[UPDATE: 2012/08/23 – Barbayellow translates their posts in english]
Yesterday, I wrote this piece and Barbayellow, friend of mine and who happens to works for Reporters Without Borders, replied with this post
Basically he says that internet’s not dead, it’s just the hacktivists who are tired of fighting. I recommend you to read the whole posts, it’s probably a bit subtler than that.
So, now, I’ll answer and will do a less melodaramtic post I think.
Internet as we knew it
When I’m saying that internet is dying, it’s the internet as we knew it. The ones that grants people, corporations and states to communicate freely, without the fear to be harmed for their opinion.
It’s not the internet as it’s in China (which is not Internet by the way, it’s more a different network which some limited connectivity to the intertube) or in Iran or elsewhere.
The internet is just cables, with kittens inside carrying packets between computers. Basically, there’s nothing inside of it, no content save for the kittens and the packets they’re carrying around is inside the internet, it’s just on computers connected to the cat system.
The internt, as it used to be, is a multipeer to multipeer multidirecctional communication system. It grants all things connected to the Internet to exchange freely cats and packets at no costs (besides the facts that if we give you a kitten in transit and it’s not for you, you’ll pass along until it find it’s recipient).
The internet is then a wonderfull tool for news addict, trolls, kittens lovers, citizens who needs a way to organize themselves out of the street ( because the streets are monitored and a more dangerous place than the internet), social organisations of all kinds benefits from this.
This is internet. Internet is neither Google, nor Facebook, nor any other form of government. Those are just things connected onto the internet and who produces and eats a lot of kittens (yeah, kittens are eaten when they land on your computer).
All was good, kittens were purring into the internet, and we loived them and cares for them. The only thing we forgot at this time was that any who can stare at a kitten, can see the packet he’s carrying. And then decides to shot him death or not, depending on the content of the packet.
That’s when the net neutrality was endangered.
The answer was blatantly simple: math. Using math, we can do cryptography and, cryptography is just packing every packet in a Unicron suit. All the packet then looks the same and kittens are now carrying unicorn around.
The governement, who were not able to mass murder kittens, decided that cryptography was a tool that only good people – which means them – would be able to use, letting bad people – you – using old packet system while they were going to use kittens.
Cypehrpunks – big Unicorns fan – decided that the cryptofascism was to be fighted and opposed Exportation law on cryptosystems. Phil Zimmeerman wrote PGP at this time for this specific reason: grants anyone the possibility to benefits from cryptography and to protect it’s privacy – as well as sending cats carrying unicorns which is cool.
And that was the status-quo for a time. Governement and corporations benefited from the works written by cypherpunks, and were counting on the fact that few people likes unicorns and won’t use the cryptography.
The web 2.0 bullshit and the cyberthreats meme
What really threatens the internet is the web 2.0 bullshit. The meme around that over-centralisation of each pieces of data in few places to create a big data environnment with savvy web services are dangerous.
Not because of the creation of those data (rememebre, more data, more kittens and kittens are cool), it was the centralisation of those data. It started slowly, with the homepage trand and then the blogosphere thing. Search engine and the host anything in da kloug.
A lot of money has been spent on this, not overnight but over a decade (and this is a small amountg of time for a slow moving thing that are governement). New buildings has been built, we have been sold assymetric access to the internet, to avoid citizens to hosts themselves the content, zetabytes storage systems now exists and dreamers and cypherpunks has been painted as bad people – antisocial peopl who will destroy the world just because they can.
Which is weird because cypherpunks are free software adept, they wnat to share as most as they can and this is specifically what a society is about (exchange). And that’s what internet could have been.
The other worrying meme, and a little more recent one, is the cyberwarfare one. It’s a meme stating that it’s perfectly normal that criticial systems such as nuclear power plant be connected to internet and that, given that fact, there is a riskq that someone find a flaw and exploit it to destroy the power plant (the flaw exist, each and every system have at least one).
So, everything on the web 2.0 is now centralised, authentified and must be monitored becasue, you know, someone might destroy the world using it’s knowledge.
This is where we are now. The leaks about NSA aren’t new, we knew that – and assumes that was true – for a while (Echelon, Karnivor, stuff like that already leaked in public). There’s some computers who copy every kittens they foudn and store the packet if there’s no unicorn.
And, if there’s a unicorn, they keep it for a later use, when math will advance and makes all those unicorn suits vulnerable (believe me, this day will come, have a look over here if you want).
They also tortures kittens to have access to metadata (where the kitten where born, where it would have dies, at which time, does he have siblings, stuff like that).
Some governement tooks extra steps and shots kittens who embed unicrons on sight (that’s why we can disguise unicorn as a regular packet, that’s steganography).
Governement founds that this kittens torture business is good for them, they secretly deployed it and are using it since then, trying to sorts the good citizens from the bad ones.
Cryptoanarchy in the tubes
The thing about Internet being dead is just that. The old internet, decentralized, neutral, with cryptograpohy everywhere is now dead. Transit operators works with governement who tries to protect themselves from the citizens (instead of protecting the citizens).
Yes, you can use strong cryptography. You should do it. But it will be efficient until a certain point. As long as you crave for centralised services, the strong cryptography is useless – you just need to asks Facebook your lifestream to see that.
Yes, some organisation, and some people who are aware of those issues can use the strong encryption systems but, teh governements keeps those data, waiting for a breakthrough that would makes it useless and will grant the governement way of using what you then wrote against you.
Yes, some people still maintain strong crypto aware servcies for activists, and you should try to set some up. It will takes you time and money to get it done. Also, government will prosecute and intimidates you, trying to send you in jail for a long time.
So yes, the free and neutral internet is dying. We now have a neo feudal system that looks like internet. Yes, people with special needs are still able to use internet with huge cryptosystems. Unicorn haven’t disappearred and kittens do flow, but it’s still costly. And it’s a cost that few people will pay. And the wealth and interest of Internet lies in the user, their differences, the thing they share. If there’s no one on internet, then you have no internet.
And with the social st
igma of not being on Facebook (for instance), it’s harder to have people using alternatives – and there’s plenty of good and functionnal alternatives out there.
So yes Barbayellow, the Internet has we knew it is dead. And yes, activists will be able to communicate more or less freely. But that’s not the point. Internet is dead because people won’t pay the necessary costs to be free.
Yes, I agreee, it’s a political struggle. You know me, we disagree on the means to fight this struggle, especially when you have to face economics giant and security fanatics hiding in secret part of the governement.
The only way to get back a free, neutral and decentralised internet is to implement accountability and transparency. It’s by destroying the centralisation memes and the cyberthreats one. It’s by destroying Secrecy and to enforce Privacy by default. But that’s not something cypehrpunks can solve, it’s smething citizens should implement.
And yes, I’ll fight until we have that. But Internet is dead.