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A Private European Internet? 697

Posted by chrisd
from the dns-is-a-consensus-reality dept.
jakemk2 writes "Bill Thompson writing in The Register advocates a private European Internet to stop the fact that it has "been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium" Read it here" His logical fallacy is , of course, thinking that the US has a monopoly on this kind of thing.
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A Private European Internet?

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  • It's been only a bit more than 10 year that the Berlin wall went down, I think it's time we isolate Europe again.
    • Damn, I would've NEVER expected you.
    • The funny part is, if the EU cuts off the US, they also cut most of their connections to each other. Seems that their well-regulated telco monopolies can't seem to agree on how to set up peering arrangements, so large chunks of the intra-Europe IP traffic goes by way of New York and Washington DC.

      Okay, I get it, he hates America and thinks that if anyone is going to excercise hegemony over European nations, it should be other European nations. Dumbass, it's called "Divide and Conquer", if the large multi-nationals (which these days are no more American than they are Bermudan, which is where they are theoretically based) wanted to make rebuilding the Internet in their image easier, they'd start by splitting it up into chunks that were easier to manage.

      There *are* two spaces, always have been. One where we eat, piss, and fuck, and another where we think, converse, cooperate, and compete. That dichotomy has always been there, all the internet did was remove the last of the trappings of a connection. There's entire worlds in there, I know because I've helped build a couple of them, that have nothing to do with meatspace.

      --Dave Rickey

      • The funny part is, if the EU cuts off the US, they also cut most of their connections to each other. Seems that their well-regulated telco monopolies can't seem to agree on how to set up peering arrangements, so large chunks of the intra-Europe IP traffic goes by way of New York and Washington DC.

        Erm... The whole point is to build a network that doesn't go via the US, precisely to avoid any possible abuse on the other side of the Atlantic. Given the sorts of peering arrangements available between, say, UK ISPs at LINX, whatever makes you think this would be particularly hard to do?

  • World Peace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SirSlud (67381) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:11PM (#4041291) Homepage
    I remember people saying how the Internet would bring us all together. You know, no borders, that silly stuff.

    Ironically, its proving that due to its non-geographical nature, you dont actually have to _have_ a border to fight over - you can just invent one at your own whim! Think about it .. subnets - the world's new holy lands, only this time you can add as many as you like if things get too homogonized for your liking. ;)

    And please take this with a grain of salt, I'm only half-kidding.
    • by unicron (20286)
      The entire thing is so ridiculous that it's not even worth putting thought into. To think that any one establishment, even the US Government, can control something like the internet to any degree is laughable. That's like saying "Europeans unhappy with the way the US government has been aligning the planets".
      • Re:World Peace (Score:2, Insightful)

        >To think that any one establishment, even the US Government, can control something like the internet to any degree is laughable.

        Thats a load of rubbish. If the government says to the ISP's stop connecting to outside countries then they have to. It would be the Law. All you have to do is turn off the phone lines. Once you stop other countries from interfereing with your bit of the web you register the servers and your away. Spend £100Million and you can censor the whole thing. simple.
        • by unicron (20286)
          Well, in America, it wouldn't be law. I don't know about Europe, but here in America, a law like that would have a snowballs chance in hell of getting approved.

          As for me saying the U.S. Goverment couldn't control the internet, it's true. No government could. They probably wouldn't even be able to control their aspect of it. The internet is no one country, no one ISP, no one firewall, no one server. Even if they blocked every ISP in Europe from getting out, people would still find away.
          • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:58PM (#4041747)
            Well, in America, it wouldn't be law. I don't know about Europe, but here in America, a law like that would have a snowballs chance in hell of getting approved.

            Ahem. Don't count on it, and above all do not be complacent!

            What do you thing the DMCA was a step toward.

            Or what the SSSCA, DRM, etc. are an attempt to do now.

            The US government has historically taken every new communications medium out of the hands of the common man, whether it was the telephone (a mandated monopoly for AT&T that lasted 70 years and put dozens of competitors out of business, overnight), radio, television (the FCC taking the once-free airwaves and restricting them to use by only those who could afford the payoff ... I mean, "fees", yeah, that's right, "fees"), etc.

            All in the fine tradition of the British Crown, who invented copyright for the sole purpose of controlling who would, and would not, be permitted to own and operate a printing press, lest something the Crown disapproved of be disseminated to the masses or, even worse, the masses be able to communicate en mass amongst themselves.

            Make no mistake about it, the Copyright Cartels and their tame politicians are making every effort to do the same to the Internet right now, under the guise of copyright protection, digital rights management, and laws making the disconnection of a controviersial website the default mode, rather than an exception requiring signficiant judicial review and perhaps even a trial beforehand (as was the case pre-DMCA).

            Do nothing, do not speak out, and they will likely succeed, with nary a concern for the economic impact that would have on the next several generations of people. Just ask any of the many entrepreneurs who at one time competed against AT&T, before AT&T managed to buy legislation granting them a monopoly ... oh wait, you can't. Almost all of those people were dead long before the government rethought its decision, and broke up the monopoly they themselves had created.
        • Re:World Peace (Score:2, Interesting)

          by mohisfh (599821)
          Of course, once you do the web loses most of its usefulness and appeal. Probably becoming like another variant of the mindless pap seen on network television. So you end up spending GBP 100,000,000 for little or no return.
      • Re:World Peace (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SirSlud (67381) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:33PM (#4041521) Homepage
        I think what you'll find is that its the US mentality that is perceived as the threat online. The US as a government cant control the internet, but the large corperations who own 95% of the internet traffic's eyeballs can certainly push a, for example, free-market WTO-approved political mindset and sell it to people inside the borders of another country via their slant on world issues and news.

        I'm not saying thats inherently good, or inherently bad. Simply that if US culture and values are not Good, in the absolute sense (ie, they arn't The Only Way), then I think you have a position from which to contend that American values and policies could (and probably are) owning the airwaves of the Internet and potentially affecting the views and decisions of people in geographics and political situations where they dont or shouldnt apply. (That is to say what is good for Americans is not always, maybe even usually, good for people elsewhere.)

        I'll probably get beat down for this one.
    • His piece is filled with all sorts of contradictions. On the one hand he rightfully complains about draconian US laws being used like a sledgehammer against both US Citizens and those abroad, but then in the same breath he goes on to slam the one aspect of the internet that is free. He doesn't make any sense - my paraphrase , "We must free from US Hegonomony so we can institute our own more dranconian set of laws - DRM, censorship, etc.

      I'm left with a big "Huh?".
    • The jihad of the future will be over domain name disuputes...
    • contradic...huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by siskbc (598067)
      My favorite was when he said in the first paragraph that we need to take the internet back from the libertarians *and* Congressmen seeking to place all kinds of restrictions on the net.

      Yeah, you always see libertarians and conservative congressmen together. I guess we (the US) really don't have a monopoly on stupidity.

      Really, what it sounds like is a whole lot of jealousy. A lot of Europeans are still angry at being relegated to sub-superpower status for the last 60 years. Notice that much of the article dealt with other general things that he's pissed off about the U.S.

      There are enough things to bash the US about - but this is silly.
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday August 09, 2002 @07:39PM (#4043181)
        Really, what it sounds like is a whole lot of jealousy. A lot of Europeans are still angry at being relegated to sub-superpower status for the last 60 years.

        Was there any need for that? Is it even true? Last I checked, European economies were looking a whole lot sounder than the US, European military forces were doing their fair share around the world (unless you count threats to remove foreign leaders because you happen not to like them, but even so, there's still enough firepower in Europe to level the planet several times over) and European trade with other worldwide countries is at least as strong as anything the US does.

        European governments do not throw their weight around the way the current US administration does. This is a good thing. But don't make the mistake of assuming that because European countries, singly, don't do certain things, Europe as a whole is any less capable of doing them if it wants to.

  • Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by killthiskid (197397) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:12PM (#4041295) Homepage Journal

    From the article:


    Unless we can take back the Net from the libertarians, constitutional lawyers and rapacious corporations currently recreating the worst excesses of US political and commercial culture online, we will end up with an Internet which serves the imperial ambitions of only one country instead of the legitimate aspirations of the whole world.

    Umm... while I might agree that there is a lot of commercial content on the web these days, what about the rest of it, like educational resources, online research, BLOGS, and, well, damn near an infinite amount of other resources?


    Nothing like cutting off your arm 'cause your fingers hurt.

