The Hypocrisy Of Congress: As Big A Threat To The Internet As The UN They're Condemning

from the we-don't-regulate-the-internet,-except-when-we-do dept

While it's great to see Congress continue to speak out against the UN's dangerous efforts to tax and track the internet to help out governments and local telco monopolies, it's pretty ridiculous for Congress to pretend that it's declaring "hands off the internet" when it has its own hands all over the internet these days. As Jerry Brito and Adam Theirer write, over at the Atlantic, if Congress is really serious about supporting a free and open internet, it should look in the mirror first:

The fear that the ITU might be looking to exert greater control over cyberspace at the conference has led to a rare Kumbaya moment in U.S. tech politics. Everyone -- left, right, and center -- is rallying around the flag in opposition to potential UN regulation of the Internet. At a recent congressional hearing, one lawmaker after another lined up and took a turn engaging in the UN-bashing. From the tone of the hearing, and the language of the House resolution, we are being asked to believe that "the position of the United States Government has been and is to advocate for the flow of information free from government control."

If only it were true. The reality is that Congress increasingly has its paws all over the Internet. Lawmakers and regulators are busier than ever trying to expand the horizons of cyber-control across the board: copyright mandates, cybersecurity rules, privacy regulations, speech controls, and much more.

Earlier this year, Congress tried to meddle with the Internet's addressing system in order to blacklist sites that allegedly infringe copyrights -- a practice not unlike that employed by the Chinese to censor political speech. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) may have targeted pirates, but its collateral damage would have been the very "stable and secure" Internet Congress now wants "free from government control." A wave of furious protests online forced Congress to abandon the issue, at least for the moment.

It goes on to discuss other proposals to regulate parts of the internet, including CISPA and other online security laws. Of course, in each of these cases, the politicians in Congress will come out with a litany of reasons why it "makes sense" (or more accurately "we have to do something!") to pass these laws. But that pre-supposes that all those countries that Congress is now condemning for wanting more ability to spy on and control citizens don't have reasons to do so. Given the increasing evidence that the US government, via the NSA, is already spying on wide swaths of the population -- and Congress' apparent total lack of concern about this, it's incredibly hypocritical to pretend that the US government supports a free and open internet with privacy protections for citizens, when its own actions reveal something very, very different.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:40am

    Best course for the public

    At this point, it's probably best if the UN / ITU forces rumble with the US Congress. Potentially, that results in a fractured governance structure... and greater potential for individual liberty.

     

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  2.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Re: Best course for the public

    No, the best course for the public would be to scrap all attempt to regulate the Internet until people come in who actually understand it.

     

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  3.  
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    Lord Binky, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:44am

    "the position of the United States Government has been and is to advocate for the flow of information free from foreign government control."

    Fixed it.

     

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  4.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Best course for the public

    The play the opposite side of that coin...

    While the current crop of ignorant regulators go at regulating the internet like a monkey trying to f*ck a football; the next generation of informed (evil!) "digital native" regulators will go at f*cking the internet with the precision of a Sybian--and they will likely be effective.

     

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  5.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    like a monkey trying to f*ck a football

    almost as funny as:

    the position of the United States Government has been and is to advocate for the flow of information free from government control.

     

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  6.  
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    Sam, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Best course for the public

    I'm trying. It started out as a fun thing a few months ago, but last week I (and I have to include my geeky cohorts) actually won the Primary election for Nevada's 2nd district. We face an uphill battle, namely how to defeat a Republican incumbent with a massive warchest.

    We're a bunch of nerds that are sick of clueless legislators trying to regulate things that are beyond their comprehension. As time goes on, I believe more people like us will (temporarily) forgo our fun careers for temporary forays into politics to help fix this partisan mess that mires our country.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    While the current crop of ignorant regulators go at regulating the internet like a monkey trying to fuck a football...


    If we believe the head of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), then they don't really want control, they just want money.

    UN doesn't want to take over Internet, does want to help telcos profit” by Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, Jun 20, 2012
    In a speech on Wednesday, the head of the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations, explicitly denied that the group is interested in taking over the Internet. But this speech makes clear that the body is quite interested in helping domestic telecommunications operators make boatloads of cash by controlling the flow of content to individual countries.

    [...]


    So Hamadoun Touré's motivation is real simple. He helps national telcos skim the cream off the internet, and in turn, the nat telcos kick back bribes his way.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:08am

    all that has happened is that no one wants to tell anyone else anything but everyone wants to know everything about everyone else, especially about it's own citizens. you can thank the ridiculous surveillance laws that have been introduced in the USA. how can one nation condemn another for doing something it then does itself? i think the trust factor has been destroyed by the USA and it will take a lot to restore it. i mean, what government that wants to be taken seriously, expects to be able to hand control of the greatest communication platform ever, over to it's own entertainment industry and still be respected, but then kicks up when another nation wants to take over that control themselves?

     

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  9.  
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    quawonk, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:17am

    They want the You-Ess to control the Internet, not the You-Enn. Big difference there. The You-Ess wants their laws to applly worldwide but they don't want to have to follow anyone else's.

     

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  10.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: Best course for the public

    Your point is excellent, but let me suggest that it makes the error of presuming that the Internet can or should be regulated. I think that we should debate at length the answers to those two questions prior to concerning ourselves with who might be best equipped to actually do so.

     

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  11.  
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    Richard, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:25am

    Now, now, now. Don't you all realize that when foreign governments censor the internet, its for evil, dark, bad reasons. When the US governments censors the internet, its done as a selfless act, designed to advance the forces of good and wholesomeness.

