Tag Archives: government

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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Canada’s Proposed Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – Open Season For Police To Spy On Canadians Online

imageIn 2005, Canada’s current Prime Minister Steven Harper made the comment – “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m done with it.”   He was right – the values that have defined Canada are gradually being replaced by values more appropriate to those of a quasi-fascist state. To those of my generation, Canada is indeed, becoming unrecognizable.

Canadians, much like their American cousins, post 9/11; continue to be coerced by government’s trump card – the war on terrorism. As a result, Canadians blindly continue to accept the invasion of their personal lives and, infringements on their right to privacy.

In a statement reminiscent of George Bush’s – “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, in an overreaching attempt to squash dissent on the recently introduced Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – let loose with an outrageous slogan meant to vilify opponents – “stand with us or with the child pornographers”.

In other words, anyone who dares to oppose the Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – which, will allow carte blanche government spying on Canadians’ Internet activities – without judicial oversight – is supportive of child pornography.

Those of us who disagree with the need for this legislation which would, in effect, place Canada in the same company as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria – who subject their citizens to Internet surveillance – run the risk of being classified as criminals, perverts, and low life’s. As  Cicero, the Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, and political theorist reportedly said – “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

This attack on reasonable and responsible discourse is hardly surprising, coming from a government intent on stripping away, layer by layer, the fundamental freedoms fought for, and won, by generations of Canadians.

To the historically challenged, and those that are less technology savvy, an intrusion into the sacrosanct ground of personal privacy – to protect children – may appear to be both reasonable, and prudent. After all, society’s protection of children must be part of the driving philosophy of any mature civilization.

But the curtailment of personal liberty – ostensibly for the common good – as this legislation supposedly is – has a rather unpleasant history. A history worth considering.

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“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

–  Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

More appropriate perhaps –

“Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”

–  William Pitt (British Prime Minister, 1783)

Equally as appropriate –

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

–  C.S. Lewis

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Just one of the many corrosive  provisions included in this legislation, would require Internet service providers to hand over subscriber data to the Police –  without a warrant. The familiar argument often pushed forward by supporters of this type of regressive legislation – if you have nothing to hide….. – simply doesn’t hold water.

Resistance to this legislation is not about being law abiding, it’s not about protecting children from the .0000001 %.

It is about not having every aspect of one’s life subject to close examination.

It is about not allowing Big Brother to spy on one’s Internet activities.

It is about a disturbing tendency of this particular government’s interest in knowing – and controlling – the Internet activities of Canadian citizens.

Thankfully, privacy and consumer advocates – including Federal, Provincial, and Territorial privacy commissioners – have taken a hard line and, have been speaking out against this proposed thugary. Even so, given the unyielding positions previously taken by this current regressive government – the consensus of opinion seems to indicate; this nonsense will pass into law. Ensuring that Canadians, will get a taste of what was once East German life under the Stasi (The Ministry for State Security).

The sad part of this whole exercise in repression is – it’s pointless as a control against child pornographers. Since the minds behind this abomination appear to be barely computer literate, they seem to be unaware of the following –

VPN applications (Secure Virtual Private Network Connection), commonly used in repressive countries such as Iran, China, and so on – which allow untraceable encrypted data (preventing disclosure of private information), are readily available for download on the Internet. Once connected to a VPN, an ISP no longer has the ability to follow.

I suspect that child pornographers are generally computer literate and, are well aware of the practical methods that can be used to avoid detection. VPN applications are just one such method.

The unpleasant reality is simple – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

If you are a Canadian, and you believe that it’s time to fight back against unreasonable control of your rights to access the Internet without censorship, and surveillance, you might consider joining OpenMedia.ca, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet.”

Finally, let me say – I considered long and hard as to whether I should post my opinion on this issue. The number of comments on the Net (and, in more than one national newspaper), in which personal fear of this government’s response to criticism was mentioned, weighed on my mind.

I find it stunning, that I’m living in a time in which some Canadians are fearful of their own government. The unfortunate reality is – they may have ample justification for those feelings.

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