Who Controls The Internet?

When the first users of what we now commonly call the internet linked those 4 university computers together in 1969 do you think they envisioned how fast and how big their experiment would grow. And when their little networked community more than quadrupled in size the following year do you think they realized how their experiment would impact the lives of almost everyone on the planet within the decades to follow?

The internet we know today looks and feels much different than the one created more than 40 years ago. You no longer have to be a geek at some university to use it. You don’t have to have a technological background to get online to find information, pay bills, make purchases or even create your own internet web site.

Yes, today’s internet is very different from when it started. Today’s internet allows just about everyone with a computer to access banks, stores, universities, government information, personal information and a whole lot more. It allows people to send mail and chat with each other. It allows people to start an online business. It allows people to stay connected and informed in real-time. And it allows people to voice their ideas and opinions to a global community because it’s now the World Wide Web.

However, as with all things, there are those who abuse the system. With email we got spammers. With freely accessible web sites we got hackers. And with all the information sharing we got plagiarizers and online piracy.

And it’s because of the less than 1% of the internet users who abuse the system I ask, “Who controls the internet?” Who makes the laws that regulate how it is used and what is allowed and what is not?

Freedom of information is a good thing. Freedom to harm others is not.

A couple of years ago the United States passed the CAN-SPAM Act in an effort to stop email spam. Was it effective and did it stop spam?

If my email is any indication of how well the CAN-SPAM Act worked then I would have to say, no it didn’t. I still get a lot of unsolicited email everyday.

As I see it the only things the CAN-SPAM Act did was:

1. Stop a lot of honest online businesses from sending email to those who had requested it.

2. Make honest online businesses put contact information in their mailings.

3. Prove there is a working internet underground where those who want to violate the laws can get access to the things they need to break the laws.

This year the U.S. wants to enact some legislation to protect people from online piracy and currently there are 2 bills, SOPA and PIPA, that address this issue. On January 18, 2011, a large part of the internet community voiced its opinion on both of these bills by staging aninternet blackout. Thousands of sites either went black for the day or made some other change to their site as a protest to both of these pending legislations.

And this is not the first time the internet showed it strength in a people’s movement. In 2009, Twitter was the Medium of the Movement during the Iranian election. And more recently we saw how social media was used to connect the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

If anything, the last 2 years have shown us:

1. The World Wide Web is bigger than any 1 country.

2. The internet has millions of users across the world who know how to gather together, organize and communicate with each other.

3. When a country tries to regulate the use of the internet to either protect or control its people it doesn’t work as well as expected.

The internet has grown to be a large, monstrous thing. It spans the globe and with wireless technology it is available almost everywhere. It touches the lives of young and old. It informs us, entertains us and keeps us connected with each other.

And it’s because the internet is so big I again ask, who controls the internet? Who makes the rules about how it will work? Who decides what is allowed and what is not? Who watches over the all the sites and their visitors and protects them from malicious acts like hacking, Trojans, viruses and theft?

Right now I don’t know who or what is controlling the internet. In fact I am not even sure the internet is being controlled. And I am not sure I want the internet to be controlled.

What do you think? Do you think the internet is being controlled? Who do you think controls it? And more importantly, do you think it should be controlled and if so, by whom?

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