Many key players within the international community started to focus on freedom of expression online and after the series of political changes taking place in North Africa and Middle East more and more communities are now focusing -only- on freedom of expression online and other related topics.
Those communities include members of the European Union, U.S. Administration, donors, non-governmental organizations.
Focusing on freedom of expression online and having debates with governments around the world on this topics and funding activities to support freedom of expression online will, on the long term, have negative impact on digital and online communities:
1. This kind of debates will inspire governments and make officials to think of creating new laws and regulations for the online space, content and media. Personally, i think once governments starts to regulate any right they actually limit practicing that right and those laws will be used against netizens in the future. We already have many cases from different countries where netizens faced legal troubles due to their activity online, imagine what will happen when governments come up with new law for the internet.
2. When donors include freedom of expression online as an important and necessary item this will push NGOs to do any activity to get that fund and those NGOs won't actually do something useful. This kind of fund will have really negative impact (we can already see the beginnings of this impact).
3. When this debate grow locally, this will open discussions to regulate all kind of media. So governments -and of course some communities- will want to reform the press law, think of new law to regulate online media, another law for theater and movies, another law for TV channels...etc
What to Do?
1. Support freedom of expression as a concept. Don't focus on particular medium, support any medium that can be used to exchange information and share opinions. Support freedom of expression in all offline and online mediums without paying special attention to the online.
2. Push for one-law for freedom of expression and access to information. (access to/publishing information)
3. Push to reform local telecommunications law and online companies policies (facebook.com, youtube.com, flickr.com...) . The relation between users, government and companies must change. Users rights must be the main concern and focus.
4. Fund projects to develop communication infrastructure.