  • Ah... a heartfelt desire to shut out the rest of the world and ignore it. Where have I seen that before ^^;;
  • What a hypocrit! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Omega1045 (584264) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:15PM (#4041325)
    What about France suing eBay to take items off their web site hosted on American soil, or any number of student laws, suits, etc going on with countries suing/charging US firms for wrong doing on the Internet? Sorry Mr. Thompson! While the US does its share of stupid stuff, we by no means have a monopoly on stupidity as a whole. Look at WW1: a war over an assinated guy that nobody even cared about, not even the people form his own country.
    • by Skyshadow (508) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:36PM (#4041552) Homepage
      While the rest of the world pulls the same BS, I always feel so much more disappointed when the US does it.

      Our Constitution is structured to place power in the hands of the many, so when we do something like allow secret trials or censor viewpoints or extend copyrights into perpetuity like some frozen baseball player, I feel disappointed not only in the system that has let me down, but in the general population who are obviously not paying attention to the actions of their government or thinking critically about its actions.

    • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:45PM (#4041629)
      What about France suing eBay to take items off their web site hosted on American soil, or any number of student laws, suits, etc going on with countries suing/charging US firms for wrong doing on the Internet?

      Yeah, Mr. Thompson is quite a hypocrit all through the article.

      He rightly decries the ability of America to impose censorship on the net, then calls for the ability to enforce local laws restricting access to objectionable information on the net in the next sentence. He decries the DMCA, then wants to build in infrastructure that would facilitate DRM type technologies into the network protocol a paragraph later (IIRC).

      He resembles a Romulan when he claims the net was invented in Europe (it was invented in the United States. HTML, and what we call 'the web' was invented as a collaboration between CERN and the University of Illinois, long after the internet, email, gopher, and USENET had been in use by thousands throughout the US and world) and they should somehow 'take it back.'

      In short, throughout the article he raises legitimate criticisms of the excesses of American politicians and law, then advocates building a new network to allow European governments to do the same exact kinds of things, indeed, to facilitate it.

      I'm as down on the anti-government regulation of big business, capitalism ueber alles myopia of the Libertarians as anyone, but that hardly negates their far more legitimate stance with respect to individual liberty, or the need to respect the basic tenants of the US constitution (which, by the way, would negate much of his criticism of the US if we actually adhered to that document).

      In summary, he basically is saying "take the internet out of the hands of the imperialistic americans and those anarchistic people, and put them in the hands of our local regulators and governments where they belong!"

      Feh. I hope the network gets built just so their is more redundancy in the infrastructure itself, but good luck talking a wired world into divorcing itself from one another so your local goons can institute more of their censorship and their regulations instead. Short of mandated change, I doubt they'll get too many takers, even in Europe, no matter how much nationalistic anti-American Euro-pride gets trotted out during the marketing campaign.
  • Brilliant ! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maserati (8679) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:15PM (#4041329) Homepage Journal
    A new root DNS. A new set of policies. Explicit disregard for precedents and policies created by American lawyers and (paid-for) politicians. Slightly lower bar for the Internet Death Penalty. IPv6 only. Standards-based. Vendor neutral. Consumer and techie friendly, megacorp neutral. Rational domain-name dispute policy. No ICANN.

    This actually sounds tempting. I doubt it will happen but the Eurohackers will have a lovely sandbox to play in. It might be more useful than the cryptocorporate anarchy that is the Internet today. I wonder if they'll let USAians fed up with the current net join ?

  • Mod -1 troll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kalidasa (577403)
    C'mon, didn't you READ that article? It seems like the Reg has given up on waiting for "flame of the week" candidates to fill up their mailbag, and now they're developing their own content for FOTW. A particular favorite (not) was the reference to the US Constituion as the product of a bunch of activist merchants and "rebellious slave owners." Accurate, but deliberately inflammatory nonsense.

    The issue isn't the US, it's the current US administration and the current US Congress and their bending over backward to accommodate the big multinationals. The US Constitution most certainly isn't the issue, written as it is with a very healthy dose of British inspiration (don't like our First Amendment? Blame your former Latin Secretary Mr. Milton).
  • Dateline 2012:

    The North London Internet was again attacked by the South London Internet hackers in an attempt to regain control of their fileservers in the North's webspace. The fact that many of these hackers could simply walk a few blocks and physically take the servers back to their own private webspace seems not to have occured to them.

    The United States, which is still a part of the Non-European Internet (the mainstream computer network used by the rest of the world) was jubilant, and representatives from across the nation were quoted as saying, "Ha-ha!".
  • by jvmatthe (116058) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:19PM (#4041359) Homepage
    Look, we've got some bad laws on the books. Those who read /. are aware of the problems but aren't a powerful enough or mobilized enough group (Slashdotting of weak servers notwithstanding) to get things changed significantly politically. Other countries can help the situation not by playing isolationist but by simply refusing to recognize clearly ludicrous U.S. laws. A private network is not the way to go.

    As we often tell people to let the marketplace decide things, we should let the governing marketplace decide things as well. If the U.S. laws are cramping your country's style, then tell the U.S. politicians and companies politely that they can take a long walk on a short pier, and you'll deal with them when they have reasonable laws. If the U.S. wants to stay engaged, then it'll clean up its act.

    In short: we'll oppose the draconian crap from the inside, and y'all do it from the outside, and eventually things will change.
    • Those who read /. are aware of the problems but aren't a powerful enough or mobilized enough group (Slashdotting of weak servers notwithstanding) to get things changed significantly politically.

      No, the problem is that we all *think* we aren't powerful enough to get anything changed. In reality, we are a reasonably large group of people, the majority of whom are young and making multiples of the average US salary.

      On average, I give the EFF $100 a month. If you were to do the same, things might actually improve.

  • by ethelred (587527) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:20PM (#4041372)
    I'll just make my own Internet. With blackjack. And hookers. In fact, forget the Internet!
  • by joshua404 (590829)
    1. Isolationism, brilliant thinking!

    2. How Italian Police shut down US Webservers [slashdot.org]

    If you pulled this guy's face off I bet you'd find Pat Buchanan underneath.

  • by selectspec (74651)
    Bill Thompson is such an asshole that if you ordered a train load of assholes and only he showed up, you wouldn't complain.

    Thanks for reminding me, Bill, why my ancestors left that ever diminishing and less relevant mound in the North Atlantic to come to America.
    • You're probably going to get modded down selectspec, but you gave me a laugh, intended or not. Thanks.

      .
    • by SIGFPE (97527)

      Thanks for reminding me, Bill, why my ancestors left that ever diminishing and less relevant mound in the North Atlantic to come to America

      Because they were such a bunch of raving Puritans nobody in Europe would tolerate them?
  • Everyone always thinks that they have the best answer. Don't like something about the current internet? Blame America. And subscribe to the "All-New and Improved Bill Thompson 1337 |-|@X04 Interwebnetsite!"

    This attitude is why we have so much troulbe organizing grassroots politics in this country. Rather than trying to patch up the existing, we'll just sink the whole thing and start from scratch.

    .
  • by Subcarrier (262294) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:20PM (#4041381)
    it has "been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers...

    Programmers? Errm, yeah, ok. Besides, who cares anyway, now that the Internet is over 18.
  • Many tried... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CoolVibe (11466) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:21PM (#4041386) Journal
    And failed...

    The whole reason why the internet works as well as it does now is because everyone plays along (sort of). I can tell you right now that it would take an act of $DEITY to seperate this network we have now.

    My stance on it? It's all hyperbole. You can try to shake the wires, but it'll all even out in the end. No worries, I'm just going to sit back, watching companies trying to stunt growth and kill "threats", and watching it pop up somewhere else again.

    An european "internet" is bullshit. It just won't work. I doubt it would live long, since people like to communicate across the globe, and that means _all_ across it. If this takes off somehow, I can predict that some people _will_ set up gateways to and from places outside Europe.

    Therefore, nothing will really change. This guy is just blowing of steam. Nothing to worry about.

  • The real agenda (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by TWR (16835)
    What he wants isn't freedom, it's CONTROL. Notice that "Libertarians" are part of the complaint. Can't have people in favor of liberty and personal freedom in Europe's Internet! They might start to question the wisdom of that unelected government in Brussels. The message is "Just let us, the self-appointed intelligensia, tell you what to think. Everyone will be a lot happier that way."

    Every day, I thank God my anscestors fled that continent.

