Dream of Internet Freedom Is Dying, says Black Hat Speaker

Government overreach is the primary culprit that keeps the Internet from being the free and open source of information and ideas that it could be, according to a leading computer crime defense attorney.

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, addressed the subject of Internet freedom yesterday in her keynote address at the annual Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

Granick said that as long as thereEUs overregulation, censorship and laws that donEUt stop the real bad guys, Internet innovation will be stifled. She added that while safety and security are important, the result of efforts to meet those priorities means the Internet is no longer the breeding ground for innovation that it was two decades ago.

"I'm here to tell you today that this dream of Internet freedom is dying," Granick told a capacity audience. "The question that is left [is], is that dream still possible?"

Slow Demise

While thereEUs no one entity to blame for the slow demise of the open Internet, thereEUs also no entity thatEUs making it a priority to protect innovation, Granick said. Adding to that situation is the fact that many new Internet users are from parts of the world that donEUt have the protections of the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Granick singled out the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that calls for up to 10 years in prison for a first-time offense. She maintained that the act has no effect when it comes to prosecuting hackers in countries like China when they launch state-sponsored attacks against U.S. companies and government agencies. At the same time, though, relatively minor American hackers often receive disproportionately lengthy prison sentences.

User Control

Along with regulation, Granick pointed to industry centralization, globalization and loss of "the freedom to...

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