The MeatSpace Mailbag
Up the Constitution! No, Up Yours!
"Meatspace rules rule" will someday be a famous quote and I will be able to tell my grand children that I was there to read it from its original source," writes one correspondent about Bill Thompson's call for a secure European net.
It created a lot of mail, so much so, that it flummoxed Microsoft Word, which told me: "There are too many spelling or grammatical errors in repliestobill.doc to continue displaying them".
Much of it was surprisingly nuanced and supportive. And many of you took offense at the article, too.
We've divided it into three sections. Correspondents in the first agree with much of what Thompson perceives as wrong, but balk at the conclusion. The second group are supportive. The third think they can smell Bill from Texas.
We'll be publishing an interview with him tomorrow. Here's a selection:
Disease identified: cure wrong
You are right there are many problems with the constitution and our government has grown quite corrupt. The problem does not lie with the government directly but with the people who whether they know it or not control the government. No matter how corrupt the system is now it could be changed very radically and almost over night if people would wake up.
Your idea is interesting however I do not believe it is feasible. I personally feel that the next step in human social evolution requires a place for free exchange of ideas. I have just as much right to express my ideas, no matter how much you might disslike them, as you do yours. I believe that given a chance and enough nuturing and encouragement a quality community could eventually emerge from the anarchy that is the current internet.
Flawed though it may be, I still enjoyed your article regarding a "European reclamation of the Web". The reason is because you point out to people that while most don't really understand what's going on with the Internet, it really isn't magical or all that different from other things in the real world. As more and more people come to understand the Internet and its underlying technologies, appropriate laws will begin to emerge to correctly regulate it.
A better solution to the problem of an "American-dominated" Internet is to wait for global governance, which is just around the corner. Under one government only one jurisdiction for the courts covering all computers, computer networks, and persons using those networks will exist. In the interim, you need to be patient while laws pertaining to the Internet tighten up. Because most of the cyberlibertarians hold politics in contemptand the techno-nerds are in denial, by the time they realize that everything is regulated it will be too late for them to do anything about it. When they do finally wake up and begin to howl at how unfair and terrible it is, it will be highly entertaining.
As far as "evil American corporations" go, you apparantly don't know what you're talking about. Those corporations are multinational, meaning that they are British, German, Dutch, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern corporations as well.
So you can sit back and relax because you'll get your well-regulated Internet soon enough. All that it will mean is that the government(s) will have access to all your personal information along with the corporations. Who needs privacy anyways?
"Meatspace rules rule" will someday be a famous quote and I will be able to tell my grand children that I was there to read it from its original source.
I support your article on the Register. I love my country, despise the people that are supposed to represent me as they do not. My government is merely an enforcement of economic structure with morals drifting away from a Christian foundation. My government makes decisions based on the lives of elitist representatives. These representatives have stocks, retirement packages, and are well educated. The majority of Americans have to deal with fluctuating mortgage rates on a fixed income, the financial impact of toggling regulated/deregulated communication systems, nor did they experience the filtered truth of my public school system.
A majority of Americans are taught at an early age that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Very few of us know the truth. What do you expect from a country that reveres a drunk womanizing Spanish slave trader as discovering a new frontier of freedom? My country was doomed the day Phillip Morris influenced the government to outlaw the use of cannabis and other natural drugs to eliminate their competitors. The United States has become what the early settlers fled from.
Itook to only two offenses in your article. "It is time to reclaim the net from the Americans." I am an American and I do not influence the Net. I am an American and I do not vote for government representatives that support such capitalistic and liberal views. My peers are of similar views.
My second point is, there are two sides to the information overflow. As a human being I have a right to truth. If the Net were to lose it's global resources, how am I to learn who Christopher Columbus really was? My government told my father that the United States was prevailing over Vietnam.
The Net needs to be regulated by a body whose soul interest is the betterment of mankind. That governing body is not Europe, China, or the Unites States. If Europe wishes to separate from the Net then do so, but recognize that the positive virtues of Europe are no longer available to the rest of the planet. And that my friend, is a loss to mankind.
Natural United States Citizen
As a British Liberal (Democrat) I can agree with much of the politics. Putting up with West Coast Laissez Faire values posing as the New Global Order enforced by ICANN, RIAA, Milton Friedman and every dot-com CEO that thought to hustle a fenced off part of a system paid for by the Military Academic complex using taxpayers money is harsh. So 7/10 for that.
