Friday, June 27, 2008

The last days of Internet freedom?

Over the last two or three decades the quality of television programming has been undoubtedly dumbed down with hours of no-brainer demi-entertainment, no real political or intellectual debate (remember the Brain’s Trust and other programmes of its ilk?) and watered down documentaries that concentrate, more often, on annoying and distracting visual effects rather than on incisive content. On top of that, the BBC continues to be largely the mouthpiece of the government, carrying little independent in-depth analysis of current affairs and geo-political events, portraying matters in accordance with government dogma - and to add insult to injury, we have to pay a license fee for the privilege.

We are all liable to pay that license fee, or tax, if we own a TV or computer enabled to receive live streaming broadcasts, regardless of whether we own a TV or not. The National TV Licensing Office has a known habit of disbelieving those who say they don’t possess one and harasses them accordingly. The proceeds from the license ‘tax’ are passed on to the BBC, despite the fact that in the Wireless Telegraphy Act there is no mandate that the corporation is to be the legal recipient of, what currently amounts to be, an annual £3.2 billion income. The arrangement between the government and the BBC has always been conducted out on a ‘nod and wink’ basis rather emphasising the fact that the BBC is just another government department - the Department of Propaganda!

But, in the words of a well-known talk show host, I digress.

By comparison the Internet is an open forum for debate and learning and a treasure trove of information - once you have negotiated the dodgy stuff - providing a true democratic platform for all and sundry and a means to voice one’s personally held beliefs without been censored.

But things are about to change. This golden egg is about to be snatched away from us and frankly I’m rather amazed it hasn’t happened before now.

Since the inception of the Internet, open sources of news and information have been awakening the minds of many millions, on an exponential scale, to the horrendous conspiracies that are being enacted by our ‘leaders’, bankers, corporations, indeed many of those who run our daily lives. At the same time newspaper readership, TV viewership - and thus advertising revenue - has been in steady decline as millions have turned to the Internet for alternative news sources, learning and entertainment. This worries the movers and shakers, because it is offering an alternative platform for the masses, empowering us to create an independent network of knowledge which is out of the controlling clutches of those manipulative few.

What they have gained though - and this is a very worrying aspect of the equation - is the ‘hard-wiring’ of a good percentage of the population into a global ‘neural network’ brought about through our constantly-connected computers to a hub of global servers, which through consolidation and government control can become the ideal way to control us and our lives in our very homes! Soon-to-be-imposed statutory changes by the global √©lite on the way it is run will make the Internet we know and love today become a very different environment.

Let’s look at some of those planned developments, that are being seriously discussed and in the early stages of implementation.

Charging by the byte Until now, everyone using the Internet pays an access fee to their Internet Service Providers (ISP) that hardly varies whether you’re still on dial-up and only check your email once a day or whether you’re broadband connected and downloading hours of films, many of which can be free of charge. Now three ISPs, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and AT&T are actively considering everything from charging their users for exceeding a pre-set bandwidth quota to deliberately slowing downloads speeds for those so-called bandwidth hogs. There’s obviously big money to be made here and while the Disneys and NBCs of this world are actively encouraging online viewing, then the money will just keep rolling in. One could argue that the Internet is really replacing TV and that in a few year’s time conventional television will become obsolete, yet we are still saddled with a TV licence fee we are duty bound to pay even if we don’t have one.

Pay as you go Bell Canada and TELUS employees have officially confirmed a plan to be introduced by 2012 that will reduce Internet access.

"Bell Canada and TELUS (formerly owned by Verizon) employees officially confirm that by 2012 ISP's all over the globe will reduce Internet access to a TV-like subscription model, only offering access to a small standard amount of commercial sites and require extra fees for every other site you visit. These 'other' sites would then lose all their exposure and eventually shut down, resulting in what could be seen as the end of the Internet,"
according to a report posted on the ‘I Power’ website.

In addition to this, Bill Gates and others are already considering a charge for every email sent. The pretext for this ‘tax’ is to cut down the spam, but it will be non-discretionary and will really hit those independent organisations and movements, exercising freedom of speech, that post newsletters by email to a large database. They won’t be able to afford it.

It is expected that this email taxing will be brought in gradually, slowly pricing out the small guys and giving preferential treatment to those large corporations who can pay.

Internet2 A concerted move to price people out of the conventional Internet while running down the old servers, making it more unreliable and slow, will coerce users over to a new all-singing and all-dancing Internet2.

Internet2 has been around for quite a long time. It was developed over a decade ago as a new, improved version of the original Internet - or ARPANET - the university-linked prototype to today’s Internet1. Being the preserve of a relative handful of privileged people, it is extremely fast - the whole Matrix movie could be downloaded in 30 seconds or less.

