Friday, July 21, 2017

New Censtorship Threats to Internet

Though the relationship is not entirely linear or always obvious, commercial freedom is related to political freedom.

Consider network neutrality. The original thinking by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission was that internet freedom (commercial freedom of app and content providers) required “no blocking” of all lawful content.

Ironically, some might argue, later extensions of network neutrality actually work to suppress the commercial freedom of some entities to promote the “freedom” of others (app providers “win,” access providers “lose”)

Now court decisions are highlighting another problem: actual blocking of content that might be lawful in one country, because it is unlawful in another (or potentially in another country).

The Google v. Equustek Solutions case in Canada started out as a “simple” trademark case, in which Equustek claimed that another company was infringing on its trademarks online.

But a Canadian court ruled that Google (not a direct party in the case) had to block entire sites worldwide, even if some content is, in fact, not unlawful in Canada.

In 2015, an appeals court upheld that decision, and earlier today the Canadian Supreme Court agreed with both lower courts.

Now a similar issue is arising in the European Union, where a French court has aid Google has to  censor content links globally, to follow French law.

The larger point is that threats to content or app freedom can come from multiple sources. Some seem to worry most about potential danger from commercial sources (zero rating, toll-free service, quality of service mechanisms).

But the biggest danger will always be action by governments, either in the form of governments outlawing whole apps and types of content, or governments outlawing apps or content in one country because some other government has done so.

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