But 0/10 for practical proposals. Using the tired New Economy shorthand of "Metcalf's Law" or "Network Externalities" the value of THE network is bigger than the sum of the values of a series of smaller networks of the same total size.
Do you propose an Euronet? How will this differ from the US-global internet? Same/different transport protocol? Different DNS? Distinct legal framework?
The local govt cannot even get AOL to pay VAT here. They were offshore from day zero and Freeserve simply threatened to change to a North African billing address. And what about sites that might re-locate to Sealand or the Carib?
The best hope would be a coherent EU regulatory framework for laws and a coherent EU policy for names with a decent dispute resolution policy.
And second best is to paint "no safe harbor" (sic) on the wall at Heathrow facing incoming US flights to remind US execs that here we have a Data Protection law - and they do not. And that cannot be deemed commensurate. My personal data is not part of some US corporations asset valuation - or I wish it was not.
After reading your article I felt a great relief come over me to see that there are others who regard the current status of the Internet in at least a similar light as I do.
Too many times the US is looked at for leadership in a myriad of situations so all of a sudden we just assume we should be the leader in any situation. Obviously that's not working.
But this is just my way of thinking. I recognize and realize that we, in the US, have become blind to the rest of the world, thinking of if as little more the vacation destinations or imaginary places where things are different. Isolationism is rarely the answer to a problem. Although isolating the US might wake some of the blithering idiots to reality. On second thought, isolating the US would make us just that much more arrogant.
One fundamental flaw. As long as the USA remains arrogant enough to prosecute people in other countries for violation of American law, and as long as the rest of the world (specifically the UK) insists on bowing to the USA on matters economic, military and otherwise, your vision is doomed, because every action carried out worldwide will be subject to both local law and (frequently draconian) American law.
Nicely written. Very well argued, too.
I think, though, what you want already exists. I've used networks at one of the national labs here in the US, a biotech startup, here at home, and throughout China. Private networks are here well ahead of any legislation for them, and they can be as restrictive as the person who paid for them wants them to be. And I'm willing to pay for (relative, imperfect) anonymity and a minimal set of restrictions.
So please, set up a trusted, spam-free, virus-free network that requires authentication to join and see if it flies. If you get enough content on it, I might even supplement my regular access with it. And, hey, if it's really spiffy, my regular access may go the way of telnet and gopher.
Just don't legislate it, ok?
Oh, and you forgot to mention that the renegade merchants and slave owners descended from convicts and religious nuts. Mostly religious nuts.
And one more thing: it's customary in register articles to *not* use your spellchecker. Don't let it happen again.
Way to Go!
I've been writing software since before before there were bytes to do it with, and your Register rant makes more sense than anything I've read on the subject of computers since K&R's original "C" paper.
I just hope you're serious..... can I help?
Arthur Abraham California
Steve Hersey [email@example.com] I'm an American reader of The Register. When I first began reading your article, I was inclined to be annoyed, but as I read further, annoyance gradually gave way to agreement with your premise. Your article is well-written, well-reasoned, and persuasive.
I do like the idea of a global communications Net that is free from the pettiness of local governments, but I must regretfully concede that this IS an unrealistic idea; the human species is simply not mature enough to manage such an entity responsibly, and the result is unacceptable chaos and the tyranny of the wealthy, the powerful, and the spammers. (If you ask me, the human species isn't mature enough to responsibly handle metal cutlery -- just look at the streets of any major city during rush hour.)
I agree with you that online life and law would be much improved by application of the principle that "cyberspace" is not a place. I also see your point about the undesirability of having the US government set the rules for the whole Net. (Lately, there isn't a whole lot the US government has done that I do find desirable, but it's getting dangerous to admit that in public.) Regulation of any sort makes me nervous, because I see it abused so often and so easily (DMCA, anyone? Patriot Act?); but the absence of any sort of regulation is clearly open to abuse that is just as bad (Enron, anyone? Halliburton?). I don't know what kind of a more-regulated Net would be best, but the words "reasonable" and "level playing field" keep coming to mind, and I don't think the powers that be here think along those lines.
