Mary A Moore Feb 1 2012
The principle known as ‘Network Neutrality’ or ‘Internet Neutrality‘ allows Internet users to access any web content or applications they choose, without restriction or limitation. In 1990, John Perry Barlow, along with Mitchell Kapor, wrote a beautiful piece about the Internet in “Across the Electronic Frontier”…
‘Over the last fifty years, the people of the developed world have begun to cross into a landscape unlike any which humanity has experienced before. It is a region without physical shape or form…what it is eventually called, it is the homeland of the Information Age, the place where the future is destined to dwell…’
This is the internet’s age of a loss of innocence. Long gone are the words of John Perry Barlow, as he wrote in 1996 in his treatise “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”...I declare the global space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any method of enforcement we have true reason to fear…’
There are many conceptualizations of the internet from ‘Ecommerce’, to ‘information highway’, to ‘social network’, to ‘cultural sound bite’, to ‘political governance and control’, to a massive collective – “the Borg”, if you will. The internet has become the transformational driver it was destined to become. It has and will further enhance all aspects of our lives, and as its importance continues to grow, so too will the war over control escalate into a fundamental battle of who and what values will dominate, in what region. The nationalization / regionalization of the internet has already begun, as has a drift effect. Much like a slow moving creek that has been enlarged into a fast flowing river, the local growth and values have been watered down and washed away; and to continue the analogy, much of what we do now is a matter of going along with the flow. The question is who is trying to control the flow.
In the video below, John Barlow gives an overview of the evolution of the internet and the struggles it has had, to remain in the domain of the average citizen.
Recently we have heard about SOPA with the Google and Wiki campaigns trying to raise awareness. Rupert Murdoch went on a rant on Twitter to attack Google and others who supported a review of SOPA legislation.
…”Don’t care about people not buying movies, programs or newspapers, just stealing them.”…
Mr Murdoch, who joined Twitter at the start of this year, blocked Google from featuring content from News International newspapers when they went behind paywalls, and has previously called Google a “parasite”. An interesting comment from a man who media empire has been in the news for illegally hacking phones for story material.
First it was Twitter, then Google, then Blogger, then… how many others already had censorship, but it was not common knowledge. Where does censorship start and stop. When Facebook kept facial recognition data did that fact deter participants in countries that do not allow free speech from expressing themselves freely on Facebook. What if a foreign government was able to hack into this data? There are mountains of data being kept on social media sites. Some are turned into trends, and others pick out obscure words, so when some tourists are banned from visiting a country because of what they said on a social media site, we should all start to wonder has Big Brother finally arrived in our lives as a faceless watcher over the internet, monitoring our every move.
Global companies on the other hand have to deal with the regulatory environment in various countries, with vastly different sets of values and customs. If one would review a list of countries that frequently block access to social media sites, one may see a pattern of rigid, controlling societies, some of which social media has been used in to upset the status quo, and resulted in revolutionary fervor in regions such as the Middle East. India is currently engaged in a major effort to try and control what is shown in social media. The authorities claim some material is inciting civil strife, and others are offending religious sensibilities. Where does free speech leave off, and inciting hatred begin. How free is the person who is abused in a photo or video, that is being freely posted on the internet? When cyber bullies and hackers hurt businesses they have moral issues with, is this internet freedom or criminal behaviour? The rules that regulate our behaviour in the real world have come to the virtual world of the internet, irregardless of John Barlow’s wishes . The internet however, has a global connection and impacts are felt globally. What values will dominate, and where. Perhaps the next stage of internet evolution will be the development of a global set of values
Even in what one would consider a source of information – the local public library, internet filtering software that work here have been found to censor. Peacefire.org discovered that political websites had been blocked by some filtering software used in public institutions http://www.peacefire.org/blind-ballots/ along with some Amnesty International sites http://www.peacefire.org/amnesty-intercepted/
In a year that will see several major elections, along with the second spring of the revolutionary movements in the middle east and elsewhere, we can expect tremendous pressure on social media, as efforts are made to influence and control our collective thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. The traditional media has always played a role in the shaping of our culture. Now social media with its global nature, and multiplier effects is taking a major role in shaping our world. It is re-shifting the balance of power, and changing the dynamics of the world as we know it.
- Thailand Couldn’t Be Happier About Twitter’s Censorship (forbes.com)
- Twitter CEO: We’re Not Censoring the Internet (mashable.com)
- Twitter Blackout: Censorship Protest Urges Users to ‘Go Dark’ Saturday for #TwitterBlackout (ibtimes.com)
- Something Extra: Twitter Censorship Revolution (miami.cbslocal.com)
- India Moves To Censor Social Media (yro.slashdot.org)
- #Cyber-Civics (avaya.com)
- John Perry Barlow: I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. (sharingisliberty.wordpress.com)
- Defining the ‘We’ in the Declaration of Internet Freedom (theatlantic.com)
- Censoring social media fans flames of social unrest (esciencenews.com)
- censorship and repressing social movements (orgtheory.wordpress.com)
- China’s Sina Weibo Unveils New Censorship System (voanews.com)
- Internet Censorship: Is a Declaration of Internet Freedom What the Internet Needs? (censorshipinamerica.com)
- This brilliant TED video explains China’s Internet censorship regime (thenextweb.com)
- No, we’re not trying to censor the Internet: Sibal #Joke (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- IHT Rendezvous: Taking It to the Street in China (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)