For some years there have been issues concerning the availability on the internet of pornography, information on constructing weapons, and other information which some people think should not be widely available. In fact, this was an issue even before the internet; for example, for a time US federal government officials had a project to monitor weapon construction information which was available in libraries.
Most of the efforts of governments to control information have been incompetently executed, oppressive, and/or ineffective. Yet the question remains: how much should individuals and organizations aid the distribution of "dangerous" information? And what about the difference between "raw" information such as detailed data on communicable diseases in a biology or virology textbook versus "processed" information such as step-by-step instructions for constructing a biological weapon?
What really got me thinking about this is The MIT Hacking community's opinion on the widespread distribution of their lock picking guide. The key thing here is not just the information itself, but the social context in which the information is provided.
- Jim Kingdon