With a Finger on the Kill Switch

Though freedom is demanded, only censorship is offered. Governments worldwide want to bring the Internet under control. In the U.S., a law is proposed that would allow the president to simply pull the plug in times of crisis. Meanwhile, users seek a solution — darknet is one of them.

One cannot deny governments of the world a certain amount of schizophrenia in dealing with the Internet. For example, in the U.S. free access to the net is urged and promoted in Arab states, and yet the adoption of a law like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is seriously being considered.

The law would, according to observers, not hinder piracy but give the U.S. authorities the means of censoring disagreeable websites. Sites that violate alleged copyrights would then be placed on a black list and blocked using DNS filters like those used in China or Iran. Another bill provides a so-called “kill switch” with which the president could cut off Internet access for the entire country.

In spite of all of this, Jerry Brito thinks he perceives a counter movement on the Techland blog of Time magazine. For him, the pay system Flattr, the cyber currency Bitcoin or decentralized social networks like Diaspora and identi.ca — an open source version of Twitter — are signs of an “evolution of decentralization,” to avoid electronic surveillance and censorship measures. The principle is the same as that which followed the shutdown of the file-sharing site Napster; shortly afterward BitTorrent was invented, which is more difficult to control.

At the moment, a few projects are even underway that seek to decentralize the physical level of the Internet. The method of choice is a so-called mesh network in which there are no central distribution nodes, but rather every participant is connected with one or several others. Such a free parallel network is called a darknet and forms, so to speak, a second level under the conventional Internet. Similar services already exist. Programs like Freenet or Tor make nearly uncontrolled surfing possible. Yet there is a problem with all of these measures and alternatives: At the end of the day, users still need to login to a service provider to get to enjoy online use.

“We need our own Internet!” activists proclaim on their sites, as they consider how a darknet can be made a reality on a global level. While Project Darknet is still in the concept phase, the competing project “Project Kleinrock” — named for Leonard Kleinrock, a pioneer of electronic data transfer — is already a step ahead. This system uses normal Wi-Fi routers to increase the signal; the more devices that are connected, the larger and more stable the network. According to the makers, they currently have the ability to supply a small city with this uncontrollable Internet. A larger network is hardly possible because of bandwidth limitations.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply