Earlier this month, as much of the world’s attention was elsewhere, the Chinese government announced their new cybersecurity law. While the new law was ostensibly adopted to increase security, a range of features have been criticized by human rights and multinational groups alike. Indicative of China’s push for cyber sovereignty — the complete government control of the internet within their borders — the law requires (among other things) network operators to disclose the identities of users and corporations to adhere to data residence requirements, including potentially turning over source code or information on Chinese citizens.
These objectives were reiterated a few weeks later at the World Internet Conference (WIC) held in Wuzhen, China on Nov. 16, which provided another platform for President Xi Jinping to reiterate his push for cyber sovereignty, saying that the “internet is the common home of mankind”, while also arguing that “we should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber development”. Unfortunately, this is only a Trojan horse for greater censorship, surveillance, and an infringement on civil liberties.
The demand for increased state control is by no means limited to China. In their 2016 Freedom of the Net report released earlier this month, Freedom House found an increase in global internet censorship coupled with the sixth consecutive year of decline in internet freedom.
Just the other week, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act which give UK intelligence agencies sweeping authority to increase hacking and surveillance in what some are calling “a privacy disaster waiting to happen”. And it should come as no surprise that this has all occurred as the United States’s soft power has declined over the last two decades, and liberal democracy has increasingly come under threat.
Dec. 14, 2016