Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Dress rehearsal, act 2?

When corrupt authority wishes to censor a medium, it begins at the point of least resistance: It targets only those whom it can label as lawbreakers. This is easiest to do when its targets are relatively weak and unpopular — people like child pornographers. But this will only carry it so far; eventually, it needs to start testing its ability to pursue large numbers of comparatively minor “lawbreakers,” such as those whom it accuses of copyright infringement.

Seized server notice

This is how free speech ends: not with a roar, but with a whisper.
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We may remain in this secondary stage for some time; after all, such enforcement directly serves the pecuniary interest of industries that can afford a lot of campaign contributions and can mount effective public relations campaigns for those who aid them or against those who don’t. But in the process, the “enforcers” develop the procedures they will need should they ever deem their power sufficiently threatened to institute similar censorship of, for example, a site that persistently leaks their secrets.

This, however, represents only a tiny fraction of the authorities’ ambition. Since 2006, the Pentagon has been laying plans to “fight” the internet, as a whole, as if it were an “enemy weapons system.” This, in turn, is part of a still larger strategy:

And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to “provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.” ... U.S. forces should be able to “disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Ultimately, then, it appears that the U.S. government has identified the real enemy that it wants to suppress: us.

Originally published as a review of a torrentfreak.com article on the use of alleged copyright violations to censor websites.

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