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[ NNSquad ] Why Preserving an Open Internet is Now the Most Important Thing in the World

 Why Preserving an Open Internet is Now the Most Important Thing in the World


Almost a year ago, in "Why the Internet is the Most Important Thing in
the World" ( http://j.mp/ixeLqr [Lauren's Blog] ), I suggested that
the Net had gained this status due to its massive and increasing role
as the infrastructure for all manner of electronic communications and
information accessibility on the planet, and as such had become the
preeminent enabler for solving all manner of critical problems facing
the global community.

In the months since then, we've seen battles over SOPA and PIPA --
both pushed back for now, though anyone who believes the RIAA and MPAA
are just taking their marbles and going home should consider the
discount purchase of a classic old bridge connecting Manhattan and
Brooklyn.  In fact, the entertainment behemoths have made it clear
that this is only Round One.

We've seen the F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) regarding "cyberwar"
ratcheted up to a fever pitch -- especially by those parties in a
position to handsomely profit from the cybersecurity arms race --
giving birth to CISPA legislation that I consider to
be highly problematic and potentially dangerous in its current
form ( http://j.mp/HIO8ud [Lauren's Blog] ).

Around the world, countries are generally not becoming more open
regarding the Internet, they're become less so, sometimes dramatically
less so.
This isn't happening only in China, but also in Australia, India,
Great Britain -- and elsewhere, including here in the U.S.A. as well.

All manner of ostensibly reasonable justifications -- from politics to
security to economics (and of course "protecting children") -- are
being flogged for all possible advantages by those parties who prefer
a tightly controlled and censored Internet, rather than an open one.
I choose to assume that the purveyors of a restricted Internet truly
believe in their causes and mean no evil, even though I feel that
their models could easily morph the Internet from a wonder into a

And then there are the various Web services' so-called "walled 
gardens" -- the most obvious of which is Facebook, which has become 
something of the "roach motel" of user data -- the raw material of the 
social graph flows in, but very little can be viewed or searched 
from the outside.

In general, as increasing amounts of Web activity become entrapped
inside closed ecosystems, whether Web-based per se or within
"restrictive app"-environments (though not all app environments need
be restrictive) -- the Open Internet become less and less ... open.

Google's co-founder Sergey Brin recently discussed his concerns about
the deterioration of the Open Internet ( http://j.mp/I6cNc3 [Google+] ).

I think he was 100% spot on the mark, but some observers have
suggested that his comments simply represented Google's economic

Obviously, Google's fortunes are largely tied to the Open Internet,
without which, services such as broad-ranging search and many other
key functionalities would be impossible.

But this does not in any way invalidate Sergey's commentary.  

Because in many respects Google's ability to "organize the world's
information and make it universally accessible and useful" (as noted
in their mission statement) is very much a direct measure of the
Internet's openness for all of us.

Google thus becomes the designated target for those forces who wish to
remake the Internet into a meek, censored, tightly controlled shadow
of itself.  And at the same time Google becomes something of a proxy
for all of us who depend upon the Open Internet -- even those persons
who never use any Google services.

This is the fundamental reason why we see Google at the center of so
many battles related to the "soul" of the Internet.

Yes, Google's business model is largely dependent on the Open Internet
to succeed, the same Open Internet that is in all of our best
interests -- all of us who are true believers in freedom of speech,
civil rights, and equitable access to information, that is.  And that
category of "true believers" also includes everyone I've ever known at
Google, irrespective of economic issues.

Ultimately though, this isn't about Google at all, no matter how
disingenuously "closed Internet" advocates attempt to frame their

An Open Internet is increasingly absolutely essential to freedom of
communications, freedom to search, freedom to learn, and just about
every other freedom you or I could list.

Communications.  Information.  It is through these concepts, these
realities, that innovations are created, problems are solved,
dictators are vanquished, and the world advances.

And similarly, it is through control of these constructs, restrictions
on information and communications, that ideas are crushed, lives are
enslaved, and dictators flourish.

It has always been so, one way or another, since the dawn of mankind.

We need not posit conspiracies or secret societies to understand why
the "big picture" concerning the Open Internet is of such concern, or
why our actions now are of such crucial importance.

The Internet is the underpinning of our technological future.  That
future can be open and glorious, or it can be closed and potentially
grotesque beyond measure.

Personally, I'll vote for open and glorious, every time.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com

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