    -jon

    • No kidding. I think this guy left his dictionary at home and starting making up words. "Unless we can take back the Net from the libertarians...." You know those libertarians-- always trying to get the government to exert more control over the people!
    • Re:The real agenda (Score:2, Insightful)

      by karmawarrior (311177)
      I personally thought the suggestion was ludicrious. Particularly bizarre was the comment that virus writing is covered by the first amendment - on what planet? What court has declared viruses/virusen/viri/virii ( ;-) ) to be examples of free speech?

      Code, yes. What code does, never.

      And even if it were the case that the first amendment covers virus writers, what reason would that be to introduce a draconian censored internet?

      The entire article seemed generous on anti-American rherotic and short on facts. And it performs the most pernicious and unpleasant functions of dogmatic diatribe - it promotes draconian controlling "solutions" as simple answers to complex problems. Where have we seen that before?

  • MWWW (Score:3, Funny)

    by ThereIsNoSporkNeo (587688) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:22PM (#4041396)
    Ah yes.

    And in the year 2002 the MWWW (Mostly World Wide Web) was created, after the previous attempt, the WWW (World Wide Web) was determined to be too worldwide. The only people prevented from joining the MWWW were inhabitants of the USA and a guy from Britain named Murphy who no one liked anyway.

    Next, we come to the robot wars of 2027...
  • I think the internet should remain global. Absolutely and unequivocably.

    But to do the subject some justice :-) With the US becoming more and more isolationist over time, it's hardly surprising others are reacting in the same way. There are *more* people in the EU than the US. There are ~1/5 the population of the US in the UK! Why should't they demand more representation ?

    The US legal system (which is where a *lot* of the problems are coming from) is very much a big-business-friendly institution; since most of the congressmen are funded by big business as well, it's hardly surprising that the internet is being mauled with the same fangs that savage the "common person" in the US. There is also much more of a "who do I sue" attitude within the US than just about anywhere else.

    Still, it's clearly a nonsense to advocate separation, and it's not clear to me that other countries are overall any better. The term "swings and roundabouts" comes to mind.

    Simon.

    • It hasn't been global for a long time. Sure you can pull up some euro teens page on DVD hacking if you want to but guess what, if some american group makes enough noise, that teen will be arrested regardless of the laws of his country because the US gov't just leans hard.

      Nobody likes getting leaned on especially europeans who have thousands of years of history & tradition over the yanks.

  • Even if there's very little chance of doing it right, those are odds that the Europeans should take. They're being treated like crap right now, and that has to stop. At least if they're being treated like crap by their own people, they have a chance to address it.

    And who knows, perhaps the best case scenario will come true.
  • Alot of what he says does make sense.


    The US laws is a hodge podge of laws that developed in part by trying to read the minds of the founding fathers.

    Is this guy Al Gore? The internet was invented in the USA.

  • Ahem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Theodore Logan (139352) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:24PM (#4041431)
    His logical fallacy is , of course, thinking that the US has a monopoly on this kind of thing.

    First of all, this is is not a "logical fallacy," but, if anything, a faulty premise. That term has been subject to enough abuse already.

    Second, while it is true that the US may not be the only country in which politicians follow agendas that may be in contrast with the will of the public, it is nonetheless the case that politicians in the US are extravagantly prone to imposing unwarranted restrictions on technologies of this kind. I would say, more so than the EU, or so the record suggest. I cannot disprove your indirect claim that the EU would treat an Internet of its own the way the US has been treating what's in place now, but I also can not see why you would make this assumption.
    • The correct term is actually "factual fallacy," although it means the same to say that one or several premises are factually incorrect.

      Nitpicking should be done with style. My apologies.
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:25PM (#4041434)
    As I read the piece, this guy has a problem with an internet that can't be 'tailored' (i.e. censored) to a given nation's tastes. Quite frankly, that's an internet that I don't want to see. And I don't think we will see it. There'd have to be some sort of interface between the various 'national' nets, and those interfaces would constitute chokepoints that would allow all sorts of mischief. Any attempt at doing what he wants would be doomed to failure.

    Oh, and nice editing job. Maybe he should worry less about the internet and more about proofreading his own work.
  • by RealTimeFreeAgent (551563) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:25PM (#4041435) Homepage
    Unless we can take back the Net from the libertarians

    Libertarians? That's almost as absurd as saying we have to take the Net back from the communists.

    An important factor in Europe's favour is that we retain a belief that governments are a good thing, that political control is both necessary and desirable

    Data flows into and out of Europe would be properly regulated and controlled to ensure that neither spam nor viruses came in, and that no personal data went out without explicit consent.

    So basically he wants to trust the government to look at all outbound and inbound packets, presumably looking for spam, viruses or personal data? And he thinks this power won't be abused? What European wants to sign up for this Orwellian scheme? Just because he dressed it up in an anti-American screed doesn't make it a good idea.
    • by Arandir (19206) on Friday August 09, 2002 @04:33PM (#4042078) Homepage Journal
      Libertarians? That's almost as absurd as saying we have to take the Net back from the communists.

      Hear! Hear!

      The internet is the closest thing we will probably ever get to a anarcho-capitalist society. And it works!

      Everyone enters into this society with identical opportunities, with outcomes determined by merit, ability or persuasive ability, without regard to race, color, creed, or anything else like that. This society sparked and continues to fuel the Free Software revolution. This society has no borders, allowing us discourse with those in Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, China and other authortarian states. This society allows entrepreneurial capitalism to coexist with collectivist projects.

      This society has given us Slashdot and Kuro5hin, Freshmeat and Sourceforge, a free press that doesn't have to ask permission of Washington DC to broadcast. It has provided a home for GNU and BSD, EFF and SPI. Major universities have set up branches here.

      Of course, utopia is never an option. We have our problems. We have spam, virii, and trolls that just won't go away. But this is a small price to pay for genuine liberty.

      Who cares if there's a bunch of commercial fiefdoms here and there? They have no power over us. But I guess the author of this article doesn't like this freedom. He wants a king to rule over him. Fine. Let him have his tyrant. But keep your guns, cops and armies out of this cyberspace, because we're doing just fine without them.
  • by Camel Pilot (78781) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:25PM (#4041436) Homepage Journal
    From the article

    An important factor in Europe's favour is that we retain a belief that governments are a good thing, that political control is both necessary and desirable, and that laws serve the people.

    Hitler/Stalin/Mosalini/etc... (this list is long) would have agreed heartly and would have eagerly supported this notion.

    Jefferson by the way would not. A few Jefferson quotes by contrast:

    "Most bad government has grown out of too much government"

    "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."

    "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive."

    Oh well.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:25PM (#4041444)
    His logical fallacy is , of course, thinking that the US has a monopoly on this kind of thing. [emphesis added]

    Assuming America has a "monopoly" on abusive potical, technical, or jurisprudence wrt to the net isn't a logical fallacy, it is a factual fallacy. The logic is sound, the assumption made upon which the argument is based is what is inaccurate. That isn't the same thing as a logical fallacy, such as ad homonem attacks, circular reasoning, appeals to authority, and the like.

    All that having been said, I found nothing in that article that seemed to imply America has a monopoly on this behavior, just that, under the current Copyright Cartels (is there any doubt in anyone's mind who is calling the shots in D.C. these days?), we, or rather America, are by far the worst offendors.

    One of the original strengths in the design of the internet is its ability to route around damage. Copyright, censorship, physical outage, political repression ... all these things represent damage as far as the internet, a system designed to propogate and share information, is concerned.

    If the Europeans want to build some redundancy into the routing and infrastructure of the net by building a network that can sustain itself independently, should America drop off the net completely, more power to them. The more redundancy, and the more capacity there is for the Internet to route around the kind of damage government censors, politicians, and copyright holders create, the better.
    • All that having been said, I found nothing in that article that seemed to imply America has a monopoly on this behavior, just that, under the current Copyright Cartels (is there any doubt in anyone's mind who is calling the shots in D.C. these days?), we, or rather America, are by far the worst offendors.

      The really sad and disappointing part of this is that Americans could end the dominance of those who control them tommorrow (well, in November) if only things like critical thinking and questioning the government were to come into fashion again.

      Unfortunately, the clue stick isn't going to cut it on this one. I need to find something more along the lines of a clue thermonuclear weapon...

  • The USA Register (Score:5, Informative)

    by _xeno_ (155264) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:26PM (#4041445) Homepage Journal
    American readers (that's right, as in everyone in North America) might wanna try The USA Register [theregus.com] site for (slightly) faster access since then you don't have to access a webserver that's across the pond.

