Both the telegraph and internet signaled incredibly exciting new eras in information speed. The US government’s general lack of action in the two services save for regulation has made for a rather open market, and has created the problems with net neutrality that we now face. When the telegraph was developing in the early 1800s, the US Congress was faced with a mode of communication with unheard of rapidity. In 1843, Congress appropriated $43,000 towards experiments with telegraph technology. This would be the extent of any significant interest by the US Government. Clearly, they did not understand the magnitude of what was in front of them, and yet the telegraph was used by Congress to send Nevada’s state constitution to President Lincoln for his signature, an action which strengthened his support in Congress.
The US government took a similar approach to internet that it did to telegraph, with little interest in funding or controlling the service. This has led to a very open market, with only a handful of regulations imposed by the government. One sticking point has been that of net neutrality, but the recent events in court with Google and Verizon have thrown this area into choas as well.
Had the government imposed some kind of greater control, we may have seen better results in the interests of net neutrality. However, had the government stepped in, a host of other problems could have occurred, services could have become slower and mediocre, and there would have been no market competition. I think that they best course for the future of government regulation is one which regulates in law only, and refuses deals for the cessation of net neutrality.
There are many parallels between the development of the internet today and the development of the telegraph and later the telephone. The U.S government took somewhat differing approaches to its involvement in these new technological developments. The U.S government did not take a large interest in financing or encouraging the adoption of the telegraph and instead left it up to private industry. The Internet, however, was not devised by a individual and was instead a creation of DARPA, the military research branch of the U.S. government. It was early on used to connect research universities and later on began to enter the private sphere with the proliferation of email. Just like the telegrpah in the past, the U.S. government did not take a personal stake in proliferating the internet through goverment run/controlled enterprise and left it up to private companies to build and control the national infrastructure. There was then and still is now strong opposition from certain groups of U.S. citizens to government involvement in business of any kind. Such pressures have contributed to the current situation where the U.S. government oversees the communication infrastructure, rather than actively running and developing it.
To examine the alternative one need only glace across the Atlantic and look at the European nations and their infrastructure. The government exercises much tighter control and there is greater competition between competitors. This is opposed to the U.S where there are typically only a couple large companies that provide phone and Internet in any given area, the winners in the days of more fierce early competition. If the U.S. government had played a more active role in pushing nation-wide adoption of the telegraph, I feel that it would have been adopted early and been available to more consumers much quicker and at lower prices. That is of course assuming the government could run the industry in the interest of the people and not just those running it. Something businesses struggle with no less than government it seems.
To consider what the landscape would look like if the U.S. had done so with the internet, there is no better example than South Korea. The South Korean government took an early and a dedicated stake in the development of its national Internet infrastructure. It pushed ubiquitous coverage and the latest technology associated with it. As a result, South Korea has the fastest Internet speeds of any nation and does have not the digital divide in the U.S. where the urban centers have broadband and rural areas are forced to settle for dial-up. While this may not have been or be the most desirable solution for lining the pockets of the telecommunication companies, I see this as a much better solution for the nation as a whole and the citizens of the U.S. The South Korean government has recently begun making plans to spread 1Gbs internet around the country when the U.S. can’t even get 1mbs internet to people in Nebraska. I don’t think anyone needs a commentator to tell them who is winning the Internet arms race.
In spite of the 9/11 attacks, I believe that the government should have the ability to restrict the media, if and only if, it could affect national security. Media regulation today is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish, especially given our nation’s advancement in technology. Anyone with access to a computer can upload whatever information they please to the internet which makes it very difficult to regulate.
Events such as the airtstrike video that Bradley Manning leaked should be censored from the general public. Imagine if you were a family member of either the pilots or the journalists; is that something you would want the world to see? Releasing videos such as that one may cause citizens to lose faith in the government and our national defense. The government isn’t perfect and does make mistakes at times. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 continues to uphold the requirement of the media serving in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity,” and this is not clearly defined. The release of such a video (or one similar), in my opinion, does not meet the public convenience or necessity.
With an increase in regulation on the media for the benefit of our national security, people may feel that their First Amendment rights are being violated. No one is ever 100% satisfied, and sacrifices must be made for the interest of our national security. The FCC’s job is to regulate the media, whether it’s for television ratings, censoring profanities, or cutting out a program that may be found as offensive. For all of the radicals who feel that the media shouldn’t be regulated period, why does the FCC regulate offensive language? They allow you to bash the government as you please. The FCC should only step in and regulate the media when it’s a potential threat to national security.
The shield laws mean well. But if what the journalist publishes from a “confidential source” is related to a potential threat to our nation, then the shield laws should be voided and the journalist prosecuted unless the source is revealed. Any media that could be potentially threatening to our national security should not be published or viewed by the general public. First Amendment rights only go to the point where national security is involved.
