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The Internet: should it be Regulated?

Summary:
In the past thirty years Governments in the UK have resolutely ignored the workings of the Internet and have taken the view that it is a "Good Thing".  Governments have seen their role as expediting the spread of the Net to every corner of the country.  It is time they did more.The Internet allows communication, trading, news, information provision, administration, publishing, remote monitoring and control, financial transactions and a social and gaming environment.  Each of these areas of activity happen outside the Internet and where they happen they are accompanied by a raft of legislation that ensures fairness, propriety and security.  Some of the non-Internet legislation carries over to the Internet but much of it does not apply, is not enforced or can be easily avoided.The Internet

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In the past thirty years Governments in the UK have resolutely ignored the workings of the Internet and have taken the view that it is a "Good Thing".  Governments have seen their role as expediting the spread of the Net to every corner of the country.  It is time they did more.

The Internet allows communication, trading, news, information provision, administration, publishing, remote monitoring and control, financial transactions and a social and gaming environment.  Each of these areas of activity happen outside the Internet and where they happen they are accompanied by a raft of legislation that ensures fairness, propriety and security.  Some of the non-Internet legislation carries over to the Internet but much of it does not apply, is not enforced or can be easily avoided.

The Internet is causing large changes in society, these will be considered below and then the need for regulation will be addressed.

The Internet lets people stay at home to trade.  As it grows there is ever less need for physical markets and there is ever less need for towns.  

Internet sales are displacing purchases from physical stores to online stores:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?

If the Internet is allowed to increase its dominance of retail trade the Town Centre and High Street will inevitably disappear.  Towns will become little more than occupation zones defined by planning laws.  They will always have some warehouse and industrial activity on their outskirts but the town centres will be largely defunct except for small "civic" areas containing a small number of entertainment venues and a larger number of bars and restaurants.

The music industry boomed in the 1960s-90s as lucrative record sales provided an incentive for young musicians.  The Internet has killed the sale of physical music recordings although vinyl is making a slight comeback.  The royalties from Internet music are insufficient to sustain musical careers.

The fashion industry has become monotonous despite record sales of clothing:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?
Newspaper sales have declined as people view Internet news services:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?


The media industry is going from strength to strength as people are glued to their smartphones and computers. Social media is particularly strong:
The Internet: should it be Regulated?

Even the film industry is moving to On Demand services such as Netflix.

Internet services are now dominating the viewing of the younger viewer:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?

There is a huge difference between the generations in viewing patterns with people who are over 54 years old constituting over half of broadcast media viewing:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?

A total TV viewing time of about four hours a day has been maintained but is now distributed between broadcast and Internet/DVD:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?
Unmatched viewing = TV in use but content cannot be audio-matched or otherwise identified. Includes gaming, viewing of DVDs/box sets/archives, SVoD, time-shifted viewing beyond 28 days, apps on smart TVs and navigating EPG guides where there is no in-picture broadcast content. 

Added to this is time spent online on other devices such as computers and smartphones:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?
Ofcom: A Decade of Digital Dependency

If these figures are correct the average 18-24 year old is spending about 6 hours a day in front of screens.

Online fraud is now the most costly crime.  According to the House of Commons (2017) report: "The cost of the crime is estimated at £10 billion, with around 2 million cyber-related fraud incidents last year, however the true extent of the problem remains unknown. Only around 20% of fraud is actually reported to police, with the emotional impact of the crime leaving many victims reluctant to come forward."

The Internet is unlike previous industrial "revolutions" such as the steam age, the great car economy or industrial and commercial computing. These previous changes increased the volume and value of the economy.  In terms of industrial value and volume the Internet is having a minimal effect, instead it is changing the way we do things rather than increasing value and production.  The Internet is displacing activities rather than increasing valuable activity.  It is displacing news from newspapers, shopping from retail centres, crime from the high street, socialising from personal meetings, banking from high street banks and so on.  

The Internet is changing human society from a world where we interact face to face to a world where we interact through our literary and photographic works.  There have recently been several warnings about the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that AIs will soon be indistinguishable from human beings online but the true threat is that we are becoming indistinguishable from AIs ourselves.  

Should we be happy with these changes?  The fact that people are not marching in the streets demanding an end to the Internet should not be construed as approval for what is happening.  The media, including social media, has a vice-like grip on those who use it regularly and this industry is ruthless in indoctrinating its users with how wonderful it is.  The Media Industry does that: the broadcast media even managed to persuade advertisers to support it by promising it could affect viewers and persuaded governments to support it by saying it did not affect viewers.  The reason people are not becoming organised in their opposition to the Media is passive acceptance that, as the Media tells them, these changes are inevitable.  The changes are not inevitable and are the result of the connivance of government.