I was going to make fun of Britain's Official Secrets Act, but your comment about internment and secret trial and execution takes all the fun out of it. The US legal system has flaws, and you've pointed some of them out quite effectively. I hope we survive the current period without things getting too much worse...
Regards, Steve Hersey
"Globalisation" is just a contemporary word for "Imperialism". Do they blush
I agree pretty completely with the sentiments you express. Where can I sign?
As an american with a working mind and brain, i wholly agree with your sentiments. i am not the brainwashed, mtv fed, pro-america pile of excrement that this nation so rapidly creates.
i despise the fact that i live in such an area, which has little to no cultural diversity, and is suspicious of a person based on the colour of their skin alone.
it makes me sick to know that corporations are vying for control of everything, and people are willing allowing it, without understanding the consequences. but, the US breeds ignorant humans, whom follow the idea of 'ignorance is bliss' to the verbatim.
thank you very much for your words, and ideas. i do hope that they are acted upon, and listened to.
joel mahler pleasanton, ca
As a United States citizen I felt I must say something in response to your article. You are absolutely right. America was a beautiful idea, as is the Internet. But our own greed and shortsightedness tends to make us Americans forget the importance of openness, freedom, and cooperation with the only community that will matter in the future. The global community. Hopefully in the future we will rediscover what the Internet used to be, and still can be, and keep our laws off of the one development in the history of our species that can unite us all. Until then, the rest of the world, well, Europe at least, should save the Internet from us, before its too late.
What an outstanding piece - I've long wished for someone to sum up the USA vs. 'non-USA' grievances in the way you have. I'm sick and tired of their international 'dictatorship' policies... especially here in Australia, where John Howard pawns to the US with sickening regularity.
One can only hope that the 'net you envisage is realised. It may be the start of a world-wide rejection of US 'values'.
There are websites which speak of "Your rights online" (if you are familiar with The Register, then you're probably also familiar with at least one site that uses that buzz-phrase), this is utter shit. There are no "online" rights. There is no "online government", no "online military", no "online department for concealing the fact that state appointed representatives are regularly sleeping with their interns." And yet some of these sites get viewers fired up, creating a loud voice, at least within the site itself, who knows how far it goes beyond that. These same sites frown upon, to say the least, "FUD", and yet in trying to seperate rights of being a citizen of a country with rights online, independent of a country, they are doing little more than serving as their very own "FUD" generators.
I also, long ago, became very tired with the phrase "cyberspace." As far as I am concerned, it was a notion created by MIT geeks who found it impossible to get dates, or even interact properly, within "real space", so they fabricated this ficticious parallel plane where the socially rejected could be kings and reign mighty upon thrones of bits and clever three-letter acronyms. It is analogous to an RPG (Role Playing Game.) Suddenly, every zit-faced social outcast is a 30th Level Cybermage with infinite Charisma and Dexterity. I have some background in this, as I am both a social outcast and a roleplayer, the difference is I don't extend fantasy into reality, that's typically called being delusional, insofar as I know.
Ian D. Eccles
Well said, and I'm a US citizen, born in Boston. There are some of us who are very ashamed of what our government is doing, but it's more than that. The era of Sacred Greed seems to be declining, but not the reign of our George II.
Good points, debunking cyberspace as a separate entity.
E-mail is the 21st century counterpart to telegrams.
Nicholas Bodley Waltham, Mass.
I'm an American, and I'm actually going to take your side.
First, let's look at some of the problems with government in general. How many European countries have had the same governments for 250 years or more? Even the US hasn't quite gotten 250 years out of this government, and it's needed changing for some time. I only know for sure of two European countries that have had the same governments for so long, and I"m not certain of one of them (Switzerland). The UK is the other one, but it hasn't even been the UK for the whole time it's had its government. The UK has risen to a higher level of world dominance than the US, but it also turned back everything it did, and generally behaved in a gentlemanly fashion to the world (with a normal assortment of exceptions--nobody's perfect).
History lesson is over. :)
You (or your buddy, it's unclear to me after the footnote who wrote the article) have made some extremely good points. I suggest that the best place to begin your proposal is with the implementation of IPv6. The problem with the current IP version is that the IP address doesn't necessarily indicate geographical area. Let's change that first.
Second, European ISP's will be required to put in place packet-sniffing technology. They only have to sniff packets coming in from outside their own countries (and in the case of multi-nationals, they'd have to sniff packets within their own company as well).
