THE Internet freedom debate has been raging on the past week with some observers squarely pointing the blame on technology companies walling off information stored inside proprietary platforms.
The real threat to the open Web, according to others, also lies with overzealous regimes like China and Iran, which have vowed to censor and restrict Internet use.
Reports of the Iranian government rolling out plans for a sealed national "halal Internet" beginning the middle of this year; fresh demands from the Chinese government for real identity details of the country's vast army of microbloggers and the UK government's plans to expand email surveillance powers point to a growing trend of governments trying to clamp down on a medium that has proven to be a very effective tool for organising people.
One side of the argument says that the Web needs to be kept open the way it was meant to be the idea that when a link is created it can be linked to anything. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, famously said: "Given the many ways the web is crucial to our lives and our work, disconnection is a form of deprivation of liberty."
In that same argument, written as part of an article for the Scientific American Magazine in 2010, Berners-Lee said totalitarian governments aren't the only ones violating the network rights of their citizens.
"In France a law created in 2009, named Hadopi, allowed a new agency by the same name to disconnect a household from the Internet for a year if someone in the household was alleged by a media company to have ripped off music or video. After much opposition, in October the Constitutional Council of France required a judge to review a case before access was revoked, but if approved, the household could be disconnected without due process."
A neutral place where chaos and order live in harmony, human expression is unconstrained, and plenty of free information abound how open should the Web be?
Another side of the argument vouches for a moderate path where paedophiles are punished but not peaceful activists, where businesses are allowed to take advantage of the Internet's potential for innovation but not intellectual property nihilists like the Pirate Bay.
There are other theories contributing to Internet freedom being under threat, such as Google co-founder Sergey Brin's controversial terming of Facebook and Apple's "walled gardens", which hide proprietary content and control access to their users.
Brin's comments, made during an interview with the Guardian, were seen as a double-edged sword for the company, seeing that Google's fortunes were built on its ability to crawl the web for data so they can be indexed and searched by users (who will then be shown related adverts).
Whether it is governments or major corporations attempting to water down the openness and liberty of the Internet, history has shown that people are likely to succeed in finding ways to get their hands on things they are prohibited from.
Iranians and citizens of other authoritarian regimes used illegal satellite dishes to watch banned television channels. iPhone users sick of Apple's closed ecosystem and limitations placed on its devices turned to 'jailbreaking' to get more functionality out of their devices.
Citizens of countries that block websites can turn to applications like TunnelBear, a virtual private network service that lets users access content that would otherwise be restricted in some countries.
'Closing' the web goes against the foundations of the Internet as a public resource, but on the other hand, leaving it too 'open' may result in serious consequences such as the facilitation of organised crime.
The views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect those of The Brunei TimesThe Brunei Times
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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