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The Internet Your Rights Online

Taming the Web 365

Posted by michael
from the cisco-the-lion-tamer dept.
Thomas writes: "A story on Technology Review outlines the closer-to-reality-than-you-think fact that Internet regulations are right around the corner. It points out three false hopes held by web 'libertarians.' 1. the web is too international to control. 2. the net is too interconnected to fence in. 3. the net is full of hackers that are impossible to control. This is a good read." Bingo.
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Taming the Web

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  • By the numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillSeattle (239206) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:24PM (#2111303) Homepage
    OK, read the article. Yes, it's true, but it's also false.

    First, my creds are longer than I care to think about, back in the dawn of time. And, no, I don't hack any longer, but all I'll say is, if I had, the statute of limitations is up.

    Myth #1 The Net is too International to be Controlled

    The Net, the totality of the Internet, is. The Web, the channel that our browsers serve up http and https and suchlike, is affected by our ISPs. We can still use TCP/IP and backchannel, go thru various ports - this part is still wild and wooly. Or we can stay safe inside AOL and MSN and their versions and it's controlled. It's like the Wild West - when you come into Dodge, they take your guns at the city limits. If you stick to the patrolled routes, it's fairly safe; if you wander off into the badlands, it's not.

    Myth #2 The Net is to Interconnected to Control

    See above. While you can route around censorship and damage, this requires active or passive participation by someone. So long as bastions of freedom exist, so long as encyrpted channels go through, this will continue to exist. But the rest can be partially controlled.

    Myth #3 The Net is Too Filled with Hackers to Control

    So long as we reward hackers with publicity and teens have very little to lose and don't care about it, this will always be true. If they suddenly fear being caught, it will increase some people's activity and scare off others. So, this is mostly true.

    But, in sum, it all comes down to this:

    The Net is the Perception, Not the Reality.

    So long as people believe in the above tenets, it will self-perpetuate. If they lose faith, it will change. Just as the founders of America believed in press freedom but favored other restrictions - remember the 50s, that teen gang era, eventually followed by the 80s.

    • Myth #1 The Net is too International to be Controlled

      The Net, the totality of the Internet, is. The Web, the channel that our browsers serve up http and https and suchlike, is affected by our ISPs. We can still use TCP/IP and backchannel, go thru various ports - this part is still wild and wooly. Or we can stay safe inside AOL and MSN and their versions and it's controlled. It's like the Wild West - when you come into Dodge, they take your guns at the city limits. If you stick to the patrolled routes, it's fairly safe; if you wander off into the badlands, it's not.

      Given the current enviornment this is true. The point of the article is that this enviornment isn't an absolute. It's pretty easy for an ISP to limit you to port 80 only. Then what do you do? Tunnel? Sure but in order for that tunneling to be useful you'll have to release the specs to the world so you can communicate and then it gets cracked down again.

      A good example is cox @home. They just dropped incoming port 80 requests in response to code red. So now no one can get to my web server. I switched to port 81, but trying to propogate that information out is time consuming, and it's possible some people will never get that information. And that's a relativly simple thing to overcome. But my ability to communicate on the net was harmed when they did it. I can route around it, but every route limits the user base that can find that information. Even in the "wild west" it was still relativly easy to keep my info off the web. Each time you introduce difficulty into finding information it reduces the number of people who will find that information. As that number gets smaller you cease to matter.

      Myth #2 The Net is to Interconnected to Control See above. While you can route around censorship and damage, this requires active or passive participation by someone. So long as bastions of freedom exist, so long as encyrpted channels go through, this will continue to exist. But the rest can be partially controlled.

      How many large pipes are there out of small_data_haven_1? How do you route around that? The fact is that despite our best wish's there is a single point of failure for many websites. Remember a few weeks ago when the train derailment in maryland caused thousands of people to lose all access?

      But, in sum, it all comes down to this:

      The Net is the Perception, Not the Reality.

      So long as people believe in the above tenets, it will self-perpetuate. If they lose faith, it will change. Just as the founders of America believed in press freedom but favored other restrictions - remember the 50s, that teen gang era, eventually followed by the 80s.

      What? If we hold hands and believe then it will be so? Why don't we all believe we can fly and save money on air travel?

      Words are failing me... JUST BECAUSE YOU REALLY WANT SOMETHING TO BE A CERTIAN WAY DOESN'T MEAN IT WILL BE THAT WAY

      that's the problem, a lot of powerful groups want some control, while the users are dancing around wagging their tounges and insisting that nothing can hurt them and nothing can stop them. Instead of thumbing our nose's at copyright holders desires we should start thinking about how to solve them. Because otherwise the internet will be controlled.

  • by rho (6063)
    It points out three false hopes held by web 'libertarians.' 1. the web is too international to control. 2. the net is too interconnected to fence in. 3. the net is full of hackers that are impossible to control. This is a good read." Bingo.

    No, not "Bingo" -- try "Bimbo".

    Point 1 and 2 are irrelavent -- while the article threw up a couple of examples that seem depressing, they miss the fact that it's really #3 that makes the whole mish-mash go 'round.

    A dedicated and motivated hacker will always be able to engineer around limitations in onternational politics or bandwidth. It's what makes us love hackers so much.

    The point about hardware not being crackable is ridiculous -- if the content is going to be read, listened to or watched, it has to go analog for a bit -- and at that point it is vulnerable. All it takes is one guy to re-record, transcribe, copy or what have you, and a "free" version is in the wild.

    Are Gnutella packets suceptible because of their headers? No biggie -- encrypt the headers, mutate the headers, whatever. It's a Whack-a-Mole game that can't be won.

    Ignore #1 and #2 -- it's #3 that will keep the other problems from encroaching.

