Saturday, February 20, 2010
Recent reports1 indicate that Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer suggested at the Davos Economic Forum that licensure should be required for access to the internet.
What Mundie is proposing is to impose authentication. He draws an analogy to automobile use. If you want to drive a car, you have to have a license (not to mention an inspection, insurance, etc). If you do something bad with that car, like break a law, there is the chance that you will lose your license and be prevented from driving in the future.[Barbara Kiviat, Time]Most cars are operated on public streets, roads & highways, giving the government a hook for the legal requirements related to safety. But the internet is not public property. The phone lines, micro wave relays, servers and routers involved are privately owned and operated. Our internet traffic is no more the government's business than our telephone conversations.
Intoxicated or distracted drivers can cause death, injury and property damage. Drunk, drugged or multi-tasking bloggers and forum participants can't harm you. A malevolent chat room participant may be able to hack into your computer and do some damage, but not if you take proper security precautions.
No system of identification can protect us from those who maliciously spread false information or attempt to steal identifying information. Caveat emptor is the watch word. Paranoid web users can turn off browser cookies and Java Script interpreters. Every internet user is identified by a unique ISP number. When my email address was spoofed, I looked up the sender's ISP:#, and sent an email to the service provider, who notified the sender that his computer had been hijacked.
The hackers who release malicious code are likely to hide behind multiple proxies to frustrate tracing. License requirements won't alter that behavior nor will they overcome it.
Legal requirements intended to prevent anonymity present a threat to bloggers who write about controversial subject matter. The content of many of my blog posts is highly offensive to Muslims, some of whom are willing and able to kill anyone who offends them. For that reason, I avoid posting identifying information that would allow them to find me. My real name would neither increase nor decrease the authenticity or accuracy of the content I post. No license law will prevent foolish or dishonest people from posting or repeating false or malicious content.
Authority is a false god. Possession of a Phd. does not guarantee accuracy or objectivity. Interposition of an editor and publisher between the writer and reader is no guarantee either. This fact becomes clear when we reflect on the main stream media's biased reporting in the '08 Presidential campaign.
So, why should anyone want to impose licensing on bloggers? Why did King George want to limit the Colonist's access to printing presses and their output? Why do the Chinese, Iranian & Egyptian regimes imprison and torture bloggers? Censorship is the tyrant's way of preserving his grip on power. In a relatively free society, censorship is the first rung on the ladder to tyranny.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis added.]Two centuries ago, speech and press were the most efficient means of communication. The founding fathers enshrined freedom of speech and press in the Constitution as a safeguard against establishment of tyranny. We remain free to criticize candidates for elective office as well as sitting officers. In modern times we have new technologies, the use of which should be protected by the same organic law for the same reason. While the technology has changed, the basic concept remains unchanged. We need to be free to communicate facts and opinions about issues related to our liberty and prosperity.
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. [Emphasis added.]
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
- abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
Even if Mundie is not motivated by political considerations, the Democrat Party is, as evidenced by several Senators who advocate the restoration of the "Fairness Doctrine". His suggestion, along with the "Net Neutrality" movement, can only increase the urge to censor.
When CBS News published a false and malicious story about Shrub's military career, based on forged documents, it was an unlicensed blogger whose expert consultants exposed the documents as forgeries. Because the forgeries fit their template, the main stream media resisted the truth for an extended period of time. That incident, more than any other that comes to mind, illustrates the need to maintain freedom of communication.