Thursday, May 8, 2014

Government Control of the Internet

The following was written in April 2014, as part of a response to the Campaign for Liberty's 2012 survey questionnaire for candidates running for federal office.

18. Will you support keeping our Internet free from government control and intrusion, including opposing power grabs like SOPA, CISPA, or any bill that mandates more government intervention in the internet?

     Yes, I will support keeping the Internet free from federal government intrusion, including opposing power grabs like SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and any bill that mandates more government intervention in the internet.
     I do not support giving the federal government the authority to police the internet. Senator Joe Lieberman's claim that the government needs to do this because China has a similar authority borders on absurdity, as does the idea that we should be reassured that the federal government will only use such a power to shut down particular websites instead of the entire internet.
     I believe that the federal government cannot be trusted to wield such a power because of the potential for that power to be utilized in order to spy on Americans, as well as to shut down websites which may host information that could expose crimes committed by public officials. Given the recently publicized revelation of the National Security Agency's Presidential Surveillance Program, this should evoke concerns about federal homeland security apparati encroaching upon civil liberties which states and local governments would rather continue to protect.
     While it is important to balance the federal government's power regarding internet policy, we should not necessarily automatically trust the states or the industries (in the case of intellectual property violations) to do so.
     While it would not violate the Constitution for state and local governments and their police departments to respectively regulate and police the internet, the surveillance and civil liberties problems would likely still be present. It might suit some states to urge citizens to report crimes and even suspicious behavior which they witness on the internet, and to use warrants and proper investigation instead of roving, warrantless internet monitoring by police.
     Additionally, it would not be appropriate to allow private industry to regulate the internet at any level of government. For industries to prosecute all alleged intellectual property violations as the law now stands would put tens of millions of Americans in prison. Peer-to-peer file-sharing is an act of copying and sharing an item following the legal purchase thereof; not an action which results in any diminished ability of the party possessing the copied good to continue to derive utility from owning it.
     I will vote to oppose all federal legislation concerning the regulation and policing of the internet, including proposed national taxes on internet sales, and regulation to deter online piracy (on the grounds that it is a victimless crime and that stronger limitations are needed on grants of intellectual property rights).

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