Sunday, July 22, 2012

Internet Freedom or Net Neutrality Free For All on the World Wide Web or Government Controlled Wasteland



 With the recent announcement by Campaign for Liberty of a ‘manifesto’ for internet freedom, which is supported by Ron and Rand Paul, the internet is now chock-full of internet freedom manifestos. There are quite a few sites dedicated to some form of ‘Internet Freedom’. Some are pretty basic, and others look like full-fledged organizations with a clear focus and some thought behind them. Either way, keeping the internet free from government intrusion seems to be the main focus, with a secondary focus on restricting the reach of ISP's and major corporations to dissuade monopolizing practices from occurring.  With threats to the freedom of the World Wide Web like ACTA and SOPA looming on the horizon, it's not surprising that internet freedom is on everyone's mind.

It seems a virtual impossibility that we could keep the government out of the internet and be able to stop corporations from getting a strangle-hold on our data without government regulation. There is one attempt at stopping corporate dominance of the internet floating around congress right now, known as ‘Net Neutrality’. This funny beast was cooked up by Democrats and successfully marketed to at least some Republicans as the solutions to the problem. To quote a very good friend of mine, “The solution is the problem.”


Net Neutrality might seem innocuous enough, but underneath is a scaly hide inhabited by the dragon of domination known as “Telecommunications”. The giants of the telecommunication world are all for this new bill as it would actually pave the way for their eventual total control of the internet. The bill restricts and ISP’s ability to limit or increase bandwidth or access to sites based on their size or for their ability to pay for more of said services. However, it does not restrict them from offering “fast lanes” of traffic for users willing to pay for it.


One of the tenets of this bill is to stop anti-competitive behavior by forcing transparency on the telecoms. They would have to show how they combat data congestion, not allowing them to cap data from competitors in order to maintain their flow. The problem with this idea is that there is no evidence to suggest that it even happening in the first place.  So what is the point of all this? Is it about fairness, or is it about creating another back door into our lives. It seems to me that this is about exerting control over the internet from many sides.


With ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA poised to shut down thousands of websites with extreme prejudice (The feds have already targeted and shut down various file sharing and torrent sites before any of these bills were up for a vote.), The various pieces of legislation giving some states the power to tax and restrict internet purchases, and now the seemingly innocent Net Neutrality bill that would supposedly allow complete freedom and equality on the internet. But we know the government and we know they would never leave well enough alone.  Read carefully the FCC’s Broadband Policy Statement to see what I mean:  (From Wikipedia)
In 2005, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Broadband Policy Statement (also known as the Internet Policy Statement), which lists four principles of open Internet,[16] "To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to:"
§  access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
§  run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
§  connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.
§  competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
These points are often summarized as "any lawful content, any lawful application, any lawful device, and any provider"
Notice that the words lawful, legal and the phase ‘needs of law enforcement’ are used throughout. All they need to do is define what is lawful anyway they want, and say that Law Enforcement needs you to do whatever they want and voila! The government owns your soul on the internet. 

While I can’t say I see any wording like that in the Net Neutrality bill, I wouldn’t put it past the government to be able to reword things any way they want.

Well, what about the alternatives floating around the internet? Let’s take a look at them and see if they measure up. First up: freepress.net and their ‘Declaration of Internet Freedom’.
We stand for a free and open Internet.
We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:
Expression: Don't censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users' actions.
Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

That’s pretty straight forward. Now this isn’t legislation, but an online petition. Most of these things are. I think it’s good that these petitions exist, but they don’t do much too actually legislate the government out of our internet. 

We need lawmakers who will consciously create legislation designed to keep the government from having authority over the internet. I’m almost upset with myself for saying that, but unless they are compelled by law to do so, they will try and meddle.

President Obama has already shown that existing laws mean nothing as he is willing to ignore congress and just change things to suit him anytime he wants and has done so twice(that I know of) in 2012. First by implementing his own brand of Dream act without congresses consent, and now by rewriting the 1996 Welfare Reform Act signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.

