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“For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle and video from every street corner.” – Brookings Institution report.

Since I began writing this column, our government has been ceaselessly intent on controlling the Internet.

In describing the White House’s “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World” report, which among other things proposes a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” and calls on Congress to pass new legislation to regulate online businesses, Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, and Larry Downes, TechFreedom senior adjunct fellow said, “This report begins and ends as constitutional sleight-of-hand.”

He continues, “President Obama starts by reminding us of the Fourth Amendment’s essential protection against ‘unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers’ by government. But the report recommends no reform whatsoever for outdated laws that have facilitated a dangerous expansion of electronic surveillance. That is the true threat to our privacy. The report dismisses it in a footnote. Instead, the report calls for extensive new regulation of Internet businesses to address little more than the growing pains of a vibrant emerging economy.”

Conservative Action Alerts lists attempts made by our government to seize control “for our own good”, of course:

  1. They tried Net Neutrality, ultimately gaining the right to an Internet “kill-switch,” even though three federal judges told them it was unconstitutional;
  2. The FCC has worked diligently to increase regulations on Internet activity, and its members are openly hostile to First Amendment rights;
  3. SOPA and PIPA, which would have caused sweeping devastation to legitimate websites, were days away from passage when they were finally shelved due to overwhelming opposition from the American people … however, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is likely to bring back these bills by hiding them in his new cybersecurity legislation;
  4. H.R. 1981, one of the newest pieces of Internet legislation to be debated, is a huge threat to our privacy. Under the auspices of protecting our children from pornography, it is simply a cleverly-disguised way to force online service providers to spy on your online activities and provide that information to the government. H.R. 1981 is all about data retention. It requires Internet service providers to keep detailed records of your Internet activity, your name, address, bank account numbers and credit card numbers.
  5. And now most recently, the United Nations’ is attempting to impose a world tax on Internet users, especially on financial transactions.

The U.N. wants to sink its talons into the Internet, a means of communication even in the most remote parts of the world.

According to a report by Robert McDowell, the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union, or ITU, which includes Russia, China and their allies within the 193 member states, intend to renegotiate a 1988 treaty that will expand its reach into previously unregulated areas of the Internet.

“Reading even a partial list of proposals that could be codified into international law next December at a conference in Dubai is chilling,” he wrote. “If successful, these new regulatory proposals would upend the Internet’s flourishing regime, which has been in place since 1988. That year, delegates from 114 countries gathered in Australia to agree to a treaty that set the stage for dramatic liberalization of international telecommunications. This insulated the Internet from economic and technical regulation and quickly became the greatest deregulatory success story of all time.”

McDowell gives us the history of the Internet, explaining how the ITU’s grasp would alter its future as a free-flowing medium of communication.

“In 1995, shortly after it was privatized, only 16 million people used the Internet worldwide,” he writes. “By 2011, more than two billion were online – and that number is growing by as much as half a million every day. This explosive growth is the direct result of governments generally keeping their hands off the Internet sphere.”

Read the whole thing, and for what it is worth, do your part to protect our Internet freedom of speech. Please tell your member of Congress to fight hard against this U.N. encroachment upon an unfettered Internet. Better yet, drop by his or her district office and make it personal.

News has its limitations

Though I wouldn’t recommend doing it, the The Washington Post will limit the news you read to suit your preferences. The paper is experimenting with Personal Post, available at personal.washingtonpost.com, where you’ll see a river of content that you can customize.

Question: Though a lot of what we read in the news is extraneous content, why would you wall yourself off from ALL the news of the day?

Print is dead

Charging readers for news content is not the business model that will succeed for print media, according to one expert who says print is dead.

“Across the publishing industry, year-over-year declines in revenue, subscriptions and circulation are well documented,” he writes. “Print periodicals are going to go away, forced out of this world by the march of technology and changing tastes and replaced by new powerhouse brands – TMZ, Buzzfeed and HuffPo to name a few – which are poised to own the future, because they know how to adapt to (and even anticipate!) evolving user behavior.”

USA Today thinks otherwise. They’re betting $100M to stanch the blood flow of red ink. Odds are the patient will die.

Meanwhile, online media is making billions.

The social networking giant Facebook is predicted to lose its lead to Google in online U.S. display advertising revenue next year. Google is expected to capture 20 percent of the market in 2013 with $3.68 billion in sales. Facebook is projected to grab nearly 18 percent, or $3.29 billion.

When is a Facebook user posting a cry for help?

How do you know when a Facebook posting is a last-resort cry for help? When someone is telling “friends” they are at the end of their rope? What’s the difference between a “drama-du-jour” and a legitimate concern? This article points out the signs and how they should be handled. A must-read for parents.

Predicting job performance with a look at Facebook

What can a prospective employer learn from your Facebook page? Plenty, according to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. A series of two studies conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University revealed that your Facebook entries reveal if you are conscientious, extroverted, emotionally well-balanced, adventurous, open to new ideas, argumentative, in short, where you are in terms of the big five personality traits an employer is looking for in a prospective employee.

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