The E-G8 Summit

By: Grainne Rhuad

On Tuesday (5/24/11) French President Nicolas Sarkozy challenged the principle of an unfettered internet. Sarkozy, kicking off the conference, said “Governments need to lay down and enforce rules in the digital world even as they need to foster creativity and economic growth with the Internet.”  This, in preparation for the traditional G8summit being held this week, where net neutrality will be discussed.

Invited to the party were mostly for-profit internet company badasses like Google Inc. executive chairman Eric Schmidt, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Sarkozy started his statements by praising internet entrepreneurs for their ingenuity, comparing them to the likes of Galileo and Einstein.  He went on however to state that the companies operating on the internet need to know that governments such as France and one would assume from his statements, others have “red lines which will not be crossed.”

He went on to compare the internet to the Wild West which somehow the French President feels was a lawless, anything goes type of place.  It’s not a very good comparison as might vs. right and winner takes all was the order of the day.  It seems to me that a good look at the cattle industry operations in the actual Wild West prove that the internet under his suggestions would be more similar to the Wild West than he thinks.

Cattle Barons ruling the west bought up property and pushed out homesteaders and sheep ranchers alike.  Anyone trying to make a living in or near their areas would be offered an opportunity to either move on or their name would be given to the likes of the Pinkertons to make sure they disappeared.

It is this type of mood that the suggestions Sarkozy makes sets up.  In fact most of the players invited to his E-G8 conference were those who have already shown their colors in terms of cooperation.  Big conglomerations that have consistently rolled out information to the government on their users like Google and Facebook which recently readily sold out those connected to Wikileaks users in the U.S.  Even some people who had no idea Wikileaks had diverted information through their systems.

This in itself is a little bit hypocritical given that Facebook got its start promising anonymity and protection and even went to bat against the College Board where it was conceived to do so.-If you believe the Facebook mythology.

Governments are beginning to see complete net neutrality as a thorn in their foot.  While up until now internet tools like Twitter have assisted in rallying protests and even overthrowing governments, the providers of such services are facing pressure to make changes in the name of things like “fairness” and “safety” Says Google’s Schmidt “My own opinion is that most governments are having trouble with that shift in power,” he said. “So rather than sort of complaining about it, which is what everybody does, why don’t we see if we can harness it?”

During an e-G8 panel talk, Schmidt said: “You want to tread lightly on regulating brand new, innovative industries. … Clearly you need some level of regulation for the evil stuff. But I would be careful about over regulating the Internet.

But what exactly is all this “evil stuff” we are getting worried about?  For France is has long been copyright issues.  This came to light in 2009 when France and Sarkozy blocked Google inc. from digitizing its literary treasures.

The other “evil stuff” mentioned?  Shielding Facebook users from unsolicited invitations.  That’s right the evil overlord of your choice is unfairly using the internet to try to get you to buy stuff from IKEA when you don’t want it and clearly the government should be involved.

Apparently Germany is particularly freaked out about the unsolicited invitations and had threatened to issue a block to Facebook which is why you now have the option of having a super-strength privacy https address rather than the pussy-weight privacy address http.  The Germans also called Americans laissez-faire in their privacy attitudes in comparison to them in particular and Europeans in general so take that up with them next time you’re in Hamburg, where incidentally there are more cameras taking pictures of private citizens than a lot of U.S. Airports.

What seems clear in the wake of the internet being used for revolution, subversion and food truck updates is governments want more control over what sorts of things are allowable.  What remains to be seen is how far the leading companies will go to comply. From the looks of it Facebook has pretty much already put its tail between its legs.  However there are other companies out there not ready to do so, like a Russian internet advertising company founded by Andrey Skveshnikov, who stated ‘In Russia we have a saying that the most help the government can offer is not to interfere. The devil is in the detail.’

The Devil is in the detail and we would all do well to remember it.  Once we start making rules there is a precedent, and precedents are used for all sorts of nefarious deeds.  We the users of the internet need to decide how much freedom we want and what that may mean very soon is boycotting popular social networks that won’t support our needs.

