Internet Censorship Bill Passes First Hurdle

The Orwellian disease continues to spread as the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act passes the Senate judiciary committee:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) sets up a system through which the US government can blacklist a pirate website from the Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid online ad networks from working with the site. This morning, COICA unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This comment beautifully exemplifies the government’s and its lobbyists’ hilarious hypocrisy:

“With this first vote, Congress has begun to strike at the lifeline of foreign scam sites, while protecting free speech and boosting the legal online marketplace,” he said. “Those seeking to thwart this bipartisan bill are protecting online thieves and those who gain pleasure and profit from de-valuing American property.”

This makes perfect sense of course! You see, because the government, that group of people who sustain their activities by taking other people’s property via aggression or threat thereof, is soooo concerned about property rights. =)

It is hard for many people to see it in the fog of inane and repetitive propaganda, but this kind of global madness and hypocrisy is at the root of the society we live in.

Since it is difficult to sell the public on legalizing outright censorship, the process of eroding civil liberties is a slowly creeping one. So don’t expect internet censorship to end here.

I work in the web business. The truth is, if a website is found to produce illegal or stolen content, then there are already legal means that can be pursued via the court system, local authorities, or even just by contacting the hosting company. Yes, of course there are those tech savvy folks that cannot be tracked down by those means, but those will not go away just because suddenly someone in Washington DC instead of a local authority initiates action.

Meanwhile, on the downside, centralized power is getting bigger and bigger.

The purpose of such laws, just as for example antitrust legislation, is not to protect people from property rights infringements. It is to give the government yet another stick in its arsenal that it can wield whenever it deems necessary. It is a tool by which special interest groups can invoke the power of the state to initiate shakedowns of sites that may represent a thorn in their side.

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Australia & Censorship – Orwellian Disease on the March

The internet is probably one of the world’s most striking examples of how a stateless society can not only function, but also grow and advance much more rapidly, cheaply, and reliably than any sector that is subject to state regulations. As such, it is obviously a major blow in the face of our dear government bureaucrats.

Thus it is only predictable that our neurotic, sociopathic, and insecure state minions will sooner or later attempt to get their sleazy fingers involved to bring to a halt yet another shining beacon of free, peaceful, and voluntary enterprise.

The Australian Rudd government, under the pretense of keeping the people safe from “unsavory” content, is planning to setup a nationwide filter which would enable them to censor online content. Similar trends may soon emerge, if they haven’t already, in virtually all western countries.

The Australian Pirate Party seems to be one of the major opponents of this endeavor. A spokesperson recently posted and article which sheds some more light on what is going on in Down Under:

I used to believe that democracy was a process whereby the representatives we elect were there to represent the people. Stephen Conroy, the minister for Broadband and Communications, has taken this concept and trashed it in new and exciting ways.

While we, the citizens of Australia, have made it blatantly clear that we neither want nor require the nanny-state of Australia to impinge on our rights further by restricting our access to the internet in the name of “child protection”, Conroy continues to soldier on with his censorship plans regardless of what the majority thinks.

As the vast majority of Australian citizens can see, Conroy’s insane plan to censor the internet — or as he puts it, “filter” — is a blatant attempt to restrict our freedoms and enforce his brand of “morality” on us all.

Consider that Conroy’s proposed filter is a blindfold, metaphorically speaking. It simply hides the fact that bad things are out there. Instead of actively fighting the issues within society, he labels those who oppose blatant censorship as paedophiles and criminals, and attempts to enforce his fascist regime against us.

There are a large variety of ways that child pornography can be halted, such as actually tracking down and arresting those who facilitate the production and transfer of such materials, or sending a take-down request to the host of these illicit sites to have them removed. Conroy is a bright man, so he wouldn’t be so ignorant as to not know that, so it begs to question, why censor us in the name of “child protection”?

Protecting children is a very important aspect of a parent’s job. Simply the suggestion that Australia requires an internet filter when all Western societies deem this kind of social control inappropriate, is a joke and an insult to parents everywhere.

The Howard Government offered a perfectly viable home application for parents who believed they needed software assistance to protect their children. The Rudd Government’s regime differs significantly in that it is not optional whatsoever, and will be enforced across all ISPs.

