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Online Freedom of Speech: Still Safe, but for How Much Longer?

In the world of UN conference boondoggles, luxury-loving oppressors masquerade as the oppressed, while seeking to restrict everyone else's freedom.

In December 2012, under the auspices of the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU), representatives from 193 countries will meet in Dubai, in the UAE (ranked 112th in the world for press freedom) to discuss the future of the Internet. Slated for discussion are such basic online rights as: individual privacy, freedom of expression, and protection for individuals from tyrannical governments.

In November (perhaps, as a welcoming gesture to the ITU conference), the UAE issued by decree (without public debate, comment periods, or other democratic niceties) a new law making it a crime to deride, insult, mock or criticize, by using the Internet, the leaders of the UAE. Or perhaps the UAE issued this decree to celebrate its recent appointment to the UN's Human Rights Council (UNHRC). After all, nothing expresses a country's respect for humans rights (and/or the UNHRC) like a decree making online criticism of the government punishable by a three-year minimum jail sentence.

The UAE fits surprisingly well with its peer group on the UNHRC. Some other members (with their press freedom rankings) are: Ethiopia (127th), Gabon (101st), Kazakhstan (154th), Pakistan (151st), and Venezuela (117th). Somehow the UN failed to include Saudi Arabia (158th), where adult women need permission from a male guardian to leave the country -- perhaps it can join the UNHRC next year.