In an open society we want to be as permissive as possible, limiting free expression only when it is absolutely necessary, and debating such limitations openly.

But we should not expect the rules to be straightforward or universal.

We need to take a more nuanced approach to this fundamental issue, one which allows that different nations, cultures and groups will have different standards, and one which also respects the difference between public and private provision of spaces for publication and debate.

The real danger in the coming years might not be that governments look at what China has achieved with its 'Great Firewall' and decide to emulate it, but that the companies behind our online gathering places become more conservative, more limiting and more repressive, while we find we have nowhere else to go.

Perhaps it's time for the Open Net Initiative to have a look at filtering policies at Facebook, Bebo and MySpace as well as Burma, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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