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8 Comments on “The E-G8 Summit”

  1. Companies like Facebook or Twitter, whether they fortify privacy protections for us or not, is only one aspect of a bigger issue. We have a choice to use these tools or not. We don’t have much choice when it comes to being watched by street cameras or even satalites. We all are being watched and all of that data is obtainable by tech savey individuals or larger entities like governments. We have seen over the past two years were Governments have literally shut down the internet and phone communications. These individuals and entities have more control than just flipping the power switch I’m sure. Just think for a minute how you allow your tracks to be follow throughout a typical day. Like walking in fresh snow we leave tracks when we deal with the bank, grocerey store, gas station, walking down the street, making a phone call, watching TV or how much water or energy you consume on a daily basis. There is no getting around it. Everything we do is up for view by one and all. Don’t kid yourself.

  2. Isn’t it strange the way those who want the most privacy want to know the most about others? Those who hide the most have the most to hide. That’s nefarious.

  3. @Bill- One can only dream…

    @SpaceEagle- Not always so, many people hide things because nobody else has any right to know, period.

    @Hubbleboy-It is true that unless you have mad scientist skills at hiding your web tracks and somehow blocking cameras situated absolutely everywhere you are going to have to resign yourself to loss of privacy when you go out or log on to anything these days.

    However the point of paying attention to the E-G8 summit has more to do with who has control over content on the internet. What can be posted, who can do it, who can own it, when can you be shut down, when do you have to roll on private information and when are you just a sell out. These are all things that concern us here at Subversify and indeed concern many internet users from Gamers to Writers to researchers to viewers of porn. Pay attention.

    Also of alarming concern is what could happen to networks like Twitter which has radicalized revolution as we have seen this year in places like Tunisia, where a platform grew from exactly one person to 4 the next day to over 500 the next largely thanks to Twitter. I’m sure it escaped no government’s notice how swiftly people switched on their phones and rallied one another. This will concern them and it should be supported by those who want to keep handy tools like this alive.

  4. Poor Brad Greenspan, snubbed by Obama and now Sarkozy. This really doesn’t surprise me. Everyone’s following China’s censorship policy, because it apparently worked for them. But maybe too little too late.

  5. @ Hubbleboy,

    There is truth in what you say – by and large we are observed most everywhere we go and most of our transactions (including posts like these) are likely to be recorded somewhere.

    However, the electronic system of control is still far from complete – there is simply too much information out there for the establishment to sift through and they don’t employ anywhere near enough analysts to porcess it all in a timely fashion (although that is subject to change). Just because you make an electronic post or purchase involving a credit card doesn’t mean that the powers that be will immediately become aware of it.

    Furthermore, there are “blind spots” in the system – people who make all of their important purchases by cash from vendors that are not licensed by any given authority (composing what are often refered to a “gray” or “black” markets) are hard for the establishment to track down due to a lack of sales records of any kind. While the established order has many eyes, it isn’t all all-seeing (at least not yet): so there’s still hope for people like us to exploit them and forment a revolution behind beyond their view.

  6. That is the great clumsiness of bureaucracy. It is concerned with so much detail, the greater plan escapes it. It collects its data, the entire complex meaningless unless someone rocks the boat enough to be disturbing. Then, the entire concentration is on the most routine to the most deviant features of that person’s every-day life. In the meantime, ten others get up to rock the boat.

    Ironic that Russia has begun experimenting with greater liberties of the press at a time when the Western World is clamping down. They are only too painfully aware of how bloody and vicious revolution can become when the controlling side is practicing suppression. Of course, Russia has good reason for wanting to retain freedom of press. It has vast natural resources and is struggling for fair trade agreements; which is all any of us really want, but the vested corporate interests find this unfavorable for their own monopolistic schemes. So they lie, they deceive, they look for ways to cover their dirty deeds. Like any tyrant, they’ll discover the more they limit information, the stronger the underground will become.

    As far as China is concerned, in its hands, it carries the throbbing hearts of the masses. When the masses are hungry, cold and unhappy, they cannot be stopped. If China doesn’t know this, it should. No government can long remain in power that doesn’t take care of its people.

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