Next we move on to internetdeclaration.org and their identically titled ‘Declaration of Internet Freedom’ Ohh, this is also a site maintained by freepress. Tricky guys…tricky.
Here is a document on Internet Freedom from the Netherlands. This one is a much more detailed document. It can be found on https://www.bof.nl/live/wp-content/uploads/Internet-Freedom-Manifesto1.pdf

INTERNET FREEDOM MANIFESTO
The Netherlands needs an open internet; a platform where everyone can easily share and freely access
information, a place where private communication remains private. Here are eleven items that should not be
missing from any election program.
1. Stringently test any form of
constitutional infringement
Necessity, proportionality, subsidiarity and effectiveness are
preliminary requirements. Any constitutional infringements
should be preceded by an impact assessment, comprising an
identification of a time horizon and evaluation techniques, and
must always be prescribed by law.

2. Privacy should be by design
IT systems of government and private industry should be built
with privacy as a starting point. Principles such as
anonymization, use limitation, data minimization, transparency
and user-centric design are the key to protection. Databases
containing the private information of millions of Dutch citizens
should be optimally protected and scrutinized by regular audits.
Existing systems that fail to implement any of the above, must be
abolished or remodeled.

3. Give citizens control of their data
Citizens should have a better insight into and have more control
over the use of data they enter on web services. Companies
should only be allowed to process this data with explicit consent
and clear policy on its usage. This should be closely monitored
and enforced by the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

4. Guard privacy of communication
The Constitution should be adapted to protect all means of
communication. Only when there is a substantial suspicion, a
necessity for the investigation and confirmation by a judicial
warrant, may the government conduct surveillance. Absolute
transparency is required concerning the methods of
investigation, particularly the use of wiretaps, spyware and any
requests made for personal information. The use of encryption
and the possibility to use the internet anonymously should not be
hindered.

5. Protect freedom of information
All information in accordance with the law must be freely
accessible to all Dutch citizens. Websites can not be forced to
remove information without prior judicial approval. Permanent,
indiscriminate monitoring or filtering of information must be
prohibited. Social networks may only remove information in
accordance with clear and consistent terms of service.
Registration under a pseudonym must remain possible.

6. Do not store private communications
Under current European law, telecommunications companies are
obligated to keep detailed logs of all their clients'
communications along with the according locations for up to two
years. This legislation does not benefit the security of the
Netherlands, but does constitute a breach of privacy and
freedom of communication of millions of Dutch people. The
Dutch government should move to abolish the European data
retention requirement and suspend these rules within the
Netherlands.

7. Draft a balanced cyber security policy
A safe information society is paramount to our economy and
democracy. The policies surrounding cyber security should not
create a false sense of security, but actually protect our digital
world and not infringe on our constitutional rights. Therefore,
policies must be based on realistic and verifiable assessments of
threats and risks. Any call for for new surveillance powers must
have a demonstrable necessity.

8. Modernize copyright legislation
Copyright was meant to stimulate the creation and sharing of
culture. Now - in contrast - outdated measures are victimizing
both artists, as well as non-artists. The Netherlands should seek
out new business models to distribute creative works, such as
films, music and books online. It should refrain from any
measures that undermine the freedom of internet, such as
rendering downloading illegal, blocking web sites, monitoring
online activities or internet disconnection.

9. Protect net neutrality
Internet service providers must not be allowed to limit access to
websites or tier the use of web services such as YouTube and
Skype. Disallowing this will ensure the availability of the internet,
it will lower the costs of communication and stimulate innovation.
OPTA – the independent post and telecommunications authority
– must enforce the recently introduced net neutrality legislation.

10. Oppose ACTA
The drafting process of ACTA has been highly controversial and
the treaty itself presents a clear threat to internet freedom.
Furthermore, ACTA will prevent the Netherlands in its
development of modern policies to protect intellectual property.
The Netherlands should not ratify ACTA and actively oppose any
similar proposals.

11.  Mandatory data breach notifications
Leakage of personal data greatly increases the risk of identity
fraud and results in a fading of trust in information.
A public registry of data breaches would hold organizations
accountable and allow them to learn from each other's mistakes.