Blog 4 Rewrite
In light of the attacks on September 11th, I think the US government should be allowed to block publication of material. Many people would disagree with me on this, saying that allowing this would only segue into less free speech. Allowing the government to control what is published on the Internet would, undoubtedly, lessen free speech, but it would also protect national security. Which would you rather protect: free speech or American lives?
This is most currently relevant in the Wikileaks debate that has been going on since the site first began in 2006. Wikileaks was started by Julian Assange, as a site that was untraceable and uncensorable, and attempted to give society the real idea of what was going on and what was being hidden by the government.
Personally, I think Wikileaks is awful and should be taken down immediately, for many different reasons. Firstly, Assange has no right to post American government documents on the Internet that he obtained through treason. Assange is Australian and has no stake in American politics, making him more willing to throw America to the dogs. He posts documents and videos from governments other than his own, because if he betrayed his own country he could be tried for treason- something he cannot be tried for by other governments he betrays. Some may argue that Assange has a right to make these documents public; it is not libel, they are actual government documents. The matter still remains that Assange is making public classified documents and videos, things that were kept from the public for a specific reason, which he overlooks. Secondly, Assange claims that he is trying to give the public the plain blatant truth about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. Yet Assange edits the videos he uploads, and titles them with her personal beliefs of what occurred. In the video about the Iraqi journalists being killed he titles it “Collateral Murder” and cuts the video down from 40 minutes. The edited and titled video is released loudly and publically, while the raw footage is quietly added to the Internet. Assange is doing exactly what he was attempting to prevent! He shows the public what he wants them to see, while leaving a small trail of truth. His hypocritical moves demonstrate his deeper motives than freedom of speech and governmental truth. He aims to destroy trust in the American government (for reasons currently unknown) and preach his off-kilter beliefs about what is happening in the war.
The US government should show restraint in investigating and potentially blocking written materials. It is written in the constitution that everyone is entitled to free speech. I think citizens would be upset if the United States changed its core values because of one incident. There has always been a struggle over how much power governments should have, and the banning of certain reading materials deemed dangerous would give the government too much power. Past governments who have banned controversial reading materials were not very successful. Countries like the USSR and Nazi Germany banned reading materials, and they no longer exist. It is difficult for anyone to not react to a threat, especially the US government. It would also be difficult for people to that if a preventable tragedy occurred. A positive would be that more people’s ideas could be heard. A negative would be that there could be a possibility that there are more attacks that maybe could have been prevented. However, there will always be tragedies that cannot be prevented.
Regarding the simple idea of the government regulating all aspects of the media, I do not think this is the direction our nation should be headed in. Our nation is based on freedom of speech and other core values that allow us to speak out and promote individualism. This is something that I think should never be obolished through control of the media. However, I do think that the government should have the right to play a vital role in regulation of the media. I think that yes, the government should be allowed to exercise more power for prior restraint and to block publication of material it feels might hurt national security interests. This seems obvious! Protecting the rights and safety of national security should be in our nation’s best interest. Of course, it should also be in our best interest to express ourselves, but only to a certain extent. Blocking publication of something that may be harmful can be a necessary move to protect national security, and the government should have the green light to assess the matter. A difficulty in doing this may be argumentation on what exactly is material that could be threatening. This may cause a lot of controversy. Nonetheless, despite the controversy and differing points of view, I feel that the government should ultimately be able to control threatening or harmful publications in the media to keep our nations ideals and practices in place.
Even with the events of September 11, 2001 and the recent Wikileaks debacle, the United States government should not be allowed to exercise more control over the media than it presently can. Media regulation is an extremely slippery slope, especially in the eyes of Americans, who hold freedom of speech as one of the highest civil rights. If the government were to start censoring websites, such as Wikileaks, it would be a direct violation of the first amendment. I do not have any problem with the court martial of the private involved in the Wikileaks cables, because he essentially violated his contract of employment as a United States soldier. The area that draws question for me is when Julian Assange and Wikileaks are being targeted. This area of regulation is pretty new to me, but if laws have been broken by Assange, then these laws should be changed. Though these cables may have a detrimental effect on US Foreign Policy, the results will not be permanent, and we will certainly be able to rebound. The government should have no right to limit information that is true because it is damaging to foreign policy. I understand that no government is perfect, but if secrets must be hidden then they should be hidden extremely well.
As far as media regulation of obscenity and violence, I do agree with the government regulation currently in place. The media corporations should have some regulation so as to be held accountable to established standards of decency. Clearly these standards are dynamic and will change over time, but it is important to always have that standard.