Sunday, February 07, 2010

Food For Thought

This is from Workers World:

How the U.S. — and Google — censors the Internet

Published Feb 6, 2010 8:25 AM

Since mid-January, hardly a day has gone by without some report in the big-business-controlled media about China and censorship of the Internet. The primary reports were about Google’s declaration in early January that it may stop complying with Chinese laws that are meant to block illegal Internet activity, including spying. This was followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s blistering cold-war-style speech that directly attacked China.

Such threats, coming from the U.S. government, must be taken seriously. After all, this kind of speech from the heads of the State Department preceded the U.S. invasions of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Not that an invasion of China is imminent, but this is war talk from the State Department and must be treated as such.

Outside the U.S., the events are seen quite differently than the carefully-coiffed version presented in the U.S. media. China has done nothing out of the norm for any country with respect to regulating the Internet. Even the U.S. has similar laws and restrictions on criminal activities.

Given the way the U.S. media report this, it is important to make it clear that China does not control the Internet. Control of the Internet lies completely in the hands of the U.S., or more precisely, the U.S. military-industrial complex. And access to the core services is 100 percent controlled in the U.S. In fact, U.S. domination of the Internet was reflected in a bill that was proposed in the U.S. Senate last August that sought to give the president the authority to take full control of the Internet with a national security declaration.

As for censorship of the Internet, no country does more to block global access to the Internet than the U.S. government.

This was illustrated on Jan. 1. That’s the day that a hammer went down and all access to a substantial number of Web sites was blocked to all people from countries on a list created by the State Department. Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran are included on the list. A search of the State Department’s Web site and a Google search did not turn up the names of other countries on this list.

SourceForge is a Web site that’s now blocked. SourceForge says it “offers free access to hosting and tools for developers of free/open source software.” As of Jan. 1, all access to SourceForge, including downloads of free software, has been blocked to any user from a country on the State Department’s list. Previously in 2008, SourceForge started blocking access to any free software developer who wished to contribute to any free software project.

This development at SourceForge, because it is a central point for free and open access to software, has produced an international storm of protest. But SourceForge is not alone. Sun Microsystems, Mathworks and Microchip — companies that sell software used by developers — have also made their Web sites unreachable to any user from the State Department’s list. And most prominent in all this turns out to be Google and the Google Code Web site that is also for free software projects.

There is already a protest movement among free software developers to move projects off Google Code and SourceForge and onto Web sites in countries that allow open access to all. One prominent free software project, NautilusSVN, has done this in response to the blockage by Google of access to Google Code. The developers have moved their project onto Ubuntu Linux’s Launchpad and renamed it RabbitVCS, though there is some concern that the London-based Launchpad could become subjected to the U.S. blockade.

In a report on ArabCrunch, Syrian computer engineer Abdulrahman Idlbi says, “It’s worth mentioning that Internet content blockage against some countries is not restricted to getting software or services. It is really disappointing to try to participate in a global humanitarian event such as Earth Hour or the Google Haiti crisis response to make a donation, to find out that parts of those Web sites (powered by Google) are blocked.” Idlbi found that he was not able to make a donation to Haiti relief efforts.

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