    The story is available on the US site [theregus.com].

    I doubt Slashdot can Slashdot the Register, but it might help American readers, especially those who missed the creation of the USA Register. The USA Register is basically the same content as the Register, but it drops some of the UK specific news (as in, UK elections and other events that are unlikely to matter to people who don't live there). As far as I know, there is no US-specific content, but several of their writers turn out to live in the US - so who knows...

    • James Bond James Bond James Bond
      USA Register is basically the same content as the Register, but it drops some of the UK specific news

      CENSORSHIP!!!
  • If he's worried about the spread of U.S. influence, shouldn't he want to block U.S. Internet from Europe, rather than blocking European Internet from U.S.?

    I find his candor refreshing; anytime you talk about taking things back from the libertarians, start buying stock in fascism...
  • sounds great - can I join.... I'm in california?
  • I don't know about them... but most of my spam seems to come from Russia!
  • Each country or jurisdiction certainly has the rights to govern traffic that travel through its own data networks. The problem (if it's really a problem) is that information has no borders. If I, in Canada, request a file from Germany, half of the packets may travel over one satellite connection, and the other half may bounce across a transatlantic cable. Who knows how many countries it crosses during the journey.

    Here are some resolutions:

    1) Include routing info with the packet, such as "Not legal in the US", and the routing algorithms have to deal with that. This is, of course, completely impractical.

    2) Provide a direct network path between each pair of countries, and route packets from source to destination country directly. This is also impractical.

    3) All countries connected to the internet need to agree that data in transit is in "neutral" territory. Only the hosting site and the requesting computer are subject to the laws of their respective jurisdictions.

    #3 is more practical. Note that it does NOT preclude eavesdropping by countries in the middle, but it does preclude the use of content filters unless the source or destination of the information is in your own jurisdiction.

    Of course, I can't see any government wilfully giving up the ability to filter the data travelling on networks in their country, so I can't see #3 working. The rest of the world will have to come up with a way to route information around certain oppressive governments, particularly if those counties are a bottleneck for information on the internet (as in the U.S. right now).
  • Well, his ideas for a highly regulated network are fine and good; but I don't see any reason why they'd need to close access off from the United States, as by the time they're finished with all the restrictions, no one in the US would want to connect to it anyway.

    I doubt many Europeans would want to either, for that matter.
    • Re:The Euronet (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Johnson (580)
      Like hell I wouldn't- I've done business with people in Europe. I'll follow their rules. They have a right to set their own rules. We're not their boss.
  • What is to stop some country from making laws Willy-Nilly-Nelson to screw with other countries through the courts?

    "Your Honor, Abu Monkeydung has plainly violated our Internet Law 234.b1: 'The letter 'r' must not be used in email under any circumstances.'"

    This guy sounds like a Mom's Basement Isolationist. It's rather obvious he enjoys the paternal feeling that no doubt originates from being ruled by inbred bleeders.

    He should set up a little Token Ring network down there in the fruit cellar and play Internet King on his own time.

  • "The Internet" is a connected network of networks using IP. If the "European Internet" uses IP, and if people put up gateways to "the Internet", then the "European Internet" is part of "the Internet".
  • by harryseldon (29164) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:33PM (#4041520)
    Once again, need to mod the story "-1, Troll".
    The important thing to note here is that this guy is not writing a serious proposal to create another net, he's just stringing together a bunch of muck which releases all the dopamine in his brain to make him feel warm and fuzzy, knowing that bunches of american geeks will be wrung through the adrenalin/cortisol wringer as a result of reading it.
    Don't give him the satisfaction.
  • The first is the idea that the Internet is somehow outside or above the real world and its national boundaries. If I phone someone in Nigeria and suggest a money-laundering fraud then it is obvious to all that I am breaking the law in two countries, not in 'phonespace'. Nobody has ever suggested that the content of the telephone network -all those voice calls -should be somehow privileged and treated as outside the normal world.

    Why, then, do we act as if our interactions with screen, mouse and keyboard are different? If I send an email suggesting that I am in possession of $50m and will hand it over in return for your bank details, why can't it just be that I also am breaking the law in two countries, not in some mythical 'cyberspace' with its own legal system?

    Losing the idea of 'cyberspace' simplifies things greatly.

    The problem is that when two countries' sets of laws don't agree that something is a crime, or the question of which country has jurisdiction is unclear. When we speak of cyberspace in terms of law, I think it defines that murky area where things are not so clearly defined as they are in the physical world.

  • It's not everyday that you hear a European argue that Americans are too free.

    Thank God that someone out there is making sure that the Internet doesn't lead to excessive free speech.

    I think the author is right on when he calls for Europe to "take back the Net". Those knuckle dragging Americans only mucked things up after the Europeans let them join the Net. Oh wait ...
  • It's well past time.
  • Let's see here.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ManicGiraffe (558896)
    How, exactly, is this guy relevant? When it comes down to it, the internet does nothing more than squirt a bit stream from one point to another. How, exactly, can this be taken over?

    Well, the good ol US of A (of which I am a proud member - note I said of the country: the bozos running it are another matter) does in fact contain most of the network. So what? Are we going to turn it off? Tell DARPA to fsck off and drop that backbone it built? Not bloody likely. And since the jurisdiction of our laws (supposedly) don't reach beyond our borders, how exactly are we "taking over" the web?

    This guy wants to isolate Europe. Fine. So does most of the world. But don't bame your jingoism on American policies, as whacked as those policies may be. Or do we need to define the words "soverign nation" for you? Yep, even small countries in the Atlantic are allowed to make their own laws and have their own lawyers and programmers. Go figure.

    Good Lord. It's time for lunch. I think I just ranted myself to death with no discernable point.
  • by alext (29323) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:40PM (#4041590)
    Americans suffer from an excess of corporate influence on the web as well as anyone else - it's absurd and very counterproductive to present this as a Europe vs. USA thing.

    This chap seems to have as much difficulty as many US lawmakers in appreciating the logical fact that you cannot have international cooperation (over DNS or whatever) without ceding some sovereignty - it's impossible to have a net that simultaneously respects a bunch of contradictory rules.

    I'm sure many /.ers will then take the libertarian angle and argue that the minimum amount of regulation is fine and that, for example, allocating a lot of top-level domains will allow each country, religion etc. to have their own version of www.truth.com or whatever.

    Personally I would prefer some Least Common Denominator regulation of content, practices, privacy etc. as well as raw technical standards, but only on the basis of strict democracy and not via governments - we don't want the Chinese vetoing the Taiwan country domain.

    There are a few transnational democratic bodies in the professions, the European Parliament and (sort of) the International Criminal Court. The ICANN successor and related bodies should be elected by users. Nothing could be simpler in practice - it's the principle that national governments might find hard to swallow.

    If such bodies were established the real issue is then whether Washington is able to accept any external authority, democratic or not - unfortunately the immediate track record is not encouraging but you never know, on this issue things might work out differently.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday August 09, 2002 @03:42PM (#4041600)
    For me, part of the appeal of the internet is that it's always been so global that no one group controls it (though, of course, that's degenerated down to some countries try to force their will via laws while others refuse to abide by any laws, letting their people do whatever). Still, if we're considering how to stop people screwing up the internet by wanting their countries' laws to apply but no one elses...

    It's almost a shame that the notion of country specific domains was optional and everyone went in to a .com frenzy. Were all UK sites .uk, all US sites .us etc., then the notion of conflicting laws, national firewalls and all the rest would be solved.

    Each country's content could then abide by its own laws and only those laws. If a country didn't like the laws of another country, all they'd have to do is make it an offence for their own ISPs to serve information from those countries to their national users.

    So, if Yahoo US wants to have Nazi auctions to the distaste of Yahoo France, France can either: accept it's not their jurisdiction; ask the US to legislate against it; or block those nasty English speakers. Dimitri wants to enable blind users to run text-to-speech on E-books in Russia? Well then Adobe can either: deal with it; petition the Russian government to change their laws; or petition the US government to block Russia.

    Once that's in place, the issue of doing what's perfectly legal in your country, in your country, is solved.

    I realise that goes against the international, free of boundaries notion of the net that we all love, but then is it really free at the moment anyway? Or do we just have lawyers trying to apply the laws of their country to everyone else and then those people who know their country won't do anything flauting it all anyway? If anything, the notion of blocking entire countries would probably create such an outcry in those nations that claim freedom of speech that it may well end up being less of a problem than the current mess.

