Those of us who rely on the internet for alternative news and viewpoints should be concerned about some recent developments. New legislation in Germany reported in the highly respected newspaper “Die Zeit” will require all internet users to be licensed with a backtracking feature that will enable the government to determine where any internet transmission originated. The new regulations will apparently require all users to have a tamper proof internet ID and will be enforced by special police. In Germany all telecommunications data, to include both internet and telephone, is already being retained by the government for six months under a law that has been in effect since 2008. It is of particular interest to note what German politicians and officials have said in supporting the legislation. One commented that it is necessary to stop the internet from becoming a “lawless chaos room.” Another described the internet as a “source of criminality, terrorism, and much similar filth.” Yet another said “What is illegal offline is also illegal online.”
Governments in many European countries and also in the US already read and monitor internet traffic. Some countries like China and Iran already control the servers for internet as well as the cell phone centers in their country and have not been shy about shutting down communications when threatened with what they perceive to be civil disorder. In many public places in Europe internet services are frequently screened by software that blocks certain websites and the use of words or phrases that are considered objectionable. This screening is also becoming common in hotels and other public places that offer internet services in the United States. But what is really dangerous is the development of technologies that make it possible to monitor the internet combined with legislation that gives the authorities the ability to go after users who can then be charged with illegal behavior, such as is happening in Germany.
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