by Ben Sixsmith
Tuesday, 8
December 2020
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07:00

Nick Clegg’s ‘global internet’ is a fantasy

It's not only the Chinese who are unconvinced — the West increasingly is too
by Ben Sixsmith
Nick Clegg at the Web Summit conference

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader cum Mark Zuckerberg aide, has been urging Joe Biden to make a priority of defending the idea of the “global internet”. Clegg grasps that currently there is no such thing. The Chinese internet, he told attendees of the Web Summit conference, “is based on a completely different set of values” to the Western internet.

What concerns Clegg is that other nations are being inspired by the Chinese example. “I think there really are basically two paradigms now struggling for supremacy in terms of how the internet is architected,” he said:

…you have, here in Silicon Valley, these companies which have pioneered an open, seamless approach to the internet, which has been adopted by very many parts of the world. But you see, in cases like Pakistan, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam, there’s this accelerating move to almost emulate the more insular approach…
- Nick Clegg

Clegg is not wrong about that. As the cybersecurity reporter William Chalk has written:

China has led the campaign for legitimising the notion of internet sovereignty. This concept attempts to align the notion of state sovereignty with a key authoritarian priority: absolute control over the domestic network and a population’s digital experience.
- William Chalk, SupChina

For example, Vietnam followed China in establishing cybersecurity laws that gave its government sweeping powers to monitor and block information. Russia has attempted to ban VPNs and disable data services in unstable regions — and has even experimented with its own internal internet, RuNet.

No one in the West should be surprised. Western commentators have spent years applauding the role that social media plays in turning populations against authoritarian governments, and enabling the logistics of dissent and revolution. The most recent example of this trend was Belarus.

To advertise an “open, seamless” internet to a repressive government is to advertise a fox to a turkey. There is a reason Westerners had to smuggle samizdat into the Soviet Union rather than asking the Soviets to give free rein to independent publishing houses.

If Western institutions do not want nations to fall within the Chinese sphere of influence, they have to be realists and not idealists. The idea of an “open, seamless” internet is contested enough within Western states — amid a thousand arguments about misinformation, hate speech, propaganda, obscenity et cetera — where instead of blandly preaching “openness”, people ask how much openness, and why.

This is true externally as well as internally. Across political divides, there is wide agreement on the basic concept of online border protection. From progressive activism against “Russian bots” to Right-wing campaigns against Chinese apps like TikTok, everybody knows the “global internet” is an idealistic fantasy. Instead of thinking in such lofty terms we should perhaps assess the value of trade and free movement in colder and more specific terms. That might not always be good for multinationals but it might be good for nations.

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Clegg’s talk of an ‘open, seamless’ internet is deceitful in the extreme. Anyone who follows these things knows that Facebook and the rest of Big Tech routinely suppresses, bans or ‘shadows bans’ conservative voices or those that don’t bow to their agenda. Just a a few days ago Twitter kicked a bunch left of wingers off the platform. These people are disgusting.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

They are more than merely disgusting.They are a real and imminent threat and need to be stopped

Peter Ian Staker
Peter Ian Staker
1 year ago

Nick, if you’re going to take the money from your corporate overloads, you can’t be a politician anymore. Set your own house in order first; stop selling people’s data to the highest bidder.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago

I’d argue that it is a rare Western politician who doesn’t have a corporate overlord these days.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

I don’t understand what a failed politician offers Mark Zuckerberg.
Clegg had little influence when he was in his pomp. Now he has none.
Either Zuckerberg or I have got this very wrong

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Maybe he’s been put there just to keep the “woke employees” fooled that Facebook gives a flying cr*p about morality …

M Spahn
M Spahn
1 year ago

I remember well the real open internet, circa 2000-2012 or so. Before the big corporations and wokehadis united to take control of it.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

I wouldn’t trust anything this guy comes out with.

Doubtless he’ll make promises about Facebook’s editorial policy that he and they won’t keep.

Sean Arthur Joyce
Sean Arthur Joyce
1 year ago

We are already moving to a Chinese style social media and political system in the West. A Facebook “fact checker” whistleblower has just come out to reveal the full extent of its censorship operations and it’s as bad”or worse”than we thought:
“I worked for a company named Appen. We are a 3rd party freelance contract company. A few years ago Facebook approached us with an offer. Zuckerburg couldn’t legally censor people on his platform because he told congress that he was an open forum. So, he uses several 3rd party companies to “Fact Check,” and otherwise censor, information. We coordinate our efforts with a company in India, from our base in Canada, to provide our censorship services to Facebook.”
1) First off, primarily conservative and right leaning posts on Twitter and Facebook make it to our service.
2) Left leaning posts are to be ignored and never manually flagged, it doesn’t matter if it violates TOS or even federal law. If Facebook gets in trouble they blame us, and they can’t do anything because we’re not based in America, so we give the government the run-around and nothing can be done. It’s worked so far.
3) Zuckerburg created a program that feeds posts automatically into our service, it analyzes content in posts, searching for common images and lines of text, and if it matches any of our guidelines it gets automatically flagged and entered into our system to be “Fact Checked.” So we don’t just go looking for conservative posts, Zuckerburg sends them to us with his automatic program.
4) If there are multiple ideas in a conservative post, only 1 of them needs to be potentially disputable. We are to flag an entire article as disputed/false/discredited/untrue/etc even if there’s only 1 idea that’s not completely confirmed.
There are several more points, but you get the idea. And finally: “This is all preparation for the Great Reset, by getting Trump out, because he opposed the idea. Biden has agreed to go full on into it, which is why he’s been getting such a big hand from Facebook and Twitter, however, it’s much bigger than just that. In our new world order, we’ll control not just national news, but global news. By controlling the global narrative, we control what information you’re allowed to know and what you’re allowed to think.”

noahosborne1982
noahosborne1982
1 year ago

Wow

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 year ago

Yes indeed, wow.

