Steve Watson & Paul Joseph Watson
Moves to place restrictions and controls on the internet by Western governments are gathering pace, with the US setting the standard as the Department of Homeland Security seized yet more domain names over the weekend and shut down several websites under the guise of piracy and copyright regulations.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Monday to debate the Obama administration’s proposed move to provide the president with the authority to completely shut down the internet during a national emergency.
As we have documented, the administration’s vision provides the President the power to shut down the Internet with a figurative flick of a switch, and has made it clear that his Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is about big government deciding who can say what on the web.
Critics in the Senate, including Maine Republican Susan Collins, argued that the government is taking advantage of “outmoded yet potentially sweeping authorities granted in the Communications Act of 1934″ that allow for the president to take over radio stations in a time of national emergency.
The administration is seeking to extend those powers to online communications.
Long term internet censorship proponent, Joe Lieberman argued that “The country would be better off if we did create some new law regarding the authority of the president to act in these emergencies,”
Last year, Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security Committee pressured Amazon to axe Wikileaks from its servers. At the time, the Senator stated that the “Decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston labeled Amazon’s decision to kill the website “disappointing,” adding that “pressure” from Lieberman’s office or any other authority serves to “limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access.”
Lieberman’s vision for the Internet is less of an information superhighway and more of a government-controlled sanitized clone of cable television, where the web is purged entirely of dissent in a system even more draconian than that employed by the Communist Chinese.
“Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,” Lieberman told CNN’s Candy Crowley in 2010.
This is what Lieberman envisions for the future of the Internet in the United States, a highly regulated, state-controlled forum where the government can shut down websites it disapproves of on a whim, as is already being done by Homeland Security without court order, as yet more cases have proven this week.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the vehemently unpopular French President Nicolas Sarkozy has convened a global conference to push the idea that governments should have supreme authority over the internet.
The gathering, dubbed the e-G8, is taking place this week in Paris. Guests include Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“You need to hear our limits, our red lines.” Sarkozy told the gathering today as he argued for enforced government rules to ” prevent misuse of the Internet”.
Included in that definition, according to Sarkozy are websites such as Wikileaks. Referring to the whistle blowing website, Sarkozy warned the gathering:
“Do not let [the internet] become an instrument in the hands of those who want to damage our security, and so our integrity. Do not let the revolution that you have launched harm the basic right each person has to a private life,” he said.
France was one of the first countries to crack down on the servers on its territory that enabled WikiLeaks to publish vast amounts of material last year.
In 2009 the Sarkozy government attempted to pass draconian copyright laws to restrict the internet. The law, known by the acronym Hadopi, set up a new state agency with the power to cut off internet access for up to a year for people who download music and film illegally.
The French Constitutional court ruled against the powers however, defining “free access to public communication services on line” as a fundamental human right. The government is still pushing the proposed law, however. Currently only judges have the authority to restrict internet access. The same law was instituted in Britain in 2010.
Sarkozy’s government also operates an internet black list, that targets any website that is reported as “offensive”. Similar policies are now being employed by supposedly democratic governments around the world.
The push to restrict and control the internet, as we have repeatedly warned for years, is being pursued by an establishment petrified at the fact that alternative and independent sources of information are now eclipsing corporate and government controlled media outlets in terms of audience share, trust, and influence.
The move needs to be met with fierce opposition at every level and from across the political spectrum. Regulation of the Internet would not only represent a massive assault on free speech, it would also create new roadblocks for e-commerce and as a consequence further devastate the economy.