Headline, April 29 2024/ ''' OPEN INTERNET OPTS '''


FOR DECADES - THE UNITED STATES has fashioned itself the champion of an open internet, arguing that the web should be largely unregulated and that digital data should flow around the globe unhindered by borders.

The government has argued against internet censorship abroad and even funded software that lets people in autocratic states get around online content restrictions.

By targeting TikTok - a social media platform with 170 million U.S. users, many of them sharing dance moves, opining on politics and selling wares - the United States may undermine its decades-long efforts to promote an open and and free internet governed by international organizations, not individual countries, digital rights advocates said.

The web in recent years has fragmented as authoritarian governments the world over increasingly encroach on their citizens' internet access.

Digital rights groups and others around the world have taken notice - and raised the question of how the moves against TikTok contradict the United States arguments in favor of an open internet.

A Russian opposition blogger, Aleksandr Gorbunov, posted on social media last month that Russia could use the move to shut down services like YouTube. And digital rights advocates globally and expressing fears of a ripple effect, with the United States providing cover for authoritarians who want to censor the Internet.

In March, the Chinese government which controls the country's internet, said America had '' one way of saying and doing things about the United States, and another way of saying and doing things about other countries, '' citing the TikTok legislation.

'' It would diminish the U.S.'s standing in promoting internet freedom,'' said Juan Carlos Lara, the executive director of Derechos Digitales, a Latin American digital rights group in Chile. '' It would definitely not bolster its own case for promoting a free and secure, stable and interoperable internet.''

The American vision for an open internet dates to the 1990s when President Bill Clinton said the internet should be a '' global free-trade zone.'''

Administrations - including the Biden White House - have struck deals to keep data flowing between the United States and Europe. And the State Department has condemned censorship, including Nigeria's and Pakistan's restrictions on access to Twitter, now known as X.

NOW, fueled by concerns that TikTok could send data to the Chinese government or act as a conduit for Beijing's propaganda, the legislation that passed the House last month would require ByteDance to sell TikTok to a buyer that satisfied the U.S. government within six months.

If the company doesn't find a buyer, app stores must stop offering the app for downloads, and web hosting companies couldn't host TikTok.

Mr. Lara of Derechos Digitales noted that countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua had already passed laws that gave the government more control over online content.

He said increased government control of the internet was a '' tempting idea '' that '' really risks materializing if such a thing is seen in places like the U.S. ''

A forced sale or ban of TikTok could also make it harder for the American government to ask other countries to embrace an internet governed by international organizations, digital rights experts said.

'' Hypocrisy would be inescapable,'' said Patrick Toomey, the deputy director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research Digital Rights, open Internet, !WOW! and the world continues. The World Students Society thanks David Mccabe.

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