  • I, in general, see this man's point, and agree that an eventual trusted networking system is necessary and proper to the development of the internet.

    However, he attaches solutions to problems that a) have nothing to do with the US alone, and b) are not attached to secured networks.

    Personal data would be protected by law, and those who abused the information provided to them by individuals would be prosecuted. Data flows into and out of Europe would be properly regulated and controlled to ensure that neither spam nor viruses came in, and that no personal data went out without explicit consent.
    As far as I knew, personal data, to a degree is protected by law in financial situations, and in many other situations. But regardless, customer information in the form of call lists, subscription lists, etc are going to be shared between companies regardless of a secure communications system.

    I can just as easily burn a CD, or, say, print a copy, of my customer database as send it over the magical internet.

    Further, the examination of incoming and outgoing data he describes requires more than a secured comm system. It requires Big Brother viewing the data flow. Unless, JUST LIKE WE DO IT NOW, when someone complains, the offending party gets cut off. Which becomes EASIER in a secured system, but it's certainly not impossible now.

    In Europe our copyright laws allow lending of material, and so media players licensed for use within the dataspace would not restrict personal copying or lending, although they would respect other rights.
    This has nothing to do with a secured alternate internet. This has to do with DRM, machine rights, copyright control tech, etc. Which have been examined and set not only by the companies, which exercise the power given to them by consumers, but also the IEEE, I believe. If the EU wants to levy economic sanctions on copyright-abusive content providers and equipment manufacturers, hell, I'll move to the UK. But a secured internet will have little to do with it.

    In Europe community standards for freedom of speech differ substantially from those of the United States, where any sensible discussion is crippled by the constitution and the continued attempts to decide how many Founding Fathers can stand on the head of a pin.
    This is just a cheap shot, little material behind it. If there's beef, bring it, otherwise STFU.

    Over here, human rights legislation, interpreted by judges who are able to use their intelligence instead of just relying on textual analysis of the Bill of Rights, gives us a much better chance of tying online action to the real world and integrating cyberspace with real space in way that benefits both.
    It's true, a secured, trusted network would allow content providers to lock down sites that aren't approved. I guess that's what he means by human rights, although his use of the term is a bit confusing.

    However, I would assume that there's enough variation over the surface of the European community, that this will still be a problem, and what you'll end up with is governmental censorship agencies, filtering through visited "securenet" sites. An interesting idea. I wouldn't like it. I'll stick with the current version.

    -Greg
  • He states our insistence of freedom of speech as the problem, then he blasts our crappy new laws hindering freedom of speech. Yeah, real consistant argument there. Not unexpected, after all, America is to blame for everything, right?

    The point of the insistence on personal freedoms is not just the freedoms themselves, but that a people with the freedom to speak cannot be as easily subjugated by any tyrannical power structure. The most important thing about the net is the ability to share ideas regardless of how the powers that be feel about them.

    The system this man wants is localized information oligarchys. And his reason for using it is that America is bad, mmkay.

    As long as attitudes like these comprise the majority of Euro viewpoints seen by Americans, the US will be hesitant to cooperate on important matters. Every time we seen a European talking about us, we're being likened to the 3rd reich reincarnated with plague on top. That may not be the majority opinion "over there", but it's the only one that gets any press "over here". You don't see too many US citizens burning other peoples leaders in effigy, but we see that every time our president leaves the country.

    Just a little insight (by way of rant), on the motivaions behind US policy. Take it with the requisite amount of salt.
  • It wont matter if the Euros have their own net. They'll need Bill's position to run MS software.
  • recognized globaly, for thing without borders.

    The internet should be given 'global' status, and be run by qualified engineers selected by the UN. These engineer should be internet spcialists. Not web masters, but actuall network engineers.

    It needs it own set of broad use guidelines that are aproved by the UN. note I said use, not architecture.
    Technical descesions should be made by the engineers,after a discussion where everybody interested gets to weigh in there opinion.
  • by Guppy06 (410832)
    "been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium"

    As in the political wrangling done by US politicians and businesses, or because European governments aren't happy with the US acting as a safe haven from European anti-speech laws?

    Be careful what you wish for...
  • I'm guessing a great many European readers here have been thinking the exact same thing, but didn't relish being modded down as a "Troll" if they vocalised their thoughts.

    I have no problem with the American people, just their government, it's policies, their apparent belief that greed, litigiousness and callousness are to be rewarded and that their views should be foisted upon the entire Earth.

    Yes, America really is at the root of most of the problems on the 'net. The VAST majority of spam eminates from the US (or at least seems to be on behalf of US companies). Their DMCA is wreaking havoc with personal freedom and even threatens the future of OS software. Their "entertainment" companies want control over all electronic storage devices, etc etc etc.

    I say host /. in the UK and cut all the cables under the pond. ;-)

    Yeah, mod me down - at least I feel better now I've vented...
  • You know, like what's described here [meforum.org]
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Friday August 09, 2002 @04:17PM (#4041926) Homepage
    What an idiot. Firstly, there's the false impliction that since a guy at CERN wrote the first specs for the WWW that this means the internet was made by Europeans. (First off, it was the university of illinois that was communicating with CERN that worked on actually making mosaic and httpd to implement the spec, and secondly there's the fact that "the internet" != "the WWW".)

    Secondly, there's the fact that he's ignoring the two-way street to international poisoning of laws here. Countries that censor end up censoring everywhere, inside and outside their jurisdiction, or not at all. And that holds true in both directions, leading to a situation where only the lowest common denominator of what is legal in every country ends up being legal worldwide. He cited the case with yahoo showing hits for nazi sites in France, but forgets that that's a case of France trying to censor the world, not just inside it's own boundries. When Yahoo was asked to block access to that information from French viewers, they raised the objection that it isn't even technically possible to do that and the only reliable way for Yahoo to comply would be to remove that information for everyone, not just the French. Just because a hit is coming from somewhere other than a *.fr address, that doesn't imply that the viewer cannot be French. Lots of .net and .com addresses are not in the US. The only way on the net to reliably censor for one country is to censor from all of them.

    Yes, the DMCA is bad, but the solution is to have countries with the balls to stand up to the US and say, "you don't have jurisdiction here". When Norway caved in in the famous DeCSS incident, they just bend over and accepted it without question. THAT attitude is just as much responsible for the US's hegemony as anything the US has done itself.

    But building a seperate independant EU network??? That's absurd on the face of it. There must be interconnection with the rest of the world and once that happens you have one unified internet again. I don't think this guy understands what the internet really is. There already is a collection of independant EU-based hosts with their own network connections to other hosts. And this network is also connected to the outside world. It's called "that portion of the internet that resides in the EU." I don't think this guy "gets" how unstructured the 'net really is.

  • My pet peeves (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:00PM (#4042264)
    "Today's Internet is a poor respecter of national boundaries, as many repressive governments have found to their cost. Unfortunately this freedom has been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium."

    Make up your damn mind. Don't sit there and extoll the virtues of a global information medium in one breath and state the need for artificial borders the next. Seriously, you all but cheer free speech one moment and then bring up the need for government censorship (which is exactly what you're asking for) the next.

    "We have already seen US law, in the form of Digital Millennium Copyright Act, used to persuade hosts in other countries to pull material or limit its availability."

    To my knowledge there has only been one European detained for possible violations of the DMCA, while countless perpetrators of various US laws wander free in Europe because those governments often refuse extradition. The fact that one particular European government decided to let the US do what it will is the fault of that European government, not the US. By your logic the Vichy government should be held blameless for enforcing Nazi policies.

    "US-promoted 'anti-censor' software is routinely provided to enable citizens of other countries to break local laws; and US companies like Yahoo! disregard the judgements of foreign courts at will. "

    Free speech bad! Four legs good!

    I ask you this: If you were on an EU-only network, established and controlled by the EU government, would you have the option of bad-mouthing them on said network as you're doing now?

    "we will end up with an Internet which serves the imperial ambitions of only one country instead of the legitimate aspirations of the whole world."

    I seem to have forgotten... are you talking about the current global information network of your EU-only vision of one?

    "While this would greatly please the US, it would not be in the interests of the majority of Internet users, who want a network that allows them to express their own values, respects their own laws and supports their own cultures and interests. "

    You seem to have left out a few words. What you actually want is an internet that allows people sharing your own values to be able to express them without anybody disagreeing with them. What you actually want is an internet that imposes the cultures or your choosing on its users, sheilding them from anything you consider "wrong" without letting them have the benefit of making up their own mind. Let's not mince words here, what you're advocating is exactly what the PRC has been trying to do for years. You don't want the internet, you want an EU version of AOL.

