Chinas Censorship Affects You
An April 14th announcement by the Chinese government revealed a new campaign to sweep out porn, [and] strike at rumors. The Chinese government said that the primary reasons for this campaign was to further crack down on pornography, but most news sites on the internet are in agreement that the campaigns goals also include silencing anti-Chinese grassroots campaigns. In just the past few weeks, many internet sites have been place under investigation, including several popular book lover sites. Over 110 websites have been shut down.
While Chinas censorship of the internet is not news to us, it calls into question the capabilities of the internet as an organ for free speech. While it is normal to enable parental controls on a computer when your child is using it, other forms of suppression might not be as understandable. Recently, institutions like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Security Agency (NSA) have been called into question for monitoring or otherwise taking actions to censor or prioritize information, accusations that would be a full frontal attack on net neutrality. But what is net neutrality, why should we preserve it, and what threats are made against it?
Network Neutrality (Net Neutrality) is defined by the New York Times as the principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers, meaning that internet providers should not be selective when pushing content to their customers. The concept is not new; the phrase was coined in 2003 by law professor Tim Wu of Columbia University, but the idea had been in circulation before Wus article on the subject was published. One may argue that net neutrality has been around since internet service providers (ISPs) have been in existence.
Consequently, since that time, the public and the private sectors have been warring over the internet. While some service providers would like to promote faster or more directed content at their readership, the general public has been pushing back, wanting to experience the internet uninhibited by filters like the ones some internet providers promote.
The struggle, which has been occurring for over 10 years now, is coming to a head as the FCC recently proposed changes that would allow companies like Disney, Netflix, or Google to establish faster connections with customers through certain service providers. While this type of favoritism is nowhere near the censorship by the Chinese government, it does call into question the concept of the internet as an open market. If certain websites will have faster streaming capabilities, then it will make it more difficult for competitors to, well, compete. This might lead to monopolization of internet-based industries, something net neutralists have been vehemently fighting against.
Preserving Net Neutrality
As you might have already noted, the concept of net neutrality is a joint issue with the issue of the free market. If lawmakers leave ISPs to their own will, then smaller businesses, who use the internet to promote their goods and services, might have less of a chance of succeeding because of big company deals with ISPs. To some, this might not seem like a big deal. After all, smaller businesses dont have the same marketing funds as local businesses. To others, the internet is the last neutral frontier, where companies have similar (but not equal) opportunities to be seen if they play their cards right.
Deciding where you stand on this issue can be tough. We should be thankful, though, that our internet is not as censored as it is in other countries of the world (for now).