The internet is a phenomenon that is somewhat unique to our generation of college students. Before the 1990’s, the vast majority of students had to read newspapers, receive and pay money in checks, and actually go to the Library for the vast majority of their research – spending endless hours perusing the available volumes. But at the end of the day the internet is what you make of it. It can be a used for research, an entertainment provider, or a propaganda machine. The last of these things, while seeming the least likely, is perhaps the most important. Because the internet is one of the last largely unregulated sectors of human life.
Recently, congress began work on introducing the IP Act, which was a bill intended to help cut down on websites that provided access to either counterfeit or copyrighted goods, or that were simply scams to begin with. While the intentions were noble in hoping to stop people from themselves in the online region, the bill has attracted justified criticism from most libertarian thinkers. The CATO institute outlines potential problems with the bill, most notably the philosophical confliction that arose from the United States pro-accessibility stance regarding foreign nations. The United States government believes that the more citizens of oppressive regimes have access to the internet, the more effective of a tool it can be in establishing democracy and accountability on a global scale. So what kind of message does it send when we are cutting back on websites and freedom of speech in our own country through blocking domains?
This problem might seem somewhat less troubling if, in past examples, the government had decided to halt its regulation once the root of the underlying problem had been dealt with. However, due in part to the self-accruing power-hungry nature of government, as well as the fact that regulations rarely solve the original problem in the first place, government has the tendency to do the exact opposite. If we go down this road, the time may come in the near future where you need a permit to post on Facebook, write a blog, or tweet. The internet is something that should be self-regulated. Reviews, feedback and user comments serve as a much more effective way of judging an online provider’s services than any bureaucratic agency would, and setting legal precedent for the increased regulation of domains would serve to ruin the effectiveness of the internet as a tool for all of us.
Have a great Christmas break, folks.