  • by gregbaker (22648) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:14PM (#2114547) Homepage

    Fallacious agrument #1: "Swaptor Isn't Too International to Be Controlled" == "The Internet Isn't Too International to Be Controlled". Following this kind of argument, 4 is not even because 3 is not even and they're both numbers. As a side note, am I the only one that hasn't heard of Swaptor?

    Fallacious agrument #2: "Gnutella uses a bandwidth-inefficient protocol" == "The Internet isn't very interconnected". There's nothing impossible about efficient true P2P. If Gnutella isn't it, that's Gnutella's problem. This is actually the same fallacy type as #1.

    Fallacious agrument #3: "Software hackers can't do hardware" == "Nobody can hack hardware". A topical counter example: it's not very hard to buy a DVD player modified to be region-free.

    Honestly, do journalists not have to take a critical thinking course at some point? For that matter, do editors no longer edit? While the main focus of the article (the Internet ain't as free as some people assert) is probably true, the lack of a single cogent argument in a three "page" article is horrifying

    • Fallacious agrument #3: "Software hackers can't do hardware" == "Nobody can hack hardware". A topical counter example: it's not very hard to buy a DVD player modified to be region-free.
      Also, sound, still images, and movies can all be put through an analog stage and then redigitized, which defeats both hardware and software-based digital controls.

      Let's also remember that the world would be a worse place, not a better one, if hackers could crack anything. Suppose someone finds a way to factor large integers, thereby making all public-key encryption obsolete. That would be a horrible blow against individual freedom.

      • Nitpick: there are methods of public key encryption that don't depend on the difficulty of factoring products of large primes for their security. Elliptical curves, for instance.

        And of course, public key / private key is a major convenience, but all you really need is old school secret key cryptography to make a private, secure network.

        Finally, there are encryption methods that rely on the conjecture that P != NP - that is, breaking the encryption would answer the most significant unanswered question in mathematics of the last hundred years. I feel pretty safe about that. Oh yeah, and quantum cryptography too.

        But anyway, yes, it is a good thing that there are some things that nobody knows how to break.

  • by Dr. Dew (219113) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:45PM (#2120275) Homepage

    As long as you don't own the pipes, you can't rely on being able to pump anything you want through them. The bad news is that with many smaller ISPs having been failed, abandoned, and made obsolete by the bigger/higher bandwidth players, many of us don't even have the ability to vote with dollars, except to forego Internet connection entirely. As if.

    So it's not as easy as switching providers. And unless you live in a cell block or a row house, connecting your system via your own pipes isn't much of an option. Okay, not even in the cell block. Maybe wireless technologies will help ameliorate this, but at the moment, I wouldn't want to transmit anything to my buddies using the high-speed wireless data transmission technologies readily available to me.

    But I disagree that geeks should stop fighting "rules" and restrictive legislation out of fear of causing a clamp-down effect. Those who are skilled and interested should work toward sensible legislation (if such a thing exists). The demise of technocrat.net is one indication to me that such skills are rare in the geek community. The average R&D meeting is another such indication.

    I have more hope that as geeks continue to occupy influential positions in Corporate America and other industrialized nations, that the geek ethic will get a voice that matters to someone besides geeks. With due respect to Richard Stallman, the CTO at any company I've worked for has far more influence on the corporate direction - and the limits of corporate expectations - than any outside voice.

    But hey, I could be wrong, and I'm sure I'll find doubleplusgood travel arrangements on WorldOnline2010 (a wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL/Time-Warner/Daimler-Chrysler/Philip Morris/Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati).

  • by cr0sh (43134) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:52PM (#2122056) Homepage
    As long as I can connect two computers together, the internet will exist...

    For me, it started with a null modem serial cable strung between two TRS-80 Color Computers, so that I could "share" the single floppy drive I had.

    I quickly moved to a 300 baud modem - and I suddenly had a whole new world at my fingertips.

    Later came a 2400 baud modem, a 14.4, a 28.8. BBS's all over town - the city - Fidonet - across America, and in some cases, around the world.

    I messed around with connections over telephone wire, building funky parallel port bit-bangers, to create a po-man's networking system.

    Now I have a personal network inside my house - cobbled together from parts and pieces the corps didn't want - picked off the scrap pile of electronic hubris...

    I hear talk of 802.11 - lasercomm - radiocomm - it is in the air. Hackers will do it. Fidonet will be recreated.

    What are they to do? Regulate radio - oops, they already do! Regulate 2.4GHz - yep, that will come. Regulate sell of lasers? That could happen, too. Regulate light making devices? Perhaps.

    Maybe I will then hack together a system that only transmits/recieves during the daytime, using mirrors to reflect the sun over long distances, to be received and converted using homemade selenium photocells (and yes - I know how to make them). Regulate mirrors?

    Then I will stand on the roof of my house - and shout to the heavens, and my friend beyond, who will relay my message. It may be slow - but to shut me up, you will have to kill me.

    KILL ME, DAMMIT! DO YOU FUCKING UNDERSTAND, YOU GODDAMN FUCKING CORPORATE GOVERNMENT MACHINE?!

    /end...fucking...rant>
    • If this post doesn't get moderated to 5, then it's probably time to stop reading /. and go stock your bunker with spam, ammo, and good breedin' women.

    • by BeanThere (28381) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @09:54PM (#2170629)

      Here's a "simple" challenge for you. Send a single email to someone outside the USA, say for example in Europe, *knowing* that that email is NOT going through an FBI Carnivore box along its way.

      Good luck. *That* is how easy the Internet is to regulate and control.

      The issue is not whether or not the Internet exists, but whether or not there is real freedom on the Internet. Therein lies the problem.

      And you can yell all you want about using strong encryption on your emails - wait until they throw the first few people in jail for using "technologies that prevent law enforcers from doing their job" (or something like that), and see how many people still have the balls to use strong encryption.

