A Golden Shield and A Great Cannon
This week on Facebook: In researching ‘internet censorship’ the question of ‘control‘ is a word frequently used but I’m not convinced that it is correct. Control of the internet is simply the means to an end and it is the regulations a State applies to internet use that determines its use. In other words State control, through regulations backed by the law that the State applies as ‘rules’ to its use¹.
The following articles add to those that I posted in 2016 in my post on ‘An Internet Brief‘, which covers my thoughts on the development of the internet and it its future. To those thoughts are now added the Chinese model of internet surveillance, the model favoured by the political elites regardless of their affiliations. A model leading to unfettered State control over the use of the internet, reductions in democracy and State authoritarianism.
Governments around the world are tightening control over citizens’ data and using claims of “fake news” to suppress dissent, eroding trust in the internet as well as the foundations of democracy. Democracies are struggling in the digital age, while China is exporting its model of censorship and surveillance to control information both inside and outside its borders. Freedom on the Net 2018
The governments of France, Germany, Hungary, and the United Kingdom have also ramped up the surveillance powers of their intelligence services with the aim of disrupting terrorist networks. While this is intended to protect citizens’ safety, it often weakens crucial judicial oversight meant to protect their basic rights. Italy passed a law in November 2017 that requires telecommunications operators to store telephone and internet data for up to six years, despite a 2014 EU Court of Justice ruling that such rules constituted a disproportionate infringement on privacy².
1. Who controls the Internet? The Internet is just the latest in a series of communications revolutions that initially inspired idealistic visions of people empowered and nation-states withering. Every time there’s a new technological revolution that makes communication faster and cheaper, the same reaction occurs. Namely, that this will make it harder for states to regulate but every time that doesn’t happen.
2. China’s great firewall and the war to control the internet: In 1996, you could credibly claim that the internet should remain free from governmental or corporate influence. Fast forward, and an internet without government surveillance and corporate dominance seems impossible. The internet is no longer a libertarian’s utopia, if it ever was. The choice is no longer between regulation or freedom, but between who controls it. So it is still worth asking: who rules the internet? Daily life depends on the answer.
3. Getting under the skin of one of today’s trickiest cross-border policy questions: To understand the pressures challenging the borderlessness of the internet, it is important to understand who is in charge of achieving that borderlessness in the first place.
4. Beijing Wants to Rewrite the Rules of the Internet: In late April, just days after the Commerce Department announced the denial order against ZTE, Xi Jinping, the president of China, gave a major speech laying out his vision to turn his country into a “cyber superpower.” His speech, along with other statements and policies he has made since assuming power, outlines his government’s ambition not just for independence from foreign technology, but its mission to write the rules for global cyber governance—rules that look very different from those of market economies of the West.
5. Government’s new rules on internet regulation could kill innovation and privacy: The aim of holding large social platforms to higher standards of transparency and accountability is a valid one. But the proposals ask internet users to put even more trust into these companies, to decide what content is appropriate and what isn’t, and they haven’t earned that trust yet. Beyond large social media companies, the rules create an existential threat to the many other services they apply to.
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¹The Secret Rules Of The Internet (url*): While public debates rage about government censorship and free speech on college campuses, customer content management constitutes the quiet transnational transfer of free-speech decisions to the private, corporately managed corners of the internet where people weigh competing values in hidden and proprietary ways.
²Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracy: Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018.
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