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.

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  1. identicon
    Richard, 21 Jun 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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