Free Flow of Information

The idea of a “free flow of information” tends to elicit highly positive connotations, alluding to a world in which all forms of human expression may be transmitted or exchanged without interference from government or private interests for the benefit of humanity. In this respect, it is similar to the sister concept of “free trade.” In both cases, the “purr” qualifier “free” dangerously invites immediate endorsement. The history of the concept from the mid-20th century onward, as the following outline will demonstrate, nonetheless pits this benign formulation against a number of sometimes less benign or simply rival values, interests, and concerns. These largely arise from a critical consideration of whose freedom is being addressed, to communicate what, precisely, under which conditions? Such considerations invoke concerns ...

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