OPINION

Opinion: U.S. an enemy to internet

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Colin/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Many parts of the internet are censored, including social media and search engines. Government programs, such as the Patriot Act, dictate how data are gathered online. 

“Safari can’t open the page.” The phrase is a common sight if you have a poor internet connection. Though, when you are searching for controversial topics in the United States, it seems to become an even more common sight. Connection speeds slow, and the little wheel spins with a skip and a jump, almost as if your computer is warning you that someone is taking an extra-close look at your movements.

Russia, China and the United States, the largest superpowers in the world, have all been ranked "enemies to the internet" by Reporters Without Borders . These three countries are not the only ones on the list, but they are indeed the most influential.  The U.S., “the land of the free," has been well known for its invasion of citizen (global and domestic) privacy. 

Ever since 9/11, Uncle Sam has forgotten the concept of personal space. Useless government agencies, such as the National Security Agency, had their powers expanded with the Patriot Act. For those who aren't familiar with the 2001 law, this is where mass wiretapping begins. Years later, under President Barack Obama, the Patriot Act was extended to include even more use of roving wiretaps, investigation of business records and surveillance through your cell phone and computer webcams.

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Now, this is just an overview of the spying you are put under by the government that cares so dearly about you. There is much more, such as the “Five Eyes intelligence pact” and the not-so-well-known “14 Eyes,” released by Edward Snowden.

This article is not about wire tapping and it is not about surveillance. It's about what I cannot tell you about these topics because the U.S. "Has undermined confidence in the internet and its own standards of security," and that "U.S. surveillance practices and decryption activities are a direct threat to investigative journalists, especially those who work with sensitive sources for whom confidentiality is paramount and who are already under pressure," said Reporters Without Borders in their report. 

A Nobel Peace Center seminar about internet censorship. The United States is not the only country that limits or surveils online content. 

According to Freedom House, there are four ways to classify internet censorship: pervasive, substantial, selective or little to none. The U.S. shares the pervasive title with North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia, but the U.S. is less open and honest about it.

"A country is classified as engaged in pervasive censorship or surveillance when it often censors political, social and other content, is engaged in mass surveillance of the internet and retaliates against citizens who circumvent censorship or surveillance with Imprisonment or other sanctions," according to Freedom House's report.

The “internet kill switch” is a supposed policy that allows the government to block internet access to the people, regardless of what network they are using. The "kill switch" was used infamously at a Bay Area Rapid Transit Station in 2011 after two officers shot and killed Charles Hill in San Francisco. Internet and mobile service was killed to prevent a possible protest of the killing of Hill. This later backfired as the group known as Anonymous later hacked the BART website, posting the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of the two officers. This was then posted on the Anonymous website so the public could then do what they may with the information.

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Large internet entities are also to blame for digital censorship. Google and Facebook are two pawns of the U.S. government. They censor political ads, free speech and, worst of all, they sell your personal information for profit. Apple seems to have waged a stronger war on porn than the people, but their hands are still not clean when it comes to censorship and working in collaboration with Google and Facebook. 

It's impossible to keep under the radar from a technological standpoint, but certain search engine and messaging replacements, such as Duck Duck Go and Telegram, are steps in the right direction. I encourage all of you to go do research on internet censorship yourself, and keep this information in mind when you go the internet.


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