Will Governments Be The Biggest Threat To Internet Growth?
June 22, 2012

Will Governments Be The Biggest Threat To Internet Growth?

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com

Finally, a government official tells the truth“¦

As the Internet grows and technology expands, what will be the largest hinderance to innovation? If one US official is to be believed, governments will pose the biggest threat to this kind of growth.

Speaking this week at LeWeb London, Alec Ross (Hillary Clinton´s senior advisor for innovation) said the “hierarchy of control” is being given to citizens as it´s taken from those in power. As every action has an equal and opposite reaction, Ross said governments will start “lashing back” as this control is lost.

Citing the collapse of anti-piracy legislation, such as SOPA and PIPA, Ross said, "As power is shifting from hierarchies to citizens, and networks of citizens, governments tend to feel overwhelmed,” reports BBC News As such, politicians have been sufficiently wakened by the public´s reaction to SOPA and PIPA.

"They feel over-run by this change. As movements accelerate; as revolutions increasingly make use of connective technologies; as pieces of legislation with massive corporate backing get shot in the head because of citizen-centered networks, what you should anticipate is a lashing back from government."

As you may recall, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) was met with a bold protest by the online community at large. Worried this piece of legislation would severely limit the freedom of the internet, popular sites like Google, Reddit and Wikipedia went “dark,” blacking out their pages to symbolize what could happen if the government were to pass these acts.

Ross even told those at the conference there were some US politicians who were confronted by younger family members, asking them not to support the SOPA bill. With SOPA defeated, Ross said politicians are bolder and wiser, ready to be “up in your face all the more” when the next bill comes around.

Now, governments will start looking for ways to “control your networks, seeking to take away your internet freedom.”

Mr. Ross also spoke of a shift of power from governments to citizens, saying, "There is a massive shift in geopolitical power. It's from hierarchies, including government and big media. There's a shift in power to citizens and networks of citizens.”

"This shifting power is being enabled by connecting technologies. The biggest threat to your ability to innovate comes from government, and I say that from Hillary Clinton's office in the US State Department.”

To see this shift of power illustrated clearly, one needs to look no further than the recent Libyan and Tunisian revolutions, said Mr. Ross. The ability for these revolutions to not only spark but grow into a raging inferno is driven by social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In the end, these countries are often left without a clear leader. What´s left, he said, is a community.

"There's nobody's face you're going to put on a t-shirt. Instead of a single, charismatic figure inspiring the masses from on high, leadership in these revolutions looks like a web."

When countries undergo this kind of community-led change, governments are often left with the challenges of trying to put the pieces back together.

Considering the enormous growth in mobile connectivity, Mr. Ross said governments will want to be even more cautious when considering how to control these networks.

"What I think is going to take place — and that is of marginal awareness to the digerati right now — is I think you all need to fear governments seeking to control our networks, seeking to take away your internet freedom,” said Mr. Ross.