A CHANGING INTERNET

September 30, 2013

Lachlan McDowell

Today, the internet is, in a way, under siege. Currently it spans the globe and is near impossible to control and there are very few set laws of what you can do on the internet. It evolved from a military communication network into  a series of global interlinked networks, all sharing information, not all of it legal, not of all of it helpful, and definitely not all of it PG.

This is the excuse for several bills that were nearly made legal in America and the many more that will eventually come into debate. They have made many different arguments, that the content is dangerous.

Governments are now trying to gain territory in the internet. This is because, as with all mediums, once there is a money flow there is an interested party. In this case they are the music, film, video game and publishing industries.

When it comes down to it, all of these groups are in it for the money, and because the internet is highly unregulated, lots of their products are being shared without them receiving a penny.

They effect the government through a system called lobbying, which is prevalent in all countries to different degrees. In any democratic country, to gain the support of the people a political hopeful needs a lot of media support. He also needs the money to conduct public relations events, charity events and generally maintain a good front, alongside having the money to maintain a rich man’s lifestyle. This is very hard for the average man, so often politicians receive large donations from corporations, who in return expect to call in a handful of favours, whispering in their ear “vote yes on proposition 62”.

Currently conservative legislators are against the freedom of the internet due to the fact that it can expose people to strange or progressive ideas, and regulating it will appeal to their moral crusader voting bloc, and not really anger any part of their support base because it is comprised mostly of those who don’t use it for much more than checking some headlines and looking at funny cat videos. Large amounts of pseudo progressives are also against freedom of the internet because they are either heavily lobbied by the entertainment industry, lack personal vested interests, or simply don’t care and are willing to go with the way the wind is blowing.

There are a handful of worthwhile arguments for these sort of internet censorship bills. There are arguments about how it harms the entertainment industry, and how if they do not find a way to stop people from finding their content for free then the industry will surely collapse, even though the entertainment industry is making record profits. Another popular argument for censorship bills is that people can find disturbing content on the internet, a “think of the children” approach, some of this horrible content includes photos of an “inappropriate” or “corrupting” nature, videos using inappropriate language, or horrific or gory imagery.

I respectfully disagree because of several reasons. The first is that the entertainment industry should adapt to a changing landscape. People currently make a good amount of money through giving away their content free on file sharing sites, receiving an amount of ad revenue, and other groups have achieved other revenue streams through similar techniques, it won’t let the average actor and director won’t make billions of dollars, more like thousands, but if there in the industry for the money there in it for the wrong reason. Another point is that censoring content that some might find offensive is simply foolish because you find what you seek. If you search something like “kittens” you won’t find something like “Republicans are destroying America”, or something else someone would find offensive. My biggest issue with all of this censorship is that it is very hard to stop censorship once it is possible. Many of these censorship bills are rather dangerous, and are often poorly worded, leaving room for someone to exploit loopholes to take down websites that disagree with their opinion, or that they find irritating or rude.

Many people have argued against the idea of censoring the internet, and I know I am very late to the draw on this issue, but the fact is you can’t be late to the draw on this issue. People will always try to put through censoring legislation, because there is money to be made, and all I hope is that you can see the danger of this sort of censorship, and at the least inform yourselves on this issue from the many far more educated people than I.

Now since I am talking about the censoring of the internet, I know that mention of the Australian Liberal Government’s policy must come up. For those of you who don’t know about the coalitions proposed policy, it takes a “think of the children” approach, cleaning all of the smut off the internet, and honestly, I don’t have as much of an issue as I do with many other proposed bills.

This is because, from what I can gather, it is an opt-in system, which means if you want a censored internet, you have to go to your provider and say that you are afraid of what you can find, and you want the proposed filter installed. But don’t quote me on this, because Tony Abbot has flip flopped on this issue, and there is a little bit of controversy, so my advice is to keep updated and aware of how your government is trying to curtail your access to information.

– Lachlan McDowell

– Photo Amy Steele

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