Not long ago, Microsoft exemplified business evil in the E.U; it was American, technically ahead and Europe had nothing to compete with it. Now that unfortunate place is occupied by Google It has too much of the search business and it too is American. And oh yes, Europe has no competitor. The demonization extends to the European media labeling Google and other non-indigenous operators: “Datenkraken” or data octopuses. Some politicians are calling for a Google breakup. American internet giants are perceived with suspicion in Europe since the NSA’s snooping came out. European governments wants them under control.
Now, Turkey is tightening its Internet grip and we have learned the the U.S. Feds forced Yahoo to provide its users’ data under threat of enormous fines. We know that China expends a lot of effort and money controlling its internet and Russia is not far behind. The FCC is moving toward awarding itself internet control via old radio and TV laws on the books. Adherents of the “free Internet” are looking at an increasingly cloudy horizon.
This should not surprise; the internet empowers citizens in the same manner that possession of guns does and we know how governments feel about that. There is however, at least in the U.S, one difference: the Constitution protects the guns, or is trying to, while the Internet is not mentioned in that document. All governments want to control what citizens learn and what they publish, a truly free Internet is the opposite of those. It is if you are a government, intolerable. It therefore cannot last much longer.
In the U.S, where overt government controls of citizens were noted by Alexis de Toqueville in 1835 as a work in progress, (Democracy in America) such censorship is still marginal in public acceptance. The government is pursuing Internet control under “net neutrality” as a program for protecting citizens from rapacious service providers. California has passed a law providing the ability to shut off cell phone services to selected phones, under the mantra of making stolen phones useless. It is obvious that no government will tolerate a free Internet any longer than it must.
Thing is, like those guns, a free internet empowers citizens … and those aren’t the sort that any government wants to have.