As you might have noticed, several websites, including Reddit and Wikipedia, have gone dark today to protest proposed legislation that would give the federal government and movie and music companies the power to severely censor the Internet. If you’ve paid any attention to this issue, you know that virtually everyone but entertainment industry insiders and the formerly respectable newspapers they hold in their clutches expresses a level of concern that ranges from the furrow-browed to the screaming-out-loud.
There are many rational arguments against the legislation. But there’s another, emotional, and particularly Jewish one. As I’ve written before, there’s something deeply Jewish about the contemporary Internet, or Web 2.0. The new web, as novelist Lev Grossman poignantly put it, is “a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter,” a massive community without a center or a hierarchy that shares, constantly questions, and endlessly debates, and occasionally reforms, its values and rules. Which is to say, it’s all very Jewish.
All that would go away should the new bills be passed and control of content and expression placed at the discretion of the courts. We who have thrived and survived by keeping information unfettered and available for debate should do whatever we can to see to it that every new technology allows us the same freedoms.