In his contributing article in the Opinion section of today’s New York Times, Daniel Kimmage calls for the use of a different kind of weapon in the war on terror: Web 2.0. While researching a report for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty which was released in March 2008 on jihadist media, Kimmage discovered that Al Qaeda’s grasp of user-generated web content is tentative at best. He suggests that we do whatever we can to encourage increased Internet freedoms in areas targeted by the terrorist group, saying, “There is a simple lesson here: unfettered access to a free Internet is not merely a goal to which we should aspire on principle, but also a very practical means of countering Al Qaeda. As users increasingly make themselves heard, the ensuing chaos will not be to everyone’s liking, but it may shake the online edifice of Al Qaeda’s totalitarian ideology.”
A Google search for “underground press” “iraq” yields little, but by no means does that indicate it does not exist. (Not able to speak or read Arabic, I can’t search any native languages, and the search terms may also be too obvious.) Wherever the underground press is, in whatever form, it is in our best interest for it to thrive online, and for the journalists, bloggers, vloggers and everyone else to be afforded any anonymity they desire for their safety and the safety of their families. As they say, attention must be paid, and this applies not just to oppressed communities in the Middle East, but those in all countries. The discussion of global Internet freedom is a complex one. It is no less complex than the issues surrounding freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But if we are truly in Iraq to promote democracy and freedom, we have to support a free media landscape.