      It seems you would rather sit around until they make things illegal and then try to find *technical* workarounds. Don't you think a better solution would be to work to develop a legal/government system that wouldn't be able to take away freedoms in the first place? The people need to have some control over lawmaking and regulation, otherwise it *will* end up being done in the interests of big corps and government.

      • Simple. Use an anonymous remailer that breaks and encrypts the email. Even though it still might be seen by Carnivore it would be gibberish and anonymous. The only place it gets reassembled and decrypted is at the final destination when the FBI illegally installs a keystroke logger to get the password. It doesn't even leave YOUR computer without being broken and encrypted.

        The systems exist, unfortunately only hackers (in the good sense) will use them. But isn't that really the point? Do we really want a bunch of computer illiterates trading illegal files?

        Travis
        • Simple. Use an anonymous remailer that breaks and encrypts the email

          Using an anonymous remailer is NOT simple by any means, not for 99% of the population. Not only do they tend to move about, but you also normally have to chain several remailers if you want any hope of anonymity. That is NOT what I would tell my grandmother is a "simple way to obtain freedom on the Internet". Freedom should be something 100% of people have automatically and conveniently, not something that a highly skilled 1% of people can get at a sacrifice of convenience. It should be *simple* for *everyone*, which means I shouldn't have to try teach my grandmother what an "anonymous remailer" is in the first place. This isn't about the "right to trade illegal files", its about simple freedoms. Computer illiterates also have a right to it.

  • by Sanity (1431) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:52PM (#2122058) Homepage Journal
    He goes to great lengths to point out why Napster and Gnutella are easy to shut down (duh, they weren't really designed for that kind of attack), but then glibly dismisses Freenet because only pornographers are using it, and it doesn't support "searching". Clearly he hasn't read the FAQ.

    Even if you believed that Freenet has *no* userbase, and that it is still so incomplete that nobody can use it, the simple fact that it exists and he doesn't (can't?) present a way to shut it down, refutes his argument. As has been pointed out elsewhere, even if ISPs placed restrictions on usable ports, Freenet can easily be persuaded to tunnel over other ports.

    Of course, you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story...

    • All we need to compliment Freenet is a decentralized resource discovery/search infrastructure. [cubicmetercrystal.com]

      Then all arguments in the afore mentioned article disappear. The sole remaining thorn will be port blocking / filtering by ISP's.

      And even this is a technicality, not a show stopper.
    • by crucini (98210) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @11:15PM (#2170881)
      Basically you are offering a variation of the "can't stop our superior technology argument." If Freenet catches on and the PTB want to kill it, I think they will. They would only have to do one of the following, but they will probably do all to be sure.
      1. Arrest and imprison anyone who offers Freenet software for download, as it's a circumvention device under the DMCA.
      2. Stop all inbound TCP connections to consumer computers. Stop all UDP to/from consumer computers except for UDP53 to the ISP's nameserver.
      3. Require a license, complete with an examination and posted bond, to run any kind of internet server. This would also help get poorly-admined boxes off the net. I can verify that this mechanism is quite effective in the construction industry. Every construction contractor, whether specializing in glass, electrical, fire alarms, ceilings, or other trade, must have a responsible individual who passed his license examination, and must post a bond. The responsible individual tends to shoot down sleazy ideas like building something below code to save money. He knows from his license exam that he faces license suspension/revocation, which effectively kills his company and can follow him to future companies.
      4. Apply Civil Asset Forfeiture to computers used in Freenet. An enforcement firm could connect to Freenet, identify at least one node, and subpoena the customer info from the ISP. A special police task force could drive around following a list and confiscating computers. The operation would more than pay for itself. Remember, no court proceeding is needed for CAF. The officer just has to believe that the asset was used in the commission of a crime.
      Anyhow, as the article author points out, the way to protect Freenet from all that is to get the general public on our side. Simply flaunting our allegedly superior technology invites the techno-illiterates to haul out the big guns.
  • Myth #4 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Illserve (56215) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:26PM (#2123712)
    Our html coders know how to make a series of links between a sequence webpages.

  • MOD Chips (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skyknytnowhere (469520) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:26PM (#2123713)
    He comments that hackers won't be able to come and sodder a hardware workaround... Well he is absolutely and blatantly wrong. for $6 I can have the kid next door modchip my PS1. most of that money pays him for the sodder.

    For the PS2 I can go to my local game store, and for $30 (most for the warranty on the chip) they will do it. THAT is convenience.

    Hackers will break through any hardware lock as easily as software locks. Why? Because unlimited free time will always beat limited paid time.

    skye
    • Actually, I think the Playstation mod chip scene more accurately demonstrates pure capitalism in action. You want a mod chip. A hardware company in a country non-restrictive laws wants your money. If necessary, the transaction will go black market, but so long as the amount you're willing to pay exceeds to cost to produce, someone will be happy to help you.
  • Nice try. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mike Schiraldi (18296) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:17PM (#2125539) Homepage Journal
    The result, in Ballon's view, is easy to foresee: "At a certain point, the studios and labels and publishers will send over lists of things to block to America Online, and 40 percent of the country's Net users will no longer be able to participate in Gnutella. Do the same thing for EarthLink and MSN, and you're drastically shrinking the pool of available users."

    While people will put up with crappy service and high bills, if you take away their MP3s and porn, they will take their business elsewhere. If AOL and MSN started blocking MP3 trading, and Earthlink ran another round of "We don't spy on you or control you" commercials, they'd grab huge chunks of their competitors' former customers.

    Indeed, the governments of China and Saudi Arabia have successfully pursued a similar strategy for political ends.

    That's because it's harder to leave your country than it is to switch ISPs. Well, maybe only slightly harder. :)

    • Re:Nice try. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NullPointer (6898)
      Indeed, the governments of China and Saudi Arabia have successfully pursued a similar strategy for political ends.

