Kristopher Rikken, Blue, Black and White Alert
Back on April Fool's Day 2008, I envisioned a scenario where in the future, online news site readers would get a monthly quota of comments linked to their national ID card, and could buy more. We're not there yet -- "pay as you go" freedom of speech has not arrived -- but the clamps are tightening. As of January 1, one daily, Eesti Päevaleht (www.epl.ee), requires readers to sign in with their ID card before commenting. You don't need to be too paranoid to come to the conclusion that anything you will say on epl.ee will become part of your permanent record and stored in a large drive somewhere.
Obviously this fear can be countered by the old argument that if you're honest, you have nothing to fear. After all, it's hard to paint this as a traditional restriction on freedom of speech -- no one is saying "you can't say stuff". But they are saying: "Stuff can only be said by YOU". There is something ominous, dampening and humiliating about being carded for expressing your mind. Even the whole business of trying to get your computer to read the ID card is not necessarily easy.
It would be nice if the epl.ee policy could be dismissed as a not very successful experiment in a desperately competitive market, a quaint effort by one gatekeeper (certainly not superior to other papers) to re-invest the medium with a cachet of respectability. And indeed, certainly it has not been successful -- in ten days, the public discussion has completely evaporated on epl.ee with the exception of a few in-house people and shills trying to get something going.
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