The War for Government Control of the Internet – We’re Losing

Make no mistake – we are unwilling participants in a war – a war to “tame” the Internet. We’ve long been at war on the Internet in a sense and early on, there was no mistaking the enemy – cybercriminals. But, who would have considered that as the Internet evolved, the free thinking and freewheeling principles under which it was established, would come under attack?

While it’s true that the battle against the cybercriminal element continues unabated, the level of conflict – and its direction – has vaulted into a new dimension.

In a world driven mad by economic uncertainty, it’s hardly surprising that the principal players allied against Internet users, in the war to tame the Internet, are right-wing focused governments (who hold little regard for civil liberties and the right to freedom of expression) and, profit hungry corporations (who hold little regard for an individual’s right to privacy).

China, based on it’s aggressive control of Internet dissent, has long borne the burden of being classified as the black sheep of the Internet family but, the reality is somewhat less clear. The U.S. government in its paranoid motivation to address self created issues in it’s war on terror (spurning the Constitution in the process), may well be in the forefront in the drive to change the focus of the Internet as we know it.

In an article this past week on Slate – Evgeny  Morozov (a visiting scholar at Stanford University, a fellow at the New America Foundation, and a contributing editor/blogger at Foreign Policy) wrote –

“While Hillary Clinton likes to give speeches in which she fashions herself the world’s greatest defender of “Internet freedom,” the harsh reality is that her own government is its greatest enemy. Given the never-ending flow of draconian copyright and cyber security laws coming from Washington, this fact is getting harder and harder to conceal from the global public”.

The U.S. is hardly alone in its contempt for the rights of the individual and it should be noted, that the long lineup of draconian governments has been  enthusiastically joined by the governments of Canada, Australia, and the U.K.

Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, in a recent statement made the point -

“Very powerful forces have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world.. . . It’s scary.”

Scary, indeed.

The stakes in the battle for control of cyberspace are enormous and, the outcome will affect you most directly. Taking the “path of least resistance” and allowing restrictive legislated Internet policies to wash over you, is just not on. Certainly not, if you wish to continue to use the Internet in the way in which it has evolved – free of unbridled government interference.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) recognized that “Knowledge is power” and, if a situation ever existed in which the reality of this truth can be played out – this is one which qualifies. To effectively fight back against unconstrained government interference – you will require the knowledge to do so.

With that in mind, I encourage you to spend some time reading an excellent series of articles published by the London based The Guardian newspaper. The series is wide ranging and includes coverage on issues from – governments attempts to control citizens, the rise of Facebook, Apple-style “walled gardens”’, the seemingly never ending attacks on  privacy, the efforts to “tame” the web – and, much more.

Click on the appropriate links as follows:

Over seven days

The Guardian is taking stock of the new battlegrounds for the internet. From states stifling dissent to the new cyberwar front line, we look at the challenges facing the dream of an open internet.

Day two: the militarization of cyberspace

Internet attacks on sovereign targets are no longer a fear for the future, but a daily threat. We ask: will the next big war be fought online?

Day three: the new walled gardens

For many, the internet is now essentially Facebook. Others find much of their online experience is mediated by Apple or Amazon. Why are the walls going up around the web garden, and does it matter?

Day four: IP wars

Intellectual property, from copyrights to patents, have been an internet battlefield from the start. We look at what Sopa, Pipa and Acta really mean, and explain how this battle is not over.

Day five: ‘civilizing’ the web

In the UK, the ancient law of defamation is increasingly looking obsolete in the Twitter era. Meanwhile, in France, President Sarkozy believes the state can tame the web.

Day six: the open resistance

Meet the activists and entrepreneurs who are working to keep the internet open.

Day seven: the end of privacy

Hundreds of websites know vast amounts about their users’ behaviour, personal lives and connections with each other. Find out who knows what about you, and what they use the information for.

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14 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Point of View

14 responses to “The War for Government Control of the Internet – We’re Losing

  1. Thanks Bill for Guardian** links ~ will study

    ** AKA The Gruaniad because newspaper is famous for spelling errors

    • Hi Michael,

      It can often be frustrating, as you know, for an average user (you, not being average :), to work through the complex issues surrounding the “neutral net”. The Guardian series of articles offers a balanced perspective which can help sort out the confusion.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Terence

    They hate us for our freedoms? At least that is what Bush said, of course there were no WMD in Iraq, but the government we are all supposed to trust. Frankly I don’t. I read the other day about a very disturbing Canadian ruling, I will give a brief recap:
    A fellow made posts, he thought anonymously, on a radical pro-White message board with servers in the USA. He lost his job as a mathematics professor when he was “outed” then the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which astoundingly to me, as a US citizen, is NOT a government body but something else, can impose fines and PRISON time. A similar case had been done in the past a fellow named Tomas Winnicki, IIRC, has a Wikipedia page, spent time in prison for posting about violent crime statistics on a USA message board. Now maybe that is all good and healthy in a free society, but what other speech will be forbidden in the future? And who is watching the watchers?

    http://www.canada.com/news/Nazi+case+heard+Supreme+Court/6523806/story.html

    • Hey Terence,

      Your comment offers one perspective on the issue of free speech – but, it is not one which I share.