      And that really is where the argument "might" be successful. Congress already tried regulating some things with the CDA and I wouldn't put it past them to try something else along the same lines. Still, I think this article misses some things. I could be wrong, but I believe that businesses (RIAA, MPA) will eventually create their own commercial "net" using VPNs which consumers will use to access their products. Rather than trying to tame the net, they'll just create their own tunnels for their own proprietary devices so the masses can buy their candy. It would certainly be easier than trying to come up with some sort of world-wide net police force or constantly trying to shut down the latest hack or crack. It just seems like it would require too much effort on their part to attempt to "regulate" the internet. Money always follows the path of least resistance (lowest cost).
  • This story just brings up the problems and issues written about by Lawrence Lessig in Code [amazon.com]. This primarily revolved around the notion that unless the users (hackers, lusers, slashdotters, everyone) take an active part in how the laws and code are shaped then big business and government will do it form them.

    Jessica Litman's excellent book,Digital Copyright [amazon.com], details how copyright law was shaped without the users being present. Sort of a glimpse into what could happen to the Internet

    Bruce Schneier's Secrets and Lies [amazon.com] goes into depth concerning how techonological solutions are permanent (which I think refutes some of the article's notion concerning Myth #3).

    What is needed is involvement at any level we can afford. The more that users are involved in any endeavor that involves them the better, generally, that endeavor does.

    • What is needed is involvement at any level we can afford. The more that users are involved in any endeavor that involves them the better, generally, that endeavor does.

      I think Napster's experience disproves this theorem. A better way of stating it might be "The more money is behind an endeavor the better, generally, that endeavor does. A riddle: what's the functional difference between truth and marketing dollars?

      Sadly,
      Bryguy

      • If anything, Napster proved that people are more than willing to profit from the freedom someone else (even a commercial entity designed to make money by actively promoting breaking the law), but they're not in any way willing to defend their new freedom.
  • No government has ever managed to regulate anything with absolute certainty. People speed all the time, despite the presence of Police on the streets. Banks, convenience stores, and houses are robbed daily. Tax fraud goes uncaught. Illegal drugs are trafficed in huge numbers. Murderers, rapists, and child abusers get away with it.

    The only difference between breaking laws in "meatspace" (which, btw, I never hear anyone use except stupid authors like this guy) and breaking laws on the web is that it's a lot easier to spread the tools for breaking laws on the web than it is in the real world. And despite what some foolish authors may think, hardware protection can be and has been cracked (see: Playstation [everything2.com]). And, like in the real world, the more people who feel that a law is unjust, the less success there will be in enforcing it (see: War on Drugs [everything2.com]).
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:39PM (#2170267)
      >No government has ever managed to regulate anything with absolute certainty. People speed all the time, despite the presence of Police on the streets. [ ... ]

      "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens' What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

      - fair use excerpt from "Atlas Shrugged".

      You don't have to buy into the rest of her philosophy to see that she hit the nail on the head here.

  • by letchhausen (95030) <letchhausen.yahoo@com> on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:17PM (#2128928) Homepage
    I always said that this so-called "Internet" was just a fad that, once regulations were in place, would go away. No porn, no web, no kidding. Fuck the pigs, trying to control our lives....as a friend pointed out to me recently, John Locke said that the state should never put itself into the business of protecting citizens from themselves. And of course there's the old Ben Franklin saw that those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither. Looks like it's police state time for Amerika. I wouldn't be so down if it wasn't for the fact that so many people are so stupid that they would check into the Matrix hotel as the ultimate gated community. What happens to Neo and Morpheus when they wake people up and get to be as stunned as Randall P. McMurphy when the people tell them that they checked themselves in voluntarily....

    • by Louis Savain (65843) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @09:08PM (#2170503) Homepage
      Looks like it's police state time for Amerika.

      Big Brotherism starts the moment that individuals are forced to have ID numbers like a bunch of slaves. It's been around for a long time. It's just getting more efficient with computers. In fact, the more a trojan horses and viruses are unleashed on the net, the more secure and efficient it becomes. IP laws are just the tip of the fascist iceberg.

      On a side note, there is a story in the old testament where King David gave the order to take a count of the people. God got so pissed off at that flagrant violation of liberty that he sent a nasty plague on them. Just a thought.

      If you don't have income property, you're a slave. You can either live with it or fight it. But watch out if you decide to fight. The state is rather powerful. It is armed to the teeth and will not give up its power easily. They'll hurt you real bad if they have to. But first they will disarm you as they have pretty much done already. So you're all shit out of luck.
      • So... you were given a number at birth? I wasn't. In fact I was never forced to have an ID number. I do currently have a number of numbers that uniquely identify me or my possessions, but certainly no supreme ID tag. When I decided I wanted an above-the-board job and was willing to pay taxes I accepted a government-given number. But rarely do I need that number except when dealing with such an above-the-board job.

        You talk about what happens when I decide to fight. I'll tell you something -- I'm fighting already. And the government isn't going to have much luck disarming me. See, I'm not dumb enough to think that I can actually take on the government through physical violence. My weapon is my mind.

        • > When I decided I wanted an above-the-board job and was willing to pay taxes I accepted a government-given number.

          There is NO law that requires a person to have a SSN/SIN.

          And yes, you CAN work,live,travel without one.
  • by jhaberman (246905) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:25PM (#2131658)
    ... Tell that to users in China or Afganistan. The government actively shuts down ISP's and terminates all connections to "undesireable" sites. Once big brother becomes involved, personal liberties go right out the window. And don't try to tell me that "it could never happen here". Think again. You mean to tell me that if some alphabetic government agency or powerful international corporation started putting MASSIVE pressure on backbone providers to shut down... (enter offending matter here - Movies - MP3 - p0rn)... they couldn't get action?

