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The Internet Faces Serious Growing Pains as it Matures, But it Will Survive Even the Most Restrictive Law

by on12 March 2012 1913 times

90Today is a busy day on the Internet (it usually is on a Monday morning). There are multiple articles and comments that are all related to the freedom of the Internet and how the world is evolving to embrace it while some in power are de-evolving to tray and restrict it. At this point there is no clear winner, but the sides are being firmly drawn in the sand and it is clear that things will get worse before they get better.

The first item on our list for today is a talk that was given by Mozilla’s CEO about the Internet and how knowledge of the technology (with an emphasis on the Internet) should be a requirement of anyone seeking a position in government. This speech was given over the weekend at the South by Southwest conference and is shocking on more than one level. While Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs made some impassioned and bold statements it was underlined by a subtle warning. Do not expect Mozilla to be a vocal opponent to bad political decision. Although they (along with Google and many others) showed direct opposition to SOPA they do not feel it is Mozilla’s place to get involved in politics. Instead they are going to concentrate on “protecting the Web”. What that means is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure that Mozilla will not be an outspoken supporter of freedom on the Internet any longer.

The same thing we echoed by Google recently. We have a feeling that there might have been some pressure put on both companies for their show of disapproval for SOPA and PIPA. Recently Google was required by regulators in the US to hand over all development documentation on Android in a legal dispute between Motorola and Apple. This is very unusual as it involved trade secrets and Google is not even named in the original dispute. The Judge in the case is claiming that it is relative to the suit because Google is buying Motorola Mobility, but somehow that just does not seem to quite make sense…

Next up on the list for a Monday morning is a list published by the group Arab Spring of who they feel are “Enemies of the Internet” This nice listing was released in an article on CBS (through Reporters Without Borders). The CBS story is a fraction of the original article which shows how the media in the US are trying to walk the fine edge of the issue here. For example, in the original article about the update of the “Enemies of the Internet” list there is a rather long paragraph about the US and their attempts to control the internet and information available on it. In particular they talk about the treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and suspected informant Bradley Manning.

"Speeches by U.S. officials on the importance of the fight against online censorship and their financial support for anti-censorship tools is belied by the treatment of WikiLeaks (see the Reporters Without Borders report on the United States and the Internet). Using Visa and MasterCard to cut off its access to funds has hampered the site’s operations. Bradley Manning, suspected of being one of WikiLeaks’ informers, has been detained for several months in dreadful conditions. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is the subject of a “secret indictment” which Reporters Without Borders urges the U.S. authorities to clarify"

The article there highlights how the democratic governments condemn regimes that use censorship and illegal surveillance (including phone and internet disruption), yet are busy trying to pass these same laws in the name of protecting corporate profits (they pronounce it Intellectual Property).

At the end of the Article CBS released only the names of the countries that are actually listed as Enemies. What they forgot about was the list of countries being watched for their tendency to restrict and police the internet for government purposes. To be honest, looking at the way things are going I am shocked that the US and Canada are not on there. We will list both groups here;


Full Enemies of the Internet:
Burma
China
Cuba
Iran
North Korea
Saudi Arabia
Syria
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan
Vietnam
Bahrain
Belarus

Under Surveillance:
Australia
Egypt
Eritrea
France
Malaysia
Russia
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Thailand
Tunisia
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
India
Kazakhstan


You can see that while the first list includes countries that many people already identify as oppressive the second list is a little more shocking. This is especially true in light of items like ACTA, IPRED (Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive) and Canada’s new C-11 and C-30 bills (these are under the guise of protecting children, but are really surveillance bills that show paranoia and ignorance).

Meanwhile Governments continue to show their ignorance of the way the online activist movement works with such ridiculous requests as asking Anonymous to attend a hearing on the internet. This seems to show that the Canadian Parliament thinks of Anonymous as a small group or a group with a leader (or leaders) at the top that can come and sit down (very foolish considering the fact that they also want to arrest them).

Things are going to get ugly in the near future as ignorance leads to fear. Right now corporations are afraid of the changes to their lucrative business models where they control the means of production and distribution. This has led them to spend millions of dollars on lobbying for more restrictive laws to control the internet. In turn the ignorance of most governments on how the internet works as a tool for communication, commerce and social protest has made them propose increasingly foolish laws that do nothing to help or remedy the situation. Instead they hire “experts” on the Internet who often do not know anything themselves (look how often security companies are hacked and breached). It is an ugly cycle that does not look to be fixable in the near future. Instead we see more and more fear and ignorance being pushed out to ordinary citizens.

However, just as McCarthyism, Isolationism and many other uneducated policies (prohibition…) have come and gone this one will too. It is only a matter of time and education; people are no longer trusting one source for information and are learning the value of reading opposing views and even reading the long, boring and poorly worded bills and acts proposed by their governments. Thanks to the Internet we will begin to see a society that is more involved and more aware than ever before. Too bad we have to go through the growing pains to get there…

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Last modified on 12 March 2012
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