Law in the Internet Society

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-- MichaelRhodes - 12 Jan 2015 Business and Government Control of Information – A Truly American History

Today’s Internet industry appears to be running a parallel route with yesterday’s radio business. In radio’s early years mavericks catered to small audiences and operated with little or no funding. The very first radio broadcast occurred on Christmas eve in 1906. Reginald Fessenden sang a song, read from the bible and played his violin. The following year Lee DeForest? attempted to bring ‘culture’ to inhabitants of New York City by airing opera singers and rigging up American Navy vessels to play phonograph records while entering port.

Radio’s artistic phase was short lived because powerful interests saw the opportunity to extend their power over the masses. Merchants and the government soon took control the audiences’ minds and wallets. The government took over control of all radio airwaves during World War I squelching the free market. After the war hundreds of independent radio stations cropped up. Pressured by big money interests, the government got involved. It sanctioned the Radio Corporation of America to manage patents for transmitters and receivers. Well connected corporations got preferential treatment; Westinghouse and General Electric built the transmitters, AT&T got a monopoly on ‘chain broadcasting’ a.k.a. ‘toll broadcasting’. Toll broadcasting is when a network sells airtime for programs supported by advertising. By this time many radio stations existed purely to sell goods and were owned by the businesses they advertised. Broadcasting to share culture and ideas was replaced with broadcasting to control minds and profit from a disenfranchised public.

By the mid-1920s cacophony on the air waves was threatening the interests of both the government and avaricious businesses. “The undisciplined and unregulated voice of the public interfered with corporate goals of delivering programming and advertising on a dependable schedule to a mass audience.” Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927 and created the Federal Radio Commission (FRC). Airwaves liberty was, “[R]esolved in favor of the Progressive concepts of public interest, thereby limiting free speech.” The government feared radio’s potential to incite radical social or political reform. It gave the FRC the power to shut down any station it deemed to not be operating in the public’s (which really meant its own) best interest. Big money advertisers owned the airwaves and there was no room for the culture loving radio romantic of 1910. In less than 2 decades the government had succeeded in thrusting propaganda down the unsuspecting public's throat. It silenced any perceived dissent. Corporations made fortunes foisting their advertising into countless homes.

In 1996 President Clinton deregulated the radio industry. “The Act was claimed to foster competition. Instead, it continued the historic industry consolidation reducing the number of major media companies from around 50 in 1983 to 10 in 1996 and 6 in 2005. An FCC study found that the Act had led to a drastic decline in the number of radio station owners, even as the actual number of commercial stations in the United States had increased.”

The internet seems to be heading down this same road to Hell. It was born in 1969 when four host computers (UCLA, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah) were connected together. Intellectual experimentation was the focus; few foresaw that personal computers would become a standard in almost every American home. As it grew in power and size, acquisitive interests saw an opportunity to control and profit from the multitudes. The government now uses data mining technology to spy on hundreds of millions of Americans. It has even used the information superhighway as an offensive tool. In retaliation for its attack on Sony , the U.S. shut down North Korea’s entire internet. The handful of technology companies which control access to the information superhighway have made fortunes selling advertising to a swindled public; these same companies are also engaged in massive spying operations. American citizens are targeted with advertisements while their personal information is being extracted.

One main difference between the 2 mediums makes the internet far more dangerous to Americans – the internet provides 2-way communication. Radio provided entertainment, education, news and culture in one direction; out. The internet allows the government and money grubbing corporations to track where the subject is located, what his probable age, gender, purchasing interests are etc. Between e-mail, online banking, social networking and online shopping the spy can know almost anything he wants to know about his prey.

Most internet users are ignorant to the risks that they incur by using all of these widely adopted services. Websites deceive visitors into believing that their private information will be safe while every keystroke is being recorded and analyzed. Congress recently considered two bills each containing the language, "A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user." Neither bill passed, yet Edward Snowden’s leaks about data mining by the government revealed that a publicly approved law was never needed. America needs to learn from the example of radio and free the internet for the masses.


Revision 1r1 - 12 Jan 2015 - 19:37:15 - MichaelRhodes
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