    Sure... most of us would raise hell. But if they withstood? Then we're the ones who get screwed.

    Think about it.

    Jason

    • Tell that to users in China or Afganistan. The government actively shuts down ISP's and terminates all connections to "undesireable" sites.

      1. China and Afghanistan are two separate countries. They do not share an entity called "the government."

      2. Afghanistan does not have any ISPs and it never did. Internet users dial to Pakistan.

      3. What do you mean "terminates all connections to 'undesireable' sites"? Someone sits there tossing in filtering rules in real time?

      4. The government of China doesn't have a hope. They only catch the stupidest people. The rest have figured out how to get what they need without attracting attention or running into filters.

      You mean to tell me that if some alphabetic government agency or powerful international corporation started putting MASSIVE pressure on backbone providers to shut down... (enter offending matter here - Movies - MP3 - p0rn)... they couldn't get action?

      They might get "action", but it wouldn't be effective in the long term, because it's not possible to identify movies/mp3s/porn when properly conveyed.

  • What about Morpheus? (Score:3, Informative)

    by nougatmachine (445974) <johndagen@netsca ... minus physicist> on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:13PM (#2132903) Homepage
    The article mentions that Gnutella is moving to larger servers to facilitate traffic, and this makes these servers prime targets for shutting down, thus slowing the networks. But what about Morpheus [musiccity.com]? This company licenses the same technology as KaZaA (but without the spyware), which lets broadband users serve as intermediate "super-nodes" which will automatically have more queries passed along, if I understand right. I might have gotten that detail wrong as I'm not very familiar with the technology, but the point is that Morpheus automatically sorts the bandwidth for you, and presumably does not rely on a centralized server while still giving adquete performance. The webpage also claims that information on the network is "encrypted", but not many details are given.

    I think this kind of thing would be pretty hard to police.

  • How I despise control freaks. Yes, I'm sure they will pass regulations. There's no good reason. There aren't even any justifications that will stand up under scrutiny. But they'll pass the *** laws anyway just because that's the kind of people they are. These people are one of the better arguments against gun control. (Also, of course, in a more dispersed form, one of the better arguments in favor of gun control.)

    Vile, intrusive, busybodies. And that's being kind about them. If everyone of them just happened to get larangitis for a year or so the world would be a much nicer place. If they also got carpal tunnel, then it would be even nicer. They don't seem to serve any socially useful purpose at all, and they are certainly vastly unpleasant to a large number of individuals.
  • I thought the article did a great job of getting around the deterministic remarks that this subject always get snared in. But everyone's response here on ./ seems to go right back to the we'll find a way to beat "Big Brother" camp. But let me ask you all this: What do you really want to be able to do on the Net? Do you really want your mail server DDoSed all the time because hackers really do rule the earth? Should nobody make any money on intellectual property? The answers are probably mostly no. So why do people immediately go to 54-40 or fight mentality?

    I think part of the reason is we're mourning the loss of Internet as a place of exploration, where you can be a commando, a spy, Robin Hood, the President, and an accomplished student of the arts of net all at once. If this is really true, then we should be trying to preserve the feeling of the place, without trying to disobey laws just because they're there.

    I couldn't agree more with the author - we should be proactive instead of whiny. Time join EFF, join someone, anyone, rather than just posting 30000 insipid comments to bulletin board.

  • Ask EA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Merk (25521) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @01:33AM (#2140997) Homepage

    The international nature of the Internet is really just a red herring. The real important point is the 'net is too hetrogenous to control. Too many different protocols, laws and locations are involved. The proof of this is that even though nearly all countries with significan Internet connections consider kiddie-pr0n to be highly illegal, it continues to thrive. If being illegal were enough of a reason for something to disappear wouldn't that be gone by now?

    Napster, Gnutella and BearShare all have their flaws. This shows that regulators/authorities will always find a way to shut down any new innovation. Whether this is true or not is unimportant. The only thing that could make the interconnected nature of the Internet meaningless is if somehow it were possible to stop the next version of the program to avoid blocking. Freenet may well have many flaws and may be blocked completely some day, but how long do you think it would be till Freenet2?

    The only argument the article addresses that's at all meaningful (hidden away in that secret 3rd page) is that the 'net is full of hackers that are impossible to control. This really ends up being the same argument as the other ones. The only way these hackers are not an issue is if the thing they're attacking is attackproof. The only way to make something inaccessible to hackers is to make it inaccessible to everybody. The best that someone protecting something is that they make it so hard it's not worth the while to try. This is possible, but very unlikely.

    Back to the subject line. This whole article is about preventing one or more people from getting something they want. One obvious example of this is video games. EA has been publishing computer games for about 20 years now, and in that time I've played cracked EA games on just about every platform, from the C64 to the PS2. Throughout that whole time EA has fought against "pirates", but they just can't stop them.

    Right now getting an MP3 of RIAA music is about as easy as using a few POKE and PEEK commands on a C64 to bypass the copy protection of MULE or the Pinball Construction Set. In the future it may well be as hard as getting past the copy protection in Madden 2002 on a Nintendo cartridge. If it's worth it to them, people will do it.

    The fact nobody has yet broken into Fort Knox doesn't mean that Fort Knox can't be broken into. It especially doesn't mean the issue of "keeping gold safe" has been solved. It's always just a matter of time.

  • Err... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:10PM (#2141062)
    My 'false hopes' revolve around the fact that I can connect one computer to another, somehow, without what I do being filtered, no matter what. So can anyone else, and so we eventually get the internet.

    Pundits can argue all they want that it won't stay that way.. but it will.
    • Re:Err... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by isorox (205688) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:21PM (#2156715) Homepage Journal
      So it starts again, with bbs's, then a couple of nearby bbs's link with a cat 5 cable, or a leased line, or a wireless ethernet. Eventually qwehave comletely free network of wireless networks across the city, linked to other cities by modem links. The modems get upgraded, people co-locate near the gateways to other cities and countries, and we have a whole new internet. Then the government regulates it again and we're back to square 1.

