Monday, January 31, 2011

That scary Internet

National governments are coming to fear the Internet as a potentially disruptive mechanism for their publics. China and Australia have installed national firewalls to attempt to filter information crossing their borders to and from the greater Internet. Most recently, Egypt has recently shut down portions of its Internet infrastructure.

Many reports speak of the Egyptian shut down as a done deal. However, this is a misleading viewpoint. In point of fact, many Egyptians are still connected to the Internet through various means. The Internet is architected so that packets can take any route available from their source IP to their destination IP. As the old saying goes, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it". Like with so many other things, an official shut down just shuts down official business. Criminals don't care, nor do most of the general public.

Regarding the American kill switch, I must wonder how the discussion has gotten as far as it did given American politics. Aside from being technically hopeless, and for making times of peace more dangerous, it just doesn't seem American to let the president shut down a major category of speech. Has there ever been a U.S. president that tried to get a media kill switch, i.e. the ability to shut down every newspaper, pamphlet, printer, and copying machine at the press of a button?

Overall, I expect this gradual creeping oversight to know no bounds. The U.S. government is ham-handed, its members would universally prefer not to be discussed, and units such as the FCC are seeking a new reason to exist. Instead of gradually fighting each individual effort as they attempt to chip away at the open Internet, I would prefer a categorical principle that the U.S. government just does not have authority over the Internet. There's no reason they should, and they're not even competent.

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