At this point, the technology is in place to firewall yourselves from the rest of the world, if you care to. So, the solution should be pretty simple. So I say. At least, IPv6 is the next logical step to take, and will be implemented soon, I think. Packet-sniffers have been around for awhile.
To be sure, let's not beat around the bush. Let's not say "Pass laws banning attachments from foreign sources" and shit like that. That will be counter-productive, and make people mad besides. Simple intrusion-detection software is already capable of doing the job.
The idea is that my government needs someone to come along and bitchslap it. Those terrorists tried to (and have been trying for decades). I can certainly respect the motive if not the action. Around here we hold up as heros the kids that knock out the playground bully, but if someone takes a shot at us, we call for war. Just like the bully....
I know my country's not perfect. We need some changes. The problem is that our experiment with Democracy (we'll leave it as an exercise for the reader if this country's a democracy or a republic) has failed. We've proven that if you allow a popularity contest to determine who makes the laws then you wind up with puppet-lawmakers, elected because they won a popularity contest. Note that we don't intend to elect the puppet-masters themselves, they're not popular. Instead, Pinochio (complete with lies, albeit uncorrected) makes our laws for us.
I speak out in no attempt to do my country a disservice. In fact, it's my opinion that if I didn't speak out, I would then be doing my country a disservice. Having watched enough of what's going on around here, I fear that our congress will soon be dismissed. Hitler had his terrorist attack, then he ruled with terror. The fear tactics have been going on for years. What hope is there for a society that says "Don't do drugs" and then when a man speaks his mind he's put on prozac, or lithium, or what have you.
But please, don't make the judgement that the American people are bad. Misguided, certainly. That comes from religion, but that's another topic entirely.
I do think, though, that if the European nations were to enact something like what you're preaching, then it may help to show us Americans that we're not the gods we think we are. Maybe then we can enact our own positive changes. So, I think your proposal would benefit us both. :) (Haven't considered the price, however. Moving physically from country to country requires passports and so forth. Microsoft hasn't given us a trustworthy passport, and my government doesn't trust the free software anarchists, because freedom threatens my government's existence)
1. William Gibson's cyberpunks were still charged by law, whenever they were caught. Isn't he a Brit? :)
2. The Constitution of the USA contains some excellent government philosophy, it shouldn't be discarded as a useful source for that sort of thing. But it has been almost disregarded since it's ratification, only invoked to save some rich bastard. Think: Rodney King, Cruel and Unusual Punishment. But it affords no protection to any citizen here. I don't think it ever did, but then again I haven't lived in times past.
3. The Internet used to have laws. Before it exploded and everybody jumped on it, you could be charged for stuff. You could get in big trouble. The FBI went after hackers back then, and even caught some. Back then, our supposed "civilization" was reflected in the internet. Now it's a reflection of our diseased society (here I'm definitely talking about our Global Society). So, changing the internet without addressing the root problems will not fix anything. Too bad I waited too long to mention this, I could have really defended it. :)
I'm also pretty certain that if you were to post this, there would be millions of Americans that would call me treasonous. Heh, and I can just about guarantee that the First Amendment wouldn't be considered applicable
Your article on The Register yesterday was one of the most entertaining, informal and (I think) important ideas on the direction the Internet must take. The RIAA has already overstepped its welcome, and US ideals (as you said) do not suit the rest of us. I have always maintained that there are two different types of freedom (a. freedom to do something, b. freedom from something) - but most Americans do not understand the second one.
I just hope the rest of the world stands up to the US and says "No more". I will certainly support this idea, because things can't continue as they are.
I just finished reading your article on The Register and have to say it is really really interesting. You raise many points I really can agree with (e.g. the points abou the US and specially that Europe has to become emancipated from the US!), but I think there're many things I can't really agree with either, or at least I can't really imagine them. E.g. that all data flowing in and out of this "European Internet" would be regulated. Sure, it probably would be an requirement if this net was to work, but I just don't like the idea that if I'd send an email to my relatives in NYC this email would be "regulated" (whatever this actually would be; i guess some sort of keyword filtering?)
Whatever, I guess I could discuss about these issue for hours, but I don't want to waste your time now. Actually, I just wanted to say thanks for this interesting, which was food for thought for me! :-)
Johannes M. Richter
I guess you'll take a lot of flack for this, but I think it is an important viewpoint which has been overlooked until now.
