Net neutrality and the drive to censor the internet


HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

Isn’t it grand to live under corporate feudalism? 

Wednesday’s move by the Trump administration to end net neutrality marks a milestone in the offensive by the US government and major corporations to put an end to the free and open internet, paving the way for widespread government censorship of oppositional news and analysis.

Trump represents in-your-face naked and ugly oligarchic power, but the attack on the Internet and free speech is a bipartisan effort on behalf of the duopoly’s owners, the billionaire class, which also owns the cable industry pushing for this disaster. The problem is capitalism in free-fall degeneracy, and the Democrats, as the long record of failures and betrayals shows, are no solution to this either.

Under the current law, upheld by numerous court decisions and reaffirmed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015, companies that provide internet access to users, known as internet service providers (ISPs), cannot block or impede their users’ access to any website or service.

But the draft proposal published by FCC chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday, and expected to sail through the approval process next month, would put an end to the decades-long treatment of internet services as a public utility, allowing the internet monopolies Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon full ability to block, throttle and promote internet traffic at will.

The power that is being handed to a few corporations is staggering. Now, these giant monopolies, which have already demonstrated that they act as proxies for the government by collaborating in the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance programs, will be able to block access to entire websites.


This will allow them to block or limit access to websites, such as the World Socialist Web Site, WikiLeaks and other sources of politically critical news, entirely at their discretion, as well as peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which were used by news outlets to bypass censorship in the past.

The ending of net neutrality will also have a substantial economic impact. By scrapping most government regulation of the internet giants, the ISPs will be able to use their monopoly power to jack up prices for consumers. While most people will be relegated to a slow and largely censored internet, the ability to communicate information freely will be reserved for those who can pay exorbitant premium rates.


SIDEBAR

Published on Jul 20, 2017

Moreover, by forcing content providers to pay for premium access, the ending of net neutrality threatens to massively entrench existing communications monopolies, while restricting access to smaller businesses and user-supported sites and services, which will not have the financial resources to compete with the technology and media giants. ISPs will be free to increase costs for smaller sites and services, potentially driving them out of business.

Major media outlets, which have for years been inveighing against the independent blogs, websites and other news outlets that gained readership at their expense, will no doubt seek to use the ruling to bring to bear their economic leverage to regain their former control over the political discourse.

The power that is being handed to a few corporations is staggering. The four largest telecommunications companies control more than 75 percent of high-speed internet service. More than half of American households have only one ISP to chose from, and most other households have only two providers to choose from.

Now, these giant monopolies, which have already demonstrated that they act as proxies for the government by collaborating in the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance programs, will be able to block access to entire websites.

While the major social media and content distribution companies, including Facebook and Google, have claimed to oppose the move, they do so entirely from the standpoint that ending net neutrality will give internet service providers greater power to compete with their businesses.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which owns YouTube, have made clear that they fully support internet censorship, which is the essential content of the ending of net neutrality.

This week, Facebook announced that it would notify users when they read content from accounts accused by US intelligence agencies of spreading “Russian propaganda,” creating a backlist of outlets presenting critical sources of news and analysis.

This followed the announcement by Google executive Eric Schmidt that the company would “de-rank” RT, Sputnik and what it called “those kinds of sites,” in its search and news products. This is an open-ended statement of intent to censor not just Russia-connected news sites, but effectively all political opposition. Schmidt’s comments were a confirmation of statements by the World Socialist Web Site that Google is seeking to limit access to sites based on political criteria.

Google’s YouTube, meanwhile, has gone on a censorship spree, taking down videos and banning and demonetizing channels it claims are spreading “extremist” views.

The ending of net neutrality plays a key role in this censorship drive. Under conditions that existed prior to the ending of net neutrality, users were able to bypass these forms of heavy-handed censorship by turning to smaller and more open platforms to find and share information.

But with the ending of net neutrality, the social media and streaming monopolies will be able, by cutting deals with the ISPs, to strangle their upstart competitors, keeping users locked into platforms that increasingly serve as little more than distribution networks for state-approved propaganda.

Billions of people all over the world have embraced the internet precisely because it promised a free and unimpeded way to access and share information. Oppositional and socialist organizations, excluded for decades from the public discourse by the effective monopoly exercised by major newspapers, TV, and radio stations, found an audience hungry for information suppressed by the increasingly discredited establishment media.

The government’s lies—from the “weapons of mass destruction” that justified the invasion of Iraq, to government complicity with Islamist organizations it was supposedly fighting in the “war on terror,” to mass surveillance and the corrupt and oligarchic nature of American politics—have been exposed by internet publications.

Now, under conditions of a mounting war threat and soaring social inequality, public access to alternative sources of information is seen as an intolerable threat, to be shut off and suppressed.

Internet communications are not a luxury, but a vital social need and should be treated as a public utility. However, under conditions in which three billionaires control as much wealth as half the US population, and all of social and economic life is controlled by a shrinking number of powerful corporations, the provision of all social rights, from communications to the most basic necessities of public infrastructure, are treated as privileges available only to the increasingly small sliver of the population that is able to pay for them.

The demand for the most basic social rights, including the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, comes into conflict with the capitalist system.

The defense of a free and open internet is inseparably bound up with the struggle against capitalism, based on the independent and international mobilization of the working class around a socialist program.

The massive and bloated technology monopolies, who now see their primary function as being the blocking, not the dissemination, of information, must be seized and turned into publicly owned utilities, with the aim of providing the entire world’s combined knowledge to the whole global population.

