Friday, October 9, 2009

Government Regulation of the Internet

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In other countries around the world dictators have tried to regulate the internet or ban it all together, a few have succeeded such as North Korea. Some may wonder why anyone would want to undergo the daunting task of controling the internet, but it is clear to me. The internet is a worldwide marketplace for free thinking individuals to gather and share information which more often than not is ignored by traditional media outlets. Such information can be damning to a tyrannical government obsessed with absolute power over the citizens of its country. This is the same reason that slave owners would not permit their servants to learn to read or attend school; such information would serve as a catalyst for revolt.

The fact of the matter is this: No government can lay claim to owning the Internet, nor can any company. The Internet is like the telephone system -- no one owns the whole thing. The web is far to vast to be controlled by a single group, government or otherwise. What the government can control is HOW the information is accessed on it's citizen's computers. The internet itself will survive anything short of total destruction of the Earth.

Enter Senate bill S773, where the US leadership seems to align itself with harsh dictators in allowing for the internet to be regulated by the few in control of the government. More specifically, S773 would grant:
The President—
in the event of an immediate threat to strategic national interests involving compromised Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network—
(A) may declare a cyber security emergency; and
(B) may, if the President finds it necessary for the national defense and security, and in coordination with relevant industry sectors, direct the national response to the cyber threat and the timely restoration of the affected critical infrastructure information system or network...

The fact that the White House is charged with declaring the emergency that they would need to take control of the Internet is a scary prospect. In Massachusetts, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency was recently declared in order to bypass the normal waiting period of 90 days for a law to take effect that would allow for an interim Senate appointment in the wake of Ted Kenedy's death. The law in question had just been enacted in 2004 to strip then Republican Governor Mitt Romney's power to appoint a replacement Senator in the event of a vacancy from John Kerry being elected President. The emergency in MA was purely political and I am worried that a similar abuse of power is a distinct possibility on the part of the President, to silence his political opposition. Who could forget The program was introduced in the beginning of August to report fishy disinformation floating around the Internet directly to the White House. Armed with the names of those people spreading fishy rumors and the power to take control of the Internet, it is certainly feasible for the President to censor the flow of information online.

Under the bill, CNET reports:
Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)
Another question that really needs to be asked: is the Government even capable of such a task? If you’ve ever spent time in a Government office, I’m sure you know that nothing is done in a timely manner. That being said, their responsibility of the timely restoration of the affected critical infrastructure information system or network after shutting the internet down seems to be a whimsical fantasy at best. Joe Biden is a likely candidate to oversee the implementation of this policy and who could forget his quote when being asked about the multi-million dollar website, for which he was responsible:
"You know, I'm embarrassed. Do you know the Web site number?" he asked an aide standing out of view. "I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed."

It is my belief that the internet should remain free of regulation regardless of who is trying to do so. Left alone, the internet will evolve with the times and security measures will improve. An intervention on the part of this or any Government will not only deprive it’s users of the truth, but will also hinder the advancement of the system as a whole.

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Contact your Senator
Contact President Obama


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