A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a YouTube vide of USA “patriot” (ie nationalist), right-wing christian, and talk radio host Alex Jones, claiming that corporate ISPs including Comcast and AOL/ TimeWarner are censoring his conspiracy journalism websites.

My reply to my friend went roughly as follows:

The problem I have with this video is it comes across as amateur, paranoid, and USA-centric. Jones offers us no independent evidence of his claims that his websites and YouTube videos are being censored. He offers no details of the various schemes (see below) that are being cooked up at the international level to cripple the internet as we know it. Worst of all, he offers us nothing practical we can do to defend the internet except to spam our friends with links to his YouTube videos.

A harsher critic might say the motivation of this video is to promote Jones and his radio show, films, and publishing projects, rather than a genuine concern with the very real post 9/11 power creep by governments and corporations. I wouldn’t go that far. I am willing to believe that Jones is sincere in his desires to preserve the independence of the internet, and the freedom it enables to communicate and organize autonomously, despite the fact that he holds a very different view of the world from mine. It also seems plausible that this video is an amateur effort rather than an official video released by Jones himself, one put together by fans in an attempt to follow his one piece of practical advice - to spread the word.

The risk is that videos like this might actually have the opposite effect from that intended - resulting in any expression of concerns about the freedom and openness of the internet being viewed as paranoid and extremist, ignoring the very real schemes to control, limit, and regulate the net that can be proved to exist. See, Jones isn’t wrong - the use of the internet by independent journalists and activists has been a thorn in the side of the establishment over the last 10-20 years, and there are plenty of examples of initiatives to clamp down on digital freedom, and herd internet users into corporate-controlled, proprietary data silos. Just one example, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was recently the subject of negotiations right here in Wellington,  negotiations being conducted in secret by an elite of rich world governments, including ours.

From an Aotearoa perspective, I have been attempting to document these attacks on digital freedom, and the organizations and projects which aspire to keep the internet “free and uncapturable” (to quote InternetNZ). From the creep of state powers exemplified by the Terrorism Suppression Act, and the current Search and Surveillance Bill, to the creep of “intellectual property” monopoly protections, some of which were successfully fought by the recent campaigns around the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act and new Patents Bill, still before parliament. Most recently I’ve been watching at the fast-growing public campaign against the secrecy of the ACTA treaty, and discussing the motivations behind it and some of the issues it raises for the people as internet users, and cultural participants.

For more information on these issues, read the rest of this blog, and the accompanying wikipages. Even better, if you care about these issues, join the team and help me build this site as a campaigning resource.

Filed April 29th, 2010 under independent media

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