Tag Archives: internet

Censorship vs. Suppression, by Eric Peters

Whether you categorize speech suppression by ostensibly private entities as censorship or not, it’s clear that between government and the private entities that control the internet, the ability to speak out is being steadily constricted. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

Libertarians – me included – have wrestled long and hard with this one: Is it censorship when private entities do it?

No – not in a legal sense. Because these private entities do not have the power to forbid publication, per se.

But they do have the power to suppress (and even to punish) publication when the entities at issue effectively control the means of publication – and so it amounts to the same thing as censorship.

It may even be worse, since one can always get around governmentcensorship (see, for example, the underground Samizdat press in Tsarist Russia or, later, the anti-communist press in East Germany and Poland).

But how does one “get around” private control of the all-encompassing Internet and related “social media platforms”?

There is no alternative Internet – nor is one (given present technology/infrastructure) even conceivable, regardless of one’s financial ability.

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Incoherent Thoughts from the Yankee Capital: Papua New Guinea Looks Better and Better II, by Fred Reed

A favorite Fred Reed theme: the disconnect between those who rule us, and us. From Reed at theburningplatform.com:

Having just returned from two weeks in the curious environs of Washington, DC, I offer a few observations on the national lunacy deposit:

The de-Christianization of the country, or at least this part of it,  is almost complete. I can think of hearing the word “Christmas” only twice in two weeks of trough-inciting retail advertising.

Culture shock: We stayed with friends who for various reasons, such as being in the business, always had a television on. At home in Mexico we got rid of the lobotomy box some fifteen years ago, seeing little advantage  in paying seventy dollars a month for 250 channels, none worth watching, adorned with twenty minutes an hour of stupid commercials. Coming back to this was like jumping into raw sewage. Perhaps the worst of it was the contempt for the public manifested in running the same ad twice in one commercial break, and in the loving close-ups of pizzas with dripping cheese. Buy, buy, buy.

An astonishing proportion of the hucksterism was for medicines. I assume all Americans are inured to such predatory swill (if swill can be predatory) but after a year off, it is awful:

“Ask your doctor about Caligulon. Clinical trials show that it will make you perfect in every way. Your eyeballs may explode, Peritonitis and asphyxiation sometimes occur. If you suffer heavy nasal bleeding stop taking Caligulon and consult your doctor. Gangrene of the genitals may occur….”

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Behind the North Korean Curtain, Part I

North Korea is far different from the way it is usually portrayed, according to a seasoned international traveler who has spent a fair amount of time there. From Joel Bowman at internationalman.com:

Joel Bowman talks to Kolja Spöri

Joel Bowman: Good day, Kolja. Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with International Man today. Where in the world do we find you right now?

Kolja Spöri: Merhaba, Joel! I am just in Istanbul at the airport, in transit to Munich, coming from Baghdad.

JB: Having literally written the book “I’ve Been Everywhere” (in German: Ich war überall), you certainly fit the bill as a true International Man. I imagine our conversation could go in many directions today, but I wanted to start with a particular trip you embarked on earlier this year that must have been quite eye-opening, even by your own standards.

When most people think of taking a vacation, they might imagine heading down to Florida, or the Bahamas, or maybe nipping over to Hawaii. You decided, instead, to opt for the decidedly cooler climes of Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. What inspired you to set off on an adventure to one of the so-called “Axis of Evil” countries?

KS: There’s actually warm weather and good surfing in North Korea in the summer! But yes, I have been a world traveler for a long time, both privately and on business trips. My goal became to visit every country in the world. It was just a natural thing that I would also visit North Korea on the way. North Korea is a good example where I learned that our Western view on the world does not always hold true, or at least the narratives that we are spoon fed from our Western media and our Western education system.

Fifteen years ago, I was in South Korea visiting the demilitarized zone in Panmunjom, from the south. And at that time, already 15 years ago, I had a feeling that something was wrong about the way I was taught to look at things. Now that I’ve seen the border from the other side, from the north, I have a much clearer picture of where I was wrong, and where maybe many of us are wrong in the West.

I want to make clear that I don’t defend the North Korean system. After all, I am an Austrian School Libertarian. But I use the small case study of North Korea to build a strong case against our Western regime.

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Here’s China’s massive plan to retool the web, by P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking

The Chinese government has no intention of allowing the Chinese version of the web to become anything like the semi-freewheeling forum it is in the US. From P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking at popsci.com:

The most ambitious project of mass control is the country’s “social credit” system. All Chinese citizens will receive a numerical score reflecting their “trustworthiness.”

The following is adapted from LikeWar by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking, a book by two defense experts—one of which is the founder of the Eastern Arsenal blog at Popular Science —about how the Internet has become a new kind of battleground, following a new set of rules that we all need to learn.

“Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world.”

