The Dark Side of Net Neutrality

I'm not following Net Neutrality that closely right now, but I'm interested enough to draw attention to a very interesting initiative local colleague Mark Goldberg is part of.

He posted about this earlier today, and it's worth sharing in terms of where an unbridled Internet can readily go in places that can't possibly be good. This is a story in progress, and Mark has noted that it's already been picked up in the Canadian press, so this is far from just being a blogosphere issue.

In short, Mark is part of a group that has filed an application to the CRTC, requesting they give carriers the power to block access to websites that are clearly not in the interest of the public good. As it stands, carriers need to get permission from the CRTC to do so, and as such, a mechanism does exist, but one that is not very efficient or practical for the Internet.

The article and Mark's blog go into greater detail about the specific issues, but it's basically about hate groups and how they use websites to spread their message, and in this case, to incite others to undertake acts of violence against people they do not care for.

Ugly stuff for sure, and I'd call it the dark side of Net Neutrality. With freedom come obligations and responsibilities, and someone has to draw the line between the right to individual expression and what is in the best interest of the public good in a free society. The Internet cuts both ways as a communications channel, and has always been rife with excess and abuse. While the basic principles of Net Neturality are worth fighting for, I think it's perfectly reasonable to empower carriers with the right to block content for things that are so clearly on the wrong side of the law.

Sure, this could also make it easier for carriers to block content that is not in their own economic interest, but that's not the issue here. To some extent they have to be expected to demonstrate good corporate citizenship, especially when there are no economic issues involved. Perhaps this is just the Canadian way, but I don't think so. I just see it as doing the right thing. To that end, I wish Mark and his colleagues good luck in their application.

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