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Internet Censorship Begins In The USA

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 [...]

internet-censorship-graphic_DCEThe 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.

From fightforthefuture.org:

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.

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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.

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Additional resources:
Breaking down the six strikes law
Verizon’s Six Strikes plan revealed

Filed under: Internet, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

8 comments… add one

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  • RootLeaf February 23, 2013, 9:29 am

    Yeah, I noticed how in Kazakhstan I basically gave up trying to use TOR, though I can’t say I really needed it… I think I will check out that HMA thing… Seriously, the governments need to be reeducated and sent away into the wilderness where they belong!

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    • Vagabond Journey February 23, 2013, 9:45 pm

      @RootLeaf Definitely. The wild west days of the internet are drawing to a close.

      Link Reply
  • Uzuoma February 24, 2013, 4:00 pm Link Reply
    • Vagabond Journey February 24, 2013, 7:15 pm

      @Uzuoma Definitely. This is showing to be an incredibly huge problem in societies that have embraced the internet in full. I’ve addressed it a few times on this blog:
       
      http://www.vagabondjourney.com/new-american-tribalism/
      http://www.vagabondjourney.com/has-the-information-age-really-made-us-any-wiser/
       
      Though I wouldn’t call this censorship, it can produce similar results. It is truly amazing how clearly you can see this in the USA, where so many people think they’re “in the know” and have the complete low down on a wide range of issues. Really, what they know is served to them based on what they’ve shown the internet they want to know. Add to that the fact that in with the massive amount tribe oriented media it’s incredibly easy to wall yourself into an ideological niche and not even know it.

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      • Uzuoma February 25, 2013, 4:30 am

        @Vagabond Journey  @Uzuoma Yes I had seen the 2 articles. It was meant as a response to your statement that ”the wild west days of the internet are drawing to a close”. I know that by what I’m going to say I’m going to repeat some things you already stated, but my point is that the wild days of the internet were already closed. Long before this law was thought of.
         
        Filter bubbles on the internet have already been around, before all the fuzz about SOPA and USA censorship laws. I even dare to say that filter bubbles are more dangerous than the aforementioned because:
        – They are not as transparent as a censorship law, they give you an illusion of a free internet while the opposite is true
        – Because they are not transparent and SOPA and other laws are, they are often overlooked because the latter ones get all the attention
        – They speed up the phenomenon of ”Tribalism” you mentioned in the article. And as mentioned this tribalism could have disastrous outcomes
         
        Both are wrong, but when imprisoned I would feel more comfortable being aware that I’m imprisoned instead of given the illusion of being free.  
         
        Here in the EU they made a law forcing websites to let their visitors know that they are tracking your cookies. But the websites simply inform you that they are tracking your cookies and then give you the option to continue to the website and allow them to track you or close down the website if you don’t allow it. Thus the law is more of symbolic value instead of actually attacking the problem…. Also it just made people really annoyed that they first had to click on something before being able to enter the website, instead of making the people look up information and what they are allowing. Most people just want it to be removed so they don’t have to ”’waste” this second of their tightly scheduled life on clicking on a button, which essentially limits their freedom…

        Link Reply
        • Vagabond Journey February 25, 2013, 5:11 am

          @Uzuoma Yes, this is a potentially dangerous phenomenon. While no sites are being blocked due to filter bubble policies, it is much less likely that you will view them. A big move that Google began rolling out hardcore in 2011 was giving big brands a much larger preference in search queries (even more than they already were by other criteria of search algorythims). So a bad page on Yahoo.com will be given preference over a good page on a lower branded site. This is a dramatic oversimplification,  but the fact remains that it’s becoming ever more and more difficult to find diverse sources of information online via search. So not only are people only seeing results they’ve shown the search engines they “like” but also big brand sites are clogging up the works with their millions and millions of pages about anything and everything. 
           
          The internet has become a different world that it was even five years ago. But I do believe that when legal systems get involved and actually prohibit people for accessing sites that don’t conform with their policies a big line has been crossed. I’m not sure if the 6 strikes law is really doing this in full, but it’s getting close.

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  • 147 February 28, 2013, 6:15 am

    Wade,
     
    Has HideMyAss seriously been working for you over here?  I had nothing but problems with it from around the end of October on.  I could no longer access East Asian servers, followed by North American, then when I could no longer access European servers, I cancelled my subscription.  This was both with OpenVPN and PPTP.
     
    I’m not trying to call you out on BS or anything, since depending on where you are and what ISP you have, your mileage will vary from mine in Qingdao with Unicom.  But I had nothing but bum luck with HMA and switched to Astrill this month, and have been doing ok with it.

    Link Reply
    • Vagabond Journey March 1, 2013, 2:44 am

      Yes, it works fine for me. You need to search for servers that are not being blocked by ISPs. VPN companies and the Chinese censors seem to be in a constant race with each other. So far, HMA is keeping ahead — at least as far as I’m concerned. If you send emails to their tech department they will advise what servers to use. If it stops working completely, sometimes you need to reinstall it.

      Link Reply