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Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


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Is the Internet a "US colony" Now?

F-Secure’s chief research officer Mikko Hypponen argued that the internet had "become a US colony" at the expense of democracy. "We’re back in the age of colonisation," he said. Bruce Schneier of The Atlantic mentions one reason for power play on the Net: 'The Internet has emboldened traditional power as well.'


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  • Nov 6 2013: Now?!?

    The United States is the inventor, distributor, arbiter and administrator of the Internet. Its operation falls under the Department of Commerce and its regulation under the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. This has been the case since the inception of the Internet. To claim that Internet has not ever been under the providence of the US a completely false statement and shows a serious lack of ability to look things up on Wikipedia (which I suggest Mr. Hypponen try next time).

    It is awfully nice of the US to let other countries use the Internet, especially since they use it for free (although they have to provide their own hardware). Obviously we get a return in increased commerce (probably one of the reasons the Internet falls under the Department of Commerce). But Egypt also administers the Suez Canal, and they very nicely let anyone use it, and in exchange Israel doesn’t bomb them. None of that means the UN should annex the Suez because other people happen to use it and the (somewhat coerced) pleasure of the Egyptian government.

    Should the Internet continue to be under the control of the United State? That is a different issue. I would argue yes because I don’t trust anyone else to do a better job and to date the United States has behaved as an excellent custodian to the Internet. Keep in mind China and Russia are also in the UN, who kidnap politicians of the opposite party before elections or just don’t have them at all. France is also in the UN, they think that pictures of the Eiffel tower are all copyrighted by some company who bribed French official to say it is. So is Germany, who thinks that the best way to stop oppressive governments is to oppress all history, reference, discussion or representation of their own previous life as the Third Reich that doesn’t conform to a set of state approved views on the matter.

    These are the people who should be in charge instead?
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      Nov 6 2013: I don't suggest that another country take charge of the Net but I think other countries should run their own Internet without oppressive censorship.
      • Nov 6 2013: I agree with your sentiment, or rather I agree that the Internet should be largely free of censorship. What I do not understand is what this has to do with the United States, a country that does not (and actually cannot) engage in Internet censorship. And beyond that I don’t understand the implication the United States is somehow engaging in aggressive actions against other countries through the abuse of Internet policies.

        Most countries that engage in wholesale Internet censorship do set up their own domain servers, and force all world domain server traffic through them. Effectively creating, as you say “their own Internet”. In this way these countries can easily control what comes in and goes out. Such countries include Iran, China and North Korea.
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          Nov 7 2013: "...the implication the United States is somehow engaging in aggressive actions against other countries through the abuse of Internet policies."

          As one commenter said, it's either the US do that or another country will.
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      Nov 8 2013: While the US's contribution to and maintenance of the internet is considerable, overall I think your statement here is too simple to be accurate, though what I have to say here is largely nitpicking. The US gov't created ARPANET, which many countries connected their networks to, but these countries already had their own networks prior. ARPANET established some of the main standards of the internet today, like TCP/IP and the OSI model. But the engineer behind the development of the OSI model (Hubert Zimmerman) was French, and drew from his experience working on CYCLADES, which was sponsered by the French government. Outside of ARPANET and the US gov't's initial control of the DNS system, any US contributions came from private companies.

      Today the US gov't runs some root name servers, but ICANN is a private company. Even with the root name servers residing in the US, other countries have developed parallel DNS systems (Cesidian for example). And it's debatable whether DNS constitutes "the internet" at all. You can connect to any server just by sending the IP address. Anonymous networks like Tor and i2p use their own TLD's. .onion and .i2p extensions are totally out of the realm of ICANN.
      • Nov 8 2013: The Internet as a network of networks; that is a perfectly acceptable level of abstraction. But I think the OP, and the talk (which I admittedly didn’t watch), are concerned with sociological, not technological, elements of the Internet. Including the Internet’s “lack of democratization” and the ability of the US specifically to censor or otherwise influence the Internet. So while I concede all your technical points, and I confess a bit of hyperbole, I don’t think that the distributed nature of the Internet protects it much from US influence (political, diplomatic or technological). Nor does its make-up protect other groups or nations from US interference should it choose to interfere. Nor has the US ever given any indication that it considers the Internet to be anything other than a sovereign resource, despite its global nature. So in that respect it is awfully colonial.
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          Nov 18 2013: I would agree that the internet isn't a global democracy, or nationless-collective commons, at least not without an incredible level of abstraction. I think there in lies the problem - our incredible, collective disillusion that is cyberspace. There is no such physical thing as cyberspace... it's an unhealthy abstraction of the truth. The internet's physical nature is nothing more than a bunch of companies that agree to link their infrastructure together, on confidential terms and behind closed doors.

          So I don't believe it's reasonable for any country to respect the internet as a sovereign territory, as much as I would like that. But they should certainly respect another country's infrastructure as soveriegn. A machine is physical property in a physical place with a physical owner, and whatever laws and soveriegnty that apply should be recognized.

          But this grand disillusion permeates much deeper than the internet. If I own a machine, is it not my machine? How can certain sequences of electronic patterns that my machine makes be owned by someone else? It's a grandiose disillusion, exploited on a grand scale. When I purchase a phone or a tablet, I need to run an exploit to get root access. And rooting my own machine is technically illegal in the US, and only allowed by exemptions to the DMCA that the Librarian of Congress has the sole authority to establish every three years.

          Meanwhile, my phone carrier can open up a serial connection to my phone over-the-air any time they please, push software updates to my phone with full root access and turn on the microphone if they so desired. CALEA law requires that my phone be tappable and accessable to the government. If we don't have sovereignty over our own property, how can we expect sovereignty for an abstract commons?

          We might as well be living in a world of wizards and warlocks, as people for the most part don't know shit about what goes on behind their screen.

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