It happened while no one was watching, but the discussion resounded globally within the technology community in the days that followed. The UN, concerned about lack of control over the Internet, gauged the interest of various governments throughout the world regarding Internet regulation. Governments desiring an ability to control the Internet stated they would support additional government oversight, pushing the U.N. chairman to introduce such a resolution.
The U.S. declined to support the resolution, which could constrict freedoms that citizens are currently provided when posting and browsing the Internet. The U.N. proposed that each government should share an equal role in ensuring the security and stability of the Internet as well as the growth and future of the Internet as a whole.
Opponents are concerned that this type of regulation could establish a new level in censorship. Currently the Internet operates largely without government intervention, with service providers handling their own regulation. Many sites are largely unregulated, with users free to post information as they desire. While this is certainly not without its problems, American citizens continue to express a preference for an Internet that is unregulated by government.
Freedom of speech comes with a digital price. The ability to post content without providing the true identity of the author has the potential to damage an otherwise respected reputation. This has created an unprecedented ongoing need for online reputation management for both businesses and individuals. Online reputation management firms like 3Ci specialize in influencing the pagerank of these undesirable search results and empowering its clients to take back their good names. No amount of government regulation can protect against online slander unless that government begins censoring posts, defining for its citizenry what is acceptable and what isn’t. Any relief provided by new protections would be negated by subjective censorship that goes against the fundamental rights provided to all free nations.
Some fear the gravity of this issue could result in separate Internets being created for each area of the world, each addressing a particular country’s regulations. This would result in less access to information, as countries consider blocking its citizens from accessing unregulated content. Additionally, U.S. citizens could be limited in what they can see if citizens are blocked from seeing the regulated Internets of other countries.
Global online search engine Google is protesting the new proposal, gathering signatures from Internet users who agree. More than three million people have signed an online petition to date, but the search engine giant believes a vote on the issue is unavoidable. Governments want to make this happen, according to a Google spokesperson, and the company and those who signed the petition are stating their support for the countries that are opting out of this new regulation.
While the future of the Internet is unclear, the hope is that the U.S. will always land on the side of freedom of speech and expression. While the Internet may be controversial, it is a compilation of the words and images of millions of people throughout the world, making it the most comprehensive representation of humanity available today.