Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I must control the internet

Over the past few years many countries have decided to pass new laws regulating internet usage.  The most hilarious, sad, and terrifying ones have generally had the common element of being extremely powerful sets of regulations and punitive punishments that have absolutely no basis in truth.  Britain has the infamous law that if you are accused of breaking copyright by three sources you have your household internet removed.  Note that this does not require proof, a court case or anything other verification, but only the accusation levelled by any three parties at all.  Given that government services are available online, that households have more than one person in them who might want the internet and that any group of jackasses could get together and ban anybody they chose from the net this is obviously batshit insane.

The US has a different brand of lunacy where big parts of the Republican party want the ability to shut down the internet whenever they want.  The idea here is to 'protect people from terrorism' by shutting down the transfer of information - ignoring the fact that it would completely destroy pretty much all economic activity and personal communications in the entire damn country at a stroke.  Of course they also want to have this power without any sort of oversight... somehow the fact that *anybody* in a country could shut down the entire country instantly hasn't shown up as a far greater threat to the country than any terrorist would be.  Imagine the havoc that would ensue when a single hacker destroys the internet for the US.

Now Italy had gone and brewed their own brand of madness.  They are currently debating a bill that would force any online site to post *anything* someone sends to them without comment or context if that person claims that the website's content was detrimental to their image.  So if I post that the Italian Prime Minister regularly hires many underage prostitutes for a single evening and tells them stories about how he is only a Prime Minister in his spare time (which is true, by the way) then I might be forced by law to post that the Italian Prime Minister in fact never sleeps with prostitutes and also is a world champion weightlifter, speaks 87 languages and spends much of his time helping orphans in Africa (which is false).  I will, in fact, have to publish anything he says and the truth of either my statements or his will never legally come into the matter.  This situation is so insane that Wikipedia has pulled their entire Italian site in response!  I have no issue with the number of (legal age) prostitutes the Italian Prime Minister hires but when Wikipedia feels like they can't even maintain a site dedicated to your country you have to question your own sanity.

I wonder if this is simply that legislators are generally so far removed from the internet.  They are, by and large, much older than the internet and have lived the majority of their lives in a position of power and the arrival of the internet provides a new set of issues that established power circles have great difficulty controlling.  Obviously there are exceptions but I would bet that these short sighted hamfisted attempts at controlling the internet are just crazy schemes cooked up by people who are unfamiliar with and afraid of the internet which is why they are so poorly thought out.  That, and corporate interests that seek to establish feudal domination of cyberspace.  Uninformed fear and the lobbying of multinational corporations makes for some really foolish lawmaking.


  1. Senator Ted Stevens railing against net neutrality

  2. I'm glad that Canada has avoided the really, really crazy end of the spectrum on this issue. Our new copyright laws are going to be stupid and terrible, but not blatantly insane.