Freedom of information (was Re: FWD: Jaron on 9/11)

From: Smigrodzki, Rafal (SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU)
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 11:47:11 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:

An interesting question. I think I would come down on the yes side. I
can imagine the use of embargoing information for a while, but who gets
to decide on for how long? If that decision is not possible to appeal,
then it becomes possible for information-embargoing groups to
control information just as if they were doing actual censorship, simply
by putting an extremely long embargo on the information. Once you start
circumscribing freedom of information - even in the best interest of
many people - you allow further, just as reasonable, decreases in
freedom of information. Banning certain media can limit the flow of
information tremendously, and if new media are not automatically given
freedom then the effective freedom of information might decrease - in
many countries you may have the right to write what you want on paper or
in letters, but if it at any point becomes digital it is suddely not

### How about allowing for time-limited embargoes on certain specific data
(not broad classes or media), if requested by a government agency, with the
initial period of secrecy granted by a judge? Once that time is over the
data must be placed in the public domain and a jury (or more precisely, a
group of adult citizens chosen randomly, not pre-selected by attorneys)
would decide if the embargo was placed in good faith, and if the agency
should be punished (by fines or restrictions on the use of secrecy).

As long as the judicial system and the jury selection are not corrupt or
impotent, the system should work, offering benefits in conflicts with
entities disdainful of fair play, while avoiding harm to innocent
individuals. You are pointing to the slippery slope we might find ourselves
on if we allow *any* restriction on the freedom of information, and indeed
this is a risk, but a wide participation of the public (by way of the
juries) should be a good safeguard. If this fails, it means that the average
citizens (as selected for jury duty) no longer care about freedom of
expression - and in that case the society is doomed, no matter how good are
the written laws protecting this freedom.

Rafal Smigrodzki, MD-PhD


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:12 MDT