edward long

Association of Old Crows


This conversation is closed.

Internet freedom: Safe or In Peril?

"They" are sniffing around the thing we call the Internet. Regulators, politicians, opportunists, and interested parties are officially coming together to focus on ideas for regulating the Internet. They are from the government and they are here to help us.

Closing Statement from edward long

Seven TEDsters joined me in cogitating on this issue. There was unanimity on the sub-question: " Is action to protect internet freedom indicated?"
Here are the highlights of the ideas and concerns expressed:
1) A tax-funded, sovereign, non-profit entity created to compile an accurate representation of public sentiment and susequently authorize any major changes to internet governance.
2) The internet cannot remain free of regulation lest personal freedoms be lost. The U.N. is a good choice to be the regulating agency. No tax should ever be levied against the internet. Censorship should be exercised to remove hate speeches and all promotion of intolerance or violence.
3) All freedoms are always in peril. The U.N. is not a good choice to serve as regulator. The issue is one of concern as evidenced by 1.2 million hits on search for "Internet Governance". The key to fair regulation is honest and accurate internet polls/elections.
4) "Big Brother" is a threat to internet freedom. Many other freedoms are also in peril. Younger people tend to be unaware of the potential for loss of freedom(s).
5) The internet is a virtual sovereign nation. To preserve internet freedom from a take-over by Big Brother It must be lightly regulated by an open-source body, not the U.N. We are on the cusp of a major shift in humanity.
6) Big Brother will, by nature, try to take control of the internet. Internet is like a genie out of the bottle, very difficult to control. Nations who choose to suppress internet freedom will perish.
7) Iinternet freedom is definitely in peril.

  • thumb
    Jun 25 2012: Definitely in peril.

    But I'm not sure how far it can go. The internet is not really understood by anyone.
    What is clear is that it is a potential nation - with more voters than most countries.
    This alarms most governments.
    THe UN is moving to garner support to form a ruling body for the internet, however, the proposals so far are being formulated behind closed doors.
    I believe the internet should become globally governed, but as an open source body.
    The proliferation of negative activities on teh net cannot be controled because of national jurisdictional conflicts.
    Giving the internet up to secret government representatives will disconnect the user from influence on freedoms.
    I would prefer the healthy anarchy that exists today - warts and all.

    Perhaps it would be worth visiting https://www.accessnow.org/ for more in-depth analysis.
    • thumb
      Jun 25 2012: Thinking of the Internet as a nation is interesting Mr. SMiith, even without definition of such typical national characteristics as geography; population; GNP; armed forces; form of government; currency; etc. This open-source, global body you envision as governing the internet would seem to naturally fall within the oversight of the United Nations. It seems Orwellian that the planning of internet governance is being done behind closed doors. Maybe "they" simply want to get rid of the warts? Thank you!
      • thumb
        Jun 25 2012: HI edward,

