civilization and with it its ability to offer a real alternative to the Chinese style of government. Much of America's soft power and culture would be lost in the process, not to mention that the rights of American citizens would be severely violated.

A long road to American victory

In other words, the United States is fighting on enemy soil and losing. Strategies like banning TikTok could buy time and limit China's power, but they will only prevent an inevitable Chinese victory if they are all that is done.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote in The Book of Five Rings: “In strategy competitions, being led around by the enemy is bad. You always have to be able to show the enemy around.” The US allowed itauthoritarian regimesto guide it around.

Changing this is key to victory, so these authoritarian regimes could instead be forced to respond to American actions. Instead of trying to survive by parrying China's blows and acting purely defensively, policymakers should use free speech as a sword to slay the beast of tyranny.

Click the button below to read the second part of this blog on Reconnecting Freedom of Speech.


This post expresses solely the opinion of the author and not necessarily of the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating broad dialogue for liberty and representing a variety of opinions.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 04/13/2023

Views: 6538

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.