"I think we’re beginning to see the fragmentation of the Internet into numerous state-controlled intranets."
The words belong to author and investigative journalist Misha Glenny whom I interviewed about his new book, «Dark Market: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You», when he was in Oslo to talk at an IT-security conference early November. I also reviewed the book and found it a fascinating read.
But I was reminded of his prediction when reading this piece on Iran recently:
"...Web censorship in the Islamic republic is nothing new, but this latest initiative cranks things up quite a few notches and paves the way for a government-approved domestic intranet that will be completely cut off from the public World Wide Web we all know and love. Iranians are already reporting painfully slow Internet connections and difficulty accessing certain sites or using VPNs, the Wall Street Journal reports."
Iran may be a special case but all the current, sometimes really far-out, attempts to police the internet often depress me.
The suggestion by an EU polictian to build internet surveillance into every operating system is one example (thanks for the link, Leo). SOPA is of course another, although there were some good news on the SOPA-front this week - with The White House coming out against SOPA and DNS blocking
But how worried should we be about all this?
"DMCA. Hadopi. Digital Economy Act. ACTA. SOPA. Yup, with the passage of time, the level of desperation is getting higher, the clauses are getting less and less workable, making the laws harder to enforce, to prosecute, socially, politically, economically. It gets harder to sponsor them when you have information from sites like Maplight available to all; it even gets harder to support, as GoDaddy found out recently. We live in a world where trust is an increasingly important currency, and where transparency is the mint that produces that currency. So it’s over. It may not appear so, but it is."
As the financial climate keeps getting worse, and the protests against those in power keeps getting louder I fear that may not be the case. I fear Douglas Rushkoff may be right that the Internet in its current form is unredeemable. But I would love nothing better than to see my fears proved wrong.
Update 16 January: On the same topic, check out Cory Doctrow's notes on how "SOPA is DYING; it's evil Senate twin, PIPA, lives on"