     

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  12.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    Temporary until they realize how much cash they can rake in, and how many perks and jobs they can give their friends. I'll make their current "fun careers" seem like flipping burgers. Then they'll be politicians for life, just like the rest of them.

     

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  13.  
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    arcan, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:26am

    Re:

    and the un is any different... how?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:27am

    Do regulators even do anything

    Or are they just scapegoats so the government has someone to pass blame to, washing their hands of any responsibility?

    Financial regulators, media regulators, and others - as far as I can see they do fuck all.

     

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  15.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:34am

    Re: Do regulators even do anything

    Regulators help define how, or what shape, the next raping of the public will take.

    Without regulators, we'd have to be surprised by the variety and frequency of corporations screwing us over--but with regulators there is a certain form their screwing must take.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Sam, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    I've given this a lot of thought, and obviously I can't predict the future, but from I've observed people in my line of work typically are in it because they are problem solvers. I like programming, and I'm good at it. Politics seems to be the opposite of that. I've had opportunities in other fields that pay better than what I make now, but I've preferred to stay where I am because I enjoy the work so much.

    Frankly I'm more concerned about the corrupting influence of power. In every speech I've given I've promised to stay true to my roots, but I understand why nobody would believe that. It sounds too much like what every politician has ever said...ever.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Do regulators even do anything

    ... but with regulators there is a certain form their screwing must take.


    Mmmm. Don't think I believe that anymore. Not —at least— in the US. Look, used to be that the so-called Western democracies tried to pay lip service to concepts like “due process” and “rule of law”. Now, not so much.

    For recent example, remember the last post here at Techdirt about the Dajaz1 seizure? Some of the trollish commentators were yelling, “You don't get an adversary hearing!”

    That's actually kind of shocking to me. But I'm a child of the cold war —will always be a child of the cold war— and grew up in the midst of a generation-spanning ideological struggle.

    The younger kids don't seem to have gotten the indoctrination. They don't understand “what makes us different from the Soviets”. And, thus, they're ok with seizing websites like Dajaz1 with secret "evidence" and no opportunity for a hearing.

     

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  18.  
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    Simple Mind (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re:

    Where did he say the UN is different? His subject is the US. He made no statement one way or the other about the UN. Implying that he did is disingenuous and makes you look stupid.

     

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  19.  
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    Watchit (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 11:35am

    Looks like the US has a bad case of the "Do as I say, not as I do" syndrome...

     

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  20.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    Link up with other nerds, get on Reddit, show your message and try to link up with Russell Feinstein on campaign reform. Get your message out on Youtube, get your message out to the hackers and the communities that are far larger than TV and make sure that you advocate for an open internet every step of the way. If you want to go on TV, there's the Current Network that is more than happy to show more Progressives that are fighting for the cause of liberals of the left wing.

    It's just in how you play it.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 11:57am

    Ahh the classic grade school defence, "It Wasn't Me". You have to laugh.

     

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  22.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 21st, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best course for the public

    Most people who go into politics do so to solve problems. Most politicians would call themselves problem solvers, and most would think they're doing a great job and doing important work. After all they got elected, they go to Washington, and they push for legislation.

    Unfortunately, they never seem to notice it when they are the one causing the problem, and the only solutions they know how to offer are legal solutions. For every person that hates them and tells them they're wrong, there's someone else supporting them and urging them on. I'm positive every single one of them believes they're are doing good work that benefits the public.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    rule number 1 of US politics., Jun 21st, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    unless we run #### nobody runs ####.

     

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  24.  
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    abc gum, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 6:13pm

    Re:

    "Looks like the US has a bad case of the "Do as I say, not as I do" syndrome..."

    The radical right wing calls it American Exceptionalism

     

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  25.  
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    dyslexic, Jun 21st, 2012 @ 9:03pm

    Re: Re:

    and the un is any different... how?

    The You-Enn is different because it ends in Enn not Ess. Even a dyslexic can tell them apart.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Dave, Jun 22nd, 2012 @ 4:52am

    Hypocrites

    Hypocrisy at its loudest. It's fairly obvious that not only does the USA want to rule the world but it wants to get its grubby little hands in a strangle hold on the net. "Keep the UN out. WE want to regulate the net". "It'll be OUR ball and OUR game then". Never have I seen such an about-face.

     

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  27.  
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    Brent (profile), Jun 22nd, 2012 @ 7:23am

    actually the other comments have helped to explain to me why Obama is so down with cooperating with the insanity behind the TPP and ACTA and the other 'piracy' efforts and isn't saying anything about it to the public. To control the internet is to control the world (or so some my believe) and since we (the US) invented the internet, it only makes sense (again, to some people) to believe that we can control what we can create. Setting the rules for the world wide web is the back-end way to familiarize the rest of the world with US policy and laws. That could even be part of the Hollywood lobbyists' strategy (aside from massive campaign contributions) to convince the gov't that the aforementioned laws would strengthen the US overall.

     

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  28.  
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    XANA, Jun 22nd, 2012 @ 10:26am

    Ironic

    "the position of the United States Government has been and is to advocate for the flow of information free from government control."

    Ironic.
    The US does have control of the Internet, they run the root nameservers.
    They also run some of the Whois services, and one of the authorites that assigns IP addresses.

    So, they don't want anyone else to control the Internet?

    Try looking in the mirror!
    Truly the US is 'one of the tomatoes in the mirror', and can't recognize their own face anymore.

    They look and see the US, but what I see is China, Russia, etc.
    Look, we're all human, therefore we are similar than we realize. Russians, Americans, etc. it makes no difference, we are all generally the same when it comes down to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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