      • Re:Err... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 3247 (161794) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:36PM (#2136260) Homepage
        "So it starts again, with bbs's, then a couple of nearby bbs's link with a cat 5 cable, or a leased line, or a wireless ethernet."

        "Someone who does this is obviously interested in illegal activities. So we have to make it illegal to build networks that are not under the supervision of a trusted provider."

  • This article breaks down into the following:

    Laws can be whatever governments and their corporate sponsors want them to be.

    Any corporate body will prosecute whomever is easiest, closest, most convenient to prosecute.

    Any attempt to circumvent that will marginalize you.

    Let's think about that for a moment. Laws can be made to do whatever the people who paid the government to create them, what then to do. True enough, with the stroke of a pen Disney can write a check to get a law passed making it illegal to say the phrase "Mickey Mouse" without flipping a quarter to Michael Eisner. I don't see the relevance of that. That is precisely what brought us to this point - the OVERREACHING of music, video and other companies to put a lock on every last bit. So? How has that prevented at least the technology to unwind that so far?

    Next, Our corporate masters can go after whatever is easiest to bite. Nothing new there. If you can't sue the company owner then sue the service provider or the electric company that powers the site or the guy who brings the pizzas. Make it so difficult to do business that they fold of their own 'volition'. So it's gunboat diplomacy. I get it. But that is the xenophobic fallacy of 'they can never build it better than us'. Who's to say the mercurial powers of the PRC wouldn't be willing to turn a blind eye to someting that weakens the US supremacy in intellectual property? Can you say industrial espionage? This is precisely where companies like MS lose billions in bootleg CD's for example so how is digital music and movies any different?

    The last point is really hubris. You can't fight city hall. Maybe not. Maybe all you have to do is burn it down.
  • The Hague Conference on Private International Law is developing an international treaty explicitly intended to make outfits like Swaptor more vulnerable to legal pressure--"a bold set of rules that will profoundly change the Internet," in the phrase of James Love, director of the activist Consumer Project on Technology. (The draft treaty will be discussed at a diplomatic meeting next year.) By making it possible to apply the laws of any one country to any Internet site available in that country, the draft treaty will, Love warns, "lead to a great reduction in freedom, shrink the public domain, and diminish national sovereignty."
    I found this paragraph the most frightening of all, especially the bold section. What this seems to mean is that by publishing my web page, I'm opening myself to prosecution in any contry with an internet connection. Right now, I can't see anything too objectionable on my site, but what if I post a section from the Bible that some Islamic fundamentalist government has outlawed? What if I post the Declaration of Independance and China outlaws that?

    The United State Supreme Court has routinely found in favor of free speech when the restrictions against speech were chilling to other speech. A law targeted against porn, but which affected medical discussion would typically be found to be "over-broad" and stricken by the courts.

    A treaty like this, however, is more than overbroad, it's overboard. In a questionable justifed attempt to make laws enforceable internationally, this treaty would quell Constitutionally-protected speech because even though it's protected within our borders, you'd be prosecuted on your first step onto foreign land. Why would you speak (or publish on the internet) if you'd get arrested when you traveled abroad? (The similarities to the Skylarov case are very much in mind here.

    I don't mind too much if corporations want to lock their customers into "their" internet, and I don't care if the government attempt to regulate because they'll fail for a variety of reasons. I'm much more concerned about the rights issues. While treaties like this won't kill the internet(no, there's no immenient demise of the internet), but it will surely make it a less interesting place.

    -sk

  • It describes, what corporations and governments want or doing in their attempts to control the Internet, but we know this already. The problem is, it doesn't contain any plausible reasons why those attempts can possibly be successful.
  • I've actually been thinking about this for a while ... remember the big outbreak on /. a while ago about the proposed IETF (I think) standard to allow wiretapping? It was shot down, and there were many self-backpats, because we had shown The Man Who's Boss.

    Unfortunately, The Man still needs to fight crime (and, if he tried not to, how the heck would he explain this to his sometimes-boss, The People?), hence, Carnivore, developed by the FBI, something that we probably find far more unappetizing than a community-built standard.

  • There will never be a way to restrict the access of information totally, a single Slashdot brainstorming session could come up with enough bizarre hacks to keep us safe for quite a while. What has freaked the companies out is how easy it is for the common person to gain access to copyrighted materials. And that's exactly how far things are going to be pushed; when the computers people buy in stores can't be made to easily access copyrighted materials, the companies will breath a collective sigh of relief and relax. We'll have burrowed tunnels through whatever protection mechanism that's in place but no one will really care.

  • Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mike Schiraldi (18296) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:21PM (#2153803) Homepage Journal
    Internet service providers can always pull the plug?treating Freenet, in essence, as an unsupported feature, in the way that many providers today do not support telnet, Usenet and other less popular services.

    ...at which point Freenet will start tunneling through http, pop3, ftp, ssh, and any other common protocol. If ISPs start peeking at specific packets, Freenet will start using SSL.

    And like i mentioned in an earlier comment, why would ISPs do this? MP3s and porn are far and away the most popular uses for the Internet today, according to a study i just made up. It would be like making cars that don't go over 55 or "tobacco water pipes" that only work with tobacco.
    • Firewall Enhancement Protocol. This is exacltly the sort of thing that cracking down on the internet will promote:

      http://kludge.psc.edu/~ksulliva/rfc-april1/rfc3093 .txt

  • by Apotsy (84148) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:24PM (#2156633)
    I found this quote interesting:
    By insisting that digital technology is ineluctably beyond the reach of authority, Falco and others like him are inadvertently making it far more likely that the rules of operation of the worldwide intellectual commons that is the Internet will be established not through the messy but open processes of democracy but by private negotiations among large corporations.
    The author of this article is deluding himself if he thinks there is any chance of the "messy but open processes of democracy" getting involved in internet regulation. No matter what attitude people take, corporate control will still be the order of the day, for a number of reasons -- not the least of which is that those "processes of democracy" don't exist any more. Corporations found them to be too inconvenient, so they bought them out a long time ago.

