Regimes chase to rule the internet
The following excerpt was taken from The Nation online. For more, click here.
The internet has become an eyesore for the several governments that are being threatened by dissidents and newly-emerging “net-activism” and/or more recently “hack-activism”, which has taken to the streets globally. A proposal has been tabled by Russia and China at the United Nations regulatory body - the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) - for deliberation that would ultimately lead to regulating the internet; which has, so far, been a decentralised network for the free flow of information and communication.
A treaty is to be negotiated in a meeting comprising 193 nations in Dubai; this December at the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12). Such an outlandish proposal is not only problematic for the cause of “political freedoms”, but also that would defeat the very nature of connectivity, interoperability of the networks functions and so a consumer in Pakistan may only have partial access to information that the state authorises, controls and manipulates; resembling an autocracy or a tyrannical democracy.
A recent incident of such a nature was observed in Thailand where the “webmaster” was held accountable for hosting libelous comments on her website against the monarch, which is a violation of the international legal principles; where the author should be held liable as the actual offender, rather than the host of the network.
Moreover, if regulatory bodies, such as ITU, are given authority to regulate the internet - it may not remain the same, since various regimes may try to customise and tailor it to their own specific and, at times, horrendous ends. For instance, the Pakistan Telecom Authority: a regulatory authority which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Technology in Pakistan banned a micro-blogging website - Twitter - last month that reeled no positive benefits for which the service was blocked, albeit for a few unfruitful hours.
Political freedoms are pinned against socio-economic benefits, which are the effectual victims of free speech or freedom of expression on the internet, if the regimes choose to regulate the use of the various services online. The losers here are the users at home or across the digital divide or in commerce: the innovators in the internet commerce virtualisation world also known as cloud computing. One can foresee an economic cost imposed on the customer for services rendered, such as “drip pricing” to compensate for meeting the requirements and standards of the regulatory body.
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