Bernell: “Internet Freedom”: Is there really any left after 9-11?

“The promise was freedom and for a time freedom was the reality. The Internet some of us believed would be a largely unregulated sphere where boundaries would not matter. Where for good and bad, individual freedom would be the paramount condition”

— (Dan Gilmor)

After the tragic events of 9/11 the Internet and the world changed drastically Protecting freedom was given second priority to finding the evildoers whom committed such a tragedy. However, for those of us those remember the Internet prior to 9/11 we secretly cry foul as our internet was taken away from us under the flag of National Security Thus, what I intend to discuss is how our Internet freedoms are dwindling everyday as result of our own undoing. Furthermore, the Internet mentioned by (Gilmor) now longer exist. It has been replaced with a system if securities and structures that rival Fort Knox. Lastly, how our freedoms under the banner of safety is no more and will never be again as long as the Internet exists.

The Internet in the 1980’s was like the Wild West. On any one-search engine you would find NASA whitepapers next to prominent porn site advertisements. This former DARPA project was now becoming commonplace. Users were signing up by the millions to get free stuff and to find information own their own terms. “No longer were we dependent on reporters to deliver the news, we became our own reporters searching for it ourselves like a hunter seeking its pray” (American Psycological Association). We willingly choose to sort through myriad amount of daily data until we found what we needed. Search engines were in their infancy so the user was forced to learn the language of the programmer to survive on the web.

That freedom era brought forth a rich and unfettered dialogue to a world that was aliened with popular spoon-fed mass media. Non-profit agencies whom could not afford hefty campaigns could now make an inexpensive website to post their ideals. Colleges chimed in by creating various chat rooms where any topic was discussed in cyberspace. In addition, if you wanted free software, free games and well other free stuff the web was your marketplace. Movies like the Net (1993) starring Sondra Bullock brought forth fear and suspicion about how this technology can be used to destroy and not enhance life. However, when her character ordered pizza online in the movie that year Pizza Hut’s online sales doubled and e-commerce was born in the aftermath, (Porter).

Computers overall became a tool in the household and not an oddity. Thus, we used them by wielding the God given rights we were granted at birth. “ Despite computer hackers now being tracked by the United States federal government. And terrorist emailing their threats to the White House we Americans still felt safe with our technology and the freedom it provides. (Berg). Yet when 9/11 took place we all knew that the world as we know would change forever. Yet no one figured our Internet would be the first of freedoms dominos to literally fall.

With email growing as a communications medium, and chat rooms like “Delphi” now transiting into social networking sites like “Facebook” every computer user had the vision of rising censorship from the government. On the heels of the Napster lawsuit, we started to see the erosion of the free stuff that drove must to the web in the first place. By this time the Movie Industry started cracking down on bootleg (illegally copied) Video Cassettes in the mid 1990’s and the web, as we knew it became a pay to play industry instead of an online expression of our freedoms.

In summary, the Internet lost its innocence right after the second plane struck the twin towers. The moment the investigation brought forth that terrorist hijackers of the ill fated planes used the Internet to communicate with each other the web changed forever. Companies were compelled to turnover their serve files to any federal agency pending investigation. Warrantless searches were conducted on any person suspected of being associated with terrorist activities. Our free online meeting place was now being used as tool to track us as consumers and potential terrorist activity. The future seems to be even more disconcerting. With Identity theft victims outgrowing homicides victims nationwide with no end insight Internet freedom seems to be eroding fast. (Porter)

Where Americans once wanted a “hands off” approach to their Internet they now want the government to make them whole in case of Internet crimes. The government can’t protect us without excreting more control over the web itself by checking IP addresses and other protocols that made the web anonymous in the past. Thus, I see our Internet becoming another tracking source for the government and others to learn about us as individuals and what we buy as consumers. Thus, our Internet freedoms have been reduced to a few mouse clicks that can be sold to the right consumer. It may not be freedom, but it is capitalism freedoms younger brother growing up strong in the land where true Internet freedom once reigned.

Works Cited

American Psycological Association. “Crossing the Threschold “Politacal foundationf for internet freedoms”.” APA Journal 6 (1999): 346-353.

Berg, Terrence. “The Impact on State power to enforce the law”. 20 March 2004. Bringham Young University Law Review. Jan 2014.

Gilmor, Dan. We the media. Paperback . Beijing: O Reilly , 2006.

(Page 209)

Porter, Lance. “The internet and public relations investiagtions practitioners and world wide web use.” Journal amd Mass Communications Quarterly 4.6 (2003): 603-620.




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