Monday, May 03, 2010

Danger to Internet Freedom in the USA

I've always said that the real dangers in life are disguised as benefits, or to be as bland-seeming as possible.  Very few dangers come like rattlesnakes - clearly signaling their approach.

Just a few of the troubling legislative tools in response to court upholding of 1st Amendment rights:
Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals stymied -- at least temporarily -- the FCC from imposing the Fairness Doctrine on the Internet when it struck down the FCC's "net neutrality" tactics in the Comcast-BitTorrent case.
In response, the FCC is considering reclassifying the Internet by moving it from the lightly regulated Title I to the heavily regulated Title II section of the federal statute that governs the FCC's activities. Title I prohibits the FCC from exercising considerable regulatory authority over information systems. In contrast, industries such as telephony that fall under Title II can be abused like a rented mule. And they are. Subjecting the Internet to the harsh regulatory environment of Title II is deeply disturbing. Only China would applaud the move.
There is still more trouble on the horizon in the form of a bill introduced by Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe last year. The innocuous sounding "Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773)" is anything but innocuous.
There are several alarming provisions including a call to study "the feasibility of an identity management and authentication program." In other words, a national digital ID program. There is also a requirement that certain information technology professionals be licensed by the federal government.
There are relatively few professions that require individuals to be licensed by the feds. So why license IT professionals? The cynic would argue that the easiest way to control the Internet is to control the IT personnel who manage the Internet.
Even more troublesome is the provision allowing the president to designate "nongovernmental information systems and networks" as "critical infrastructure systems and networks." The president would have authority to disconnect these private systems "in the interest of national security." Further, the president could "order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic" during an undefined "cybersecurity emergency."
It would be much easier for a president to shut down the Internet than to turn-off 1,600 individual television transmitters and whose content is much more cumbersome to monitor.
Look, you may or may not like the more outrageous statements by radio personalities that oppose your favored political party.  But their freedom to broadcast shouldn't be curtailed - the antidote to speech you oppose is more speech, not less.  Short of openly advocating for criminal activity (which, BTW, none of the right-wing broadcasters have done), they have that right.

I have, in my life, heard left-wing advocates argue that their supporters should commit crimes (burn down recruiting offices, smash windows, throw paint on fur coats, etc.).  How come it's the essence of "hate" for Limbaugh to say that he "hopes Obama fails" in his efforts to re-form America?  That's not exactly calling for cross-burning.  Yet, some are treating it as though it were.

Freedom is precious.  We can't allow our dislike of the messengers to lead to restriction of those freedoms.

And the 1st Amendment is the most essential, and precious, freedom.

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