Controlling the Web Is the Dream (and the Nightmare), Authoritarian governments regulate what their citizens can see online. The U.S. lets tech companies make similar decisions.

“The bureaucracy has not been born that doesn’t grab for more power whenever it can.”

 

(2011)

 

Some people will happily give up every bit of liberty they have for perceived safety. There is no end to the fear of some. There are always those who are inclined to rush together and into the holding pen. This is the natural tendency of many humans.

But we also have another streak in us as a species. A rebellious streak. Many of the herded resent the the rebellious ones however.

“What are you trying to do? The farmer gives us food. Don’t screw that up. Just get in line and walk with the rest of the herd into this dark building where the meat grinders are. Don’t worry. Everything is fine.”

(From Bloomberg View)

Regulating the flow of information has been the goal of every tyrant ever since Emperor Qin Shi Huang burned the books in 213 B.C. in the hope that later generations would believe that history had begun with his reign. 1  Nowadays one country after another wants the ability to control its own intranet — or at least to throw a kill switch.

Shutting off the web has proved easier than many imagined. When Hosni Mubarak’s regime ordered Egyptian telecoms to close down their internet service during the Arab Spring of 2011, traffic slowed to just about zero. Nowadays China’s Great Firewall is the best-known effort to restrict what a population can find online, but countries around the world are doing their best to follow Beijing’s example.
There are those who would love to “tame” the Internet once and for all. For the good of the country of course. Many of these people think they can get Twitter and Facebook to do their totalitarian bidding. And they may be correct. But if these companies take any money anywhere from the US taxpayer, and they still seek to censor speech, they likely have a big problem. Crony companies have a more substantial burden than non-crony companies. If your company takes taxpayer funds you are subject to much closer scrutiny, particularly on matters of speech.