—Andre Damon 


About the Author
Andre Damon is a senior political analyst with the wsws.org, a socialist publication currently under attack by Google, as is this very site, The Greanville Post and other dissident sites. 
ANDRE DAMON—Billions of people all over the world have embraced the internet precisely because it promised a free and unimpeded way to access and share information. Oppositional and socialist organizations, excluded for decades from the public discourse by the effective monopoly exercised by major newspapers, TV, and radio stations, found an audience hungry for information suppressed by the increasingly discredited establishment media.


ADDENDUM

John Oliver, like other liberal comics, has been worthless in the fight to alert the public about the dangers posed by the duopoly’s imperialist agenda, and since Trump’s election, has joined the lynch mob trying to get rid of Trump by one means or another. Granted, Trump is simply awful, but he is not the cause of our enormous troubles but a virulent symptom of the cause, which is a decomposing capitalist system deepening all manner of social and political dysfunction, from endless wars to accelerating inequality and immiseration for the vast majority. In that sense he is not much worse than the Clintonites in the Democratic party, because, at the end of the day, both wings of the establishment are doing Wall Street’s bidding. The problem facing the American people and the world is systemic. We are attaching here also a report on the subject by Democracy Now! (which has semi-sold out to the empire, too), but this segment is nonetheless useful.

Keep the caveats in mind.

That said, take this episode of Oliver’s program on Net Neutrality as a plus in an otherwise squalid media horizon.


And also be sure to inspect this program. 

TO CLOSE…
Join the pushback against these bastards. And do not trust the Democrats either. Hold everyone to account. Extend no credit. (We are including here a segment showing that while Trump, as noted earlier, is an undiluted disaster and a coarse buffoon, his predecessor the smooth demagog Obama was no better. See why by clicking on the button, and do not forget the lesson. When we speak of a “duopoly” problem and Democratic party betrayals, we know whereof we speak. Yes, many organizations are fighting the FCC on this issue, but they remind us of Lilliputians confronting a giant. Everyone is needed!

Click on the button below for more information and join these efforts. And do NOT forget to share!!

The following statement can be attributed to Demand Progress executive director David Segal:

“Today’s announcement from President Trump’s FCC chair Ajit Pai is outrageous, but not surprising. The announcement is outrageous because the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, classifying internet provision under Title II, is a commonsense measure to safeguard the open internet that so many depend on and that has been upheld by the courts. Millions of Americans as well as internet companies, startups and innovators have supported the order. The order’s main opponents are large ISPs that have made it clear they want to subvert the public interest by manipulating internet traffic to benefit corporate bottom lines.

“Pai’s move is not surprising, though, because as a former lawyer for Verizon, he has demonstrated an unwavering resolve in siding with the industry that once employed him, rather than with the interests of everyday consumers and innovators. Pai’s plan to roll back Title II net neutrality protections is the latest in his litany of anti-consumer actions while serving as FCC chair under President Trump, including halting expansion of the Lifeline program that would deliver affordable broadband to more low-income Americans. Demand Progress and our two million members will fight Pai’s effort to dismantle net neutrality every step of the way, including a push to help drive over one million grassroots actions in opposition to his plan in the coming weeks.”

Obama’s betrayal (one of many). The fight for Net Neutrality is deja vu all over. We fought this battle in 2014, against the same corporate forces.
With our thanks to Gothamist.

Who Is Tom Wheeler And Why Is He Killing The Internet?

 
President Barack Obama speaks while former telecom industry lobbyist and current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (R) roars with laughter at the White House last year. (Getty)

Now that net neutrality is drooping at death’s door, we’re long overdue for a closer look at Tom Wheeler, who is currently the FCC chairman, before he was a lobbyist for cellphone and cable companies. Here are some things to know:

    • As the head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association from 1992 to 2004, he oversaw a number of efforts to keep the wireless industry from being hampered with too many annoying FCC regulations.
    • He also spent a number of years heading new technology start-ups, including the first company that offered high speed data delivery for home computers.
    • He’s been described as a “sharp shooter” who will stick to his guns,for better or for worse. “I think that he stepped on the toes of just about every sector of industry on one thing or another,” Andy Schwartzman, a public-interest advocate and law professor at Georgetown University, told the Wall Street Journal. “His greatest asset is that he is comfortable in his own skin, and is not looking for his next job.”
    • Before getting appointed as chairman, he spent nearly a decade working as a managing director at Core Capital Partners, a venture-capital firm that invests in small technology companies.

Does it seems fishy that Obama picked someone who pushed industry deregulation to head the federal agency that regulates said industry? It does, doesn’t it. When he was nominated, an insider told Reuters that, “All of the senators in the Commerce Committee know Tom as a lobbyist who funnels funds to them, not as a stand-up guy from a regulatory agency who is able to take heat.” But it’s probably worth pointing out that Wheeler managed to drum up about $700,000 in campaign contributions to both of Obama’s presidential runs.Rewriting rules regulating net neutrality has been on the FCC’s agenda for a while now, and in January, the agency was given an opportunity to address it when a federal appeals court ruled that ISPs could charge online companies more to stream their content faster. Lobbyists for Big Cable and Communication started pushing the FCC to loosen its hand on Internet regulation, and their efforts appear to have worked. This week, the FCC announced it will permit broadband companies to charge sites for premium pipeline service, effectively creating an Internet fast-lane for the fat cat corporations, and leaving smaller sites that can’t pay in the dust.

Wheeler has argued this proposed ruling doesn’t violate the “Open Internet” laws that have kept the World Wide Web flowing so freely over the past few decades, and that broadband companies would be closely monitored to prevent “harmful conduct.” Right!

The man who appointed Wheeler, by the way, once argued that he was a strong supporter of net neutrality. From an Obama campaign speech in 2007: “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

Yeah, okay.

 

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