      While it may be true that the U.S. views “hate speech” as a protected form of dissent, that view is at odds with the established practices and laws of the majority of forward thinking nations – including Canada. To confuse “hate speech” with political opinion (often offered up in defense of the most vile idiotic bigots in the U.S.), is more than disingenuous.

      Never the less, I recognize that such laws are in fact a “double edged sword” so, your point – “who is watching the watchers?” – is valid, and needs to be considered.

      Bill

      • pmshah

        Shouldn’t it be “nevertheless” !
        When we talk about human rights the first premise is – at least supposed to be – that all men ( and women ) are created equal. India perhaps enjoys the greatest level of freedom in speech but the kind of “hate speech”, referred to by Terence in his provided link,is simply not permitted and rightly so. In fact even referring to an individual by his/her religion, caste, geopolitical origin or what have you in derogatory manner / tone can land one in jail.

        • Hi Pmshah,

          Yes, you got me. But, I’ll answer that more directly in a post which I’ll publish later in the week – Hoo Needs To No How Two Spel N E Way?

          I’m pleased to hear that India takes a strong position with respect to “hate speech”. That’s something that I was unaware of. So, thank you for that.

          Best,

          Bill

  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    I will definitely take a look at those online articles.
    I think Australia has slowed down a bit in recent months regarding internet filtering, as our pathetic useless government is besieged by other crises at the moment. But I have no doubt when things are resolved for them, they will be back trying to force us to use the internet “their way”. They underestimate the majority of people though. Australians hate being told what to do by idiots (i.e. governments etc) and our “bullshit” meter is finely honed to sniff out any rubbish or spin they put out. I dare say you guys on that side of the world are like this too.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      I have to agree – the same set of circumstances are in play here. For the moment, the proposed highly restrictive Internet legislation has been put back on the shelf. But, as you pointed out, it’s only a matter of time before Australia will resurrect the proposed internet filtering Bill. Canadian politicians will undoubtedly skip to the same tune.

      It’s become obvious that today’s politicians (worldwide), are little more than the scrapings left in the talent barrel and as a result, as you point out – “our bullshit meter is finely honed”. Nicely put. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  4. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    On the subject of “hate” speech, I read yesterday that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is to be republished in Germany for the first time since the end of the second world war. The aim, apparently, it to show people how bad it really is in terms of writing, content and grammar. The advice of the Times columnist was that everyone should read it, marvel at how bad it really is, and then burn it.

    Whilst this approach is fine for enlightened and intelligent folk like your good self, there is bound to be a minority who regard it as a masterpiece, as it is in line with their own warped way of thinking. Is this a reason to suppress it? Not to my mind.

    In every avenue of life there are those who are determined to exploit our way of life for their own ends. We need to allow those in authority the ability to safeguard the law-abiding majority. To give them unbridled control over every aspect of our lives is to defeat the very principles that millions died in two world wars to uphold.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      I agree – Mein Kampf (having read this as a teenager), is a special case that more than adequately illustrates that raving convoluted thinking, if taken at face value, can have disastrous consequences. As such, it seems counterproductive to disallow the “crazies” from accessing it. As you point out, there will be some who will take the ramblings of this madman as “gospel” but, in the larger context, the majority will see it for what it is.

      Good to get your views on this.

      Best,

      Bill

  5. Hi Bill,
    Internet filtering and Government control would result in second internet – encrypted, distributed and nearly uncontrollable. I doubt it is possible to control internet technologically and by some sort external law only. There are enough solutions that make internet filtering obsolete, like encrypted, distributed networks with their own domain name servers, etc.
    Internet can be controlled by government only if people using internet allow that.
    However, I think that some of these things have economical (tied to some markets and companies) rather than political reasons.

  6. delenn13

    Guess I got a lot of links to read…when I get time. I have been reading a lot about this CISPA and it is SOPA all over again..with additions. It keeps getting worse.

    One article I read made some comment(sorry i don’t have time to find it) about the times we live in and level of paranoia that prevails that there is a big possibility that if they were to try to pass the US “Bill Of Rights” TODAY, It would NOT pass. Pretty sad.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Haven’t heard from you in a bit. I’m hopeful it’s for reasons other than your migraines.

      I read the same article you refer to on the non-passage of the Bill Of Rights. Same here though – can’t recall when/where.

      Have to agree with you – “It keeps getting worse.” We’ll just keep plugging away until we win. And, we will win – I have no doubts (darkest before the dawn and all that). :)

      Best,

      Bill