Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Bill Thompson on why Europe has to take back the web from US hegemony. A bit emotional but very interesting position. Something I feel some empathy for.

From The Register
First sighted on David Farber's List

Damn the Constitution: Europe must take back the Web
By Bill Thompson
Posted: 09/08/2002 at 14:01 GMT

Guest Opinion I've had enough of US hegemony. It's time for change -and a closed European network.

Today's Internet is a poor respecter of national boundaries, as many repressive governments have found to their cost. Unfortunately this freedom has been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium. If the price of being online is to swallow US values, then many may think twice about using the Net at all, and if the only game online follows US rules, then many may decide not to play.

We have already seen US law, in the form of Digital Millennium Copyright Act, used to persuade hosts in other countries to pull material or limit its availability. US-promoted 'anti-censor' software is routinely provided to enable citizens of other countries to break local laws; and US companies like Yahoo! disregard the judgements of foreign courts at will.

Congressman Howard Berman's ridiculous proposal to give copyright holders immunity from prosecution if they hack into P2P networks is the latest attempt by the US Congress to pass laws that will directly affect every Internet user, because no US court would allow prosecution of a company in another jurisdiction when immunity is granted by US law.

Unless we can take back the Net from the libertarians, constitutional lawyers and rapacious corporations currently recreating the worst excesses of US political and commercial culture online, we will end up with an Internet which serves the imperial ambitions of only one country instead of the legitimate aspirations of the whole world.

While this would greatly please the US, it would not be in the interests of the majority of Internet users, who want a network that allows them to express their own values, respects their own laws and supports their own cultures and interests.

US domination has been going on for so long that many see it as either inevitable or desirable. 'They may have their problems but at least they believe in democracy, free speech and the market economy', the argument goes. Yet today's United States is a country which respects freedom so much that if I, a European citizen, set foot there I can be interned without any notice or due process, tried by a military tribunal and executed in secret.

It has a government which respects free speech yet tries to persuade postal workers to spy on people as they delivered their mail. Its Chief Executive illegally sold shares when in possession of privileged information about an impending price crash. ICANN, the body it established to manage DNS, had to be ordered by a court to let one of its own directors examine the company accounts for fear he may discover something untoward. And elected representatives -like the aforementioned Howard Berman -are paid vast amounts by firms lobbying for laws which serve their corporate interests.

These are clearly not the people who should be setting the rules for the Net's evolution. Unfortunately today's Internet, with its permissive architecture and lack of effective boundaries or user authentication, makes it almost impossible to resist this technological imperialism.

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