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Freedom on the Internet

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While it is an urban legend that the Internet was built to be resilient in the event of nuclear war — other military networks such as the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) had that role — many of its founders believe deeply in freedom on the Internet. The Internet's predecessors were built to optimize the sharing of research and education information, and security was not an original design goal; trust existed among the small group of initial users.

Governments and moral guardians increasingly either try to block unacceptable information flow, or are surprised by it. Nevertheless, it is a motto of Internet operations engineers that the Internet senses censorship as a network failure, and routes around it.

Law and technology

There is nothing new in the reality that legal remedies lag behind the introduction of technologies. An article in the December 2010 Internet Society (ISOC) magazine. [1] ISOC said "Unless and until appropriate laws are brought to bear to take the wikileaks.org domain down legally, technical solutions should be sought to reestablish its proper presence and appropriate actions taken to pursue and prosecute entities (if any) that acted maliciously to take it off the air.... The Internet Society is founded upon key principles of free expression and non discrimination that are essential to preserve the openness and utility of the Internet. We believe that this incident dramatically illustrates that those principles are currently at risk.

"Free expression should not be restricted by governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet."

While the rule of law is desirable, the reality is that law is especially difficult to apply on the international, and sometimes anonymous, Internet. If, for example, the server hosting U.S. secrets is in Switzerland, and is attacked by a Chinese hacktivist, what law applies?

The Hacker Ethic

USENET

With increasing commercial access and use to the Internet, trust could no longer be assumed. In 1987, America Online set up anonymous access to Usenet, which had depended on trust and reputation. Usenet's value soon dropped with trolling, flame wars, and ignorant criticism of the inventors of technologies.

Spam

For more information, see: Spam (e-mail).

1994 brought the first clearly identifiable spam, admittedly on Usenet rather than in email. [2]

Pornography

For more information, see: Pornography.
See also: Culture wars
  • Communications Decency Act
  • .xxx domain

Wikileaks

For more information, see: Wikileaks.

While Wikileaks has received a great deal of attention, it must be understood that its impact is largely enabled by the Internet. Had even the most dramatic secret document released been printed by a newspaper journalist, it would likely have been considered a "scoop", but not an existential threat. The significance of the Wikileaks disclosure is in its size, speed, anonymity and resilience. As Stephen Walt put it in Foreign Policy, " How many leaks does it take to become a threat to humanity?"[3]

References