February 18 2011
State Secretary Hillary Clinton surely gave a moving speech on Internet Freedom this week. Why, oh why, can I just not fall for her soothing and reassuring words that the US government is all for Internet Freedom?
While the Obama administration touts its support for Internet Freedom abroad, several measures at home are moving the US Internet landscape in a very different direction, towards legitimizing government oversight, censorship, and control over the Internet.
Evgeny Morozov writes in the Christian Monitor:
Clinton's follow-up speech, delivered on Feb. 15 at George Washington University, was an effort to capitalize on the universal excitement about the role of social media in the recent events in the Middle East, correct some of the rhetorical excesses of the 2010 address, and try to reconcile the inherent contradictions of aspiring to export Internet freedom abroad while limiting it at home, with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security seeking more oversight over cyberspace.
Here are just three of the measures being considered in the US, whitch would make our Internet less free and subject to government oversight, censorship, and control.
1) Net Neutrality Regulations
From my piece on government regulation which threatens the internet:
The FCC and proponents of net neutrality rules rightly argue that an open Internet encourages investment and innovation, and even [FCC Commissioner Julius] Genachowski acknowledges that some regulation "will stifle innovation, investment and growth." The question we are faced with, however, is not whether we want an open Internet (which we already have), but whether we want an Internet regulated by consumer demands and the market pressures of innovation in technology, or an Internet regulated by government. ...
Internet users do face a very real threat. It doesn't come from the private broadband providers who may someday conspire to control our access to innovation. The real threat is government regulation which will stifle investment and innovation, raise costs for consumers and businesses, and increase the potential for government censorship of the Internet. Why would we want to take that risk?
From the Weekly Standard:
COICA would allow the U.S. government to seize and remove websites from the Internet without due process and after only the allegation of copyright infringement. As Wired reported, COICA "would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed 'central to the activity' of the site -- regardless if the website has actually committed a crime. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the 'nuclear option,' which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites 'off.'"
3) The Internet "Kill Switch"
From my piece on Internet Freedom:
Could something similar to the Internet shut-down in Egypt happen in the US? A legislative proposal by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), introduced last summer would give the President the power to declare a "cyber-emergency," forcing private Internet providers from disconnecting networks "crucial to our nation's infrastructure." It would even deny to Internet providers the right to fight in court against the regulations, which could include intrusive obligations for mandated updates and compliance. The "Kill Switch" is justified as necessary to contain an act of cyber-warfare, but it's worth pausing to consider how else a government-yes, even the U.S. government-could use such power. (More, here.)