Is the Internet a "bad thing?".  In itself it is not all bad.  The Internet allows people to communicate and be better informed, business to business transactions to be streamlined and a wider choice of everything for the consumer. With appropriate regulation all of this could be positive.  However some parts of the Internet are largely bad.

Social media is almost entirely bad.  It is now being used for the political manipulation of populations by its owners (See Twitter is a menace and Google, Twitter, Facebook etc. are all biased ) and is widely believed to be responsible for a substantial rise in mental illness amongst it's users:

Online gambling is also reaching epidemic proportions with 3 million children aged 13-17 having opened online gambling accounts in the UK.  In Australia a survey found the following figures:

The Internet: should it be Regulated?

MPs and the electorate are shirking their responsibilities if they believe that the effect of the Internet on the young can just be ignored.
 
The Internet is a serious threat to local trade and the dominance of the Retail Industry by emporia such as Amazon is creating unemployment.

What is the answer?  China and several other countries have shown that the Internet can be controlled.  However, China is using this control of the Internet to control the population and this should alarm us.  Our alarm should not only be due to sympathy with the Chinese people but also because the Internet giants such as Google, Amazon etc. are able to introduce similar methods globally.  The answer for the UK is to install a national firewall* so that it can regulate its own Internet.  A national firewall is also essential to prevent sabotage of the "Internet of things", banking and our democracy by foreign powers and organisations. 

Having established a firewall the Internet should be structured at a regional and local level. The Internet Service Providers can provide introductory pages that offer local services and locally run online emporia.

A set of rules for search engines is needed.  The leading search engine, Google, is definitely biased.  Google is not as bad as Baidu (the Chinese replacement for Google) but it still provides politically and commercially biased search results.  Without regulation any replacement for Google (such as Google UK or a new entrant) will be tempted to become biased.

Online emporia such as Amazon, would have prompted serious reaction from Governments had they not been based on the Internet.  Amazon is attempting to vertically integrate its business so that it controls every aspect of a product from manufacture to sale and it is using dubious practices to do this. Most Governments react to trading monopolies if they are outside of the Internet.  The solution is to have British versions of Amazon (one of which could be Amazon UK) that conform to rules for online emporia.  Product searches on emporia should always present results for local retailers first and require a further level of search for foreign suppliers.  Taxes should be levied on foreign goods for green as well as commercial reasons.

Social media must be seriously addressed.  It should be brought under the rules for publishing and advertising should be limited.  There should be British versions of social media so that the rules can be followed (Facebook UK, Twitter UK and other local businesses).  The news media and political or campaigning organisations would be banned from social media and transferred to political social media.

A special category of political social media for political debate should be created. This would have as much advertising as those who run it desire.  It would suspend the rules for publishing and would only limit content where this involved definite conspiracies to cause harm or language that could constitute assault.  Those who use political social media do so at their own risk.

If the Government believes pornography should be available to all ages it should pass an Act of Parliament that normalises this idea.  If the Government believes that the current legislation should be enforced then a ".porn" or ".pn" domain should be created where images and videos that are considered indecent are lodged. Internet browsers would require two ID numbers (such as NI number and driving licence or utility customer number) to allow the creation of an access password to .porn sites.  Either the Government approves of widespread access to pornography or it does not, it should not dodge the issue so that children can decide what they view.

A national firewall would reduce online fraud and make it easier for the police to investigate.  The cost of online fraud is about ten times that of burglaries but the police are still living in the age of offline crime.  The Government should publicise the need to report attempted online fraud and the police tasked with investigating as much as possible. £1bn spent on police services in this area would pay back £10bn in prevented frauds.

A national firewall would secure the Internet of Things from sabotage by foreign powers and malicious actors.

Local authorities should have enterprise Councillors, part of whose role is to promote the local Internet and bring local production, sales and delivery companies together.  Without the enforcement of a local focus the Internet will wreck the regions and country districts, depriving them of employment and wealth..

The High Street is dying and the retail industry is becoming focused into a handful of foreign owned mega corporations.  Young women are being driven insane by social media and children are at risk from pornography and gambling.  Foreign powers can get access to the Internet of Things, and all of our finance and industry.  Foreign Media companies such as Google and Twitter can feed us information that is biased and indoctrinate the population.  We have waited long enough to know what the Internet brings and now is the time to regulate it.

30/11/2020

* Internet satellite jamming may be needed.

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