        I was a great believer in the UN.
        But I don't think the net needs them now.
        Geography does not matter in teh new instant communication paradigm.
        Population is currently 2 billion and rising.
        Armed forces could be arrange pretty quick for cyber wars. It is already in its nacent form with Anonymous.
        Government (of the internet) could be arranged with a style something like wikipedia.
        A currency would be pretty easy too - paypal needs a competitor anyway. It could be linked to something with true value .. say commodities .. or it could be run as a credit system financing major global infrastructure projects a la Larouche. Merchants could trade in wikidollars for international transactions. Conversion into and out of wikidollars would be based on the risk spread without hidden loadings - this would generate a surplus that could be used to fund instruments of the wikination and buy-up the ISPs. Tax would be by donation - to defined projects.
        "They" are backing the warts - "they" have too much vested interest to scrape the warts off. "They don't care about decency or law - "they" only care about treating humans like sheep - drive us down narrow channels and harvest our effort.
        "They" we can do without.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: Things sure get messy when the interests of the ruling body are not congruent to the interests of the subjects/citizens. It seems like this would be a good time to describe/define exactly what the Internet is. I have always thought of it like the wheel, or like electricity, only more complicated. But it looks like the Internet is one (big) physical thing currently owned and operated by no one. This looks more and more like a pivotal, global issue.
      • thumb
        Jun 25 2012: I feel like we are on the cusp of a major shift in humanity due to the net.
        Learning what it is is akin to learning what the air is.
        As a commons, it represents a relaxation of the human spirit back to its beginnings - a kind of return to hunter-gathering. But it will need some light regulation to prevent the "tragedy of the commons" and that regulation will need to be global. If the regulation becomes heavy, then it will probably split with the commons moving into major VPN structures (virtual private network) or even alter-nets. The treaties and proposals on the table right now virtually criminalise our children .. it won't be tollerated.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: Global, light regulation operating with a strictly enforced charter specifically empowered to prevent another "tragedy of the commons"? It sounds plausable to me Mitch. I am seeing what I consider to be overconfidence in the human spirit on this issue. From where will the motivation, courage, solidarity and wherewithal to maintain proper freedom of the Internet come? Mankind has no experience at acting globally. I fear "they" are hard at work while we cruise along on auto-pilot.
      • thumb
        Jun 25 2012: I believe (could be wrong): that the thing that saves the net is the very isolation that sitting behind a computer device creates. People online act out of self-image. The vast majority see themselves as creatures of good-will (whether they are or not).
        This makes it far easier to act - the isolation from consequences emboldens the online person. So having a free opinion is easier - the force of online petitions is already havin gimpact on policy makers - with just a couple of clicks, you can add your support .. and it doesn not require the time and effort to write/post a paper letter, does not require facing a potentially beligerent voice on the telephone.
        The days of elected representatives subsuming a public mandate into their personal agendas is potentially over. The isolated online-activist is not affected by corruption exerted on the representative - the game changes.
        What it changes to? Who knows? You are probably correct that the "human spirit" will not be the only player on teh block.
        • thumb
          Jun 26 2012: Anonymity and isolation without surrendering influence! What a combination! All the more reason for the current power holders to rein-in this powerful behemoth before it gets too big to tame. I lived in Spain under Franco. All mass communication was strictly forbidden and easily controlled. Today the only sure way to control the Internet is unthinkable. . . a massive electro-magnetic pulse, or a virus deliberately transmitted as a disabling measure. How alarmist does that sound? Call me crazy, but I think "they" will destroy it if they cannot control it. Technological euthanasia?
      • thumb
        Jun 26 2012: Yes, but if Paul Laviolette is correct, that EMP is going to happen anyway - via a galactic-core super wave .. something akin to a solar storm, but lasting for hundreds of years. It will certainly kill all mobile devices .. all satelites .. most power stations.
        Thing is that fiber optics are not all that affected - so long as you shield the electronics connected to it. So maybe one way or another, we will be forced into completely optic networks. I predicted this long ago - cellular mobile is a dead end.
        I believe you are right about "they" .. but it will come down to how the various millitary forces will react to their orders.
        • thumb
          Jun 26 2012: Can't you just see the window that appears on-screen when "The EMP Button" is pushed?. . . "ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DELETE THE INTERNET AND ALL ITS CONTENT?"
      • thumb
        Jun 26 2012: LOL - the thing about cosmic-sourced EMP is that the gravity wave hits first, shortly after, you see the galactic core light-up and all the intervening dust clouds glowing red.
        When you see the light - that means that every unshielded electrical device pointing at teh galactic centre is dead, no one will have the comms to warn the rest of the world as it rolls around for its dose, and within 24 hours, everything stops.
        But it's possible that no one will be near their phones, becuase the earthquakes that preceed it will have everyone occupied.
        After a few weeks, the Ort cloud will start intruding against the solar wind and will start red-shifting solar light, things wil get very smoky in the heavens, the sun and moon will dim, but the temperature from re-radiated infra red will make CO2 warming look pale.
        People will mobilise and unite instantly to get comms going again - there will be a lot of laying of optic fiber .. and emergency logistics will get started moving food again. But not until after a few weeks, during which all kinds of mayhem erupts.
        "THey" will be hiding behind their ramparts and shelters armed to the teeth - but it won't do them any good. They will become ring-fenced and allowed to starve - a cave is a grave.
        It matters not if this EMP comes from "Them" or the galactic core - pretty much same result.
        "They" seem to be having fun playing dice in Syria right now .. I assume for oil.
        People are not as adicted as they appear - when things are in the balance - humans get together and do damn well.
        • thumb
          Jun 26 2012: OK. Now your're scaring me! I'll put you down as a "Yes" vote for internet vulnerability. Whether by bureaucratic malfeasance; taxation; oppressive regulation; EMP; or some new previously untried technique "They" must attempt to take over command and control of the World Wide Web. Thanks Mitch.
  • thumb
    Jun 25 2012: Ed, I know we are a Republic, but it is writen that all democracies will perish when the ruling forces find they can vote themselves power, privledge, and wealth. I believe we are rapidly approaching that precipice. In order to control histrorically media, communications, libraries, and religion must be dominated and controlled. Currently Google has released its transparency report and was somewhat alarmed at the number of court ordered and executive request to restrict or remove data. In the past all world wide communications were controlled by the 5th estate / governments. It is now possible for the common man to cell phoine both messages and photos of events that are counter to the interests of the ruling government.