This bill focuses on privacy for the people, and transparency for the groups that fail them. They focus on modern copyright laws, severely limiting or stopping, without users consent, data mining. The bill also provides for stricter measure limiting the government’s ability to secretly monitor citizens internet communications without proper cause and a standing warrant in place.

The transparency for companies that have data leaks is an interesting concept. They need to, however, go into greater detail as to how posting a public registry of company screw ups would allow them to learn from one another. Perhaps they could communicate and share security ideas?

Finally we come to the latest entry in the burgeoning field of internet freedom, this one from Campaign for Liberty with a hearty endorsement from Ron and Rand Paul.

The Technology Revolution:
A Campaign for Liberty Manifesto

This is what a technology revolution looks like:
New innovators create vast new markets where none existed previously.  Individual genius, enabled by the truly free market the Internet represents, routes around obsolete and ineffective government attempts at control.  The arrogant attempts of governments to centralize, intervene, subsidize, micromanage, and regulate innovation are scoffed at and ignored.
This revolution is occurring around the world.
It is occurring in the private sector, not the public sector.
It is occurring despite wrongheaded attempts by governments to micromanage markets through disastrous industrial policy.
And it is driven by the Internet, the single greatest catalyst in history for individual liberty and free markets.
The true technology revolutionaries have little need for big government and never have. Microsoft ignored the government for years and changed the world by leading the PC revolution.
Today, companies like Apple - which has created several completely new markets out of whole cloth (iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and iPod) - are changing the world again, successfully adopting visionary new revenue models for movies, songs, and games, and launching an “app economy” responsible for creating almost half a million jobs in the United States since the iPhone was introduced…
All in less than 5 years, and all without government permission, partnerships, subsidies, or regulations!
Technology revolutionaries succeeded not because of some collectivist vision that seeks to regulate “fairness,” “neutrality,” “privacy,” or competition” through coercive state actions, or that views the Internet and technology as a vast commons that must be freely available to all, but rather because of the same belief as America’s Founders, who understood that private property is the foundation of prosperity and freedom itself.
Technology revolutionaries succeed because of the decentralized nature of the Internet, which defies government control.  
As a consequence, decentralization has unlocked individual self-empowerment, entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation, and the creation of new markets in ways never before imagined in human history.
But, ironically, just as decentralization has unleashed the potential for free markets and individual freedom on a global scale, collectivist special interests and governments worldwide are now tirelessly pushing for more centralized control of the Internet and technology. 
Here at home, they are aided and abetted both by an Administration that wholeheartedly believes in the wisdom of government to manage markets and some in the technology industry that cynically use the hammer of government control and regulation to hamstring competitors – the Apples and Microsoft’s of tomorrow.
Internet collectivism takes many forms, all of them pernicious.
Among the most insidious are government attempts to control and regulate competition, infrastructure, privacy, and intellectual property. According to them:
·         Successful companies in brand new frontier industries that didn’t even exist as recently as five years ago should be penalized and intimidated with antitrust actions in the name of “fairness” and “competition.”
·         Privately owned broadband high-speed infrastructure must be subject to collective rule via public ownership and government regulations that require “sharing” with other competitors.
·         Internet infrastructure must be treated as a commons subject to centralized government control through a variety of foolish “public interest” and “fairness” regulations.
·         Wireless, the lifeblood of the mobile Internet revolution, must be micromanaged as a government-controlled commons, with limited exclusive property rights.
·         Private property rights on the Internet should exist in limited fashion or not at all, and what is considered to be in the public domain should be greatly expanded.
·         Private sector data collection practices must be scrutinized and tightly regulated in the name of “protecting consumers,” all while government’s warrantless surveillance and collection of private citizens’ Internet data dramatically increases.
Internet collectivists are clever.
They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control.
“Openness” means government control of privately owned infrastructure.
“Net neutrality” means government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be "neutral."
“Internet freedom” means the destruction of property rights.
“Competition” means managed competition, with the government acting as judge and jury on what constitutes competition and what does not.