So read the first email ever sent from the People’s Republic of China, zipping 4,500 miles from Beijing to Berlin. The year was 1987. Chinese scientists celebrated as their ancient nation officially joined the new global internet.
 As the Internet evolved from a place for scientists to a place for all netizens, its use in China gradually grew—then exploded. In 1996, there were just 40,000 people online in China; by 1999, there were 4 million. In 2008, China passed the United States in number of active internet users: 253 million. Today, that figure has tripled again to nearly 800 million (over a quarter of all the world’s people online).

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Chinese-style ‘digital authoritarianism’ grows globally: study, by AFP

China’s government, world leader in Orwellian surveillance and suppression, is passing on its tricks to other governments. From AFP at france24.com:

Governments worldwide are stepping up use of online tools, in many cases inspired by China’s model, to suppress dissent and tighten their grip on power, a human rights watchdog study found Thursday.

The annual Freedom House study of 65 countries found global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018, amid a rise in what the group called “digital authoritarianism.”

The Freedom on the Net 2018 report found online propaganda and disinformation have increasingly “poisoned” the digital space, while the unbridled collection of personal data is infringing on privacy.

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‘Catastrophic’: EU Passes Copyright Directive Including Internet ‘Link Tax’ and ‘Upload Filter’, by Joseph Jankowski

Perhaps the reason Europe doesn’t invent many new technologies anymore is because their bureaucrats and politicians do their best to stifle and kill technologies, home grown or foreign. From Joseph Jankowski at planetfreewill.com:

The European Parliament has passed a controversial copyright directive that contains provisions which force tech giants to install content filters and sets in place a potential tax on hyperlinking.

The bill was passed in a final vote of 438 – 226 and will need to be implemented by individual EU member states.

Critics of the directive have been laser-focused on two key provisions: Articles 11 and 13, which they have dubbed the “link tax” and “upload filter.”

The most important parts of this are Articles 11 and 13. Article 11 is intended to give publishers and papers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories, allowing them to demand paid licenses. Article 13 requires certain platforms like YouTube and Facebook stop users sharing unlicensed copyrighted material.

Critics of the Copyright Directive say these provisions are disastrous. In the case of Article 11, they note that attempts to “tax” platforms like Google News for sharing articles have repeatedly failed, and that the system would be ripe to abuse by copyright trolls.

Article 13, they say, is even worse. The legislation requires that platforms proactively work with rightsholders to stop users uploading copyrighted content. The only way to do so would be to scan all data being uploaded to sites like YouTube and Facebook. This would create an incredible burden for small platforms, and could be used as a mechanism for widespread censorship. This is why figures like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee came out so strongly against the directive. – The Verge

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Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade, by Charles Hugh Smith

There’s no arguing with Charles Hugh Smith on his list; life in the US has gotten much uglier the last ten years. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

The confidence and hubris of those directing the rest of us to race off the cliff while they watch from a safe distance is off the charts.
The past decade of “recovery” and “growth” has actually been a decade of catastrophic losses for our society and nation. Here’s a short list of what we’ve lost:
1. Functioning markets. Free markets discover price and assess risk. What passes for markets now are little more than signaling devices to convince us the economy is doing spectacularly well. It is doing spectacularly well, but only for the top .1% of 1% and the class of managerial/technocrat flunkies and apologists who serve the interests of the top .1%.
2. Genuine Virtue. Parading around a slogan or online accusation, “liking” others in whatever echo-chamber tribe the virtue-signaler is seeking validation in, and other cost-free gestures–now signals virtue. Genuine virtue–sacrificing the support of one’s tribe for principles that require skin in the game–has disappeared from the public sphere and the culture.
3. Civility. As Scientific American reported in its February issue (The Tribalism of Truth), the incentive structure of largely digital “tribes” rewards the most virulent, the most outrageous, the least reasonable and the most vindictive of the tribe with “likes” while offering little to no encouragement of restraint, caution, learning rather than shouting, etc.
The cost of gaining tribal encouragement is essentially zero, while the risk of ostracism from the tribe is high. In a society with so few positive social structures, the self-referentially toxic digital tribe may be the primary social structure for atomized “consumers” in a dysfunctional system dominated by a rigged “market” and a central state that no longer needs the consent of the governed.
Common ground, civility, the willingness to listen and learn–all lost.
4. Trust. Few find reason to trust corporations, the corporate media, the tech monopolies or the government. This distrust is reasonable, given these institutions have squandered the public trust to protect the swag being skimmed by insiders and elites.
Rather than earn our trust with true transparency and accurate reporting of data, these institutions spew a false form of transparency that’s doubly opaque, as it’s rigged to mask the skims of the insiders. Transparency: lost. Accountability: lost.
Do you really trust Facebook, Google, and the agencies that are supposed to provide oversight of these monopolies? If you said, “yes,” you’re joking, right?