Whose Internet is it?
This bill , is aimed at ensuring that there is freedom online. The bill, very briefly according to CNet, states that
“U.S. firms would face a host of new restrictions and obligations under the bill. For instance, they wouldn’t be allowed to store any e-mails or other electronic communications containing “personally identifiable information” about their users on servers in any of the designated countries. And they’d be obligated to give the State Department a detailed breakdown of how their products’ search results have been filtered and all URLs that have been removed or blocked at the request of foreign governments known to be restrictive.
If approached by local authorities with requests for users’ personal information, American companies wouldn’t be allowed to turn it over except for “legitimate law enforcement purposes,” as determined by the U.S. Department of Justice. That provision, which enjoys support from human rights groups like Reporters Without Borders, appears to be a response to allegations that Yahoo divulged information to Chinese authorities about pro-democratic online writings by a couple of its citizens, leading to their convictions and imprisonment.
Failure to comply with any of those rules could result in fines of up to $2 million.”
The Global Online Freedom Act was first mooted in 2006 and passed by the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs but it never made it to for a full vote by the House. This time. there seems to be more support following revelations that Yahoo handed over personal information of online Chinese dissidents to China’s repressive government
All this is fine and good. But what is scary is the fallacy that the Internet does not belong to anyone. Already, we see governments trying to manipulate the Internet through various means, legislation and filters. This bill seems to be aimed at dismantling such efforts to ensure that individuals have a free run of the net.
Yet this bill serves exactly the same functions as other Governments are trying to do. Freedom or not, it is clear that the US government is seeking to control the Net, in its own way. It just so happens that the US government’s ideals are in line with the Internet’s or so it seems. Said the panel’s chairman Republican Tom Lantos, the law is necessary because “the Internet should be a tool for good and one that helps to promote American values.”
Rebecca Mackinnon writes that the US government isn’t entirely altruistic either. Bush has been checking out phone conversations between individuals for the past err 6 years since 9/11.
It also shows the extent of US influence over the Internet. Granted, it started out as an American project but surely, it is bigger than one country alone. Yet, we often forget that the Internet is dominated, I say dominated to signify importance, not actual domination, by US firms. MSN, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube. And of course how an Internet domain is named is also under purview of a US agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
We are what we consume. The “right values” espoused by Mr Lantos is only right in the eyes of the controller.