Europe's Call to Arms on the Internet

Bill Thompson has this interesting diatribe on The Register Damn the Constitution: Europe must take back the Web, in which he argues for a web that respects national boundaries in order to protect the rest of the world from a web dominated by the United States.

Today’s Internet is a poor respecter of national boundaries, as many repressive governments have found to their cost. Unfortunately this freedom has been so extensively abused by the United States and its politicians, lawyers and programmers that it has become a serious threat to the continued survival of the network as a global communications medium. If the price of being online is to swallow US values, then many may think twice about using the Net at all, and if the only game online follows US rules, then many may decide not to play.

I hardly know how to respond to this. To me the fact that the net is so radically open is what makes it worthwhile. Thompson wants to give the nation state the political power to regulate the web. This might work well for the democratic nations of Europe who want to ban racial prejudice a la Yahoo and the French suit to ban Nazi artifacts. I acknowledge the need for local representation but wonder if the web might be more helpful in giving us a transnational culture instead of replicating the local mores. This transnational culture will be affected by America but I don’t think it approaches hegemony, at least not yet. Johnson’s article is a timely warning to remind us that we get the net we choose.