January 22, 2012

If It Were Not For The Internet

I suggested a topic on recent government actions and the internet. “I’d like to know what readers here think of government attempts to restrict internet freedom. Not so much about this blog, but what it would mean for financial issues like the housing bubble, or just plain free speech.”

One said, “Unless people are willing to pay for content, there will be less and less of it. The piracy issue is real, and not just overseas. On the other hand, I understand the bill over-reaches, in some way that is hazy. That’s what I get from a brief debate I saw on TV. The issue is ‘fair use,’ I suppose — quoting something with attribution rather than simply republishing it without attribution.”

A reply, “I would characterize it as over-reaching in ways that are not ‘hazy’ at all—but rather downright unconstitutional IMHO. There is no right to due process before your site is taken offline, and you get to argue about getting it back online. Of course, our current crop of SCOTUS PTB would likely not find it unconstitutional, unfortunately.”

One had this, “I think it is clear that the legislation was targeted at sites that specialize in the distribution of copyrighted movies, music, tv shows, entire books, etc. The problem is the difficulty is in drafting legislation that allows them to shut down sites clearly created to assist in the pirating of copyrighted materials, and a site intended as a discussion forum where the owner of the site can not prevent people from posting copyrighted materials.”

A reply, “I think internet freedom relates to our guaranteed freedom of privacy in our papers. The federal government has no right to monitor what we write. No right to read it, shut it down, take it away or censor it.”

Another said, “I had enough of 1950’s-type censorship in the 1950’s. We anti-war activists got a little taste of it during the run-up to IW2 when you were ‘either with us or with the terrorists.’ Having to live, work, write, with that sort of mentality leads to both creative deadlock and a strong desire to circumvent the law— neither of which bodes well for a vibrant, functional society.”

“Practical considerations aside, living in fear that your words/posts may land you in prison, on unspecified charges, indefinitely, makes for an authoritarian (and unaccountable,) ruling class, and ultimately revolution.”

And another, “My simple conjecture is that limiting information about the real economic situation can serve to cover up and accelerate incipient economic collapse. Exhibit A: The defunct Soviet Union was famous for gross official overstatement of its economic successes, to the point where citizens and non-citizens alike realized the end was at hand.”

“Exhibit B: Enron’s stock price stayed reasonably high right up until the point of collapse, during a period of massive control fraud.”

“Exhibits A and B both are examples of how using deception to cover up economic malfeasance can lead to sudden and ‘unexpected’ collapse. Restricting free speech on the internet would act in the direction of increasing the number of sudden collapses of ‘too-big-to-fail’ economic entities operated under conditions of control fraud, of which I assume Enron and the former Soviet Union are primary examples. (Ironically, both failed, and the world kept on spinning.)”

“The internet has been a great driver of free speech and information exchange. Those who are against freedom of speech and who profit from limiting others’ freedoms will not hesitate to take away American’s Constitutional free speech rights if doing so best serves their avaricious interests.”

And finally, “If it were not for the internet I would have thought I was the only one paying $9 for mayo and inflation wasn’t a problem just like the government said. In 2004 I would have thought I was the only one who thought house prices were way out of whack because there wasn’t anyone where I lived that didn’t buy into the mania that was supported by the media and the PTB.”

“It would be a lot easier for the PTB to control people if they had to take the official government numbers as the truth.”

The Atlantic Wire. “With the U.S. government trying to pass what Google’s Sergey Brin has called ‘China-like censorship,’ China has found a new way to tamp down free expression on the Internet: make people use their real names. After the Chinese government realized that Weibo, a Twitter-esque microblogging service, gave rise to ‘irrational voices and negative opinions and harmful information’ — in the words of Wang Chen the deputy director of Communist Party’s propaganda department — it has decided to clamp down by requiring all bloggers to register their identities with the government, reports The New York Times’ Michael Wines.”

“A lesson for U.S. Internet users, after old-school government control of websites comes censorship 2.0: Total removal of online anonymity. If you think this can’t possibly happen in the U.S., this identity issue is already being debated and enforced, however the main actors have been the tech giants who are championing the SOPA protests.”

The LA Times. “Watching from China, where web censorship is practically a national hallmark, some can’t help but smirk and crack jokes about the controversy raging over Internet freedom in the U.S. The brouhaha has generated some strong opinions in the country Google fled, not the least because opponents of the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills are conjuring Chinese web censorship to promote their case.”

“The consensus here, however, appears to be this: Americans should try a minute in our shoes before invoking online Armageddon. If anything, Chinese bloggers say, the debate underscores how privileged U.S. web-users and Internet companies are, even in times of duress. ‘Only an American company could protest the way Wikipedia or Google has to the government,’ said Zhao Jing, a closely-followed blogger in Beijing who uses the pen name Michael Anti. ‘A Chinese company would never get away with that.’”

“‘It’s hard for people in the U.S. to understand Internet censorship in China,’ said Wen Yunchao, a prominent blogger and outspoken government critic who left mainland China recently for Hong Kong. ‘In China, all the government decisions are done in a dark box. No one knows what’s going on. There’s never any legal reason cited. If these laws are passed in the U.S., every step of the way it will be more transparent. People can challenge it. There’s no comparison when it comes to censorship in China and in the U.S.’”

“Still, Wen supports U.S. activists challenging the bills, saying it’s a slippery slope to lesser web access. He said China’s so-called Great Firewall, which blocks access to many foreign sites like Facebook and Twitter, was first billed as a strategy to stop piracy and pornography. ‘Now it’s being abused and extended to thousands of websites,’ he said.”

Bits Bucket for January 22, 2012

Post off-topic ideas, links, and Craigslist finds here.