    Grocery stores track what and when you eat, car dealers know the milage of your autos, your name is sold to mailing lists, and your affairs are constantky monitored. You are now asked by your doctor if you own a gun. Part of the Obamacare ruling along with access to your banking account.

    Like it or not Big Brother is here and we need to deal with it. Through votes being one way but would take years and full executive and legislative cooperation. Some believe that we are on the cusp of anarchy.

    iInternet is in peril but is not the only freesom in peril.

    All the best. Bob.
    • thumb
      Jun 25 2012: Your reply suggests a different debate: "Are liberties in peril?" That could ignite a firestorm which "they" would easily be able to trace to me. Why don't you post it, Robert. :-}.
      • thumb
        Jun 25 2012: I posted a conversation on the Google transparency report that give the numbers of the executive requests and court ordered requests from the US. I am sure I will not receive a Christmas Card from the White House. :-}.

        I really thought that TED members would be all over that conversation. I was wrong. Funny how the wind blows in these conversations. Are we getting a younger crowd who do not recogniize the possabilities exist of the loss of some freedoms. I am seeing the same responders over and over. The community is staying the same the responders do seem smaller that a year ago. Am I imagining this ed?

        Thanks for the reply. All the best. Bob.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: If you search the Conversation archives by the "Most Active" button (on the Conversations Home page) you see posts with many hundreds of responses! It seems to me this must be a valid indicator of the subject preferences of TED responders. I think young people are more concerned about the Internet than old fogeys like me. Another factor is I think we get reputations after many postings and people read or don't read based on their impression of us regardless of the subject. A popular (high Tedcred numbers) poster will get more responses than a conservative old curmudgeon who has been pigeonholed as agenda-driven and overzealous. Anyway, I digress. I agree that short-sightedness is on the rise. Seize the day! edward
  • thumb
    Jun 25 2012: The politicians will try everything they can to control the media. But this time they will fail. The Genie’s been let out of the bottle and he ain’t goin back. The parallels between the internet and the printing press are edifying. When the presses first started printing bibles in the vernacular, the Catholic church was concerned and tried to prohibit it. Moreover, they issued their list of banned books. All to no avail. Another interesting parallel was that early booksellers did a lively business in pornographic literature.

    Now, in fact the power elite did have a degree of success at controlling the print media. The Bush manipulations in the run-up to the Iraq war is an interesting case study. But this new medium will be even more resistant to control. Every censorship measure will be met with a new countermeasure. And the people’s desire to communicate without restraint will be achieved.

    Perhaps one of the greatest things the internet will teach is the value of free speech. Countries are going to be faced with a choice: 1) accept free speech and gain the benefits of the internet or 2) reject free speech and live in the dark ages. Governments which choose number 2 won’t last long.

    Don’t worry Ed. The end is far.
    • thumb
      Jun 25 2012: I appreciate your optimism Tim, but I have lingering doubts about the ability of us commoners to stand against the government agencies who have a perfect record for managing to tax anything and everything that we use in mass. It would be the first time in history, I think, that the government stayed out of a potential revenue producing situation. So you say no peril for the Internet? I hope you are right.
  • thumb
    Jun 27 2012: The Smiths are sticking together on this one: I say it is in peril.
    • thumb
      Jun 27 2012: Thank you for your simply expressed opinion Debra. Watch for my Closing Report to see the overall results.
  • Jun 27 2012: Feyisayo Anjorin has a very good point. Freedom needs regulation or it is just chaos. The fight over intellectual property rights is now being fought primarily by the distributors, not the creators, but the creators have a legitimate stake.