Your premise will be vilified, simply because many of us don't want the net to be 'more of the same' - we want it to be a 'brave new world'. And it has been an anarchy up to now because at first it was beneath the radar of lawmakers, and then was too established with a technology not designed for regulation to be retrospectively controlled.
The question is, do we gain by having another domain in which the rules are completely different? I don't know, but I'd rather have the option. Ideally there would be two coexisting networks, one with anarchy/US capitalism/opportunism and spam, and the other with DRM and geographical regulation. It would be interesting to see how the two evolve.
I read your article with Interest and think it makes many good points. Having worked with the Internet since '93, I've watched the signal to noise ratio and the amount of blatant commercial noise deteriorate the system since the 'dot com' debacle started.
Around 2 years ago my guess on the future of the net was that a two tier construct with a secure, authorised, high quality accountable central structure surrounded (and protected from) a free model anonymous, unaccountable and low quality service would start to emerge.
Your idea of creating a more accountable network around the .eu domain is therefore interesting and I think a good addition to the discussion on the future of the net.
I have long advocated the creation of a 1p/message accountable secure email system, although the problem with this has been the lack of vision of those trusted parties who have the reputation and scale to take such a project on (i.e. Royal Mail, Deutschepost etc) if not necessarily the technical expertise. Perhaps this is a useful project for the EU.
You left out the fact that they can also put you into a Concentration Camp in Cuba, which was deliberately chosen just so that US courts could not inconvenience Cesar & his Centurion Guard with pesky rules of law that would otherwise apply.
In my experience, Americans in general disagree with most things printed in the media, and dislike most actions of our government, both judicial and legislative. The problem is that most intelligent Americans are too smart to get into politics, therefore the lawmakers come from the pool of those who are left. I am frankly embarrassed at times at the way our government reacts to world situations, and would declare myself my own nation, except that I would not want to be treated with the same disrespect.
You're probably getting email death threats from our American friends flowing in since you used the C word but I think your exactly right. It concluded all my feelings toward the sheer stupidity behind things like the RIAA proposed license to break into anything they please.
Here in Sweden it has rather been achieved indirectly as something of a closed garden web with Nordic websites etc using Swedish as a primary language and in doing so it manages to avoid American influence.
Thank you for an interesting article and for a good kick in the pants! I am technically savvy and thought that I was culturally Euro-centric but when it comes to the Internet I most certainly saw the US as the hub and the trend setter. Both technically and culturally I would love the Internet centre of gravity ( for the UK) was somewhere in Europe not 9000 miles away!
Current U.S. corporate scandals reveal just how much we can trust ethics of big business, and its (s)elected representatives.
But this stuff represents a hijacking, not a fulfillment, of the underlying institutions and ideals.
Although I am a US citizen, I agree with, and applaud your article on The Register. I'm getting sick of how US Government continues to impose legislation on the entire internet, while ignoring and subverting the laws of other countries in the name of free speech.
While I don't entirely agree with the idea of separating Europe from the rest of the internet, I do believe that somebody must find a way to wrestle control of the Internet from the hands of the US and the corporate interests and give it back to the people of the world. I just wanted to show my support since your article is likely to draw a lot of negative feedback.
Go to hell, Bill Thompson
Calling Americans a "bunch of renegade merchants and rebellious slave owners" is not only offensive to me, as my family fought for the US in the Revolutionary War, it is unbelievable that a citizen of Britain could ever say that about the citizens of the United States.
I can't understand why any publication would print your extremist crackpot views.
You should issue an apology to citizens of the United States (a real country) immediately.
Your repeated references to 'gun-toting nut', 'concealed weapon', and 'assault weapon' shows that you are either a hoplophobe with an innate fear of penises, or under the delusion that every American is like the cowboys in the movies with a 10gallon hat and six shooter strapped to his side. There is more gun crime and violence in Dublin than here in Dallas. Fence yourself into the socialist stock pens for your masters to tend you. Go ahead and start segregating yourself into little fiefdoms and city-states again. And you will be back at our doorsteps whining, crying, and sniveling that someone has kicked your ass once again and that you need help to put the world right again in Europe one more time.
