02.01.21

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Internet Companies Are Becoming De Facto Governments and There Are Almost No Laws and Constitutions to Regulate Them

Posted in Law at 9:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An important conundrum we’ll need to talk more and more about in the coming years

Summary: Techrights videos about Internet policy will likely become a regular feature/topic; it seems abundantly clear that over time (at an accelerated pace when people are stuck at home due to a pandemic) Internet companies are becoming like unaccountable and unelected governments; working around them is becoming difficult and subjected to retaliation/deterrence tactics

OUR prediction, which seems like a rather safe prediction, is that censorious tendencies will rapidly increase with corporate media manufacturing consent for it (using straw man arguments and scare tactics). That being the case, last year we did a lot of work towards making Techrights a decentralised site which is difficult to censor. No ClownFlare or Twitter or any of that other outsourced nonsense. Google’s YouTube is also increasingly censoring entire channels, sometimes based on what viewers are doing rather than what the producers of the videos say or do. It’ll get worse as social control mechanisms are “sold” to us as absolutely necessary for some perceived “safety” (usually keeping the powerful people in their position of privilege; see Putin’s response to recent revelations, culminating in many arrests and assassination attempts against journalists).

To carefully separate the general issue from my personal issue [1, 2, 3, 4] I will attempt to only speak in general terms (and in broader context) about the underlying issues [1, 2] because quite a few companies are silently and covertly attacking Net Neutrality (NN) in an effort to superficially shape the face of the Web and the Internet as a whole. Nobody holds them accountable. In the US, the media at least talk about it, sometimes (it extends to related issues like zero-rating). Based on my research, many people have been having the same problems; those who have not will inevitably notice the same and it’s just a question of time. Companies try to discourage in-depth exploration into their tactics, sometimes by settlement.

Last month when Parler got banned by pretty much every company (as if every user of the platform was culpable and everyone needed to be collectively punished rather than the culprits and offenders surgically removed) the media rushed to paint what Parler claims to be as many as 8 million people as seditious nazis. What an incredible over-simplification. Google used similarly-awful reductionist ‘logic’ to ban Element (that’s what happens when people come to rely on centralised ‘stores’ and a platform controlled by one single company), so the slippery slope is now well behind us. This is becoming a norm

Sharing, decentralisation and federation are being equated with “crime” and/or “suspicious activity” as if anything not controlled by governments or companies that are de facto informants of the governments must be banned and discriminated against at the least.

This morning I spent an hour arguing with BT. This is a high escalation point (management) after nearly a month of telephone disputes (I’ve lost track of how much time/effort was invested in it, but certainly over 24 hours all in all). To finally speak to them (they made excuses and didn’t phone back on time) I had to skip breakfast, delay exercise, and sit in the cold (literally). But I don’t mind it much anymore; this issue isn’t just about me. They throttle people’s lines, I know this for a fact now, and they do this in retaliation for certain traffic types. Obviously they don’t want to acknowledge that as that might lead to class action. I demanded a new letter with factual details (it’s part of the evidence) and I am going ahead with a formal complaint (forwarded publicly and relayed over time; it’s an Ofcom/ombudsman complaint, which is not confidential and is in the public interest). The interesting thing is that they still want to pretend there’s no throttling and they’re even sending out hardware and engineers just to claim that someone is “working to resolve” the issue, somehow.

But enough about my situation; what we have here raises many concerns about the future of the Internet, VPNs aside (they too aren’t guaranteed to offer what they claim). They harvest packets (DPI), they censor lots of stuff, and they even refuse or slow down particular types of traffic. It’s not about copyrights, it is about power. Companies like BT are protecting foreign monopolies and a centralised Internet, including peer-to-peer botnets like Windows Update (apparently some decentralisation is “better” or more “benign” than others). To suppress proper investigations those faceless and barely accountable corporations relay complaints/issues to less and less technical staff. They become “polite corporations” with no technical knowledge to avoid having to argue about the actual substance and facts. They barely even escalate internally. They persist with “sales” and “products” and attempts at settlement (e.g. settling with one-off compensation payment). They don’t try to actually tackle the issue of high-priority lanes (or fast lanes) and they’ve resorted to collective punishment over a relatively miniscule share of the network’s capacity (less than 5%). Who’s going to stop them? What’s going to stop them?

There are many “big issues” at hand here. It’s not even about BT or about my experience. It’s not about COVID-19, either (they’ll likely carry on doing this after the worst of this pandemic ‘blows over’). This is a fight over how information is delivered over the Internet or how the network is structured in practice. They want people to hit “like” buttons like a bunch of pigeons and get farmed like cattle. The last thing they want is people contacting one another over the network directly. Their latest routers have no option for password-free login (for local Wi-Fi; it used to be an option) and by default they use a firewall that prevents incoming connections. They stubbornly warn about turning that off. I saw that for myself a fortnight ago. It’s only getting more and more restrictive every year and even some VPN services become incompatible with such gear (half a decade ago, for example, OpenVPN stopped working with the latest router/hub — apparently a common and known issue, as documented online).

Right from the start I told BT (on every call) that they had been throttling me, only to have my line disconnected to “test the line” (almost 20 times all in all) and then some gaslighting, denying the simple observations. Shallow attempt to exhaust the client, making it seem like an isolated case? Cult tactics?

Microsoft is a lot like a cult, as a former insider recently noted. One person recently took note of Microsoft cult isolation tactics[1,2]. “Cults often use isolation tactics to gain control over its victims,” said the person.

“Shallow attempt to exhaust the client, making it seem like an isolated case?”“One method that Microsoft uses for that has long been to change the name of technologies away from standard and or traditional names to ones referenced only in Microsoft documentation. No reference to the real names is ever given, so that the cult victims become isolated and thus much more controllable.”
_____

  1. Isolation to facilitate abuse – Wikipedia
  2. Cult Indoctrination | HowStuffWorks
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