The Left knows they can’t convince a free people to give up their freedom and prosperity for the failed doctrines of socialism. That is why they so desperately try to prevent conservatives from even speaking on the nation’s campuses.
Badly confused billionaire George Soros has tried to work with President Obama to extend the same brown shirt tactics from America’s colleges and universities to the Internet. The Internet originally grew out of the U.S. Defense Department and National Science Foundation. It functions today as a collaborative institution operated primarily by private companies and investors, under a generally agreed U.S. led rubric of liberalism and free speech, enabling commercial innovation and initiative.
An American non-profit corporation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has long held responsibility under contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce for administering assignment of domain names, protocols and other parameters that will maintain Internet interoperability.
This liberal rubric is generally supported worldwide. But emerging Third World countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa have favored control by the United Nations rather than the U.S. Authoritarian governments such as Russia, China, Iran, Arab states, Cuba, and North Korea have favored Internet control by individual nations, which threatens the liberal, free speech framework of the Internet, at least for those countries.
On October 1, 2016, the Department of Commerce ended its contract with ICANN. That was favored by the Obama Administration, which came to support international, rather than American, governance of the Internet.
George Soros’s Open Society Foundation also came to support international regulation of the Internet, particularly of decisions by private sector players regarding “what information is taken off the Internet and what may remain.” That threatens to impose outside control of what private sector operators can post on their own websites
Perversely, Soros “argues that [such] international regulation of the Internet is needed to protect freedom of expression.” As if the nation that first institutionalized the concept of freedom of speech can’t be trusted to protect it as well as authoritarian dictators. That is in the Orwell 1984 tradition of War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Knowledge is Ignorance.
Since the dawn of the commercial internet, Federal regulation provided privacy protections for the Internet through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But under orders from the Obama White House, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its odd 2015 Open Internet Order which reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as “common carries” and “public utilities” under the Communications Act of 1934. That Order is still under legal challenge in the federal courts.
That 1934 Act authorized federal regulation of telephone service in the age of old fashioned, wall plug in, rotary phones serviced by the old Ma Bell monopoly. I remember thinking how is the Internet like that old rotary phone service?
But that was not the point of the 2015 FCC Order. That reclassification of ISPs transferred Internet privacy regulation from the FTC to the FCC, under long established federal statutes.
The next shoe to drop came on October 27, 2016, days before the election. The FCC issued a ruling that ISPs had to obtain prior consent from customers before using or selling information mined from the customer’s web browsing activity. That ruling only applied to ISPs, and not the far bigger Google and Facebook, which are the two biggest abusers of customer internet data marketing.
But in late April, the Republican Congress used its powers under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify permanently that FCC rule. Republicans saw clearly that this Obama/Soros process was heading to a government takeover of the Internet, and acted heroically to stop it.
Soros controlled publications responded with a cacophony of dishonest calumny sliming Republicans for this action, alleging that Congressional Republicans “took away your online privacy protections” and gave “free rein to [ISPs to] do what they like with your browsing history, shopping habits, your location, and other information gleaned from your online activity.”
But as Larry Downes explained at Forbes, “Congress’s disapproval [of the FCC Rule] does not authorize ISPs or anyone else to “sell” customer data or investigate your web browsing history. It does not represent the “death of online privacy.” ISPs will be given no “new powers” to “harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways.”
In fact, what the Congressional action means is that there will be no change at all in your online privacy. That is first and foremost because the FCC Rule that the Congress repealed under the CRA had not even gone into effect yet. So repealing it would not change anything from the prior status quo.
The real threat was what the FCC Rule, and associated actions, would become in the future. When Democrats resume control of the White House sometime in the future, censorship rules can be read into supposed privacy regulations, particularly concerning what information private operators take off their websites and what information they choose to leave on, as Soros has revealed. That is precisely where the gauzy, poorly defined concept of “net neutrality” is going as well.
Peter Ferrara is a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute and Senior Policy Advisor for the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.