The Internet Police State

This post is ancient in internet time, but I tend to agree with Torrent Freak’s third prediction from their “5 bitTorrent Predictions for 2010”:

Prediction 3: More people will use BitTorrent anonymously

2010 is the year where copyright holders gain more control over the Internet. Three-strikes legislation will be rolled out in various countries and global trade agreements such as ACTA will result in humongous fines for casual downloaders.

As a result of this newly founded Internet police state, millions of BitTorrent users will take measures to hide their identities online. By the end of the year, a quarter of all BitTorrent users will use a VPN service or similar anonymity software, with another quarter looking to do so in the following 12 months. This will make new legislation ineffective, and lead to further lobbying by the entertainment industry for even harsher anti-piracy measures.

This cycle will repeat itself until the entertainment industry decides to innovate.

The major political battles on the internet over net neutrality, privacy, and the right to share our culture are congealing around the technology of bitTorrent. It is not surprising given it remains a means of radical distribution of media of all kinds at lightning fast download speeds and harnesses the efficiency of the decentralized network through a constructive scaling. BitTorrent as a P2P architecture really defines the best development in the moment of Web 2.0, using the decentralized network to re-imagine decentralized distribution—it just happened to be the least marketable. And the major players in the culture distribution market are not keen on this technology for obvious reasons, and hence bitTorrent has remained criminalized for almost a decade.

And what kills me is everyone is screaming about how the iPad and its ilk can change education, while the bitTorrent protocol has all but been outlawed from campuses around the country due to interest groups and an almost across-the-board fear of lawsuits. Why aren’t we more concerned with the proliferation of an open protocol that has been proven to radicalize the delivery of content over the web dramatically and sustainably, rather than pushing products that will never allow for such a protocol to ever fully be experimented with? (How is bitTorrent running on your iPhone, tough guy?) Well, perhaps it’s not because anyone is evil, perhaps it is simply because the market for gateway devices and consumption is being driven by those corporations that have everything to gain from keeping the web less than neutral as well as keeping the consumer paying for every aspect of their web experience.

I think of this more as a cultural issue than a specifically educational one, and I am still wondering why more people are not up in arms about it? I need to look for a means to communicate it without simply lamenting “Why doesn’t anyone care?” —I’m just not sure how.

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4 Responses to The Internet Police State

  1. Matt says:

    I am with you on this one – I wish more people would be concerned. Especially since there is little evidence that illegal downloading is the real cause of the downturn in traditional media. The media companies don’t want to talk about the rise of online used media outlets, how the ability to buy one song off an album has given us the freedom to buy good songs without filler b-side junk, etc. there was even a study out recently that found that people that downloaded the most illegal music also bought the most legal music. Man, I could go on and on about the lies the industries are feeding us. But we just choose to eat what they feed us….

    • Reverend says:


      Exactly, and that’s what annoys me most is that despite the blogosphere and all the so-called alternatives to mainstream media, the conversation seems unilaterally controlled through the interest groups. Using draconian legislation and the idea of national security to villainize technologies like bitTorrent and create secret treaties in this most undemocratic of processes. I guess what gets me more is that educational technology seems so geared towards devices like the iPad and new and latest developments like Google Buzz, that no one is thinking long and hard about the very ground in which real and important educational technology depends upon is being pulled out from under us: access to our cultural artefacts with the ability to interact and mash them up. If we spent a fraction of the time thinking about the implications of UCLA pulling all videos under copyright from their LMS based on the threat of litigation from an educational media interest group, we’d be a lot closer to something like the “future of education.” WHich, no matter the device, will not be limited to one, but affect all.

  2. Good post.

    A few thoughts;
    1) This is partly an effect of thinking of information as utility. If info tech is a needed thing, that simply needs to work, and nothing more, than we’re ok with whatever pipe fixes the plumbers do.

    2) This is also an outcome of the copyright wars. Almost anything is justified to (allegedly) stop (alleged) infringement, or anything about that fuzzy, dark field.

    3) Library and IT voices are pretty marginalized, while most faculty aren’t involved in/knowledgeable about information politics.

    4) The politics are tricky, not mapping evenly onto classic left/right, liberal/conservative.

  3. This is quite confusing, as putty is used for such things like ssh and creating a secure connection to a certain IP. I am guessing that if somehow your internet connectivity is allowed though putty, then a vpn is going to try to use a different port than putty is using..

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