As an American, I thought your article (which appeared on The Register today) was both thought-provoking, and a little frustrating.
One of your points was that the US was imposing its vision of what is legal and what isn't on the internet, undermining the law and culture of the other nations which connect to it. I'm not convinced this is the case.
You mention, "If I send an email suggesting that I am in possession of $50m and will hand it over in return for your bank details, why can't it just be that I also am breaking the law in two countries, not in some mythical 'cyberspace' with its own legal system?" Actually, you are breaking the law in two countries, and neither one would have much difficulty prosecuting you. The FTC (our agency for regulating interstate commerce) even has a special e-mail address to which one can forward suspicious e-mails. The lack of actual arrests has more to do with the relative difficulty of catching the spammers, not on the belief that the crime is taking place in "cyberspace" and thus can't be prosecuted. Similarly, nations like Saudi Arabia and China do just fine enforcing their local laws on their citizens regarding internet usage, even when those laws conflict with US code.
You go on to write, "Under English law a sex tourist can be prosecuted here even if he has sex with a child in Thailand: surely prosecuting someone for promoting racial hatred on a US-hosted website can't be that different?" I must be misunderstanding you here. It sounds like you favor prosecuting a US citizen for doing something in the US that's perfectly legal (if reprehensible) under US law, but which is a crime in the UK. Huh? If it's illegal to view racial-hatred sites in the UK, doesn't it make more sense to prosecute the individuals in the UK who are looking at it?
Perhaps most annoying is a general feeling throughout the article that the big, bad United States is out to remake the (inherently superior, evidently) European world in its image. It's yet another argument in the venerable "America as cultural imperialist" vein. I wasn't buying this argument back in the pre-internet days, and I'm not falling for it now. European culture is so unappealing to its citizens, that merely making an alternative available will cause hordes of people to drop their values and traditions? Even if that were true, is that the fault of the US, or does it signal a problem with EuroCulture? (And anyway, the social influence thing works both ways. I am, after all, reading an article on a British web site.)
You say, "the vast majority of Internet users need and want a secure network where they can use email, look at Websites, shop, watch movies and chat to friends [...]" How strange. I thought we had that now. What's more, I thought part of the appeal was that we can do these things across national borders more easily than we could before. (Believe it or not, there are people in Europe who voluntarily wish to interact with Americans, and vice versa.) Dividing the planet up into mutually-incompatible subnets would hamper this wonderful benefit.
Should internet-connected nations work together to establish mutually acceptable codes of conduct? Yes. Should we improve extradition laws so a person in country A who maliciously and deliberately commits cyber-crime in country B can be brought to justice? Sounds reasonable. Should the committees that set technical standards for the internet have truly equal participation from all the member nations, European and American? Absolutely. But create an Europe-only club to isolate yourselves and your precious notion of cultural superiority? I hardly think so.
Admittedly American politicians do many stupid things. Which in my mind shows that they are on par with the cravenness of most politicia's around the world. But what could be accomplished by shunning the vulgar American influence of the Web. Isn't the beauty of the Web, as well as a "free" society, whatever that is, the fact that many dissimilar groups come together and manage to work out a co-existence.
Given the recent emergence of Le Pen I am not at all convinced that using legislation to limit the ability of right-wing extremists to promote their views is terribly effective in any case.
On the issue of copyright, you mention that European copyright laws allow the lending of copyrighted material. U.S. copyright law also allows such lending under the doctrines of fair use and first sale. The threats to said lending are not from U.S. copyright law per se, but from extensions of said law lobbied for by large entertainment corporations, including Sony (Japan) and Bertelsmann (Germany). Given that said corporations, U.S.-based and otherwise, have succeeded in promoting their agendas outside the U.S. (e.g., Denmark), what basis exists for believing Europe immune to the same sorts of copyright extension that are being promoted in the U.S.?
In short, I fail to see how cordoning off the Internet will solve anything. Unless the entire world--the U.S. included--cooperates, you will be left with the same issues that currently exist, and as satellite and wireless technologies continue to develop, maintaining 'fortress Europe' as a bulwark against global problems will become more and more difficult, and ultimately hopeless.
Started out OK. Then, somehow, I found myself listening to the RIAA!
You have created a terrific article of misinformation, and circular reasoning. Wish you hadn't bothered. I suppose I should go into details, but that would be legitimizing your rather illegitimate writing.
