The government approved internet in China is useless. Seriously, so much is censored and blocked that it’s nearly impossible to access information on a wide range of topics that go far beyond politics. China has taken something as vast and dynamic and powerful as the internet and have tried turned it into their own personal propaganda tool and social control organ. They have not yet been successful, and in the process they just piss off and breed antagonism from hundreds of millions of their citizens.
It seems as if the United States of America is going a similar route as China when it comes to online censorship. But rather than blocking sites in the name of politics, preserving the social order, or inhibiting free communication through social networks, the rally cry here is copyright infringement. Under the banner of defending the rights of major entertainment corporations to make more money, the most prolific information sharing and communication system the world has ever known is being chopped up and regulated by governmental and corporate controls. The USA is about to begin a policy of online censorship and control that is way less intense but not completely unlike that of China.
This Monday, February 25, 2013, all five major internet providers in the United States (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, and Cablevision) will begin monitoring each file their users download in the name of copyright defense. If they suspect that a user may be downloading something that violates copyright they will give a series of warnings, compulsory “education” courses, and then, if this doesn’t work, cut or dramatically slow their internet connection. Some ISPs, such as Time Warner, will also be blocking known sites which are accused of copyright infringement — China style.
Verizon is the first to police Internet users for suspected copyright infringements, who will then be followed by Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, and Time Warner. Suspected violators will first be notified via email and voicemail — then your ISP will block your internet access with a splash page that forces you to complete complete inane “copyright re-education classes.” The whole thing is very 1984.
Reeducation? This is the term the Chinese government uses for sending dissidents off to labor camps.
The law is called Six Strikes, and it is one of the first major anti-piracy initiatives to actually be carried out in the United States. Like the name of the law suggests, internet users are apparently given six chances to break their offensive online downloading habits. Each chance involves an ever rising degree of reprimanding — called “education” — where the user will be convinced of the wrong they are doing, shown the proper path, and encouraged to self-correct their behavior. If the user continues downloading pirated files, the ISP will temporarily decrease or even take away their internet privileges. In this way, the ISPs are given full authority to act as nannies and treat their customers as naughty children in need of behavior modification.
The VP of Fox Broadcasting said, “This is not about suing users at all. This system is not designed to produce lawsuits—it’s designed to produce education.”
The Six Strikes law is absolutely ridiculous for the simple reason that pretty much any person that’s internet savvy enough to be involved in serial piracy knows how to get around it. They use TOR, VPNs, VPS, I2P, and other other systems — just like we do in China. Many of the architects and enforcers of the Six Strikes policy even admit that these measures are not intended to impact those involved in hardcore digital piracy, just lay users that they can scare straight.
Six Strikes is basically meant to create a state of fear for low level internet users, people like my parents, who don’t completely understand the internet or how to fight against this type of government and corporate intervention. This is a set of measures that is tantamount to security theater, it’s a way of saying, “We’re watching you.”
But while the actual effects of this law is more theater than enforcement, the floodgate has been opened for further regulation of the internet in the United States.
To get around China’s firewall, people here use what’s called a VPN (virtual private network). This is a program that allows users to access the internet from other, freer countries. If you’re interested in finding a way to legally prevent the ISPs of the United States from spying on and regulating your internet usage, just get one of these programs and browse the internet from Canada, Mexico, Europe, or another country that is not enacting such draconian policies.
There are free versions of VPNs available, but they are nowhere near as good as some of the top paid services. The one I use is called HMA VPN, and if it works to subvert the intense barrage of online censors in China, it will work in the USA — a country that’s just starting out down the road of internet regulation.
If you want to subscribe to HMA and support Vagabond Journey, then use this link. We will receive a commission on the sale at no additional expense to you.
Breaking down the six strikes law
Verizon’s Six Strikes plan revealed