The statistics of the uptake of the Howard Government’s application clearly show that Australian parents do not need such applications to protect their children from the internet, so why enforce a nanny state when the vast majority of Australians are opposed to it?

Most of Australia is opposed to this filter, as can be shown through various polls, news articles, blog posts, protests and Twitter tweets. If this is a representative democracy, then why is it that Conroy refuses to accept that Australia does not want the filter? 96 per cent of Australians (in polls from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald with 20,000+ votes) have stated they believe the censorship regime “impinges on their freedom”, so why does Conroy insist on implementing such a draconian censorship scheme?

Conroy is a bright man, and this is the dangerous thing about him. He is representing himself and the ultra-conservative minorities. He knows how to play the political game. Releasing the trial report near Christmas knowing full well that people will likely miss it is a dirty tactic.

Even his horribly distorted view of “100 per cent accurate” when the trial report clearly shows that the accuracy “dropped to between 78.8 per cent and 84.6 per cent” when using a list of just over 2000 sites is just insane. If this is 100 per cent accuracy, then this man needs a new abacus.

If you believe that 3 per cent is not all that much, consider the size of the internet. Pretend for a moment that the internet consists of “merely” 100 million websites. If 3 per cent of these were accidentally blocked, that’s 3 million! That’s not a small number now is it? Now you understand how it feels to live behind the Great Firewall of China.

And while these trials were only conducted on speeds up to 8Mbps, articles have popped up stating their fear that this will ruin the government’s own National Broadband Network plans, as it will completely cripple the speeds of this service, which is planned to be capable of “delivering speeds of 100 megabits per second”, at least 10 times that of most residential connections. These speeds will no longer be feasible.

Just wait until Australia must implement the new version of the internet protocol, IPv6. This would become extremely unlikely, as IPv6 supports encryption from computer to computer as a required part of the protocol. How would this possibly be implemented when the government fears the “abuse of the internet” so much? Once again, Australia would be left in the dark as has happened many times in the past in regards to technology. In this global society, we cannot afford to be left behind.

Now that we’ve considered the technical points of this flawed plan, it is time to consider the cost to implement such a travesty. A government report from 2004 provides an estimate of the cost of running such a complex censorship regime:

“On the basis of Ovum’s estimates and factoring in the most recent ABS data of ISP numbers in Australia, the total cost of implementing ISP-level filtering would be over $45 million for initial set-up and over $33 million per annum.”

Why cite such an old report you may ask? Well, it’s because the Rudd Government didn’t even consider conducting a financial feasibility study, which is absolutely absurd. And who do you think gets hit with the cost of such a costly regime? The Australian taxpayer and consumer. First we’re slugged with a censorship regime that makes little sense, and then, to pour salt in the wound, they charge us for the privilege of being silenced! The audacity of this government is absolutely terrifying.

All fascist regimes have to start somewhere. This is just the beginning. While Conroy has stated that he only intends to block “unsavoury content”, he has not ruled out further blocking in the future, nor in the present. Note the constant use of “RC” in each of the articles related to the filter.

Note that these articles also state that Refused Classification content includes “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime and drug use”. Nowhere does it is state that RC is limited to these things, which infers the fact that the censorship regime will broaden to encompass a wide range of websites that an extreme minority of people are opposed to, thus nobody should be allowed access to them.

This belief that they will expand the censorship is only hardened by the fact that the ACMA blacklist leaked to WikiLeaks contained a dentist’s website, legal pornography sites and other non-illegal websites, such as anti-abortion sites.

The correct definition of RC contains anything rejected by the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) as an “insult to morality”. In this country, due to the failure of representative democracy, the attorney-general of South Australia, Michael Atkinson, has the power to block the right of adults of Australia to determine for themselves whether or not they are allowed to play games that contain mature content.

This insanity continues to manifest, but when will we force it to stop? Why is the extreme minority of ultra-conservatives so much louder than the vast majority of Australian citizens?

Is it honestly that difficult to promote safe use of the internet, and educate parents and children on how they keep themselves safe on the internet, instead of treating Australian citizens like a bunch of uneducated morons who can’t think for themselves? Self-determination is what defines freedom, and this is the first step in taking that out of our hands.

