Gene Steratore
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Digital Freedom

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Digital Freedom

Why America is Losing It

America has been losing its digital independence consistently since 2001. Whether it is the legislation of the Patriot Act or the FCC’s recent repeal of Net Neutrality protections, America is stripping it’s people of what they hold dearest. Their freedom.

Massive Loss of Life - And Privacy

September 11, 2001 is a day that everyone in America remembers. The country was attacked, our system’s loopholes were abused and thousands lost their lives. It was a turning point for the country, as the U.S. began war in the Middle East. Amidst all of this chaos, America also began to lose it’s digital privacy when the Patriot Act was passed on October 26, 2001.

What is the Patriot Act?

The Patriot Act enabled the United States government to actively monitor its own people; whether it be through bank records, phone and email communications, and many other innocent activities that everyday Americans perform on a daily basis.

  • Information obtained on innocent people is not destroyed
    • It is important for everyone to understand that any information obtained citing the Patriot Act, is not obligated to be deleted (regardless of the innocence of the individual).
  • This is not thwarting terrorism
    • In the immediate years following 2001, there were over 143,000 NSLs (National Security Letters) issued. According to the ACLU, an NSL is: “ a letter issued by FBI agents, without a judge’s approval, to obtain personal information” . Of these requests, only 53 were criminal referrals, and 0 were terrorism-related.

Net Neutrality

Another contributing factor to the decline in the digital independence of America, was the 2017 repeal of Net Neutrality protections that were put in place in 2015. These protections declared the internet as open and free, and now are no longer in place.

“Net Neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.” 

- SaveTheInternet.com

What Happens Now?

  • Slower Competitive Content
    • For example, pretend you have cut the cord with cable and subscribe to a streaming service (Hulu, YouTube TV, etc.). You still need an internet subscription to use these services, so let’s say that you have Verizon FiOS. Verizon offers a television package and surely wants its customers to use all of the available services (think about how cable companies package a telephone line and it costs less ). Verizon could simply throttle your connection to your streaming service or charge you extra fees to prevent throttling. This is now legal because of this repeal.
  • Less Social Activism
    • With a free and open internet, activists are able to recruit and plan events to promote ideas such as equal wages for women, equal treatment of all ethnicities and promoting the right to love who you wish. ISPs will now have the ability to block messages they disagree with, suffering no repercussion.

Conclusion

In conclusion, America is in a bind when it comes to protecting its people and their digital freedom. The Patriot Act was passed in a time of crisis, but the privacy price that the population is paying does not seem to be solving the problem that preceded its inception. When you consider the FCC’s gutting of Net Neutrality protections, despite an 83% disapproval of the motion, it really does make one question the purpose behind these actions. Why is America becoming less free and why are commissions that are supposed to protect our freedom, supporting repeals that drastically reduce it?

Gene Steratore