Our “right to privacy” only applies to the data collection activities of the private sector, rarely to government.
The eminent economist Ludwig von Mises wrote that when government seeks to solve one problem, it creates two more.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of Internet collectivists and the centralized control of the Internet they seek.
The body of incremental communications law and regulation that has emerged since the days of Alexander Graham Bell is entirely unsuited to the dynamic and ever-changing Internet for one simple reason: Technology is evolving faster than government’s ability to regulate it.
Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."  But in the Internet era, true Internet freedom can be lost in far less than one generation.
Around the world, the real threat to Internet freedom comes not from bad people or inefficient markets - we can and will always route around them - but from governments' foolish attempts to manage and control innovation.  
And it is not just the tyrannies we must fear.  The road away from freedom is paved with good intentions. 
Today, the road to tyranny is being paved by a collectivist-Industrial complex - a dangerous brew of wealthy, international NGO's, progressive do-gooders, corporate cronies, and sympathetic political elites.
Their goals are clear: The collectivist-industrial complex seeks to undermine free markets and property rights, replacing them with "benevolent" government control and a vision of "free" that quickly evolves from "free speech" to "free stuff."
We know where this path leads.  As Thomas Jefferson said, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."  
A benevolent monopoly for "the public interest" is nothing more than a means for the old guard to reassert their power.  The role of the government on the Internet is to protect us from force and fraud, not to decide our interests.
But while the Internet has produced a revolution, it has not, in fact, "changed everything." We do not need to reinvent our principles for the web; we only need apply our core principles to it.  When faced with Internet regulation, we should ask these key questions:
1.     Is this a core function of the federal government?
2.     Does it execute constitutionally defined duties?
3.     Does it protect constitutionally defined rights?
4.     Does it protect property rights?
5.     Does it protect individual rights?
6.     If the federal government does not do this, will others?
7.     Will this policy or regulation allow the market to decide outcomes, or will it distort the market for political ends?
8.     Is this policy or regulation clear and specific, with defined metrics and limitations?
Yes, there will always be problems and challenges that exist in the online universe.  These challenges are sometimes significant and important and other times not.  Government, however, will never solve them.  Markets will.
As a matter of principle, we oppose any attempt by Government to tax, regulate, monitor, or control the Internet, and we oppose the Internet collectivists who collaborate with the government against Internet freedom.
This is our revolution…. Government needs to get out of the way.
This bill takes a slightly different approach than the one from the Netherlands. This one is an indictment of the government’s policies which, as in the past, seek to control the internet by convincing everyone that they are really keeping it free. As it is stated in the article, our government are masters of ‘hijacking’ the language of freedom, and twisting the words to allow for more centralized control.
When crafting ideas like this, it is prudent to keep in mind that you are facing numerous hurdles in an uphill battle against a swirling tide of death. Should you wish to confront the government with contrary legislation, you must bring you’re A game. The document you craft must be succinct and tightly worded to remove loopholes or misinterpreted passages that could hinder the bill’s passage. You should first attempt, as we are seeing happening now to collect signatures of as many Americans as possible to serve as a way of showing at least in part, the will of the people(which is the reason we elect politicians in the first place.)
Once you have established that this is what the people want, and have crafted a clear, concise, and tightly worded bill, you must seek the endorsement and support of as many of your fellow legislators as possible. Now comes the fun part, trying to convince the people in power(you know, the ones who don’t want us to keep control of the internet)that our bill is the better choice for America. Welcome to the wonderful world of Washington.
Considering the previous actions of some high ranking Republicans, and the Obama administration, the will of the people isn’t worth a salty shit on the rotting deck of the U.S.S. constitution. So, where do we go from here? Well, the first thing we need to do is to vote out as many of these pestiferous dung heaps as possible, and install in their place people with morals and values that more closely match our own.
In the meantime, I welcome any and all attempts from the common man to put a wrench in the works of the governments nefarious plans. Even if it must be done Anonymously, and without any glory.   

2 comments:

Atticus Finch said...

I really wish the Government would stop trying to get involved with the internet...

Anonymous said...

New wiretaps can be hidden in any USB cable and send signals over the internet. Nearly impossible to detect.