In any case, censorship is by far the worst way to go about anything. Without a doubt, attempting to implement a censorship regime in a country that thrives and promotes their freedom is most definitely political suicide on an epic scale. The Labor Party is now much more likely to suffer a swift defeat in the elections if they don’t quickly realise how out of touch they are with the Australian public. Or have they suddenly forgotten about using this very argument against the Liberals in regards to their IR reforms?

The worst part about this is that the intended goals of the censorship regime are completely unachievable, yet the government continues to power on with its struggle to control and censor its own people. All it causes is freedom of speech issues, possible abuse mechanisms by politicians, and in the end, will not curb any of the unlawful behaviour on the internet as is apparently intended.

We are not alone in our fear of government censorship. Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has actively spoken against the filter, saying it is “the thin end of the wedge of the government moving in to regulating the actual internet itself”. Even Google has spoken out against the filter, stating that the scope is “far too wide”. All the experts agree and so does the Australian public, and yet Conroy continues on his ill-guided crusade against freedom.

Great citizens of Australia, it is time to speak up and fight for your rights and your freedom. It is time to act. If we don’t act now, we might as well give up any notion of freedom or privacy that we have. Prepare for the dystopia. It can only get worse from here on.

For specific cited reasons for why the censorship regime cannot and will not work, see this page at Electronic Frontiers Australia.

… I encourage people who value one of our most precious civil rights, the freedom of speech, to show solidarity with the Australian Pirate Party on this matter. And in our own communities, too, we need to ensure that such Orwellian endeavors never succeed.

For if publishing opinions and news on the internet one day becomes as impossible for the common man as it already is in the mainstream media, many great ideas and correct concepts will remain unshared, and the truth will be all the more obfuscated and remote … a paradise for the enemies of truth: the governments, bureaucrats, privileged corporations, religious leaders, think tanks, and whoever else subsists on falsehoods, lies, and distortions.

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The Freest Economy Today – The Internet

A great piece from that gives the unenlightened believer in government a taste of how a truly free society could function:

One of the few places in the world not yet plagued by government intervention is the internet. Although some governments in certain parts of the world have infiltrated the activities of the internet to varying degrees, it remains the closest thing to a purely free economy that we can identify in the modern world.

On the internet, the beautiful aspects of human nature manifest themselves, and we see individuals and companies maximizing their talents and resources for reasons of profit, pleasure, altruism, and mere progress in itself. Given that the government neither inhibits the activities of the internet nor props up or favors any particular actors or individuals, perhaps we are witnessing the closest thing to a free market that man has ever witnessed.

Although many consider the America of the 19th century to be the closest thing to a purely free market, in fact, congressmen constantly acted in favor of certain individuals, leading in some cases to monopolistic advantages. Ironically, at the end of the century the government intervened in an attempt to break up monopolies.

So here we are in a worldwide web that connects people from all parts of the world, allowing them to exchange whatever they want with one another. It is the essence of a free market: voluntary exchange. There is no use of force or coercion on the internet. No higher authority effectively controls or dictates the way that we spend our time online or the activities that we partake in. Although some legal obstacles inhibit people from accessing certain sites and materials, given the lack of regulation or enforcement by a higher authority, users are easily able to circumvent these restrictions and achieve the things that they want.

As it evolves, we begin to witness the endless potential that exists within the internet and the unquantifiable benefits it provides to society. Although the internet currently represents freedom from both a civil and a social perspective, I shall examine it from an economic perspective.

Arguably, the human race has seen more progress and innovation through the use of the internet in the past 20 years than through the use of any innovation known in the history of mankind. As we reflect back over the last 20 years, we see thousands of amazing success stories. We see entrepreneurs from all different economic backgrounds and classes making full use of their skills, ideas, and passions. We read about success stories such as Facebook and Google, where very young people have been able to generate massive wealth while providing a cheap, convenient, and valuable new tool for everyone across the globe to enjoy. This is the beauty of a system free from government intervention.

