War for the Web
06 12.12

Happy Birthday to the ARPAnet

The ARPAnet, the precursor to our modern Internet, came into existence today when a group of students at UCLA sent the message, L – O before the computer crashed. The modern computer network was born! While we are here, let’s just mention that ARPA was a project entirely funded by the defense department, and that it’s success and importance became quickly apparent. From its inception in the 1960’s to the explosion of the Internet in the consumer marketplace in the 1990’s, there was a continual expansion of Internet and networking for businesses and academic institutions. Definitely check out wikipedia’s history for more information.

Alright, in more recent news there has been an ongoing battle between ICANN, an American organization, and the ITU, the UN’s organization for regulating telecoms. The ITU wants control of the Internet naming system, including the domain name system and numbering system. Most people think this is a fairly bad idea, as the ITU has done terrible job of regulating international telecoms, which is its primary purpose.  The ITU is also beholden to suppressive regimes like China. In contrast, ICANN is a private company based here in the United States, and so is not beholden to any international or governmental regimes. Currently, although certain member states in the UN are making a lot of noise about moving Internet governance to the ITU, there’s really no plan to do so. Because ICANN is a private company, there’s little that the ITU can do except make noise. That may change as international pressure is applied, but for now, the Internet is safe.

Another note, there’s a great article on The Verge this week about the limits of free speech on the Internet. It’s a good article, it focuses on the fact that Twitter, although a private company, and allowed to restrict my speech and your speech any way it wants, has been a good influence on the web where other companies haven’t been. It’s important to remember, however, that despite what the article says, the Internet is an Information service according to the FCC, and therefore not subject to the consumer protections that the telephone provides. As such, there is simultaneously nothing to stop twitter from blocking tweets without cause, and nothing to stop the government from requesting tweets by individual users from twitter.

The takeaway is that whenever you sign a terms of use agreement online, you’re probably giving the company hosting your data the right to censor you however they want, and to use your information as they wish. Try to remember that when you see a Facebook post by a buddy claiming to protect their copyright. You already signed that away by signing up.

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