Net Neutrality is a bit like economics: it’s something that affects the core of how we interact with the world today but also seems incredibly dull and apparently irrelevant to the majority of people until something gets shaken up. And it just so happens that things were shaken up a couple of weeks back when Tom Wheeler the chairman for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US proposed changes to the future of regulation online. This is something that is being heavily lobbied and supported by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whilst simultaneously being decried as a death knell for the internet as we know it by the companies of Silicon Valley and a huge amount of people online. Whilst this particular proposal only directly impacts the US, its effects would certainly be felt globally and on top of this there are forces at work attempting to impose similar regulation in Europe.
Although Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp has created some ripples in the financial markets, Google seems to have accidentally outdone the social media giant. In what appears to have started as a simple clerical error, Google will be taking over the running of Ireland. Initially NAMA erroneously put Leinster House up for bidding to attract large multinational companies, mistaking it for a business gone under and Google’s property acquisition team saw what they thought was an old government building and snapped it up.
Obvious legal issues seem to have been swept aside as a member of the Dáil is quoted as saying “Well at first we were outraged but we didn’t think we could really say no to Google, come on it’s Google like. It would been a bit awkward you know? And they’re a pretty cool company when you think about it.”
It’s been almost five years since the crash of ’08 catapulted the Irish from their delusions of grandeur into a barren economic wilderness and yet the country still seems perpetually lost. To be frank, it is a depressing place to be. We are a nation without sovereignty. The same technocrats and bankers that gorged the rest of us into famine compose a merry tune for our utterly vapid and inept political class to whistle along to. Political dissent is non-existent, replaced by a communal drizzle of apathy interspersed with occasional phone calls to our own Che Guevara, Joe Duffy. Talk of tightening belts and keeping our heads down usurp more appropriate metaphors containing deck chairs and sinking ships.
In yet another wild reactionary move, the Australian courts have decided to hold Google responsible for everything on the internet.
Google has been fined $200,000 for refusing to suppress results which lead to websites that claimed a music promoter, by the name of Milorad Trkulja (pictured above), has ties to organised crime.
The bottom line, according to the immaculately flawed logic of the court, is that Google is legally a “publisher” by proxy, through linking to “offending” sites.
To Google’s credit, they took it well; respectfully disagreeing in their statement, whilst also giving the massively uninformed Australian courts a quick and much needed lesson on internetz:
“Google’s search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the web. The sites in Google’s search results are controlled by those sites’ webmasters, not by Google.”
For years Ireland has been shaping its image in the eyes of the world and its own populace, to give the impression that it is a tech savvy educational haven. This simply isn’t true. No longer can we live off the Celtic monks’ scholarly impressions of old, or hide behind Google and Microsoft citing them as examples of our IT prowess. They are anomalies in our society, brought not by the high standards of our information infrastructure, but by our absurd tax breaks and easy to manipulate political class.
We have the 17th highest GDP in the world, yet we are 70th for internet connections per capita. We are still yet to reach the same connections per person as Denmark in 2003 at 78% vs Ireland in 2012 at 68% (±4.5.) Even then, only just over 1/3 of those connections are “broadband.”1
As the smoke begins to clear after a hectic week with some of the biggest cyber and legal battles underway, of what is now being dubbed ‘World War Web’. The seemingly tit for tat exchanges escalating between the loosely aligned armies fighting over the virtual plane. This ‘war’ has been a while in the making with previous encounters including the Pirate Bay vs. Hollywood and Anonymous vs. Paypal.
On the one side you have the music and film industry giants alongside their political allies via generous campaign donations. All of them attempting to hold onto a world they used to have a firm grip on, their methods are questionable at best. On the other side of the fence lie the global sharing sites which host illegal duplications of a lot of the content owned by the former. Of course where would the pirates be without the assistance of the self-appointed knights of the web, Anonymous.