Analysis of attempts to censor internet communications. Related subjects include:
In a recent post on the Monash Report, I drew a distinction between two aspects of the Internet: Jeffersonet and Edisonet. Jeffersonet deals in thoughts and ideas and research and scholarship and news and politics, and in commerce too. It’s what makes people so passionate about the Internet’s democracy-enhancing nature. It’s what needs to be protected by extreme network neutrality. And it’s modest enough in its bandwidth requirements that net neutrality is completely workable. (Edisonet, by way of contrast, comprises advanced applications in entertainment, teleconferencing, etc. that probably do require new capital investment and tiered pricing schemes.)
And if there’s one application that’s at the core of Jeffersonet, it’s search. No matter how much scary posturing telecom CEOs do – and no matter how profitable or monopolistic Google becomes – telecom carriers must never be allowed to show any preference among search engines! At least, that’s the case for text-centric search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft run today. The reason is simple: The democratic part of the Internet only works so long as things can be found. And search will long be a huge part of how to find them. So search engine vendors must never be able to succeed based on a combination of good-enough results plus superior marketing and business development. They always have to be kept afraid of competition from engines that provide better actual search engine results. Read more
Slashdot has a long, exclusive article on proposed US legislation to fight foreign internet censorship. The gist is that companies such as Yahoo and Google seem to be saying “Please, pass a law OBLIGATING us to resist censorship and other bad behavior.”
I think this is both admirable-if-true and, better yet, probably true. Clearly, US web search companies are vulnerable in theory to competition from less scrupulous competitors in other nations. But for now our search technology lead is strong enough that their main competition is with each other. If China (for example) can’t play one of them off against the other, there’s at least it chance it will be reluctant to throw the whole lot of them out.
Ted Samsen of Infoworld is worried that the Chinese are attempting to ratchet up internet censorship yet further. Welcome to the club, buddy. This problem is a big one, and I don’t think it’s going to be addressed without vigorous action. I particular, I suspect that what is needed may be some major efforts in white-hat spamming. Lance Cottrell of Anonymizer has clever ideas along those lines for fighting censorship in the short term, but I think a bigger effort is needed as well.