Bring back "fairness"! Stop the hate! And save the children!

While it always sounds cliché-ish to say it, what needs to be said more often is that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Steve Boriss (who blogs at the Future of News) looks at the history of free speech, noting that with every technological advance in communication came another heavy-handed attempt by government to restrict free speech. First it was the printing press:

While the printing press may have been a great leap forward for the spread of information, it also represented two steps backwards for free speech. First, these large, hard-to-conceal machines now allowed governments to stifle criticism, by identifying those responsible for spreading information to the masses, and subjecting them to prior restraint, licensing, censorship, and punishment.
Next came broadcast media:
The introduction of broadcasting not only eroded the number of voices, it actually reversed free speech, placing government back in control of news. European governments co-opted television and ran their own government-friendly broadcasts. In the U.S., government control of news became just as real, but it happened differently. Our government seized control of the broadcast spectrum, declaring frequencies a precious resource that must only be used by responsible corporate citizens. Accordingly, networks were required to reapply for licenses every few years, with renewals contingent upon satisfied politicians and their appointees.
And now it's the government's turn to take a crack at the Internet. Once again, under the false pretense of "fairness":
In a recent editorial, the NY Times welcomed federal regulation of the Internet under the benign-sounding cause "net neutrality," warning us that Internet service providers might suppress ideas they do not like. The Times ignores the fact that the First Amendment is designed to protect us against suppression of ideas by the government, not the private sector, which has neither the power nor the motive to suppress ideas.

Moreover, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal tells us, "Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem." It has not been given a chance to surface, much less an opportunity for the marketplace to fix this hypothetical problem. It is a weak reason to allow the irreversible step of government regulation.

Another party that is uncomfortable with free speech on the Internet is the Orwellianly-named group "Free Press." They are pushing for the FCC to regulate the Internet similar to the way it regulates broadcast TV, calling for a national (read "government") broadband policy to regulate price, speed, and availability. They also want the government to provide municipal broadband service to everybody, even though this model has already collapsed in the marketplace.

And of course, the U.N. and its many dictatorships is no fan of free speech on the Internet. Last November, the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held its second annual meeting with a not-so-hidden agenda for a U.N. takeover of the U.S.' private sector control of core Internet systems.

It doesn't seem that they'll ever stop. If it isn't one pretext, it will be another. If not "fairness," then "hate speech." If not "hate," then "the children."

The optimist in my likes to think that eventually the people they want to regulate will catch on.

UPDATE: M. Simon sent me a link to this post from
about a delay in the FCC plan to "filter" Internet Wi-Fi:

An FCC plan to provide free, nationwide wireless Internet has faltered on concerns about possible network inference and a stipulation that would require filtering of offensive content. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin reportedly said the commission will not vote on the proposal June 12 as originally planned, but that he still hopes to present the full plan to the commission in July.

The proposal involves the commission's auctioning 25 MHz of spectrum, the winner of which would be required to use a portion to build a national wireless broadband network and offer free service to 95% of the nation's population in 10 years. The plan also would require the network operator to filter content inappropriate for children.

Martin reportedly said the proposal would not be presented next week in order to allow fellow commissioners more time to consider the plan.

This should be watched carefully.

Especially if they delay it until after the election.

posted by Eric on 06.09.08 at 04:07 PM


They trust the government more than they trust business. They just never get that people who just want to make money off you are far less dangerous than people who think they know what your best interests are.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  June 9, 2008 4:27 PM

"The optimist in me likes to think that eventually the people they want to regulate will catch on."

... and shoot the regulators.

amos   ·  June 9, 2008 5:00 PM

I can imagine the NYT's concern about corporate control of speech. They don't like to remind people of how they make their money.

Or rather, these days, lose their money.

Steve Skubinna   ·  June 9, 2008 6:16 PM

"The optimist in my likes to think that eventually the people they want to regulate will catch on."

...and then what?

amos stole my thunder. How do we stop these clowns short of blowing them up??

Tom Sweeney   ·  June 9, 2008 9:43 PM

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