Facebook’s Drones Will Battle Google’s Balloons to Spread Internet Access (1)
Occasionally getting out of communications range is healthy for all of us,” added Google co-founder Sergey Brin, “but if it’s part of your daily life and you don’t have access to the information and the ability to communicate with people important to you that’s a real disadvantage. (2)
Free internet for all. How wonderful, how revolutionary, how liberating.
Or is it?
We all know that there is “no free lunch” but free internet, yes, please. Following our recent posts, let us, however, turn our minds to one question:
Is the internet actually FREE and could it ever be?
- Free of cost?
- Free of control of information and censorship?
Firstly, the internet infrastructure and running costs are high and include charges to get and keep sites up, servers working, maintain equipment and WiFi transmissions, data storage and any advancements in technology. Even when states and governments are willing to provide free internet access to their countries the costs will still be paid by the citizens, yet this time in the form of taxes, hence, not exactly free. That means the costs will be there in any form or another.
But what about the freedom of speech?
Websites are owned and run by the individuals/businesses/governments, etc. In a sense a website is the web-home of these individuals or entities. And just like a home, when you disagree with the opinion of your guest, you are free to ask them to leave and limit their further access to your (virtual) place of residence.This leaves one the option to express their feelings by creating their own website/blog/forum.
But there is also the actual censorship and limiting of spread of ideas and information.
“Reporters without borders” have created a map to visualize which parts of the world are free of and which are being under pervasive censorship.
Image courtesy: archive.evanyou.me/censorship/
Another interactive surveillance map is available from the OpenNet Initiative: http://map.opennet.net/
Interestingly enough, the most censored content seems to come from blogs (a web log or an internet diary) – the place where one should be free to share freely his own opinions and experiences. In terms of profile, the Locally focused NGOs and especially the Political parties are being most tightly controlled.
There goes the question of the actual process and methodology of applying virtual control:
There are the freedom-heroes, the flagmans of the free sharing.
In an interview in December 2015 for VICE, Peter Sunde, founder of The Pirate Bay torrent sharing site shares his opinion on the state of internet and his concerns that the internet is being treated as a separate thing and not a society building element. (3)
We have been growing up with an understanding of the importance of things like a telephone line or television. So if we would start to treat our telephone lines or TV channels like we treat the internet, people would get really upset. If someone would tell you, you can’t call a friend, you would understand then that this is a very bad thing that is happening. You understand your rights. But people don’t have that with the internet. If someone would tell you, you can’t use Skype for that and that, you don’t get the feeling it’s about you personally.
Peter Sunde, Founder of The Pirate Bay
There are movements against the internet control, protests against SOPA and PIPA bills, supported by giant websites like Wikipedia and Reddit, Google, Mozilla and Flickr, uniting against the limiting of online ‘freedom of speech, websites, and Internet communities‘ (4)
The surveillance, censorship and control of the internet is not only a subject of social unrest but also on serious work and research.
The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) is an organization with the participation of three institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa). Their aim is to
investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. We intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area.
ONI provides articles, profiles and analyses, and reports for different regions and countries of the world and their means of surveillance and restrictions of the free speech and free access to information.(5)
What is the moral if almost everything is being censored?
Firstly, everything has its cost. Free of charge/free to express/quality of information. A triangle of choice. Pick one side.
Secondly, one needs to be critical to any type of information you have “free access” to. And critical means not criticizing but taking it “cum grano salis” (with a grain of salt) and do more research, compare sources, investigate science journals, question authorities and build your own opinion and position.
The free internet access might be gifted by a company or government under a project, yet the free access to quality information should be deserved with active participation of our minds and not served as a ready dish.