    Corporate control of the net will happen, because that's the only thing that can happen in today's world. Sure, it would be nice if netizens got some of those silly myths the author talks about out of their heads and adopted a more realistic attitude, but it's not like that would do anything to prevent corporate control from setting in any way. You can't prevent it -- that's the real truism of the net.

    • That's a pretty dim view of humanity. You are of course correct that corporations wield most of the political power. But that's not because they are some incredible behemoths that we have no power over. It's simply because Americans are spoiled, and they really don't give a shit about things like the environment or international justice.

      The American people are as bought and paid for as the government, so to say that the government somehow doesn't represent the people is a convenient excuse to dismiss your civil responsibility. Believe me, when there's a large public outcry, the government will listen.

      Corporate control of the Internet may very well happen, but don't let your experience of corporate control over your lifetime lead you into false assumptions. The greater a controlling power becomes, the more unstable it becomes until it topples. That is the really real truism of history.

    • Government control, corporate control, who cares? The problem is that people have chosen to give up being responsible for what happens to them. Once we do that, once we give up control, somebody else is going to pick it up.

      The only solution is to vote Libertarian publicly, and privately to be responsible for yourself.
      -russ
  • Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:46PM (#2156682) Homepage Journal
    Against all the arguments as to why copy protection will NEVER work, we have this gem: "Because e-books can't do two things at once." This is about the best argument in the article, and it's still awful. It's true, it would be kind of hard to run a debugger on that Rocket eBook, but why not crack that eBook on a PC?

    This article holds no water if any of the three myths are actually true - and surprise, there are problems with all 3 myths, particularly numbers 2 and 3.

    The assumption that you need central servers, or identifiable traffic in order to run an efficient decentralized file sharing network is just plain wrong. The fact that something hasn't been done yet does not mean it can't be accomplished, you know. FreeNet itself is proof of concept that you can have a completely distributed network where no one node knows the whole story. As a programmer I see no reason why you couldn't design a system with traffic indistinguishable from SSH or a VPN, with adequate performance, that was completely decentralized.

    I'm surprised at how well written this article is. There are bound to be opposing views on any subject, and I guess it's a good thing that this isn't filled with more FUD or pro-media propaganda. But as it goes, the arguments in this article just don't work. If you had a file-sharing network where you could publish anything, available to anyone at a high speed, how could you justify to the courts that you wanted it shut down? Does the availability of copyrighted material outweigh the overall benefit of the system? Of course not! As the article even says, in order to shut that kind of network down, you'd have to turn off the Internet.

  • A quote in the article says, "The Internet is unstoppable! The flow of data can never be blocked". While I'm sure that the Internet, as it is now can be censored and thus, basically stopped (just look at the Great Firewall of China), the second sentence is the greatest truth - the flow of data can never be blocked. This is as true now as it was when the Nazi's publically burned books in 1933. The model of the internet routing around censorship is taken from real life - if you stop the net, we'll just find another way of spreading our information and letting the data flow. Information is ammunition, and the people will /never/ let that be taken away from them.
  • We do have a friend [cnet.com] or two in high places.

    The "it's inevitable" argument is the one used by socialists when they're trying to disarm opponents. Odd to see it being used here, both because of the context and because it's been so thoroughly discredited.

    Even if the control freaks can overcome the technical obsticals, the only way they can get sustainable legal support (anyone wanna bet on the DMCA being around in full force in 5 years?) is by convincing the voting public that they want the restrictions, and while that's relatively easy for the pollution-control devices the TR author cites, it's a lot harder to come up with a compelling argument for 'net controls. The odds against figuring out both the technical and legal sides are in freedom's favor.
  • A counter-example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by megaduck (250895) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [levravd]> on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:31PM (#2170241) Journal

    Here's a brain teaser. Bobby wants to give Sally the DeCSS source code. Jimmy has absolute control over both of their computers, telephones, and the intervening network. Can Jimmy stop Bobby while permitting them to talk about nice safe legal things?

    Answer: No.

    Here's why: The only way to stop the transferral of "bad" information is to stop all information. Let's see how it would work in real life.

    • Jimmy scans all of Bobby's e-mail and deletes the e-mail containing DeCSS.
    • Bobby starts sending DeCSS as a PDF attachment.

    • Jimmy starts scanning attachments for the source code and deletes all "bad" PDFs.
    • Bobby sings DeCSS, records it as a .WAV and sends it as an attachment.

    • Jimmy starts listening to all audio attachments and blocks the offending e-mail.
    • Bobby sings DeCSS again, this time in Navajo.

    • Jimmy blocks all attachments altogether.
    • Bobby e-mails the code in german pig latin.

    I think you see where this is going. Bobby will always be able to pass DeCSS off as "safe" traffic. No matter what Jimmy does, Sally will be cracking DVDs in short order. The article brings up some good points, but I think that there's no way to stop the informational tidal wave. Information may not "want to be free", but people do. There will always be a way.

    • Can Jimmy stop Bobby while permitting them to talk about nice safe legal things? Answer: No.

      Suppose the penalty for passing bad information is execution. Catch someone and make an example of him. Then the Bobbys will be too scared to pass any bad information around. The Chinese call this "Killing one to scare a hundred."

