The State of the Internet

It has been a rough few weeks for the internet. Governments worldwide have been slowly surrounding and closing in on internet rights. China, Russia, and the United States have been the most audacious in their attacks. Let’s take a look at what has been going on in the fight for internet rights.

China Requires Name Verification for Commenting

Just a few days ago, China’s internet regulatory body announced that it would not be possible for unidentified citizens to comment on internet forums or in comment sections. Name verification will be required for prospective commenters. The new rules go into effect October 1st and apply to anything online that has an interactive communication aspect to it. If I am not mistaken, that would mean any Chinese citizen who would comment on even this very article would have to verifiy their name and online presence. That is outrageous and an egregious violation of the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

China has a storied history of trying to control its citizens’ internet usage and consumption. The country has erected the notorious “great firewall of China,” banned VPNs, and even suggested social credit scores. This latest development adds to an already long list of internet rights violations.

Russia Arrests Internet Freedom Protesters

Ever since the Russian government voted to outlaw services like VPNs and proxies that its citizens were using to circumvent governmental bans, many in Russia have been up in arms about it. Some brave protesters took to the streets this past weekend in Moscow to let their government know their displeasure. They stayed out in the rain and a few were subjected to arrest by the Moscow police.

Protesting someone taking away your rights to information and privacy is an extremely noble endeavor. In fact, efforts by governments to restrict those rights in the digital age just seem futile. There will always be a way around such bans. This is especially true in the digital age, with many coders and other crafty internet users pushing back when someone says “you can’t see this.” Necessity is the mother of invention, and I suspect that Russia’s latest attempt to quell internet dissidence will be ineffectual.

The FCC Continues to Attack Net Neutrality

This is far from the first time that the Merkle has spoken out about net neutrality, but it is important to provide our readers with relevant updates that will affect them. Ajit Pai, the FCC chair, is championing the dismantlement of a 2015 regulatory order that kept ISPs from manipulating internet connection speeds and load times for specific sites. This was a flagrant violation of internet users’ rights because it allowed ISPs to make it incredibly difficult to access a site that may have a dissenting opinion, or a site that isn’t on a special list. Make no mistake: violations of net neutrality are violations of U.S. citizens’ first amendment rights and violations of the UN’s Universal Human Rights.

We will continue to monitor this front for our readers and provide updates as significant developments arise. For now, just remember that wherever you are in the world, the internet is your right. Do not forfeit it.