    Another point is that chaos is like a regulation vacuum; it is sure to be filled. IMO the internet will be regulated, so we better make sure it is done right. Numerically, the United Nations is dominated by countries that want to suppress freedom; the UN is definitely not the way to go.

    Thinking with my fingertips: Lets go back to basic principles of government. Government by the people for the people. One person one vote. Start with a charter. I am guessing that somebody has already proposed something like this. Sure enough, google "internet governance charter" and you get 1,200,000 results. Some may think that big number is a good thing. I see it as an indication of lack of organization and unity. I think we had all better start by writing our representatives to make sure the UN keeps its heavy hand off the internet.

    And somebody must figure out a secure but transparent method for internet elections. If nations can make a credible case that the elections are faulty, the governing body loses all legitimacy.
    • thumb
      Jun 27 2012: I guess unregulated freedom is a myth, kind of like an "Honor System" coffee club in the workplace. Without a few rules some putz will mess everything up. Thank you Barry for your participation.
  • thumb
    Jun 24 2012: Edward, I think the U.N. Should be an important part of the regulation process. The body should work with different national bodies. It will not be practical to apply a one-size-fits-all regulation globally, because of the diversity of government systems, cultures and religions.
    I hope taxation never happens.
    • thumb
      Jun 24 2012: Yes! No taxation! And what of censorship? Should there be a check-valve to restrict the flow of particular political sentiment, social content, or faith-based activity?
      • thumb
        Jun 24 2012: Any political sentiment, social content or faith-based activity that spreads hate speech and promotes intolerance and violence , should be banned.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: But isn't that a matter of opinion, which is subject to error. One person considers the Koran to promote hatred, intolerance and violence while another considers the Holy Bible to do the same. If we silence certain expressions how do we know we extinguished the right one? Who judges?
  • Jun 24 2012: I think it is safest to assume that all freedoms are in peril at all times. Since the Patriot Act, we in the USA have little left.
    • thumb
      Jun 24 2012: You have adjusted the focus to view the big picture. It seems there is some ever-present, gravity-like force which acts to restrict, or eliminate freedom. Mr Anjorin (see below) says regulation is a good thing in that it prevents conflicting, destructive clashes between rights. Can the internet be used to infringe upon the rights of others for nefarious purposes? Hmmm. Anyway, I agree Mr. Palmer that internet freedom faces a looming challenge. Get ready for taxation and censorship.
  • thumb
    Jun 23 2012: The concept of freedom had always been misunderstood by the modern world in its overzealousness in promoting human rights and justice.
    Freedom will only remain freedom if it is within the bounds of the law.
    Internet freedom is good; but it has to be guided by legal provisions that would ensure that one person's freedom does not infringe on the rights of other people.
    Unbridled freedom could be an invitation to anarchy.
    • thumb
      Jun 24 2012: If this U.N. committee limits itself to measures to prevent abuse and to protect individual rights then I agree with you. Are you concerned about the possibility of the U.N. ruling for taxation and censorship of the internet? Is such control a necessary part of the mentioned preventative measures and protections? Also, are you concerned that the U.N. might not be the best organization to redesign the internet?
  • thumb
    Jun 22 2012: The major things that are done to the internet should be run by the people first.
    • thumb
      Jun 24 2012: Power to the people! I raise my fist with you Mr. Jacobson. But, the people are not organized. There can be no etsblished, sanctioning agency without organization. Do we let the beast run totally wild and free?
      • thumb
        Jun 24 2012: A simple solution to that would be a non profit organization completely for the people by the people to take votes ect. in order to make certain decisions.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: A private sector non-profit?
      • thumb
        Jun 25 2012: Well, it would be funded by the government and would have some say in certain decisions to make sure the right choice would be made. It would have to be impervious to changes to constitution however.
        • thumb
          Jun 25 2012: Aha! A situation where the government has an equal say alongside non-government representatives. What a switch, the feds are accustomed to having ALL the power. I'm not sure "they" will like being simply equal rather than more equal. Thank you Kevin!