    • Re:A counter-example (Score:4, Interesting)

      by crucini (98210) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @11:37PM (#2170935)
      Well that's great as long as Bobby already knows and trusts Sally. Suppose Sally's an FBI agent? Then Bobby has just done the equivalent of selling drugs to a cop. Per the DMCA, traffiking in a circumvention device is punishable by ten years imprisonment.
      Will Bobby take this chance to benefit some random stranger?
      I think the real threat to the entertainment industry is not Bobby's ability to send data to trusted friend Sally, but Bobby's ability to publish information so it's accessible to a huge audience.
      So you have just proved that in the absence of government intervention, our technology beats their technology. Which is exactly the smug hubris condemned by the article - we don't have absence of government intervention. We have the DMCA precisely because the government thinks Bobby is 'out of control' and blowing past every technical restraint.
      • Absolutely right. Touche.

      • Do you know how PGP works? It's called the web of trust. Similar to that 7 degrees of separation theory. Sure, Bobby might not know Sally, but to verify who Sally is would not be difficult. Furthermore, if we were in such a situation as described, no one would trust anyone else explicitly anyways. And, yes, it will always be possible to break into a web of trust, but it need not be easy. I can always say that you need 4 ultimatly trusted signatures for me to believe who you are. Or 10, or 100. A speakeasy worked in a similar manner. Some of them got busted, many didn't. But, if things head in that direction, you can be sure that ideas like the speakeasy will resurrect and become prominant.
  • Internet service providers can always pull the plug?treating Freenet, in essence, as an unsupported feature, in the way that many providers today do not support telnet, Usenet and other less popular services

    Gee, what an intelligent statement. I know there are so many providers that drop my telnet traffic.... oh wait, I've never seen that happen, even when I was visiting china.

    As far as the "digital signatures" of certain types of traffic. Sure you could block port 6347 or something, but then they'd use a different port. You could analyze every packet to see if it was GNUtella, but a) that would take massive hardware upgrades and b) people would just encapsulate the traffic. Suddenly gnutella will be proxied over HTTP-SSL, and the choice will be either to shut down all e-commerce, or live with it.

    Let's burn these bridges when we get to them, There's no need for full-scale paranoia yet.

  • Soon, it is widely believed, the Internet will become a universal library/movie theater/voting booth/shopping mall/newspaper/museum/concert hall...
    I don't know that this will happen, and certainly I don't believe it will happen on the scale he proposes. I am certain that the people who believe that it will, are just as dogmatic and uncritical of this prediction as the writer of the TR article believes the "net-libertarians" are about the inevitablity of free information flow. The former belief is speculation, wishful thinking. The latter belief is based on the cold hard facts of the protocols and signalling methods used on the Internet, and 25 years of operating experience backing up the basic soundness of the design. The only way to censor communications on the Internet is to dismantle it.

    He goes on to talk about comments by the creator of BearShare:

    By insisting that digital technology is ineluctably beyond the reach of authority, Falco and others like him are inadvertently making it far more likely that the rules of operation of the worldwide intellectual commons that is the Internet will be established not through the messy but open processes of democracy but by private negotiations among large corporations.
    This statement is so naive, it makes the rest of the article that descends from this notion nearly irrelevant. We've already seen how transparent the "open process of democracy" is. ICANN is the poster child for this trend. Everyone who cares about these issues already knows the Corps want to own the whole thing. This writer seems to have just discovered that an awful lot of ugliness happens because of decisions made in smoke-filled boardrooms. Gilmore, Falco, EMS and all the rest have known this for a very long time, indeed, knowning this has been going on for the entire history of the Internet is evidence that the "information wants to be free" dogma is more than a leap of faith.

    I have yet to see any lasting commercial success for the "universal library/movie theater/voting booth/shopping mall/newspaper/museum/concert hall" crowd. Maybe it will happen. Maybe we'll all be flying around Blade Runner-style in hovercars, too.

    Right. What is much more likely, in my view, is that the dream (nightmare?) of the "universal library/movie theater/voting booth/shopping mall/newspaper/museum/concert hall" Internet, is overblown and unrealistic, given the facts about the way the Internet operates. It's much more likely that the universal-whatever network will be a private corporate owned and operated network, not the Internet as we know it, which will continue to exist in parallel.

  • He does make some good points, and this is good stuff to think about - definitely not something you want to dismiss out of hand. However, I think all of the points are refutable from many angles. Here's my take:

    #1 - The Internet is Too International to Be Controlled

    Actually, I think it's more than the international issues can keep things tied up in red tape long enough that we can do whatever we want in the meantime. Things on the Internet happen in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, and sometimes days; in terms of International law, they happen in terms of years and decades. By the time law is adapted to new technologies, those technologies are long since past the "new" stage and well on to the "outdated" stage, with other technologies to replace them. Law will never be able to keep up.

    #2 - The Net is too Interconnected to Control

    He focuses mainly on two points: that true peer-to-peer sharing is still to inefficient as networks get large, and that most Internet users run off of a few major networks (AOL, Earthlink, MSN). For the first point - yes that's true, but it's just technological hurdle. Such things, as we all well know, are much easier to solve than matters of law, and no doubt true peer-to-peer networks will be "good enough" sometime in the near future. As for the second point - well, the "hackers", which includes most everyone on Slashdot, don't use any of those services for Internet access. So it's true that those services could probably disconnect the mass market from the sharing networks fairly easily; but it seems likely that that would either cause many people to defect to "real" ISPs, or else that people would develop protocols that disguise themselvs as email, FTP, or web transfers.

    #3 - The Net is too filled with Hackers to Control

    His entire argument here seems to be that sooner or later companies will distribute their electronic information on properitary hardware that can't be accessed by a PC. If that's true, then he's right. But I don't think that will be profitable for the companies, because what's the point of getting something in electronic format if you can't put it on your computer? And if there is any way to view the information on your computer screen, then some bright 16-year-old from Norway will figure out how to download it as data. Period.

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