Image Source: Freedom House.
Today, The Independent reported that the Tories' electoral manifesto promises to allow the UK government to censor the Internet. Part of this is in the name of decency, to control hate speech, terrorism and child pornography. Of course, there is a lot of leeway around how the Tories will define decency. Buzzfeed:
Wow. This shows the degree to which the MSM, an increasingly outmoded form of media, are having trouble competing with social media and the alt-media. This statement ties the MSM to the old form of nation-state authority and implies that governments will prop up and enforce the MSM's continued dominance of public discourse and the legacy media's competitiveness, at the expense of innovation and diversity of opinion. There are several problems here. The vast majority of citizens accept the need to curb child pornography and hate speech. Unfortunately, those legitimate imperatives are smokescreens, employed to quell free speech and to reinforce crumbling frameworks of authority. Ultimately, these imperatives will shape how netizens in certain jurisdictions perceive reality. If the Tories have their way, those controls will be global and defined by Britain, not the EU or the USA."'Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,' ... [the manifesto] states. 'We disagree.'When the manifesto was unveiled by Theresa May in Halifax[, UK] on Thursday morning [18 May 2017], news bulletins understandably focused on the party's taxation policy and Brexit plans rather than the technology section at the end.But the relatively oblique language hides a major change that will affect the vast majority of Britons who spend hours of their day on the internet: May's party feels it's time to stop treating the internet as an anarchic free-for-all.... In particular, Conservative advisers suggested to BuzzFeed News that a future Tory government would be keen to rein in the growing power of Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate the flow of information on the internet but have a habit of strongly resisting regulation – as the government found out when it attempted to force Facebook-owned WhatsApp to weaken its encryption after the Westminster terror attack.Pull the various tech-related manifesto pledges together and – if the polls are correct and May wins a majority in next month's election – the Conservatives could have a mandate from the British public for a significant extension of internet regulation, all based on the idea that a government's duty to protect citizens exists just as much on the internet as it does in the real world.Legislation would be introduced to protect the public from abuse and offensive material online, while everyone would have the right to wipe material that was posted when they were under 18. Internet companies would also be asked to help promote counter-extremism narratives – potentially echoing the government's Prevent programme. There would be new rules requiring companies to make it ever harder for people to access pornography and violent images, with all content creators forced to justify their policies to the government.Labour's manifesto covers some of the same ground – it pledges to keep children safe, tackles online abuse, and also allows content posted by under-18s to be wiped. But it stops short of setting out a comprehensive vision of how online culture should look and feel – and what role the government should have in enforcing these moral judgments. The Conservative manifesto has no such qualms.Ultimately it all comes back to the idea that, after 20 years of widespread internet usage in the UK, the Conservative leadership feels the internet is having such an enormous effect on society that it cannot be left alone.'Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline,' the Conservative manifesto says, giving its justification for a new level of regulation.'It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically.'New laws will be introduced to implement these rules, forcing internet companies such as Facebook to abide by the rulings of a regulator or face sanctions: 'We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law.'A levy on tech companies – similar to that charged on gambling companies – would also be used to 'support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms'. The Conservatives even see this model going further, announcing their desire to work with other countries develop a global set of internet regulation standards similar to those 'we have for so long benefited from in other areas like banking and trade'.May's manifesto also raises concerns about online news, warning it is willing to 'take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy', while pledging to 'ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online'.One Tory source told BuzzFeed News this final comment relates to Google and Facebook's growing dominance of the advertising market, which the newspaper industry believes is crushing its business model. The source suggested that if the web giants failed to act voluntarily then they could be forced by legislation to find ways to financially compensate traditional news producers."
The Brexiteers' view, from a conservative, politically incorrect cartoonist. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Ben Garrison.
This is a complex topic, which also embraces the economy. In an earlier post, I argued that Brexit indicated that Britain was shifting its economic focus, from Euro-Britain to Silicon Britain. Beneath the politicized racists-against-multiculturalists uproar, this was Brexit's true concern. Thus, it is critical to understand how the Tories intend to build Silicon Britain. Perfidious Albion - at least her Little England portion - has the Germans gnashing their teeth. But this is all about business and the never-ending quest for upward mobility. The Brits who know this do not care whom they offend or what values they betray:
It's all onwards, then, into the future. And if you work in the tech sector or the open source underground, never fear, because they will deprive you of your corporate masters and your crowd-funding. Then they will place honey pots before you, to draw you into the service of HM government:"Britain’s future prosperity will be built on our technical capability and creative flair. Through our modern industrial strategy and digital strategy, we will help digital companies at every stage of their growth. We will help innovators and startups, by encouraging early stage investment and considering further incentives under our worldleading Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. We will help digital businesses to scale up and grow, with an ambition for many more to list here in the UK, and open new offices of the British Business Bank in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newport, specialising in the local sector. As we set out in chapter one, we will ensure digital businesses have access to the best talent from overseas to compete with anywhere in the world. This will be complemented by at least one new institute of technology in the UK, dedicated to world-leading digital skills and developed and run in partnership with the tech industry. When we leave the European Union, we will fund the British Business Bank with the repatriated funds from the European Investment Fund."
You can read the Tories' manifesto, Forward, Together, here. The final part of the manifesto "Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age," starts on page 75 (page 77 in the whole PDF)."We will incubate more digital services within government and introduce digital transformation fellowships, so that hundreds of leaders from the world of tech can come into government to help deliver better public services."
