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The Internet Your Rights Online

Taming the Web 365

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 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 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 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...

  • 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.

  • Classic (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:17PM (#2125538)
    Well considering that using the word hacker [] when you mean cracker [] is a classic sign of a clueless journalists, and articles that are not supposed to be informative, but are instead supposed to invoke fear, anger, and a general statist attitude regarding every other issue facing the world, I will read this some other time. :-)
  • by gizmo_mathboy ( 43426 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:17PM (#2125540)

    This story just brings up the problems and issues written about by Lawrence Lessig in Code []. 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 [], 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 [] 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.

  • by electroniceric ( 468976 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @02:17AM (#2139432)
    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.

  • Re:Err... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @06:58PM (#2152876)
    The point he was trying to make is that the 'internet' has the ability to reemerge, even if it is censored into non-existance.

    Yes, currently most of use rely on some form of corporate-owned copper infrastructure for our internet feeds. This is in the form of cable, phone, and DSL-based ISP's and telcos. It doesn't have to be this way...

    A growing number of internet users are setting up lans based entirely on wireless networks, using wireless protocols. Other users are setting up infrared shots. IR shots were very popular in a dorm I visited once that 'prohbited' unauthorized computer LANS. If the RA couldn't see cable, there was no LAN, despite the fact that a massive amount of file-sharing and gaming was going on behind his back.

    Also, there are projects in place that effectively protect 'forbidden' information over those connections that are too convenient to abandon in the form of FreeNet and Gnutella, which the author of the original article mentioned, and then seemed to completely ignore.
    Is the government going to outlaw private lans or wireless? They could, but we'd just find another way to get around it. It's very difficult to detect low-power, tight beam microwave, which is already in use in some wireless projects.

    I agree with the root poster here. Unless the government takes our computers away, they can't take the internet away either.
  • by Artifice_Eternity ( 306661 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:05PM (#2152904) Homepage
    The internet has been around for more than two decades, during which time it has managed to elude being regulated in any meaningful way, anywhere in the world.

    That's an unsupportable generalization. Plenty of individuals and groups have seen their online activities regulated - Napster, Yahoo! France, and any site ever kicked off an ISP due to outside legal pressure.

    The internet stretches across national boundaries. For regulation to be successfully carried out, an international body would need to be involved.

    Ever hear of the Hague Convention? It was in the article. International agreements on intellectual property, copyright, etc. are growing day by day, as the economy is globalized and more information moves around the world.

    Now that we have web servers in space, even international bodies will be powerless to censor the internet.

    The US is embarking on wholesale weaponization of space. I disagree with it, but satellite-killing satellites - built by the US or someone else - will become a reality sooner or later.

    The skills of hackers and crackers will summarily overcome any attempts by government to lock-down the internet. If hackers can infiltrate the most secure military computers of the greatest nation on earth, how will the US, but more especially, the rest of the world, ever regulate the internet?

    This is about the only variable that I don't think can be controlled. Human ingenuity is pretty amazing. But the hurdles to an open Internet are going to get higher and higher (you didn't mention hardware-based content management, featured prominently in the article), and only an elite few may end up being able to circumvent them.

  • 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.

  • by Kallahar ( 227430 ) <> on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @12:48AM (#2157761) Homepage
    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?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:24PM (#2170212)

    The first assumption is that people will buy the devices, LOL. Ever hear of divX?

    Secondley, there will always be hardware available on the market without these protections and the last thing the chip makers want to do now is make something that noboy wants to buy.

    It looks like the IPDroids only alternative is to make his IP so attractive for the consumer to go through them(lower prices and more convience), instead of going through a p2p system.

  • by PureFiction ( 10256 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @07:27PM (#2170221)
    All we need to compliment Freenet is a decentralized resource discovery/search infrastructure. []

    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 Hiawatha ( 13285 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2001 @10:47PM (#2170802)
    I just got back from several African countries a few months ago. There are moves afoot to give countries on the west coast of the continent access to high-bandwidth undersea cable connections. The first such will be installed by year's end. When that happens, it will be possible to send data from, say, Togo, just about as easily as from Toulouse or Toronto. Mann is dead right that, contrary to myth and legend, large swaths of the world still have lousy Internet bandwidth availability. But in a couple years, that will have changed. Any country that wants in on the global economy has to get wired. So they're dropping cable like crazy. And that'll make it practical to run your Internet business out of Accra or Freetown.

    Mann's still right about another key point, though. You'd better not set foot in the US if you use the Internet to break American law. And he's also right that international law is being modified to seal off the safe havens. So while one point of his argument isn't as strong as he might think, it still holds up pretty well.
  • 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.
  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aozilla ( 133143 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @12:05AM (#2171038) Homepage

    How about consumer ISP's don't allow inbound TCP connections?

    That's when we start tunneling through email, or through irc, or through MSN/AOL/Yahoo Messenger. Hell, you could "tunnel" through automated geocities account creation.

    If all ISPs block p2p, consumers have no incentive to hop.

    That would require some serious legislation. Legislation which would probably be unconstitutional, but more importantly, would hurt big business.

    In any case, they're not going to block email. It's unlikely they'll even block MSN Messenger (as in force Microsoft to close the protocol). Tunnelling TCP over MSN Messenger is trivial, and the two ends don't even know each others IP address.

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