Russia, with the backing of China, has had a resolution passed to see the establishment of a panel to look at the use of the internet for illegal purposes. The panel will work to set up “a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes,” the resolution said.
However the US, Europe and other western nations fear the purpose of any restrictions would be to limit freedom of speech.
“It is precisely our fear that (a new convention) would allow the codification at an international and global level of these types of controls that’s driving our opposition and our concerns about this resolution,” a US official said.
Human Rights Watch called the UN resolution’s list of sponsors “a rogue’s gallery of some of the earth’s most repressive governments.”
The countries who have backed the resolution have a history of repression of free speech, and actively try to restrict their citizens access to the internet. China for example blocks internet searches they deem harmful to their regime. India cut off the internet to muslim-majority Kashmir earlier this year; and Iran took most of their nation off-line for a time amid protests.
It has now emerged the government has been mining data from the internet as well as phone data from Verizon. Leaked documents appear to show that a government spying program, called Prism, has been in place for years. Prism has allegedly allowed access to the the US and UK security services to the servers of the biggest internet companies: Google, Apple, Skype, Microsoft, YouTube, and Facebook.
However the internet companies in question have denied the claims. Google has issued a statement, “We have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government – or any other government – direct access to our servers.
“Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centres. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.
“Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.
“We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process.
“Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period.”
Facebook and Apple have also denied knowledge of the Prism program.
Bank of America has reportedly frozen the account of gun manufacturer American Spirit Arms, according to its owner, Joe Sirochman.
In a Facebook post dated December 29, Sirochman wrote the following:
“My name is Joe Sirochman owner of American Spirit Arms…our Web site orders have jumped 500 percent causing our Web site e-commerce processing larger deposits to Bank of America. So they decided to hold the deposits for further review.
“After countless hours on the phone with Bank of America, I finally got a manager in the right department that told me the reason that the deposits were on hold for further review — her exact words were — ‘We believe you should not be selling guns and parts on the Internet.’”(emphasis added)
Sirochman also wrote that he told the bank manager that “they have no right to make up their own new rules and regs” and that “[American Spirit is a] firearms manufacturer with all the proper licensing.”
He also noted that he has been doing business with Bank of America for over 10 years, but will now be looking for a new bank.
According to Unlawful News, this isn’t the first time Bank of America has targeted a customer involved in the firearms industry.
McMillan Group International was reportedly told that its business was no longer welcome after the company started manufacturing firearms – even after 12 years of doing business with the bank.
Next month, nations will gather in Dubai to discuss the future of the internet. The mission of the conference is to secure “the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all”.
In the build up to the conference, there has been growing debate amongst some nations that the United Nations should take over control of the internet. A leaked document from Russian officials says:
“Member states shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic internet infrastructure,”
Today the European Union have voted on whether they believe the UN should control the internet. The EU parliament have rejected this saying that UN control would “negatively impact the internet, it’s architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online”.
Currently different bodies around the world control the internet and it’s structure. Most of these bodies, like ICANN, ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) are found just south of Santa Monica CA in Marina Del Rey (where the Dalai Lama’s second in command lives). They act independently of government control. Those opposed to handing control of the internet over to the UN argue that many of the member states of the UN do not seek to promote the free, “equitable access of all” that the internet allows.
There is a debate within the highest corridors of power as to whether it is legitimate to launch pre-emptive cyber attacks against ones enemies.
It is believed that Russia and China are already engaged in this type of espionage against the West, and the US and Israel used the Stuxnet and Flame viruses against Iran. However, these attacks against Iran were never intended to make their way onto the internet.
The danger of going down the road of pre-emptive cyber warfare is illustrated in the case of Stuxnet. The Stuxnet virus was used to infect the offline Natanz Uranium Enrichment facility. However, the Stuxnet made it onto the internet, infecting about 50,000 systems globally, and has enabled criminals and other agencies access to this highly sophisticated virus.
Could we be coming to a time where the internet is a war zone?