By Philip Lee, WACC Deputy-Director of Programs
||WACC’s latest No-nonsense guide asks what restrictions, if any, should be placed on the Internet. As a church-related organization working for communication rights, WACC seeks ethical guidelines for digital media platforms.
The Internet is a vital part of today’s communications scene. But it is under threat from governments intent on stifling freedom of expression and from global corporations intent on levying high charges for access.
WACC’s six-page No-Nonsense guide to...The Great Internet Grab explores the issues surrounding Internet censorship, Net neutrality, and affordable access. In part it is a response to WACC’s Strategic Plan 2012-2016, which stresses the need for greater access to information and communication for poor, marginalized, excluded and dispossessed people.
WACC General Secretary, Rev. Dr Karin Achtelstetter says, “We need to explore the obstacles and challenges surrounding digital frontiers and to examine the potential of social media to strengthen the public voice of marginalized communities.”
Neutrality is a founding principle of the Internet, ensuring that network owners, such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), do not favour some content over other content. With a few exceptions, Net neutrality is the de facto standard of non-discriminatory treatment that has regulated the traffic of digital information – until recently.
Unfortunately, many ISPs such as big telephone and cable companies are successfully quashing the network neutrality principle. Large telecommunications companies have said that, in an age of growing bandwidth use, network neutrality is neither feasible nor desirable. These companies are in a position to play gatekeeper: deciding which web sites load fast or slow, and which will not load at all.
Today, many countries engage in Internet censorship. Those with the most pervasive ﬁltering policies have been found routinely to block access to human rights organizations, news, blogs, and web services that are deemed threatening or undesirable. Others block access to single categories of Internet content, or intermittently to specific websites or network services to coincide with strategic events, such as elections or public demonstrations.
Fortunately, thousands of individuals are combating censorship through blogs and many organizations dedicate time and effort to raising awareness about Internet censorship. Some are formal organizations with prestigious memberships, while others are informal groups that are not above advocating guerrilla tactics to subverting strict policies.
The No-Nonsense guide to...The Great Internet Grab also outlines the recent controversy in the USA around the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Proponents of the legislation state it will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites.
Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage.
WACC Deputy-Director of Programs, Philip Lee, commented, “The Internet is part of the common good of today’s information and communication societies. As such it should be run honestly, transparently, and democratically.”
WACC’s No-nonsense guide to... The Great Internet Grab is freely available for electronic download here.
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