Best of luck to you.
It's one of the most confused and ill-reasoned pieces on Internet politics and policies I've ever seen.
You perceive the US as a totally lawless country, yet at the same time you condemn us for our repressive laws. How can we be both?
Without getting too deeply into your attack on cyberspace as a concept, there is one legal area where it is arguably relevant thanks to US legal history: pornography. For better or worse, the standing "test" for obscenity created by our Supreme Court does not define it in absolute terms, but defers to "community standards". So the question then arises: what is a "community" when the pornography exists only online? As long as this is an unsettled legal question, the concept of cyberspace will be a relevant one.
Bill Thompson is so full of shit I can smell it all the way across the atlantic and the way to the west coast.
He seems to not get it. There is a total lack of content on most European sites. The U.S. ones out number the ones based in Europe. He should put his effort into seeing to it that more and better european site are created. Fucking start competing.
Would his idea make it so I could not access Reuters? The BBC? Even the Register? He is a stupid asshole.
This bugger seems quite biased against the United States with his ranting and many assertions which are not factual, are out right lies, and total shit. He is a hate filed leftist fuck weed. I am his worst nightmare. A liberal with a wall of guns and a bad attitude about dumb fucks with out a clue like Thompson. His vision is of a world we everyone thinks "correctly." That is just like him and ideas approved by him. Persons (fellow shit heads) like Thompson are Just like Joe Stalin. Their way or death. He can stick his head back up his ass where it belongs. His ideas will break the internet. He can go back to his buggery with the rest of his extremist ilk.
Taft Ca. USA
A masterpiece... .of outdated, 20th-century socialist thinking.
Even in a constitutionless government that is democratically elected, the majority has the right to oppress or otherwise coerce the minority without restraint. So when you talk about 'our culture' and 'our values', you are really talking about -- at the very best -- the lowest common denominator culture and values of the majority. Let's be very clear -- when you are talking about 'our values', you are talking about one group imposing values and culture on another -- indeed, on all others.
This is the inherent evil of all governments, not just dictatorships. Thehe recognition of this flaw and the institutionalization of protection against this abuse of power is the genius of the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and libertarian ideals, an enlightenment of which you have failed to understand to your own detriment.
I don't know how long it will take or what form it will take, but if the voices of people like you are influential, and Europe moves backwards into more socialism and nationalism rather than forwards towards more freedom and individualism, the lag in living standards and almost every other measure of quality of life between the United States and Europe will grow from a gap into a chasm, until it is obvious to enough of the European electorate that something is terribly wrong, and radical change occurs. Needless to say, that change will be in the direction America has been traveling already for 200 years.
You are so full of shit it's not even funny.
I also laugh at the notion that "Europe" is a single entity. Do you seriously believe that the French people will allow their citizens to be arrested because a French web site broke a German censorship law? Should Iran have the right to indict and convict British citizens for breaking their local laws? Or is it that you just want to replace a US "dictatorship" with a European one?
You are suggesting that all web sites and other servers be registered with the local government? This is a bigger threat to the 'net than the DMCA. Just what we need -- politicians who don't know the difference between a kilobit and kilobyte making policy.
The system you propose would be used to limit speech throughout the world. Perhaps you think that it is the right of every totalitarian regime to control their own nation, but here we prefer to let the people make their own decisions. 300 channels of cable or satellite TV is much better than 3 government owned channels.
Most video content is created by US and Japanese companies. Are they to be ignored? Do you expect them to bow to your new totalitarian European regime?
You argue that there is no "CyberSpace" and then argue that you want to extend European culture to CyberSpace. How can you extend your culture to someplace that doesn't even exist? And which European culture will dominate - French, British, Italian, German? Is Russia allowed to have a voice too? Replacing one totalitarian regime with another is a very dangerous idea because it would codify and grant control of the internet to politicians. Isn't it better to allow individuals throughout the world the freedom to express their ideas without government intervention? Sure, there have to be some laws - anti-hacking, anti-spam, anti-child-porn, etc, but those laws should be as few and limited as possible to allow all people access information from each other. The best way to rid the world of totalitarian regimes is to show their citizens what the rest of the world is really like. Any attempt to regulate information flow on the internet gives those despots the tools they need to restrict information into and out of their own nations. If I were in control of a nation I would have banned your article as subversive, worthless, and borderline racist for its anti-US rhetoric. Should anyone really have that power? Freedom is good. Information is good. Regulations on either are bad.
