In Essays, Innovation

The advocates for freedom of online expression are supporting the very entities that want to control it.

Members of the European Parlaiment have voted to continue debating the merits of laws intended to force content aggregators to pay for snippets pulled from news sites (Article 11), and to protect artists’ copyright by making websites liable for infringements (Article 13).

Tim Berners-Lee and other august Old Men of the Web oppose the rules, as do many younger digerati, on the grounds that they’ll limit freedom of expression; Mitch Kapor wrote that Article 13 in particular “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

Google, Facebook, and the other entities transforming the Internet into a surveilled prison couldn’t be happier with such support.

Google and Facebook alone have direct influence over nearly three-fourths of Internet traffic, and make zillions of dollars from using content created by others…much of it behavioral data provided by users who click on those news snippets, or consume that artistic content.

Throw in Amazon and the myriad apps that manage and monetize online access, and the days of The WELLBBS, and file sharing via FTP servers seem like a distant, almost mythical past.

There’s no open Internet anymore, and to argue otherwise is to claim that up is down, or imprisonment is freedom.

Maybe more debate is a good idea, though the Internet is a complicated beast, to say the least, and it’s likely that many of the MEPs don’t even understand half the terms or technicalities involved in the conversation. Regulations can and should be improved, and there’s always the risk of unintended consequences, so caution is advisable.

And, as far as rules go, fewer are better than more, so reducing the amount of Articles is probably an inherent good.

But blather about sharing and freedom does little to advance thoughtful debate; rather, it obscures the issues at hand with what might be sincere belief, but serves the purposes of mercenary intent.

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