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[ga] Rise of Internet 'Borders' Prompts Fears for Web's Future

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2002; Page E01

". . . governments and private businesses increasingly try to draw boundaries
around what used to be a borderless Internet to deal with legal, commercial
and terrorism concerns.  "It used to be that a person sitting in one place
could get or send information anywhere in the world," said Jack Goldsmith, a
professor of international law at the University of Chicago. "But now the
Internet is starting to act more like real space with all its limitations."

These new barriers take many forms. One method is to simply restrict who has
access to computers and gateways to the Internet. Another is to make all
communications pass through filters that seek to weed out objectionable
content, such as pornography or information deemed to endanger national
security. Growing in popularity is software that attempts to match a
computer's unique Internet address with a general geographic location, a
technology that is becoming more precise every day.

The debate is no longer about if we can create these barriers, but rather
whether we should. Even those who support the idea in theory disagree on who
should erect and maintain the electronic fences, whether it should be done by
nation-states or by the Web site operators.

The new borders provide what some call a neat solution to the vexing problem
of how to resolve the often-conflicting policies of the roughly 200
independent states of the world on matters such as gambling, commerce,
copyright and speech.

But critics fear that the barriers will create an Internet that's balkanized.
And civil rights groups warn that freedom of speech will suffer, that the
technology will make it easier for oppressive governments to stifle
nonconformist viewpoints, and that people's privacy will be eroded, especially
because some technologies can pinpoint one's location." [MORE]


Patrick Corliss

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