Vote Tory for children to have a tax code that tells them, their employer, etc, that they were the result of rape. pic.twitter.com/w8g6jtSXzW— Jack Xatzinikolas (@MxJackMonroe) May 19, 2017
Aside from the Tories' moral and qualitative language, their veiled online imperialism, and the free speech issue, there are three interesting jurisdictional and philosophical questions evident in Forward, Together: alt-globalism; corporations' challenges to nation-states; and the cyber body politic.
First, the Internet is an international entity, and its influence is eroding nation-states' authority. This is an ironic, de facto challenge to the New World Order of globalism. Globalism has already arrived, and not as planned. This is internationalism, conceived beyond 20th century terms. I believe this alt-globalist or alt-internationalist outcome has come as a genuine surprise for those following the 20th century globalist plan.
The original globalist NWO idea: George H. W. Bush New World Order Quotes. Video Source: Youtube.
The Internet undermines the very concept of the nation-state, or groups of nation-states. The nation-state was conceived as a modern reaction to absolutism and monarchism. A post-Postmodern virtual reaction now attacks political modernism. In a hybrid future, netizens my claim dual citizenship, based on their geo-political residency and their virtual community affiliations. In any event, the problem cannot be framed entirely in conventional terms.
Freedom House's Freedom on the Internet report for 2016. Countries which enjoyed free Internet communications were marked in pale pink. An 'overall scores' page showed that the most free Internet countries in the world were, in descending order: Estonia, Iceland, Canada, the USA, and Germany (i.e., among those studied - Scandinavia and New Zealand were not assessed, nor were a number of European and South American countries). Image Source: Freedom House via Ezega. In 2016, Go Globe ranked the most free countries, in descending order, as: Iceland, Estonia, Canada, Germany.
Every year, Freedom House publishes studies on freedom of the press and freedom of the Internet. In the map above, notice how they are still examining the question in nation-state terms. These were their key findings for 2016:
- Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.
- Two-thirds of all internet users — 67 percent — live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship.
- Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. Globally, 27 percent of all internet users live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely “liking” content on Facebook.
- Governments are increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which can spread information quickly and securely.
The second major feature which the Tories' manifesto highlighted was the fact that tech giants like Google and Facebook potentially harbour more wealth and power than nation-states or their MSM mouthpieces. Tech corporations are like new Vaticans. Awareness of this threat to state sovereignty is evident in the UK conservatives' plan for worldwide Internet censorship standards, which will target these corporations and their users. The implication here is that nation-states, and specifically a Tory-led UK, must remain dominant when defining Internet freedom.
Most discussions on this topic focus on how much countries suppress their citizens' rights to express ideas on social media. The mode of analysis automatically presumes the existence of the nation-state, with corporations as upstarts. When it comes to censorship, tech giants are proving as interested as states are. States and corporations sometimes cooperate, and occasionally compete, to control their users.
States and corporations are not the only players here. Gradually, projects like the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), recognize non-national and non-corporate terms of online censorship and free expression. Internet users exist in some ways which confirm state and corporate power. In other ways, netizens diverge to inhabit a separate, cyber body politic.
World Economic Forum: Unrestricted access to the Internet is not a universal right 67% of internet users face censorship. (21 December 2016) Video Source: Youtube.
Click to enlarge. Infographic by: GO Globe Hong Kong.
The Cyber Body Politic
One can see how real-versus-virtual legal jurisdictions could evolve into dual- or multi-track systems of competing modes of governance; offline-online ways of life; and manifold mentalities, all held simultaneously.
Co-existence in virtual and real spheres raises the concern of whether netizens will reside in extra-legal, supra-national and non-commercial spaces. Would they have to move physically to the countries with greatest Internet freedom to enjoy these spaces, such as Iceland or Canada? Or could they build online portals to enter free Internet jurisdictions from anywhere on earth?
Consider the infinite possibilities from a civil rights perspective. For example, could a person be married to one person in real reality, and polygamously married to another person in virtual reality? Could a person vote online in his or her online communities over virtual community concerns, in spheres distinct from his or her real world citizenship? Can decentralized online governance and economies function in virtual communities and be decoupled from real world entities?
Can all these ideas be separated from the technological corporations' architecture of private jurisdictions, judgements, and interests? For example, in 2012, Facebook toyed with introducing a Facebook passport card. Imagine having a real world passport, a Facebook identi-card, a Google card, and a passport indicating your affiliations in virtual communities in the non-corporate Internet. All of this implies new citizenships, politics, laws, economies, currencies and mentalities.
Beneath their 20th century language, the UK Tories are plainly aware of the incredible implications of all these questions. They are moving aggressively to control the conversation so that Silicon Britain manifests as Silicon Thatcherism:
Theresa May's Conservatives are likely to win the election, and likely to fail in founding their new imperium for online Albion under the guise of keeping everyone - including non-UK citizens! - 'safe.' The Internet comprises a collective unconscious, constantly growing past surveillance and crack downs. It represents the agility of the human mind, exploring with a radical tool, never before conceived. The notion that this collectivity can be ring-fenced by 18th, 19th and 20th century ideas of political identification and social awareness is ludicrous. Every attempt to control the cyber body politic will spawn new cyber-neural pathways, coalescing at new crossroads of 'ungovernability.' Before that happens, though, the open source community may have to invent a separate Internet with different protocols."For hundreds of years, the United Kingdom has determined the rules and formed the environment where new ideas and new technologies prosper – from financial markets to the steam train to human embryology and the code of life itself. Our wealth and security as a nation is founded on our ability to shape the future not just for ourselves but for the world. Now we must do it again, to create the rules-based framework in which the new technologies can create prosperity and growth."