Many democratic nations find themselves in a hypocritical quandary these days. This includes The United States Federal Government. In just 2012, The US Federal Government initiated more than 31,000 inquiries to Google about their users data usage, and most of these were done without a court-ordered warrant of any kind. In most cases, Google provided at least part of the data requested.
The Freedom House report “Freedom on the Net 2012” reveals “A number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media.”
Things like child pornography, cyber-espionage, national security and intellectual property rights are among the reasons used to justify the heightened online controls. The United States is not the only democratic nation moving towards increased censorship when it comes to the World Wide Web.
Cyber-attacks and online data theft is certainly a valid concern. Victims include even the largest and best defended media giants and companies. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have been under a nearly non stop attack by a Chinese hacking group for months. Giants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook recently reported to having been breached. Let’s not forget the large attack Google suffered in 2009. Independent hacking groups exist, and they are all over the globe.
SANS Institute founder Alan Paller says “It’s been going on in China since at least May, 2002.”
Lawmakers have been compelled to attempt to increase online security through tougher legislation. However, increases in security will also lead to a chilling effect on free speech.
Member countries of the International Telecommunication Union have been seeking a treaty that would grant their governments more control over the infrastructure of the Internet. This was one of the hot topics of discussion during their December 2012 meeting in Dubai. China, Iran, Cuba and Russia were among the 89 members to push for said controls. The United States and Canada were not in favor of this movement. Even though this treaty ended in failure for the time being, countries are still pushing for their own legislation to increase control over what is on line – including Canada and The US.
One example is the Canadian bill named “The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act” (Bill C-30). The bill would have forced Internet Service Providers to develop a monitoring system that would allow police the ability to intercept and track all communications through the internet. The supporting idea was a way to keep children safe when a potential threat was discovered. The public outcry over the bill was so overwhelming, Canadian officials were forced to withdraw the bill less than a week ago.
Officials in The United States are still conducting online surveillance and searches without the involvement of the court system. Many times these searches are conducted under the rules of outdated laws such as The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Often disguised as protecting copyright holders intellectual property, personal and private communications are being monitored.
One of the worst pieces of legislation pertaining to personal privacy is in the process of being reintroduced in The United States Congress as we speak…The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Under CISPA, anything that could be considered a threat to a computer network would empower companies to provide government officials with private personal data.
Mark Jaycox of The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains the following about CISPA:
CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies…It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency.
As CISPA is tweaked and polished before it is officially reintroduced to lawmakers, it is clear that The US government would end up in a partnership with private companies to become a giant machine of online censorship and surveillance. Sounds a lot like Iran, China, and Korea.
- Internet Censorship: CISPA is Back! FAQ on What it is and Why it’s Still Dangerous? (censorshipinamerica.com)
- Government Censorship of the Internet coming to a Web-Site near you… (votingamerican.wordpress.com)
- The CISPA Government Access Loophole (censorshipinamerica.com)
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- Censored but not Silenced: Part 1/5 (thesoulfulveteran.wordpress.com)
- Iceland Considering Banning Online Porn, Critics Fear Web Censorship & More Surveillance (leaksource.wordpress.com)
- That Was the Week That Was (#139) (maggiemcneill.wordpress.com)
- Media Censorship: China Censorship ‘Not Improving’ (censorshipinamerica.com)
- Censorship: Kim Peavler (eng1050175.wordpress.com)
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