    "Yet today's United States is a country which respects freedom so much that if I, a European citizen, set foot there I can be interned without any notice or due process, tried by a military tribunal and executed in secret."

    ... which is completely different from what the UK does to suspected IRA members, where they're treated to a free weeekend in a luxury bed-and-breakfast, similar to what Greece does with suspected November 14th members. Spain and suspected ETA members? France and Corsicans?

    "It has a government which respects free speech yet tries to persuade postal workers to spy on people as they delivered their mail."

    To my knowledge these efforts have not been successful. On the other hand, I recall complaints in France's last presidential election that France's post offices showed political bias in delivering (or not) campaign advertising.

    Of course, it would be very difficult for the federal government to convince the USPS to do anything because not only would it be a violation of several federal laws (enforced by US Postal Inspectors, completely different chain of command from either the FBI or CIA) there is little benefit that the USPS can receive for doing this (it's not like Congress can cut their funds or anything... )

    "ICANN, the body it established to manage DNS, had to be ordered by a court to let one of its own directors examine the company accounts for fear he may discover something untoward."

    A US court, I might add...

    "And elected representatives -like the aforementioned Howard Berman -are paid vast amounts by firms lobbying for laws which serve their corporate interests."

    Welcome to democracy. And it can be argued that this problem is actually worse in Europe. We may have bad politicians over here, but they're either not as bad or as powerful as Chriac or Berlusconi.

    "These are clearly not the people who should be setting the rules for the Net's evolution. Unfortunately today's Internet, with its permissive architecture and lack of effective boundaries or user authentication, makes it almost impossible to resist this technological imperialism."

    You've done Karl Marx proud...

    "Fortunately the technology itself - in the form of trusted computer architectures, secure networks and digital rights management - can be used to rescue the Net from US control."

    Let me pick my jaw up off the floor. I thought your support of government censorship is bad enough, but now advocating DRM... I take back what I said a few days about about being scared of Europe [slashdot.org]. I'm now fucking terrified!

    "I believe that the time has come to speak out in favour of a regulated network; an Internet where each country can set its own rules for how its citizens, companies, courts and government work with and manage those parts of the network that fall within its jurisdiction; an Internet that reflects the diversity of the world's legal, moral and cultural choices instead of simply propagating US hegemony; an Internet that is subject to political control instead of being an uncontrolled experiment in radical capitalism."

    OK, replace amorphous threat of US hegemony with much more tacticle threat of EU police state... riiiight...

    "Why, then, do we act as if our interactions with screen, mouse and keyboard are different? If I send an email suggesting that I am in possession of $50m and will hand it over in return for your bank details, why can't it just be that I also am breaking the law in two countries, not in some mythical 'cyberspace' with its own legal system?"

    Nice straw man there. Fraud is fraud is fraud and is prosecuted as such. You don't see a separate "fraud over the internet" law on the books just as you don't see a separate "fraud over the telephone" law (though you imply otherwise). The only moderate difference between the two is that fraud via e-mail is slightly more difficult to track down (but not impossible, since in your example the defrauder would have to access the bank account in question).

    "The other thing we need to lose is the ridiculous belief that when we are online we are somehow in 'another place' outside the real world. We need to reject the philosophical bullshit which argues that there is an equivalence between being simultaneously a 'citizen' of Maine and of the United States and our co-existence in the real world and the online world *, and accept instead the mundane reality that nobody has any real form of existence online - either now or in the foreseeable future."

    You're confusing the foolish concept of being a "citizen of the internet" with the quite real concept of being a "member of an on-line community." Ideas are communicated and exchanged in a way that they would not be without the internet, conclusions are formed, and actions are taken based on those conclusions. Take a look at the Free Sklyarov protests that sprung up. Without places like Slashdot and The Register reporting it as front-page news, nobody would really even be aware of the situation.

    Of course this view of things is toxic to your argument, since you'd rather artificially impose physical communities onto the internet whether the participants want to or not.

    "We can also deal with the problems of jurisdiction for online activity in the same way as we deal with it elsewhere: in the UK we're perfectly happy to prosecute someone for war crimes committed fifty years ago in another country, so why are there problems if the crime involved the Internet?"

    Say it with me:

    extradition

    The UK wouldn't be prosecuting Pinochet if he wasn't stupid enough to set foot there.

    "Under English law a sex tourist can be prosecuted here even if he has sex with a child in Thailand: surely prosecuting someone for promoting racial hatred on a US-hosted website can't be that different?"

    The difference is:

    1.) Limey dumbfuck came home to UK jurisdiction

    2.) No state would turn someone over to the federal government for some foreign speech crime, even if the federal government was dumb enough to bother asking (somebody just lost the next election)

    Once again, the word of the day is "extradition." Kinda funny how you're looking to artificially enforce national boundaries when it comes to violations but want them to magically disappear when it comes to extradition...

    Fuck it, I'm getting too appalled by the views and fallacies your espousing for me to contue to try to offer rational arguments. Go ahead and establish your own EU internet ("censor-net") over there, see if I give a damn. Just don't try to force it down my throat and don't be surprised when you've just argued yourself out of a medium on which to argue.

  • What Idiocy! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smack.addict (116174) on Friday August 09, 2002 @06:37PM (#4042874)
    As the tagline read, this article full of faulty premises. Some lovely quotes:

    We have already seen US law, in the form of Digital Millennium Copyright Act, used to persuade hosts in other countries to pull material or limit its availability.

    This stupid legal approach to intellectual property is not limited. Major entertainment companies from all over the world are pushing countries to enact similar laws. In fact, the US is not the only country with such stupid laws. Deep linking, for example, is illegal in the Netherlands. Who is gonna protect the European internet from them?

    US companies like Yahoo! disregard the judgements of foreign courts at will.

    Thank god! The foreign courts are trying to censor the free speech of US citizens.

    Yet today's United States is a country which respects freedom so much that if I, a European citizen, set foot there I can be interned without any notice or due process, tried by a military tribunal and executed in secret.

    Can he name one example where such a thing has happened? Sklyarov was interned with due process and eventually set free. True, Ashcroft is testing the bounds of the US constitution by holding suspected foreign terrorists, however:

    • Except for the POW's, these actions have yet to be tested in a court of law. It is almost certain that the government will lose and these people will be set free.
    • No one has yet faced a military tribunal.
    • No one has been executed.
    His arguments on this count are like proclaiming that baseball is an unfair sport in the middle of the first inning because only one team ever gets to bat.

    Its Chief Executive illegally sold shares when in possession of privileged information about an impending price crash.

    In spite of many investigations on this issue, it has never been shown to be true. Furthermore, if it were true, what would it have to do with a private European Internet? Every country ends up electing bad apples into leadership roles. The beauty of a democracy is not the prevention of electing bad people to office, but the ability to recover from having done so.

    ICANN, the body it established to manage DNS, had to be ordered by a court to let one of its own directors examine the company accounts for fear he may discover something untoward

    Congress is not pleased with the way ICANN behaves. Congress is the biggest current threat to ICANN.

    These are clearly not the people who should be setting the rules for the Net's evolution.

    The beauty of the Internet is that no one is really setting the rules. Anyways, who would you trust to set the rules? The French government?

    It is time to reclaim the net from the Americans.

    Reclaim it from the Americans? Is he aware where the net came from?

    Under English law a sex tourist can be prosecuted here even if he has sex with a child in Thailand: surely prosecuting someone for promoting racial hatred on a US-hosted website can't be that different?

    The kinds of laws cited by Bill here are few and generally related to things like child porn and molestation. On the other hand, if the laws of all countries apply to the net equally, then it is nearly certain that I am breaking a law every time I do something online. Funny though, that he decries the enforcement of the DMCA on Europeans but then describes a world in which all laws--not just one poorly thought out law--transcend borders.

    Once we clear our minds of these erroneous beliefs we can see that the US has no right to determine how the whole Internet is run.

    Exactly how is the US dictating how the whole Internet is run? He shows nowhere an example of the US government dictating world Internet use.

    Europe is the birthplace of the Web

    Where did he craft this illusion?