Ann Arbor, Michigan USA
Fortress Europe won't wash. I don't think you're trying to go there, but language implying ownership imposes concepts of control....
It is likely that your average American patriot will simply ignore 'un-american activities'. This may be an advantage to both parties...
Jesus H. Christ you're a nationalistic fuck. I'm surprised you didn't suggest purging all the "evil imperialist Americans" to solve the problem once and for all.
"Over here, human rights legislation, interpreted by judges who are able to use their intelligence instead of just relying on textual analysis of the Bill of Rights, gives us a much better chance of tying online action to the real world and integrating cyberspace with real space in way that benefits both."
I know of some Europeans who, "used their intelligence instead of just relying on textual analysis of the Bill of Rights" in the past. Martin Heidegger, and Josef Mengele come to mind... how can you hate the Bill of Rights so much? Don't human rights mean anything to you? It might make you feel better to know that Montesquieu (a EUROPEAN) laid the foundations for them. Your article was sickening. That kind of nationalism should have died decades ago.
The Constitution is not the problem
Although I agree with your conclusions, I don't agree with many of your arguments.
First off, the US Constitution isn't the cause of any of any of the problems. Subversion of the Constitution and legal system by US Corporate/Government alliances (of which a large part is owned by UK Corporate/Government interests) is.
A Democracy may be a workable form of government, even though technically the US is a Constitutional Republic; the founders of the Republic thought that a Democracy was "rabble rule", and I wince when US politicians talk of "Our Democracy" and "spreading Democracy" when the people of the US don't really have a Democracy. I refer to the subverted form of government currently in power as a Corpocracy - and yes, it rhymes with hypocrisy. The First Amendment of the Constitution is freedom of speech, nothing to do with carrying concealed weapons (which is a crime BTW). Freedom of speech has been extremely curtailed in this land of the free by the same aforementioned Plutocratic interests through the repealing of laws specifically designed to provide the necessary checks and balances. There are numerous examples but the two most obvious are Glass-Steigel and the 1976 Telecommunications Act. Add to this the new laws created and written directly by special interests and you begin to get a picture of what's really going on. Sensible discussion is not crippled by the constitution. It is mandated by the constitution, and is only crippled by the its subversion.
The second part of your argument is contradictory. While I agree that "you are where you are" (The Firesign Theater comes to mind "How can you be two places at once, when really you're nowhere at all....."), to me that means that you are under the jurisdiction of the country that your backside is plopped in. Not in some virtual space that needs its own set of laws. However, by this reasoning, you can't prosecute someone in a different country that's operating within the rules of the country where their aforementioned backside is resting. In some circumstances, you could be theoretically breaking laws in more than one country, but what's important is if you are breaking any laws in the country you are physically in.
I'll quote you here - "in the UK we're perfectly happy to prosecute someone for war crimes committed fifty years ago in another country, so why are there problems if the crime involved the Internet? Under English law a sex tourist can be prosecuted here even if he has sex with a child in Thailand: surely prosecuting someone for promoting racial hatred on a US-hosted website can't be that different?" This is in essence where you ruin the credibility of your argument. You don't want to have to obey US laws, but you want them to obey yours? Should you then be tried and convicted in the US if, say, you violate the DMCA or better yet the marijuana laws? I think you need to rethink this position, and I'll add that I think that perhaps there must be a bit of a flaw in the UK law itself in regards to juristriction. I'll finish this paragraph with another quote from your opinion - "...we can see that the US has no right to determine how the whole Internet is run. Each country should decide for itself." Do you see the contradiction?
The decision to allow the financial concerns of the few to dictate law in any country is a mistake. The EU, as a newly forming entity, has the power to say "no" to the laws that go against the interests of its members, but it hasn't. It has readily jumped on the US/World Corporate/Financial Globalization bandwagon. It has tasted the Kool-Aid and asked for another glass please.
I agree with your conclusion that protecting the citizens of a country against foreign powers/interests is important, and this does involve respecting the sovereignty of the host nation. If this involves a border of some kind, and that's what is wanted, so be it.