The Internet Is Splintering
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The Internet Is Splintering

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Each country has its own car safety rules and tax codes. But should each country also set its own limits for proper online expression?

If you have a quick answer, let me ask you to think again. We probably do not want Internet companies to decide on the independence of billions of people, but we do not want governments to have unquestioned authority.

Some Germans may agree to a law that bans online posts that their government Thoughts of hate speech. But what about Germans that they are closed to expressing such views? And what should Facebook or Google do if there is an increasingly authoritarian government? Turkey Uses similar rules to silence its citizens, or if Poland’s anti-censorship law allows politicians Blot their componentsThe

Regulating online expression in any one country – let alone in the world – is a mess set of business with No easy solution. Let me resolve some issues:

“SplinterNet” is here: The utopian idea of ​​the Internet was that it would help break national boundaries, but technology watchers have been warned for decades Instead it can increase those odds even more. That vision, often referred to as “splinternet”, is real, said lawyer Mishi Chaudhary, who started an organization in India Representing the rights of Internet users and software developers.

He told me that there was a period until about a decade ago when governments did not fully understand the power of the Internet, but then gradually the authorities needed more control – for both good and bad reasons.

“Governments are very powerful, and they don’t like to be displaced,” she said.

So who decides? It is a fundamental question that former UN officials David Kaye posed Me about the controversy between Twitter and India over the government’s demands for the removal of online content. And I will say it again, there is no simple answer.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as a government telling a company to obey a law and so it should” Chinmayi Arun, Is a fellow at Yale Law School and the founding director of the Center for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi, India. “If companies are faced with knowing that a law interferes with human freedom, I think it’s a cop-out for them to throw up their hands and say, ‘We have a choice.’ Is not. “

Internet companies including Google and Facebook regularly push back when they believe that officials are violating basic human rights. This is often a good and desired thing. Except when it is not. And that view is subjective.

If I was a Thai citizen who wanted less power in the monarchy, I might be happy for Facebook Defy my government. But if I supported the monarchy, I could be sad that a foreign company was not respecting our laws.

Internet powers still have to make a decision call: The people Like Mark Zuckerberg or Chief executive of microsoft They say they want the country to tell them what to do on the difficult questions of online expression, and their reasoning makes sense. These decisions are difficult! But no matter what rules the governments make, any internet gathering place will still have to use its judgment.

Evelyn Dock, A lecturer at Harvard Law School, told me that even when countries like Germany pass laws about online speech, it is still the responsibility of Internet companies to explain whether millions of positions are on the right side of the law. The same goes for the United States, where companies are largely left to set their own limits of acceptable online expression.

Doak said countries and international bodies “should do more to set up procedures for more explicit guard rails and Internet platforms,” ​​but they are not going to make decisions from these platforms.

Is there a middle ground? SplinterNet scare is often presented as a binary option between a global Facebook or Google or 200 versions. But ideas are underway to set a global baseline of online expression, and a process to postpone disputes.

An alliance called Global Network Initiative Globally has worked for years to set codes of conduct for tech and telecommunications companies to protect online speech and privacy. Group including Article 19, Which works on promoting freedom of expression, and Facebook’s Oversight Board It has also worked on resolution mechanisms for people around the world to challenge the decisions of Internet companies.

If you are thinking that it is all messed up – yes, it is. Speech on the Internet is a relatively new thing, and we are still understanding it.


  • He may not be witty funny, but he is definitely a funny mentor: There are a Xylene consulting firms that help businesses buy technology, and almost none of them can be called remotely hilarious. My colleague Dai Wakabayashi found the exception: An Amazon Cloud Computing Billing Specialists Who Make Fun at the Company And is quite popular for a selfie at a technical conference. (This is a very attractive conference.)

  • Not great for Amazon in India: Reuters reported on internal Amazon documents that describe the company’s methods India’s online shopping rules sidelined Its purpose is to protect small traders.

  • Avoiding the sea of ​​knockoff masks: My colleague Brian X Chen explains How to buy medical grade mask online Without falling for scams. See it all: Writer Zeynep Tufekci asks, “Why can’t proper masks just be made, sold and distributed?”

Please enjoy a century old mee-go-round and this story The magical moment when it revolves briefly to life again.


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