MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the Internet forces of free exchange, innovation, transparency and privacy have won many battles over the past decade against major bills to stifle he Web (although many incremental encroachments have still been put into place by the Department of Justice and Congress), it has also faced increasing invasions of privacy by the growing corporatization of the net.
The corporate threat to privacy and anonymity was laid out, among other threats of financial behemoths devouring the net, in a recent Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week, "Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy." Appropriately the headline for the excerpt from the prescient book by Robert McChesney was entitled, "The Internet Is in Danger of Being Strangled by Commercialism."
But the future of the Internet as a bulletin board of democracy and innovation still faces a more ominously incremental chipping away at its freedom by the federal government.
That brings BuzzFlash at Truthout to a May 8 New York Times (NYT) article that warns of one more step toward government surveillance of the Internet. In an article entitled, "U.S. Is Weighing Wide Overhaul of Wiretap Laws," states:
The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
Not only do we have the Obama administration psychologically torturing Bradley Manning for allegedly providing WikiLeaks files with documents embarrassing to the US governmen (with Manning offering access to transparency that the government should be providing), we now are faced with wiretap fishing expeditions that websites must comply with – if the law is passed -- that will in essence provide law enforcement and intelligence communities with a sanctioned technological open door to the web.
As one advocate for an open, protected Internet warns:
“I think the F.B.I.’s proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves,” said Gregory T. Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It would also mean that innovators who want to avoid new and expensive mandates will take their innovations abroad and develop them there, where there aren’t the same mandates.”
Andrew Weissmann, the general counsel of the F.B.I., said in a statement that the proposal was aimed only at preserving law enforcement officials’ longstanding ability to investigate suspected criminals, spies and terrorists subject to a court’s permission.
CISPA may have been temporarily defeated along with other Congressional attacks on the open Internet, but over time the wagons are circling through a combination of commercialism and government surveillance that are indeed in a position to strangle the freedom of the web.
The Obama administration, building upon the violations of First Amendment rights by the Bush administration, is prepared to keep expanding the surveillance state and render, if these continued intrusive powers go unstopped, the net just another billboard for the status quo.