In fact, it’s such a free market that government doesn’t even effectively enforce intellectual property and copyright protection. And what is the result? We see entrepreneurs from other countries imitating successful online programs with very little detriment to the originators. In fact, Chinese entrepreneurs have created very similar programs to both Google and Facebook. As a result, all of these companies have been able to generate profits while their users still enjoy the programs at no cost.

In turn, their Chinese competitors bring increased competition to both Google and Facebook, creating incentives for them to improve their own products and continue to innovate. This example closely resembles capitalist Americans emulating European technology in the 19th century or Japanese entrepreneurs emulating Western technology during the process of their development.

Do patent protection laws truly promote greater and faster innovation? Some companies and individuals are able to avert these government-imposed rigidities online. And the success of this less-inhibited marketplace demonstrates the lack of need for patent protection laws.

If patent-protection laws, taxes, and legal-tender laws were completely eliminated from the internet, we would then see a purely free market. Although this is not foreseeable given the world’s current political system, we can still continue to enjoy the advantages of this relatively unfettered aspect of modern society.

Technological advancements benefit society for many obvious reasons. In an unfettered marketplace, innovation reduces costs for businesses and hence prices for consumers. For example, in the past, some families spent several hundred dollars every few years just to update their encyclopedia set, even though all of the content in these encyclopedias was publicly accessible; the encyclopedia companies merely compiled the information into a more concise format.

Although these companies provided a very valuable product to society, there is now a decreased need for physical encyclopedias due to the increase of information available on the internet. Let us hope the Obama administration does not attempt to “bailout” Britannica anytime soon.

We begin to see so many things being offered on the internet not only for very cheap prices, but for free. Information that used to cost individuals and companies exorbitant fees can now be found on the internet freely, thus allowing individuals and companies to spend that money elsewhere, improving their own operations.

Before the internet took off in the 1990s, businesses across the United States spent billions of dollars every year on information. Nowadays, companies save millions of dollars per year on research, data, and inventory, which can now be spent on other areas of the business, such as rewarding employees with higher bonuses or purchasing new facilities and advanced equipment. The economy as a whole is operating more efficiently, as overall costs and expenditures have gone down.

Often the most neglected benefit of technology for society is decreased prices. During and after the time of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, we witnessed a myriad of price reductions across most industries. As prices dropped and the cost of living decreased, individuals and entrepreneurs were encouraged to identify other niches throughout the market and introduce new technologies.

Unfortunately, much of modern society has a hard time grasping the benefit of price decreases, while central banks throughout the world continue to print money, which leads to price increases.

In modern times, we can purchase almost any sort of product via the internet and can access almost any information that we desire. When we consider the vast number of people and companies throughout society that earn profits by merely providing information, we can only imagine the enormous costs that can be saved as a result of more accessible and cheaper (often free) information now available to all of society online. What is even more encouraging is that we see the providers of this information doing so for reasons other than profit — a reflection of man’s pursuit of passion and his innate sense of compassion.

Unfortunately, as has always been the case, the internet and its infinite value to society is threatened by a ubiquitous force: government. As we’ve seen throughout history, when companies become threatened by competitors, they do whatever is possible to prevent or squash competition — often through the use of government force.

In the 1930s, unions used various means for lobbying in DC in an attempt to introduce a minimum wage law, which ultimately passed. Smaller companies who could not afford to pay these increased wages were soon forced out of business.

Sure enough, various actors in DC are now lobbying to regulate the internet. In April 2009, AP began to publicize a widespread attack on Google — arguably the most successful company and widely enjoyed technology of the past 10 years. As more and more information-providing companies see their revenues dwindle as a result of better and more convenient information being provided by competitors on the internet, we can be certain that a greater number of companies will congregate in DC to propose greater regulation.

Let us hope our government is stern enough to defend the Constitution as it was written with the intent of dealing with this type of dilemma. The first amendment, freedom of the press, was most strongly emphasized by Thomas Jefferson. He stated, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

The internet is a model of the free market. It represents all of the aspects of capitalism that we cannot witness in our current offline world due to the high level of government intervention that pervades our society. Online, we see widespread competition, low barriers to entry, voluntary exchange, rapid technological advancements, decreased prices, and a flowering of creativity.

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