In just 2 very short days, Obama is set to hand off control of the Internet domains to a foreign multi-national organization. That move will give some power hungry, political despots an equal say over the future of online speech and commerce. In fact, they are more likely to have a larger influence that America, because collectively they will push hard for more tightly controlled Internet, and they all known for using any means necessary, be it political or economic pressures, to get what they want. Here’s a look at who will control your speech and commerce in the coming days if Obama gets his way –
1. China – The Chinese have perfected the art of authoritarian control with regard to online speech control. What is known as the “Great Firewall of China” prevents citizens from accessing global content that the Chinese government disapproves of. Chinese technology companies are required by law to provide the regime with backdoor access to everything. As of July, the Chinese government outright BANNED online news reporting which grants the government even tighter control over the spread of information. Websites are only permitted to post news from official government sources. Because when they own the information and can bend it any old way they want too, it’s easier to control the people. Information is power. Bloggers that criticize the government are liable to be charged with “inciting subversion,” even when the writer in question is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. If you doubt it? See Ran Yunfei.
2. Russia – Russia and the Chinese work hand in hand for a more heavily censored Internet. Foreign Policy reported one of Russia’s main goals at an April forum was to “harness Chinese expertise in Internet management to gain further control over Russia’s internet, including foreign sites accessible there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has “chipped away at Internet freedom in Russia since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012,” as stated by the International Business Times in 2014. One Russian law requires bloggers with over 3,000 readers to register with the government, providing their names and home addresses. Online writers are routinely punished for the spreading of what the government deems as false information. Once a charge is leveled, it’s guilty-until-proven-innocent. It’s criminal to allege corruption of a public official in Russia. According to human rights group, Agora, Russian internet censorship has grown by 900% in 2015 and expected to continue to rise through 2016 and beyond. Putin describes the internet as a giant CIA plot to subvert regimes like his own. They actively ban or block opposition websites during times of political unrest, as well as routinely shutting down anything they deem extremist or subversive.
3. Turkey – Since the attempted coup in July rampant internet censorship in Turkey has ratcheted up at an even more alarming rate. Everything from banning social media, even the big guys like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to having over 1000,000 websites blacklisted. Criticizing the government online can result in anything from losing your job to criminal charges to imprisonment. The Turkish often find that hassles from pro-regime trolls online are often followed by visits from the police. Turkish law even makes it an insult to the president a crime. Even the making a meme can find a citizen hauled into court and intimidation is a valid purpose for law enforcement. It seems the Turkish censorship laws are understood methods for intimidating and silencing dissent. Turkey has already extraordinary concern regarding back doors that allow citizens to circumvent censorship and will likely be a concern they put forth should this be allowed to pass. As long as any part of the internet remains free, no sector can be completely controlled.
4. Saudi Arabia – According to Freedom House – the Saudis are pretty close to the Chinese regarding internet censorship. It’s sad because the Saudis are very interested in modernization and the Internet is seen as a valuable economic vehicle to get there. The internet is considered the least repressive space for expression in the country but it is by no means considered free. “While the state focuses on combatting violent extremism and disrupting terrorist networks, it has clamped down on nonviolent liberal activists and human rights defenders with the same zeal, branding them a threat to the national order and prosecuting them in special terrorism tribunals,” Freedom House notes.
As of 2014, Saudi Arabia had approximately 400,000 websites blocked, “including any that discuss political, social or religious topics incompatible with the Islamic beliefs of the monarchy,” according to USA Today. At one point even the Huffington Post made the blacklist for daring to suggest that the Saudi system “implode” because of oil dependency and political repression. They are also known to block messaging apps and voice over IP services such as Skype and Facetime. The blocking of apps was so indiscriminate that Saudis have stated “Why have the internet? What’s the point?” The government defends much of its censorship in defense of its Islamic values.
5. North Korea – North Korea’s internet functions more like a closed “intranet” system than the actual internet. It doesn’t really interconnect with anything, except government propaganda and surveillance. Computers in the only Internet cafe in Pyongyang actually boot up to a customized Linux operating system called “Red Star.” Instead of Windows or Mac OS such as we here in the US see. The calendar software in Red Star measures the date from the birth of Communist founder Kim Il-sung, rather than the birth of Christ. Citizens can only access the internet through a single state-run provider, with the exception of a few dozen privileged families that have access to the real Internet. The content is mostly State-monitored and supplied messaging and media. Contributors to these online services have reportedly been sent to re-education camps for typos. Apparently, North Koreans are so worried about outside influence and infiltration of their closed network they have banned wi-fi hotspots from foreign embassies when it was noticed that information-starved North Korean citizens were clustering within range of the uncensored, wireless networks. According toBreitbart, this doesn’t stop South Koreans from attempting cultural penetration of their squalid neighbor’s dismal little online network. Lately, they’ve been doing it by loading banned information onto cheap memory sticks, tying them to balloons, and floating them across the border.
With safe spaces and free speech zones being a thing and our rights disappearing in droves by the day, where does it end? And how long will America remain “exceptional” in the face of such tyranny?
Let us know what you think about this in the comments!