Life Behind the Great Firewall

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As Congress debates what sounds like a horrendous Internet regulation bill, it is worth considering, in real, concrete terms, what having an unrestricted Internet really means. Rather than, perhaps, appreciating what we had only after losing it, we could consider what life is like for those who already don't have it. Someone living in China notes that lots of things we are beginning to take for granted (but would be hard-pressed to see ourselves doing without) just aren't there:

Imagine having no Google, no Youtube, no Facebook, no Vimeo, no Twitter...being forced to use Bing to search, no accessing any sites hosted on blogspot or wordpress, Gmail having intermittent outages, sites using Google Analytics taking ten times longer to load, Dropbox only working on occasion, and no other file sending services.

Imagine that there are equivalents of these sites that are state-owned and controlled: a search engine that only returns government approved sites, a censored twitter where you must register with your real name and passport number, and an internet radio site that is forced to play "red" songs celebrating the government. Imagine that these government-sanctioned alternatives are shoddily and hastily assembled and have none of the quality or convenience the originals had.
Don Chow ends with a warning and what amounts to a prediction:
I know SOPA doesn't imply that all of this would happen in the US. But it certainly feels like a step towards this sort of restriction, and sets a dangerous precedent.

... These restrictions here haven't slowed down pirating a single bit.
Private intellectual property and freedom of speech are both crucial for the prosperous, technologically-advanced civilization we now enjoy. As exemplified by the above, we cannot have either for long without the other. Congress seems to be laboring under the illusion that we can.

-- CAV

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