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Military Internet PoliceSome of us here at F&P are very old. So old in fact that we do remember a world without the Internet. A world where books ruled and knowledge was as precious (or more) than gold. Yet, even in those times, information -inconvenient information- was persecuted and prosecuted. Governments have a long and bloody story of censorship (see, we can write in clichés too!... although this one happens to be true).

Back then censorship was difficult, obvious and blunt. Books were forbidden. Topics were tabu. Political or economic discourse not aligned with the party-of-the-week's thinking was "disincentivized"… often at gunpoint. Repression was blunt, obvious and in your face. There was no way of hiding it.

And then, a big rush of fresh air came sweeping in and released the chains of the people, and that regained freedom was called the Internet. We are old indeed. We still remember the good old days when everybody, anybody could argue any topic on the Internet without fear of reprisals. Back then we were all anonymous, truly anonymous. No GPS, no geolocation, no apps tracking you, no apps spying on you no browsers or operating systems phoning home with constant updates of your habits. Can you imagine that, today? That was truly remarkable… although… it was not to last.

WE CAN TRACK YOU

It all started quite candidly. Logs starting to spring like ants after a rain, and for good reason. Companies attempted to keep track of those "service abusers". Then self-censorship began. Companies (and people) attempting to keep those troublemakers out of "our" forums. Then the WorldWideWeb was invented (not the system but the browser). Yet another revolution! Pictures, sound, information! WOW! We still remember a few of the first browsers that only worked off-line (yeah… you had to download http pages compressed as zip files through 14.4 K modems and then open them in the browser - just ask your dad). Then we got cookies and geolocation. Your IP linked to a specific location in the world. Then the search engines became kings (and queens) of data. Go through the gatekeeper or miss all the good stuff (yeah… before search engines we had no choice but to use the Gopher protocol… just Google it). And so on. Every step of the ladder towards a greater and greater usability and sophistication was accompanied by a growing shadow of information gathering, collecting, selling, using and exploding. They were tracking us. They were tracking our movements, our habits, our wishes and our thoughts.

We knew that.

They knew that.

Everybody knew that.

But we didn't care.

We didn't care because all those trackers were commercial trackers. And the sole purpose of commercial trackers is to make money by either selling the information to marketers or by using it to sell you products and services.

Back then, it was easy.

If you didn't like a product you just had to say: NO!

And that was that!

Simple, huh?

That's right. Simple solutions for simple times.

But that was then and this is now.

Things have gotten from bad to worse over the last few years; take a look at the plots below:

Opressed Internet Countries

 

Loss of Internet Freedom

Wait a minute! These plots indicate that nothing has changed over the last few years! We are juuuuuuust fine! There. The tireless work of our respective governments has achieved a precise balance between freedom and restrictions so that we may all live in peace and harmony while respecting the rule of law.

That's it, then.

We have arrived.

We are fine and we will continue to be fine. Steady state.

Well… not a chance in hell!

Now take a look that the same plots, but this time plotted since the Internet was truly free:

Restricted Internet Countries

 

Loss of Internet Freedom

Did you noticed something? Thought so. Sure, over the last few years the lack of freedom has stabilized at around 45%... from ZERO! That's right. Once upon a time (not so far away) there was no restriction of freedom whatsoever on the Internet. Yet, somehow, we are supposed to be happy with only 1/2 the freedom? Hummmm….

And how about the percentage of affected countries? Again, once upon a time no country was affected. That would be ZERO countries. And now, just a few years afterwards we are supposed to be happy with 75% of affected countries?!!!

With about 65% of the entire world population having to endure being "monitored" and "managed" for their own good?

Sure. Everything is juuuuuuuuuust fine… just not for you!

WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE

But if this is the case, how can we explain the apparent stabilization of the trend?

Actually, it is very simple to explain; but first, a few announcements.

The Reasons Of Oppression

There are many reasons as to why this oppression and persecution takes place and they are growing by the minute. Some of them are:

  • Politics and power
  • Social norms and morals
  • National security concerns
  • Protection of existing economic interests and copyright

Specifically, in the west the typical excuses are Child Pornography and National Security. In China is mostly Political Dissent. In the Arab countries is Religion and Political Dissent, in Russia is Political Control and so forth.

The point is, there are always excuses as to why governments do it, but the funny thing is that before now, at the time when the Internet was truly free, all those issues already existed but were not affected by the Internet (see for example Can Technology Produce Political Change). Trying to suppress change, particularly political change is pointless because such change is dependent upon people changing their minds and they will do so with or without technology since technology is not the drive, the economy is (see for example The Three Laws Of Political System Change). Besides, if Democracy is supposed to be the system that represents The People (yeah, in capital), it would then be extremely hypocritical to attempt to prevent people from changing their minds by the very system that is supposed to represent them… yet… this has never stopped governments before… all for the greater good, of course.

The Tools Of Oppression

The number of ways in which government interference, restriction, censorship, persecution and prosecution is being applied in the Internet has exploded.

Take a look at a non-exhaustive list of such technical "weapons":

  • Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking
  • Domain name system (DNS) filtering and redirection
  • Uniform Resource Locator filtering
  • Packet filtering
  • Connection reset
  • Network disconnection
  • Portal censorship and search result removal
  • Computer network attacks
  • Commercial Filtering Software

And how about non-technical "weapons":

  • Laws and regulations may prohibit various types of content and/or require that content be removed or blocked either proactively or in response to requests.
  • Publishers, authors, and ISPs may receive formal and informal requests to remove, alter, slant, or block access to specific sites or content.
  • Publishers and authors may accept bribes to include, withdraw, or slant the information they present.
  • Publishers, authors, and ISPs may be subject to arrest, criminal prosecution, fines, and imprisonment.
  • Publishers, authors, and ISPs may be subject to civil lawsuits.
  • Equipment may be confiscated and/or destroyed.
  • Publishers and ISPs may be closed or required licenses may be withheld or revoked.
  • Publishers, authors, and ISPs may be subject to boycotts.
  • Publishers, authors, and their families may be subject to threats, attacks, beatings, and even murder.
  • Publishers, authors, and their families may be threatened with or actually lose their jobs.
  • Individuals may be paid to write articles and comments in support of particular positions or attacking opposition positions, usually without acknowledging the payments to readers and viewers.
  • Censors may create their own online publications and Web sites to guide online opinion.
  • Access to the Internet may be limited due to restrictive licensing policies or high costs.
  • Access to the Internet may be limited due to a lack of the necessary infrastructure, deliberate or not.

Note: for an exhaustive explanation of these issues, see Wikipedia (Internet censorship).

Our point is not to copy Wikipedia to fill-in space, but to underline the issue that there are many ways in which our freedom in the Internet is being destroyed and continues to be destroyed and the idiotic and moronic reasons that our governments use in their propaganda machines.

But you say, so what? Right? Internet freedom is not a tangible thing, right?

No, it isn't. Just like any other type of freedom.

Allow us to help you visualize. Just imagine if a police car with two uniformed police people would be permanently parked in front of your house watching everything you do and following you 24x7 anywhere you go. That's a "virtual" thing too, after all, they are not interfering with what you do, or talk to, or see, right?...

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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