    A trusted network will not stop the Americans - or anyone else - opting out and remaining with their existing unregulated Internet. Just like the survivalists heading out to Oregon with their assault weapons and dried food, those who don't want to be part of the great online civilisation could establish their own enclaves, where they would be free to run the code of their choice

    Doesn't he have it wrong? Isn't his network the little survivalist, whacko bunch living outside established civilization?

    But inside Europe our values, our principles and our legal system can determine how our part of the Net is run.

    What the fuck is European values and principles and legal system? It is painful enough to get Europeans to agree on a freaking currency!

    In Europe our copyright laws allow lending of material, and so media players licensed for use within the dataspace would not restrict personal copying or lending, although they would respect other rights.

    Using what? A magic DRM fairy that knows when the copying you are doing is an "illegal copying" and when it is a "legal copying"?

    Over here, human rights legislation, interpreted by judges who are able to use their intelligence instead of just relying on textual analysis of the Bill of Rights, gives us a much better chance of tying online action to the real world and integrating cyberspace with real space in way that benefits both.

    In other words, Bill is saying that the whims of a couple of old French guys is worth more than a long-established, written law.

  • by Mad Marlin (96929) <cgore@cgore.com> on Saturday August 10, 2002 @12:35AM (#4044160) Homepage
    Damn the Constitution: Europe must take back the Web
    By Bill Thompson
    Posted: 09/08/2002 at 14:01 GMT
    Guest Opinion
    I've had enough of US hegemony. It's time for change -and a closed European network.

    Today's Internet is a poor respecter of national boundaries, as many repressive governments have found to their cost. Unfortunately this freedom has been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium. If the price of being online is to swallow US values, then many may think twice about using the Net at all, and if the only game online follows US rules, then many may decide not to play.

    Go ahead and think twice about using the internet, even think about it three times, if you like. I don't think I would even mind all that much if you don't "decide to play."

    We have already seen US law, in the form of Digital Millennium Copyright Act, used to persuade hosts in other countries to pull material or limit its availability. US-promoted 'anti-censor' software is routinely provided to enable citizens of other countries to break local laws; and US companies like Yahoo! disregard the judgements of foreign courts at will.

    Instead of complaining about the DCMA, why don't you complain about the EUCD [patent.gov.uk], the European Union Copyright Directive, the equivalent EU legislation to the DMCA? Do you believe that it won't be used to persuade hosts in other countries to pull material or limit its availability? And as for the anti-censor software, heaven forbid if a few Chinese are actually able to read the BBC News, in violation of their local laws. You are right, that is a terrible thing.

    Congressman Howard Berman's ridiculous proposal to give copyright holders immunity from prosecution if they hack into P2P networks is the latest attempt by the US Congress to pass laws that will directly affect every Internet user, because no US court would allow prosecution of a company in another jurisdiction when immunity is granted by US law.

    This isn't law yet, and probably will never get passed, but even if it did, I am sure this power would only be used on machines within the U.S., since those activities would be illegal in those countries.

    Unless we can take back the Net from the libertarians, constitutional lawyers and rapacious corporations currently recreating the worst excesses of US political and commercial culture online, we will end up with an Internet which serves the imperial ambitions of only one country instead of the legitimate aspirations of the whole world.

    Rapacious corporations? Don't you think that is a slight over-statement of the situation? How would a whole corporation actually rape you anyway, some sort of giant cluster-fuck?

    While this would greatly please the US, it would not be in the interests of the majority of Internet users, who want a network that allows them to express their own values, respects their own laws and supports their own cultures and interests.

    US domination has been going on for so long that many see it as either inevitable or desirable. 'They may have their problems but at least they believe in democracy, free speech and the market economy', the argument goes. Yet today's United States is a country which respects freedom so much that if I, a European citizen, set foot there I can be interned without any notice or due process, tried by a military tribunal and executed in secret.

    Yes, that is our standard operating procedure for handling all European tourists. First, you get to see the Statue of Liberty. Second, you get to go to Disney World. Third, you are interned without any notice or due process, tried by a military tribunal and executed in secret. It is a very popular bundle deal, available from any good travel agent.

    It has a government which respects free speech yet tries to persuade postal workers to spy on people as they delivered their mail. Its Chief Executive illegally sold shares when in possession of privileged information about an impending price crash. ICANN, the body it established to manage DNS, had to be ordered by a court to let one of its own directors examine the company accounts for fear he may discover something untoward. And elected representatives -like the aforementioned Howard Berman -are paid vast amounts by firms lobbying for laws which serve their corporate interests.

    Heads are rolling from all of the stock market mess, and I am sure many more will. What you accuse Bush of doing, if it is true, will most certianly bring him down. As for ICANN, they were ordered to release the records. If they weren't, then there would be a problem.

    These are clearly not the people who should be setting the rules for the Net's evolution. Unfortunately today's Internet, with its permissive architecture and lack of effective boundaries or user authentication, makes it almost impossible to resist this technological imperialism.

    Who trusts you, baby?

    Fortunately the technology itself - in the form of trusted computer architectures, secure networks and digital rights management - can be used to rescue the Net from US control.

    These developments, reviled and criticised by those inside and outside the continental United States who hold on to an outdated and unrealistic view of what the Net was or could become, are the key to its future growth and usefulness. Whatever the libertarians say, they must be defended, promoted - and properly controlled.

    You were just complaining about the DMCA, but now you are in support of digital rights management? That is rather contradictory. Something you seem to fail to realize about libertarians is that, above all, the seek personal liberty, hence their name. A popular quote for libertarians that sums up nearly all of their beliefs is "better to die a free man than to live a slave." They will never be "properly controlled".

    I believe that the time has come to speak out in favour of a regulated network; an Internet where each country can set its own rules for how its citizens, companies, courts and government work with and manage those parts of the network that fall within its jurisdiction; an Internet that reflects the diversity of the world's legal, moral and cultural choices instead of simply propagating US hegemony; an Internet that is subject to political control instead of being an uncontrolled experiment in radical capitalism. It is time to reclaim the net from the Americans.

    For you to reclaim something, you need to have had a claim on it to begin with. The American claim to the Internet (it was developed by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Administration, originally for the U.S. Department of Defense) is tenous at best, but the European claim is non-existant.

    This will not be easy. In order to do this we have to reject two beliefs that underpin our current understanding of the Net, and these beliefs, although wrong, are dear to many.

    The first is the idea that the Internet is somehow outside or above the real world and its national boundaries. If I phone someone in Nigeria and suggest a money-laundering fraud then it is obvious to all that I am breaking the law in two countries, not in 'phonespace'. Nobody has ever suggested that the content of the telephone network -all those voice calls -should be somehow privileged and treated as outside the normal world.

    Why, then, do we act as if our interactions with screen, mouse and keyboard are different? If I send an email suggesting that I am in possession of $50m and will hand it over in return for your bank details, why can't it just be that I also am breaking the law in two countries, not in some mythical 'cyberspace' with its own legal system?

    If you were to do this, even via e-mail, you would be breaking the law in two countries, and if that e-mail message were found, you would be convicted, regardless of the message being e-mail. Where did you get the idea that you wouldn't?

    Losing the idea of 'cyberspace' simplifies things greatly.

    Quite correct, losing ideas, in general, simplifies things greatly.

    The other thing we need to lose is the ridiculous belief that when we are online we are somehow in 'another place' outside the real world. We need to reject the philosophical bullshit which argues that there is an equivalence between being simultaneously a 'citizen' of Maine and of the United States and our co-existence in the real world and the online world *, and accept instead the mundane reality that nobody has any real form of existence online - either now or in the foreseeable future.

    How is this idea any different from the first? Idea 1: the Internet is somehow outside or above the real world and its national boundaries. Idea 2: that when we are online we are somehow in 'another place' outside the real world. They sound like the same idea to me.

    This makes our discussion a lot simpler because we no longer have to grapple with the idea of having two forms of existence - the one that involves breathing, pissing and fucking and the one that involves typing. We don't have to stretch our legal or constitutional thinking to cope with the apparent contradiction of being in 'two places' with different standards of behaviour at the same time.

    We can also deal with the problems of jurisdiction for online activity in the same way as we deal with it elsewhere: in the UK we're perfectly happy to prosecute someone for war crimes committed fifty years ago in another country, so why are there problems if the crime involved the Internet? Under English law a sex tourist can be prosecuted here even if he has sex with a child in Thailand: surely prosecuting someone for promoting racial hatred on a US-hosted website can't be that different?