It is suggested that the old Internet (Internet1) will continue to exist, but as a mass-marketing tool and surveillance network to pry on the less well-moneyed and privileged. The Nation magazine reported two years ago that "Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets - corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers - would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out."

Internet2, on the other hand, with its far superior performance, will be highly regulated and censored, bringing it into line with conventional mainstream TV - everything will be government controlled and material vetted with ‘undesirable’ political content and free speech being either outright banned or relegated to the slow lane of a disintegrating Internet1.

Demonising the Internet Almost every day we are reminded that the Internet can be a dangerous place, a breeding ground for paedophilia, terrorism and porn. Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars gives us a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes and why mass-media demonisation of the current Internet is making way for the enactment of strict controls.

  1. Time magazine reported last year that researchers funded by the federal government want to shut down the internet and start over, citing the fact that at the moment there are loopholes in the system whereby users cannot be tracked and traced all the time.
  2. The projects echo moves we have previously reported on to clamp down on internet neutrality and even to designate a new form of the internet known as Internet2.
  3. In a display of bi-partisanship, there have recently been calls for all out mandatory ISP snooping on all US citizens by both Democrats and Republicans alike.
  4. The White House's own recently de-classified strategy for "winning the war on terror" targets Internet conspiracy theories as a recruiting ground for terrorists and threatens to "diminish" their influence.
  5. The Pentagon recently announced its effort to infiltrate the Internet and propagandize for the war on terror.
  6. In a speech last October, Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff identified the web as a "terror training camp," through which "disaffected people living in the United States" are developing "radical ideologies and potentially violent skills." His solution is "intelligence fusion centers," staffed by Homeland Security personnel which will go into operation next year.
  7. The U.S. Government wants to force bloggers and online grassroots activists to register and regularly report their activities to Congress. Criminal charges including a possible jail term of up to one year could be the punishment for non-compliance.
  8. A landmark legal case on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America and other global trade organizations seeks to criminalize all Internet file sharing of any kind as copyright infringement, effectively shutting down the world wide web - and their argument is supported by the U.S. government.
  9. A landmark legal ruling in Sydney goes further than ever before in setting the trap door for the destruction of the Internet as we know it and the end of alternative news websites and blogs by creating the precedent that simply linking to other websites is breach of copyright and piracy.
  10. The European Union, led by former Stalinist and potential future British Prime Minister John Reid, has also vowed to shut down "terrorists" who use the Internet to spread propaganda.
  11. The EU data retention bill, passed last year after much controversy and with implementation tabled for late 2007, obliges telephone operators and internet service providers to store information on who called who and who emailed who for at least six months. Under this law, investigators in any EU country, and most bizarrely even in the US, can access EU citizens' data on phone calls, SMS messages, emails and instant messaging services.
  12. The EU also recently proposed legislation that would prevent users from uploading any form of video without a license.
  13. The US government is also funding research into social networking sites and how to gather and store personal data published on them, according to the New Scientist magazine. "At the same time, US lawmakers are attempting to force the social networking sites themselves to control the amount and kind of information that people, particularly children, can put on the sites."
Control and restrictions The Recording Industry Association of America has routinely harassed people who they have identified as having downloaded music files on their PC, whether obtained legally or not, by issuing fines under, what they claim to be, copyright infringement. The Internet is one giant network of hyperlinks to all manner of sites and in this grey area of copyright infringment, there is the potential for companies to cause havoc by suing individuals for breaking copyright laws. Court cases that rule in favour of organisations that claim breach of copyright are only preparing the way for more stringent control of the Internet by government, imposing rules on those running websites and dictating what can or cannot be posted. Blogs such as this could be shut down by Google because of the controversial political issues that are raised in its columns, stifling open debate and the right for individuals to put forward their point of view or merely educate, relay information and warn others of what really goes on behind the mainstream media headlines.

The purported risk of online credit card fraud would naturally lead to mandatory ruling that one's personal biometric information be provided as a user logs on to the Internet. The risk of identity fraud through online biometrics poses real threats. As I reported in the latest NO2ID news last Friday, Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University correctly pointed out that one’s personal biometrics cannot be changed once a security breach has been made, like changing your PIN number if the security of your credit card is compromised. Your personal biometrics are a permanent part of you.

Conclusion As the Nation magazine pointed out over two years ago: "The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online."

So enjoy the Internet while you can. In a few years time you may well be surfing a ‘net’ that is as restrictive as the current Chinese model, where all content is adjudicated by the state and real information and news may become increasingly hard to find.

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