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
1 year ago

Nick Clegg – take your pick between “risen without trace” “failing upwards” and “tw&t”

ian.walker12
ian.walker12
1 year ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

I choose option 3

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

The Chinese internet, he told attendees of the Web Summit conference, “is based on a completely different set of values” to the Western internet.
Well, yes, because China – to whom an alarming number of US political and financial figures are overly beholden – is not like us. What’s worse is that the West appears more likely to resemble China than the other way around. It’s funny how people tut-tut the CCP doing thing that are very similar to what Big Tech does.

Frank Leigh-Sceptical
Frank Leigh-Sceptical
1 year ago

“blandly preaching” but this is all Clegg has ever done. More hot gasses than a field of bulemic bovines which can’t be good for the imminent climate catastrophe, ironically enough.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
1 year ago

It’s nick clegg, why are you listening to that schmuk?

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

I don’t understand what a failed politician offers Mark Zuckerberg.
Clegg had little influence when he was in his pomp. Now he has none.
Either Zuckerberg or I have got this very wrong!

Robert James
Robert James
1 year ago

I wonder how Facebook is getting on with the ‘Great Firewall of China’ these days. Surely it would be hypocritical for it to be providing a different (i.e. less open) social media platform for the Chinese market.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert James

Why? FB and others are fairly astute at silencing certain voices in allegedly free societies. China, at least, gives no pretense of upholding free expression.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
1 year ago

Uh… So a few countries got wise to our tech overlords game in silicon valley? They don’t feel like Zuck’s “fact checkers” are so great for their countries? LOL. Good for them. Glad to see some nations fighting back against these fascists.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

Ahhh, Cleggy! I’d almost forgotten him.

When Facebook first announced they had ‘poached a Clegg’ I’m sure the news was received with a resounding “Who?” from the rest of the world. I can’t say I’ve missed him – but at least his departure has meant one fewer ex-MP cluttering up the airwaves. I certainly haven’t missed his sanctimony and that look of puzzled scorn he affects whenever talking about the British people – as if he’s truly baffled as to why they don’t all fall into line with his way of thinking.

Before I’m accused of being unduly mean to the man just examine his record. He still, on the surface, manages to do a passing impersonation of sincerity, but in reality is one of the most hypocritical politicians of our times. I’d honestly trust Tony Blair before I believed anything that came from this arch Illiberal Anti-Democrat.

Leaving aside the obvious examples like Tuition fees, PR or boundary changes, just look at his various positions on the referendum and its aftermath:

He wrote in a Lib Dem party leaflet:

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats want a real referendum on Europe. Only a real referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will let the people decide our country’s future. But Labour don’t want the people to have their say. The Conservatives only support a limited referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Why won’t they give the people a say in a real referendum?”

Similar sentiments appeared 2 years later in the Lib Dem manifesto.
Strangely, by the time the Conservatives offered up a referendum as a manifesto pledge, Sir Nick had changed his tune. Opposing the idea and since then denouncing the referendum as merely an internal Tory party squabble – as though his own party and Labour hadn’t also promised one.
Addressing the Oxford Union in the run up to the referendum, he made fun of any Leavers who didn’t accept the result because he was sure Remain had it in the bag,

“There’ll be some people who’ll be like those Japanese soldiers who continued fighting the last war because no one had told them it had ended on some Pacific island, who will carry on arguing and arguing. The rest of us will just move on and carry on with the rest of our lives”

Well, Banzai to that, Nick.

After the vote he initially said he totally respected the result of the referendum.

He then called on Parliament to ignore the result of the referendum.
When that failed he called on the House of Lords – and then the courts – to overturn the referendum

In his campaign to delegitimise the very referendum he had spent years calling for he then announced to anyone who’d listen that ‘referendums aren’t a sensible way to decide policy’ ….. before (surprise, surprise) going on to call for “¦. yup “¦. another referendum.

He insisted to Andrew Neill that the reason the referendum vote shouldn’t be allowed to stand is that no one ever made the point to voters that a vote to Leave would entail leaving the Single market and Customs Union …… before having to admit that, actually, yes, he had in fact seen all the senior figures of the Leave campaign making precisely that point in televised interviews and debates ““ though in an (admittedly hilarious) act of sheer desperation he tried to justify that saying “Yes, but nobody watches those interviews”

He was then forced to admit that he was not only aware that Cameron, Osborne and almost all other senior Remainers had also explicitly stated publicly that a vote to Leave would entail leaving the SM & CU but that he had ““ wait for it ““ “¦.. even done so HIMSELF.

He enjoys exceedingly generous EU pensions from being an MEP and from his time with the EU Commission. Though I’m quite sure that would never impact his thinking on the matter. Nick is, above all things, a man of principle.

During the 2016 debates he lambasted the Leave campaign for scaremongering about an EU Army and an EU foreign minister, calling it a ‘dangerous fantasy’, (yet both are now known to be factual) so he was either ignorant or dishonest – neither option inspiring much trust.

How on earth anyone imagines this fellow has a shred of credibility left is frankly beyond me.

But despite his busy schedule trying to look sad on behalf of his boss (who appears incapable of human emotion) I imagine he’ll still find time pop up on our screens in the near future to moan about Boris not giving in to the EU’s demands.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago

The Chinese internet is perversely a lot freer than our own. Everyone knows in China that you can say anything online, just don’t incite sedition against the CCP. Granted, they may defline ‘sedition’ more loosely than we would, but at least you know what to avoid.