THE FALLOUT CONTINUES: REMAKING THE INTERNET: BERNERS-LEE AND RUSSIA
Last Monday you'll recall I blogged about the op-ed piece in TASS by Mr. Dmitri Medvedev, a stable feature and highly placed individual within the Russian government in the past few years. In his article, Mr. Medvedev pointed out the dubious precedent of the American tech-giants censoring Mr. Trump, and implied the necessity for other countries to distance themselves from their social media platforms. In the context of his remarks, he clearly meant to imply that these were some of the blowback or fallout issues stemming from the recent American elections.
But there are more, and they concern the internet itself. These two articles, shared by D.D. and V.T. respectively, concern that blowback regarding the internet more directly:
Let's take the first article from Zero Hedge first. The Russian concern appears to be space-related:
According to a recent report in the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, the recommended fines range from 10,000 to 30,000 rubles ($135-$405) for ordinary users, and from 500,000 to 1 million rubles ($6,750 to $13,500) for legal entities who use the Western satellite services.
In the Russian-language article, translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell, members of the Duma assert that accessing the Internet independently would bypass the country's System of Operational Search Measures, which monitors Internet use and mobile communications. As part of the country's tight control on media and communications, all Russian Internet traffic must pass through a Russian communications provider.
Russia's Rogozin has been critical of the US Department of Defense and NASA for subsidizing SpaceX via government contracts worth several billion dollars, partially in exchange for launching cargo at a deep discount compared to other providers. He added that Starlink is 'little more than a scheme to provide US Special Forces with uninterrupted communications.'
Rogozin is correct. Not only is space the "winner takes all" game that's afoot, control of space is absolutely crucial for another reason. Not only is is a war-fighting domain, it is now the essential field of operations to the flow of information.
Or to put it differently, if space can be monopolized, the flow of information is monopolized. The corollary is simple: if space cannot be monopolized, then no one power - representing a cluster of corporate interests - will have a monopoly on "the narrative." Already in this country we see the dangers of the concentration of media corporate power in a few hands.
With that in mind, consider the final sentence, which D.D.'s original email containing the article highlighted:
Meanwhile, Russia is planning its own satellite-based internet, "Sphere," which could launch as soon as 2024. While its budget has yet to be revealed, some reports have indicated it could cost as much as $20 billion.
This corroborates Mr. Medvedev's concerns over Silicon Valley's censorship of Mr. Trump, but additionally reveals the geopolitical motivations: Russia does not intend to allow only "one narrative" to be allowed to optimize space and "the information space." And rest assured, this means other space powers - Japan, China, India, Europe, and very possibly Brazil and Argentina and a few others - will not be far behind.
In short, the internet, and its ability to rapidly disseminate information, particularly information contrary to official or corporate agendas and narratives, is now a playground for geopolitics in a way that it was not before.
And that brings us to the second article shared by V.T. Note the following:
(Reuters) – Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who was knighted for inventing the internet navigation system known as the World Wide Web, wants to re-make cyberspace once again.
With a new startup called Inrupt, Berners-Lee aims to fix some of the problems that have handicapped the so-called open web in an age of huge, closed platforms such as Facebook.
Building on ideas developed by an open-source software project called Solid, Inrupt promises a web where people can use a single sign-on for any service and personal data is stored in “pods,” or personal online data stores, controlled by the user.
“People are fed up with the lack of controls, the silos,” said Berners-Lee, co-founder and chief technology officer of Inrupt, in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. This new, updated web, Berners-Lee said, will enable the kind of person-to-person sharing and collaboration that has helped make the big social media services so successful while leaving the user in control.
It sounds nice, but one wonders just how much user-control and privacy there will be, when the following people are involved in the project according to the article:
John Bruce, a veteran technology executive who is CEO of Inrupt, said the company had signed up Britain’s National Health Service, the BBC and the government of Flanders in Belgium as pilot customers, and hoped to announce many more by April.
Inrupt’s investors include Hearst Ventures, Octopus Ventures and Akamai, an internet content delivery firm. Bruce declined to say how much has been raised.
The BBC? The British National Health Service? Hearst? These are the entities that are going to ensure user-privacy and do an end-run around the Silicon Valley tech giants and their social media platforms?
I don't know about you, but you can colour me skeptical on the notion.
So why bother mentioning the second article at all, particularly in conjunction with the first?
For this (high octane speculative) reason: to get ahead of what may be a growing and looming problem, namely, all those "techies" out there who are fed up with the platforms and social media as currently exist, and who are fed up for precisely the reasons alluded to in the second (and first) articles: virtual monopoly control by the Big tech companies, censorship, lack of privacy, and so on.
Or to put it differently: both articles indicate that the scramble is on for new platforms, and even independent satellite systems. And it's not "big players" like Russia, or Berners-Lee and his current raft of big players like the BBC or the British National Health. Mr. Globaloney's "American franchise" has so overplayed its hand that I suspect the cooler heads of reason in Russia and the UK know it, and are trying to get ahead of what could turn out to be a control freak's worst internet nightmare: hundreds, if not thousands, of independent programmers inventing platforms, encryption algorithms, and new social media. And add to that a few billionaires or millionaires who don't share Mr. Globaloney's vision for the future, and you've got a problem. Already, at the very moment Mr. GLobaloney wants to go "all digital" in the "Great Reset," internet cohesion is breaking down: Russia wants its own, Mr. Berners-Lee wants to redo it, and everyone wants to be able to access information freely, and free of controlled narratives. So far as Mr. Globaloney is concerned, this could turn out to be quite a spanner in the works to gum it up.
In other words, this could turn into quite a show in the coming months and years. And it may even be fun to watch and be a part of.
See you on the flip side...
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