Twitter subpoenaed, Facebook & Google too?

by Jimboot on January 11, 2011

I wrote an article last year about the proposed Australian Internet filter called, Facebook Google & Twitter say goodbye. Some at the time said that a Government would never use a filter to block services like those.  Then Wikileaks began the release of 250,000 US diplomatic cables. Wikileaks was basically performing a service that our mainstream media long ago abandoned, keeping our politicians accountable.  What we used to call our Fourth Estate.  We’ve seen the vitriol from politicians globally on how they feel about that sort of reporting, with calls for the assassination of it’s former CEO Julian Assange, through to the intimidation of organisations that had an affiliation with Wikileaks.

Now Twitter has been subpoenaed by the US government to reveal all the communications between Wikileaks on Twitter and the details of it’s followers. That includes me and many other Australians. I’ve lived fairly publicly over the last 6 or 7 years so that really doesn’t bother me or surprise me.  In 1998 I did a webcast with Phil Zimmermann the inventor of a encryption technology called PGP. The US government had made it illegal back then to export the technology. They categorised it as they did nuclear weapons, as they could not break the encryption it became a “threat” to the US. All sorts of innovative ways were found to get the source code out of the US back then. People would print it in a book then scan & OCR the pages at their destination. Even T Shirts were printed withe the source code on them that activists proudly wore through airports. According to Phil, PGP was primarily being used by human rights activists in places like Burma (Myanmar) & China.

Open Government.. opening your emails, your phone calls, your faxes..

Around the same time we learned about a signals intelligence program called Echelon. Apparently it was able to listen in on any electronic communication including fax, phone, email and the information was shared by partner countries.  So anyone who believes Governments don’t already spy on your electronic communication is a little naive.

Then as I pointed out in my last vid for 2010, even the UN is trying to take over the Governance of the Internet, something which has always been handled by the Internet community. Fortunately that process may have been slowed down through intensive lobbying.  If you are interested in the latest developments you can read the latest report here http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan041407.pdf .

It’s pretty clear though that politicians around the world don’t like a medium like the Internet where they can’t control the message. At least with old media they could threaten publishers or reporters with being cut off from major stories or interviews. That doesn’t work online. There are no “throttle points” through which the message can be controlled.

Got your Internet license?

Last year I also quipped that we were heading down the path of everyone having an Internet ID or license then on the weekend the Whitehouse blog announced the need for Internet IDs citing fraud & identity theft as key drivers for the need. I’d hate to think what would happen if someone stole your shiny Internet ID. The fact is the Internet is the fastest growing, most innovative culture changing industry ever known to man. The Web hasn’t even been around for 20 years yet. All this has happened because the community came together to adopt standards and there was no central control.

2011 the year Governments say… WTF?

Don’t get me wrong I’m no anarchist but when it comes to the Net the last thing we need is Government interference. As the Wikileaks example has shown, when Governments try to censor something online all they will do is end up promoting it. When they tried to shut down Wikileaks all of a sudden it became available from thousands of addresses. I set up http://wikileaks.bannedwidth.com.au . If it had of been Fairfax or News Limited that they were trying to shut down I would have done the same for them. Governments are beginning to learn what going viral on the Internet means. One of our biggest retailers CEO’s just learned first hand how immediate feedback online can be.  So even though Wikileaks has demonstrated the futility of the State trying to censor the Net, our own Government on the weekend reaffirmed its commitment to a mandatory ISP filter. They seem a bit slow on the uptake. I’m sure Senator Conroy & our PM have some sort of Fischer Price model of the Internet that they receive training on. It would of course have a large red button. I say that because they are either incredibly ignorant or lying liars who lie a lot.  I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The only way you can successfully censor the Net is if you destroy it as we know it. That means getting an President Obama style “kill switch” and Internet licenses for everyone. Then we need a website permit system in addition to the DNS to regulate sub domains like the one I set up above.  If that happens we will see the growth of splinter networks as the online community revolts against the destruction of one of Humanity’s greatest inventions.

Hope

As we have such huge communities online now like Twitter & Facebook I am hopeful for more open source versions of the same. There have already been a few attempts at this but I won’t be surprised if 2011 becomes the year when they really start to take off. Whilst the growth of Twitter & Facebook has been astounding they do represent substantial throttle points that could easily be switched off by a Government (and in some cases already have). For President Obama to use his “kill switch” something fairly dire would have to happen. The turmoil such an action would cause socially & economically would be unfathomable.  So I don’t despair when I read or hear any of the above attempts by Governments. Heck these days I don’t even get that furious :) There is one thing I do know about the Internet community, they will set the information free.. resistance is useless. Pass it on :)

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