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Old Democracies Might Also Falter
by prugovecki
02 August 2002 17:42 UTC
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The NYTimes.com article entitled "U.N. Report Says New Democracies Falter"
by  Barbara Crosette has just been posted by alvi_saima@yahoo.com. However,
the phenomenon is much more serious and widespread than this article

In some previous postings I have written about the contemporary danger that
the dystopian social model called FWF, described in my books "Memoirs of
the Future" and "Dawn of the News Man", might ultimately prevail in the
near future due to attempts on the side of large corporations and
governments to restrict the freedom of the Internet, which might contribute
to the emergence of a more genuine form of democracy in the advanced
countries. This is basically also the theme of my essay "On Some Future
Social Effects of the Communications Revolution" posted on Utopias Forum,
that can be accessed at http://www.wfs.org/prugovecki2.htm.

In the July 28, 2002 H-Teachpol review of Barry R. Rubin's book  "A
Citizen's Guide to Politics in America: How the System Works and how to
Work the System", the reviewer Arthur L. Morin wrote:

"Rubin believes that regular people can change how politics works.
Technology - the power of the Internet, e-mail, listservs, and the
capacity of computers to manipulate databases, for example - increases
the individual's capacity to collect and disseminate information,
contact public officials and others, and to organize."

Such developments, leading to participatory forms of democracy and to
greater political freedoms in USA presuppose, however, the freedom of the
Internet as a communications medium.

On the other hand, certain corporate moves and legislation are already
under consideration which can divert in the opposite direction this trend
towards grassroots forms of democracy based on new communications
technologies. The following web sites can be consulted about these





Here is a quote from the last of these web sites:

"The right to read is a battle being fought today. Although it may take
50 years for our present way of life to fade into obscurity, most of the
specific laws and practices described above have already been proposed;
many have been enacted into law in the US and elsewhere. In the US, the
1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act established the legal basis to
restrict the reading and lending of computerized books (and other data
too). The European Union imposed similar restrictions in a 2001
copyright directive.

"There is one exception: the idea that the FBI and Microsoft will keep
the root passwords for personal computers, and not let you have them,
has not been proposed. This is an extrapolation from the Clipper chip
and similar US government key-escrow proposals, together with a
long-term trend: computer systems are increasingly set up to give
absentee operators control over the people actually using the computer

"But we are coming steadily closer to that point. In 2001, Disney-funded
Senator Hollings proposed a bill called the SSSCA that would require
every new computer to have mandatory copy-restriction facilities that
the user cannot bypass.

"In 2001 the US began attempting to use the proposed Free Trade Area of
the Americas treaty to impose the same rules on all the countries in the
Western Hemisphere. The FTAA is one of the so-called "free trade"
treaties, actually designed to give business increased power over
democratic governments; imposing laws like the DMCA is typical of this
spirit. The Electronic Frontier Foundation asks people to explain to the
other governments why they should oppose this plan.

"The SPA, which actually stands for Software Publisher's Association,
has been replaced in this police-like role by the BSA or Busines
Software Alliance. It is not, today, an official police force;
unofficially, it acts like one. Using methods reminiscent of the
erstwhile Soviet Union, it invites people to inform on their coworkers
and friends. A BSA terror campaign in Argentina in 2001 made veiled
threats that people sharing software would be raped in prison.

"When this story was written, the SPA was threatening small Internet
service providers, demanding they permit the SPA to monitor all users.
Most ISPs surrender when threatened, because they cannot afford to fight
back in court. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1 Oct 96, D3.) At least
one ISP, Community ConneXion in Oakland CA, refused the demand and was
actually sued. The SPA later dropped the suit, but obtained the DMCA
which gave them the power they sought.

"The university security policies described above are not imaginary. For
example, a computer at one Chicago-area university prints this message
when you log in (quotation marks are in the original):

       'This system is for the use of authorized users only. Individuals
using this
       computer system without authority or in the excess of their
authority are
       subject to having all their activities on this system monitored
and recorded
       by system personnel. In the course of monitoring individuals
       using this system or in the course of system maintenance, the
activities of
       authorized user may also be monitored. Anyone using this system
       consents to such monitoring and is advised that if such
monitoring reveals
       possible evidence of illegal activity or violation of University
       system personnel may provide the evidence of such monitoring to
       University authorities and/or law enforcement officials.'

This is an interesting approach to the Fourth Amendment: pressure most
everyone to agree, in advance, to waive their rights under it."

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire
article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
Updated: $Date: 2002/07/29 21:47:12 $ $Author: brett $

I hope that all those reading these lines will take the time to look at the
four web sites cited above. For if nothing is done, one day WSN and many
other discussion groups like it will not be able to post the kind of
articles they do at present, and any hope of genuine democracy in North
America and elsewhere will become a distant memory.

Eduard Prugovecki
Professor Emeritus
University of Toronto

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