    You were complaining about the possibility of being tried and convicted in the U.S., for committing a capital offense (one great enough to warrant the death penalty), yet you think Americans should be tried and convicted in England for presenting a dissenting viewpoint in a public venue?

    This is not to claim that these issues are all simple, resolvable and determinate, just to point out that we already have legal systems - admittedly imperfect - in place that can deal with them mostly adequately, most of the time. In general the few exceptions are not allowed to be used as arguments for making bad law. We must not allow the Net to be the biggest exception, creating the worst law of all.

    Brave Old World

    This is hard for many old-time Net users to accept, because we like the idea that being online takes us into a new space, a new world. But it is simply not the case: we are not creating a brave new online world out of our electrons and pixels. It is all one world - the only difference is that we currently lack the ability to map our online activity onto our real-world lives with any degree of certainty. The result is that cyberspace appears somehow to be divorced from the physical world - but this is just an artifact of our current technologies and not a fundamental principle.

    Actually, the program Xtraceroute [chalmers.se] can show where a computer is physically (in 3D), and show the route your data is taking to get there, rather easily.

    Once we clear our minds of these erroneous beliefs we can see that the US has no right to determine how the whole Internet is run. Each country should decide for itself. All we need to do is to mark out the network, using trusted computers and secure networks to locate servers, hosts, networks and people within geographically-defined areas - or nation states as they are usually known - and let the countries get on with it. We can establish the rule of law, national sovereignty and local values in those parts of the network that fall within the jurisdiction of a particular country, and let normal diplomatic, cultural and commercial channels deal with the interaction between countries.

    This would not stop the US treating its Constitution as the only true source of wisdom or framing their discussions in terms that draw only from the US political and economic tradition. But if they decide to run their part of the Net according to the principles laid down two hundred and fifty years ago by a bunch of renegade merchants and rebellious slave owners they would not be able to force the rest of us to follow suit.

    My ancestor at the time was both a renegade merchant and a rebellious slave owner, not just one or the other. I guess he was something of an over-achiever.

    If they want a First Amendment online, or to let some gun-toting nut argue that writing viruses is the online equivalent of carrying a concealed weapon and so counts as a constitutionally protected right then they can go ahead - the rest of us can do things differently. ('Viruses don't trash hard drives - people trash hard drives.')

    Why don't you just use an operating system that doesn't get viruses? I personally recommend FreeBSD [freebsd.org]. Oh, and that reminds me, I need to clean my rifle.

    A cyberspace in which each machine is 'within' a jurisdiction and where actions can be mapped onto physical space will be very different from today's Internet.

    In the mapped network we will not have the absolute freedom of speech which cyberlibertarians claim they want, but neither will we get absolute oppression, absolute free market capitalism or even absolute communism. We will instead get compromise, and regional or national variation, just as in the real world.

    Heaven forbid an internet with absolute free speech. It is a good thing you came up with a solution to that problem.

    Many will see this as a loss of freedom, but the freedom they value so much is also the freedom to act irresponsibly, to undermine civil authorities and to escape liability. It is the freedom to release viruses, abuse personal data, send unlimited spam and undermine the copyright bargain. It is not a freedom we need.

    It is easy to see why this approach will be resisted by US activists, of whatever political persuasion, who see the 'one world, one cyberspace' approach as a convenient way to establish an online constitutional hegemony. It will also be resisted by many of those who see any attempt to create trusted software running on secure processors as the network equivalent of the arrival of the black helicopters from the UN World Government Army.

    However their position is untenable, because the vast majority of Internet users need and want a secure network where they can use email, look at Websites, shop, watch movies and chat to friends, and they are happy to accept that this is a regulated space just as most areas of life are.

    To quote one of those renegade merchants and rebellious slave owners, Ben Franklin, "He who gives up a little liberty in order to gain security, deserves neither liberty nor security." Do you actually think that your ability to shop online is more important than my freedom of speech?

    Even if we don't act we will still get a regulated network, because the commercial interests which dominate the US know that it is a prerequisite for a digital economy. However the shape of that network will be entirely determined by US interests, just like today. It is therefore vital that a different approach to the development of the Internet is proposed -and I believe that Europe is the place for it to start.

    Bring it back

    Europe is the birthplace of the Web, with a wealthy, technically literate population, a network infrastructure that rivals that of the US and a rich cultural and political tradition which can counter US constitutional imperialism.

    The U.S. is not under constitutional imperialism, that would require an emperor supported by a constitution, similar to England's constitutional monarchy. However, we dislike monarchs greatly.

    An important factor in Europe's favour is that we retain a belief that governments are a good thing, that political control is both necessary and desirable, and that laws serve the people. These beliefs are now lacking in the United States, rendering it incapable of acting to create any sort of civic space online or allowing its government to intervene effectively to regulate the Net.

    Does this mean that the broad control of the Internet by the U.S. government that you were talking about earlier will never happen, since we would hang our Senators before even half of it was put in force?

    The recently-agreed .eu ccTLD could be a rallying point for a serious attempt to extend the EU online, adopting new standards for trusted computing, regulating their use within EU countries and establishing a European dataspace which would grow over time to become a major node in the emerging trusted network that will replace today's Internet.

    It will take political will and technological skill to do this, and it will not be achievable overnight. But if we are to escape a world where corporations build systems which are only capable of supporting US-style online government, or where trusted software is a trojan horse carrying the US constitution into our online life when we neither want nor need it, then we need to act now.

    That's right folks, all software written in America secretly contains the entire text of The U.S. Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. For example, in Microsoft Word you can access this dangerous material by pressing Control-Alt-U, Control-Alt-S, Control-Alt-A.

    A trusted network will not stop the Americans - or anyone else - opting out and remaining with their existing unregulated Internet. Just like the survivalists heading out to Oregon with their assault weapons and dried food, those who don't want to be part of the great online civilisation could establish their own enclaves, where they would be free to run the code of their choice.

    Do you mean like an isolated enclave from the "great internet civilization" for all of Europe with methods in place to avoid pesky freedoms like freedom of speech?

    But inside Europe our values, our principles and our legal system can determine how our part of the Net is run. Personal data would be protected by law, and those who abused the information provided to them by individuals would be prosecuted. Data flows into and out of Europe would be properly regulated and controlled to ensure that neither spam nor viruses came in, and that no personal data went out without explicit consent.

    This would, of course, work wonderfully, because there are no spammers or virus-writers in Europe.

    In Europe our copyright laws allow lending of material, and so media players licensed for use within the dataspace would not restrict personal copying or lending, although they would respect other rights.

    So that you can "lend" American media content to your friends?

    In Europe community standards for freedom of speech differ substantially from those of the United States, where any sensible discussion is crippled by the constitution and the continued attempts to decide how many Founding Fathers can stand on the head of a pin.

    Yes, standards for freedom of speech do differ substantially in Europe. They apparently seem to be rather lacking. As for Founding Fathers standing on the head of a pin, 27 will fit, exactly.

    Over here, human rights legislation, interpreted by judges who are able to use their intelligence instead of just relying on textual analysis of the Bill of Rights, gives us a much better chance of tying online action to the real world and integrating cyberspace with real space in way that benefits both.

    In the end, William Gibson was wrong: cyberspace is not another place, it's just part of this space. There is no 'there, there' : in fact, it isn't really there at all. The illusion is, in the end, only an illusion, however consensual it may be. Not only does 'meatspace rule', but 'meatspace rules rule' - the laws and regulations that govern the Net, whether they are legal, social, architectural or code-based, will all come from the real world, where judges, lawyers, programmers, politicians and - in some way -citizens get to decide how our online activities and our real world lives mesh and are linked.

    The United States is incapable, for the reasons I've described, of understanding this or of escaping its constitutionally-determined destiny to attempt to establish hegemony over cyberspace.

    It cannot be allowed to succeed, and so those of us within Europe need to begin to work now to extend our culture onto the Net in all its complex glory. We need to build our borders online and offer our citizens protection within those borders, and escape from America.

    If the U.S. is incapable of achieving it, then why does Europe need to go out of it's way to make sure the U.S. doesn't succeed? Is anyone making Europeans go to American wevsites, or do they just provide better content?

    * Much as I like Lessig's work, he just goes too far here. I blame law school. Being a Cambridge philosopher manqué I tend to have a more brutal constructivist approach to this sort of thing.

    I am sure Cambridge is real glad that you are serving as an example of what they will let graduate.

    © Bill Thompson.

    Should that copyright be viable outside of Europe? Can I "lend" your work to others in the U.S.?

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