Big Government and Big Tech versus the Internet and Everyone WWW

Governments around the world began trying to bring the Internet under control as soon as they realized the danger to their power represented by unfettered public access to, and exchange of, information. From attempts to suppress strong encryption technology to the Communications Decency Act in the US and China’s “Great Firewall,” such efforts have generally proven ineffectual. But things are changing, and not for the better.

The European Parliament recently passed a “Copyright Directive” which, if implemented, will force Internet platforms to actively monitor user content instead of putting the burden of proving copyright infringement on those claiming such infringement. The Directive also includes  a “link tax” under which publishers will charge aggregation platforms for traditionally “fair use” excerpts.

The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment is attempting to force the sale of Grindr, a gay dating app, over “national security” concerns. Grindr is owned by a Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun. CFIUS’s supposed fear is that the Chinese government will use information the app gathers to surveil or even blackmail users in sensitive political and military jobs.

Those are just two current examples of many.

Big Governments and Big Tech are engaged in a long-term mating dance.

Big Governments want to regulate Big Tech because that’s what governments do, and because, as with Willie Sutton and banks, Big Tech is where the Big Tax Money is.

Big Tech wants to be regulated by Big Governments because regulation makes it more difficult and expensive for new competitors to enter the market. Facebook doesn’t want someone else to make it the next MySpace. Google doesn’t want a fresh new face to send it the way of Yahoo.

It’s a mating dance with multiple suitors on all sides.

The US doesn’t like Grindr or Huawei, because FREEDUMB.

The Chinese don’t want uncensored Google or Twitter, because ORDER.

The EU is at least honest about being sexually indiscriminate: It freely admits that it just wants to rigorously screw everyone, everything, everywhere.

Big Tech wants to operate in all of these markets and it’s willing to buy every potential Big Government as many drinks as it takes to them all into the sack.

Everybody wins, I guess. Except the public.

Governments and would-be monopolists are fragmenting what once advertised itself as a Global Information Superhighway into hundreds of gated streets.

Those streets are lined by neatly manicured lawns per the homeowners’ association’s rigorously enforced rules, and herbicide is sprayed on those lawns to kill off the values that made the Internet the social successor to the printing press and the economic successor to the Industrial Revolution.

As Stewart Brand wrote, “Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. … That tension will not go away.”

Big Tech and Big Government are both coming down, increasingly  effectively,  on the side of “expensive” and on the side of Ford’s  Model T philosophy (“you can have any color you want as long as it’s black”).

They’re killing the Internet. They’re killing the future. They’re killing us.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Note to Six Senators: “Present” is not Presidential

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) speaks on the Green New Deal with Senator Ed Markey (right) in front of the Capitol Building in February 2019 [Author: Senate Democrats, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
On February 7, US Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) released the text of a joint resolution calling for a “Green New Deal.”

Fine, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Let’s vote on it in the Senate.

No, no, said Markey.  Absent a long organizational campaign and a detailed debate, voting on it would essentially be “sabotage.” Ocasio-Cortez decried the vote as a “bluff.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it a “stunt.”

In a sense, they’re right. But for at least six Senate Democrats, the “stunt” is also a “rout.”

Five of those six US Senators are Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT,), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), all  of them declared candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination and all of them declared supporters of the Green New Deal.

The sixth is  Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), also seeking that nomination, who’s been lukewarm on the whole idea, calling it “aspirational” and saying she’d likely oppose specific parts of it.

They’ve all previously and publicly expressed their opinions on the Green New Deal.

But when push came to shove in the US Senate on March 26, they all voted “present” instead of casting their votes one way or the other.

It’s fairly easy to change your mind, and hopefully easy to convincingly explain why. People change their minds all the time. No biggie.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to change a recorded vote in the US Senate. Such a vote is a significant and consequential act and reversing yourself is much harder to explain. Ask former US Senator John Kerry (D-MA) how being for the Iraq war before he was against it played for him on the presidential campaign trail.

Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar don’t want their positions on the Green New Deal indelibly recorded as votes in the US Senate.

They want freedom to triangulate their positions toward the desires of Democratic primary voters over the next year, and general election voters over the next year-and-a-half, with minimal explanation required.

People in hell want ice water, too.

Whatever one thinks about the Green New Deal, it’s already become a movement-defining manifesto for the Democratic Party.  The party, and its presidential candidates, are going to have to decide — and forthrightly declare — whether they’re for it or against it.

Instead of strapping on the courage of their convictions one way or the other, Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar ran for cover.

Instead of telling America where they stand on the Green New Deal, they publicly announced that they stand for nothing at all.

That’s not presidential. Heck, it’s not even senatorial. It’s just cowardly.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Florida: Why Republican Lawmakers are Defying — and Denying — the Voters Vote Pencil

In Florida’s November 2018 election, voters approved the following amendment to their state’s constitution:

“Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction shall terminate and voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation. (b) No person convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil rights.”

Seems pretty clear and concise, doesn’t it? If you’re a convicted felon who’s not a murderer or a rapist, once you’ve “paid your debt to society,” you get to vote just like any other citizen. Period.

But governor-elect Ron DeSantis announced that the measure would require “implementing legislation.”

CNN reports that two bills now working their way through Florida’s  Republican-dominated House and Senate would “implement” the amendment by levying unconstitutional poll taxes  —  court costs and incarceration fees,  running from a few hundred dollars to as high as tens of thousands of dollars  — on the newly eligible voters as a condition of registering and voting.

Jeff Brandes, vice chairman of the state Senate’s Criminal Justice committee, claims that the clear, concise, and unambiguous constitutional amendment, passed with the approval of nearly 65% of those voting, needs to be “further refined and honed.”

Why? Well …

In the 2016 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 113,000 votes in Florida.

In 2018, governor DeSantis beat his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, by about 32,500 votes. Outgoing Republican governor Rick Scott beat the incumbent US Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, by about 10,000 votes.

The passage of Amendment 4 potentially adds as many as 1.4 million voters to the state’s rolls.

Who are these new voters?

Proportionally, they are more likely to be African-American than white. As of 2010, according to a University of Georgia study, 8% of Americans were convicted felons, but 33% of African-American males fell into that category. And 20% of Florida’s African-American population had felony convictions on their records.

African-American voters overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party’s candidates for public office.

If Amendment 4 is implemented as clearly, concisely, and unambiguously written, Florida will cease to be America’s biggest presidential “swing state.” Its 29 electoral votes will move solidly into the Democratic column.

Creative gerrymandering might allow Republicans to maintain control of the state’s legislature and US House delegation, but the governor’s mansion and Florida’s two US Senate seats will go, and stay, blue.

Rather than work to avert this outcome by courting the African-American vote, Florida’s Republicans are falling back on a strategy their party has vigorously pursued nationwide for  decades: Find ways to keep African-Americans from voting.

But this time, Florida’s voters have spoken. Clearly. Concisely. Unambiguously. Don’t like it? Too bad. Republicans defy the people at their peril.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.