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The Internet

Jonathan Zittrain On the Future of the Internet 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-back-the-tubes dept.
uctpjac writes "Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford and renowned cyberlaw scholar, gave a lecture explaining that the Internet has to be taken out of the hands of the anarchists, the libertarians, and the State, and handed back to self-policing communities of experts. If we don't do this, he believes the Internet will suffer 'self-closure' — the open system will seal itself off when the inability to put its own house in order leads to a take-over by government and business. The article summarizes Zittrain's points and notes, "Forces of organized interests that do not play by the rules, like malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers are allowing another army of interests — corporate protectionists, often — to demand centralized, authoritarian solutions. This is the future of the Net unless we stop it.'"
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Jonathan Zittrain On the Future of the Internet

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  • Experts in what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:10PM (#22693156)
    Why on earth should he think that "experts" are any better at self regulation than any other random group of people?
    • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:12PM (#22693168)
      Because, more often than not, people's ideals are just as far removed from reality as their fears are.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
        But I think that proves the point, a rule by experts isn't necessarily any better.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Experts don't use ideals or fears. They use facts and data. They seek solutions that work, even if they don't live up to someone's libertarian ideals. Real experts are indispensable in any field. The White House has received considerable criticism for ignoring experts, and we should ignore them at our own peril.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rakishi (759894)
            Ha ha ha ha. They only use facts if it supports what they want to think is true, that is human nature. Even science with all it's safety measures and massive number of scientists in any given field is far far from immune. Even then it only works because the group of experts cannot be restricted.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
            I agree to an extent. Expert input should be taken, but I don't think a rule BY experts is a good idea.

            The problem is that experts can also tend to have pet hypotheses which they can selectively filter what they see that proves their hypotheses. They can be stubborn to admit they are wrong or made a mistake.

            Experts are human. To say they don't have or use ideals or fears is folly. I think they can be just as corruptable as any other human, because they are human.
        • Yes, my posts often answer questions that are only there in an equivocating sort of way... and even more often answered with a sardonic, yet acknowledging sort of style.
    • okaay (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      That article sure uses a a lot of words to say 'the web should be communist'.

      Any system where a small group of people get to make the decisions will skew towards making the world more to the liking of those people. Further, new additions to this ruling class will be those deemed acceptable by the current encumbants. This is a bad thing.

      All analysis like these are missing a huge, huge point. The wider web may well end up under the control of powerful, agenda ridden groups. This isn't that important, no reall
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Yetihehe (971185)

        Why not? Because the net will contain sub-internets within game worlds. sub-internets will be the new places to hang out.
        Yeah, but thos subnets have all the problems of internet plus their own. In internet we have spam, in SL we have flying penises and griefing.
      • Bits don't vote. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:07PM (#22693830) Homepage
        "That article sure uses a a lot of words to say 'the web should be communist'. "

        Rubbish.

        The point is internet technology is so complex very few people understand how all of it works, and how it works all together. The further away you go from technical to admisistrative skillsets the less likely are people to understand what's going on. That's the difference bewteen SMTP actually working and a sock puppet raising venture capital.

        This has nothing to do with capitalism or communism and is inappropriate for a framework of discussion about technology and what kind of environment open standards and processes need to flourish.

        • No, the Internet is not that complex. There is a lot of protocols and a lot of details, but the big picture is quite easy to understand. A few hours is more than enough to understand what's going on. I used to give an introduction to the Internet, and with 3 or 4 hours I was able to cover IP, Ethernet and ARP, TCP, DNS, SMTP, POP, HTTP and basic concept in cryptography. I'd agree the average person is not interested in spending even a single hour on the subject, but someone who has to take a decision will t
      • Re:okaay (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:11PM (#22693850)
        Zittrain clearly shows how clueless he is by lumping Libertarians and Anarchists together, in his contrived "graph". In fact, Libertarian principles support the very kind of self-governance that Zittrain espouses... without the "central authority".

        Governance -- even self-governance -- is not "anarchy". Other nations predicted that the self-governance model of the new United States would fail miserably. It has taken over 200 years, and it is finally starting to fail. But that is not because of the principles that it is based on! On the contrary, it is because of the corruption of those principles by our "leaders".
        • by psykocrime (61037)
          I have no mod points, so consider this a "virtual +1" from me. You are exactly correct, sir.
      • Re:okaay (Score:5, Informative)

        by ultranova (717540) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:23PM (#22693950)

        That article sure uses a a lot of words to say 'the web should be communist'.

        Communism is an economic system where the workers own the means of production; the practical implementations usually had the state owning everything. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

        All analysis like these are missing a huge, huge point. The wider web may well end up under the control of powerful, agenda ridden groups. This isn't that important, no really, it isn't. They are trying to control something which is already on its way to being obsolete as a means to disseminate information between ordinary people.

        Why not? Because the net will contain sub-internets within game worlds. sub-internets will be the new places to hang out. We may even see clones of our current Internet hosted entirely inside game worlds (or whatever game worlds become).

        I use the Web mainly for reading text and looking at pictures. The current Web is absolutely superior in this compared to any imaginable virtual world.

        The cyberspace - a simulation of real 3D world - is a fun thing for playing around, but when you need to get information, it is pathetically inefficient. Besides, it takes obscene amounts of resources to host a virtual world compared to simply hosting a website, so not surprisingly every virtual world in existence is tightly controlled by agenda-ridden groups. Add the fact that there is only a handful of them, and getting started in a new virtual world requires an absurd amount of effort - installing the client, at the absolute minimum - compared to simply going to a new website with the good old browser, and it is quite clear that the Internet's future lies in the lair of the spider queen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rs79 (71822)
      "Why on earth should he think that "experts" are any better at self regulation than any other random group of people?"

      Because they're "experts" and not a random group of people.

      Jono's quite right: frame it in this context - who would you put in charge of managaing, say, the Linux kernel? A bunch of guys that knew it best or a governmnet committee of people qualified to do something else?

      TFA is wrong though when it says "this almost happened with domain names". Substitute "DNS" for "Linux" in the above and
      • Re:Experts in what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @03:33PM (#22694354)
        > Jono's quite right: frame it in this context - who would you put in charge of managaing, say, the Linux kernel?

        The linux kernel and the whole Linux ecosystem around it are interesting. But it is a single incident and it is unwise to attempt drawing too many conclusions from it. At best it is an example of 'getting a good king.' Everyone realizes that a good king is the best form of government possible, the problem with monarchy has always been in the method of selecting a king. For counter examples from the Free Software world one one need look no farther than the GNU Hurd fiasco.

        Linux is an odd system. You have the benevolent dictator for life, but you also have the bluest of blue chip corporations up to their butts in development, working alongside hippies, anarchists and libertarians in peace and relative harmony. Lets wait until the socialogists write a few more PhD dissertations on this whole mess before we try to use it as a basis for a government, ok?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't think that was his argument - or, at least, not exactly in those terms. If I read the article correctly, what Zittrain is saying is that a communitarian approach to the internet is the best one to take, because communities (like Wikipedia, DNS, or Slashdot, to name but a few) have their own strongly-policed rules, but do not claim a totalising power. So Wikipedia's rules apply to Wikipedia, Slashdot's rules apply to Slashdot, and so on. The "expertise" that Zittrain is talking about isn't necessaril
    • Well, if you get experts of the caliber of Jon Postel (RIP) I'd say they'd be a hell of a lot better, and if they're primarily technologists they'll have a priority system much more aligned with that of most Internet users.
  • Why is that so bad? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suso (153703) *
    I've been on the Internet longer than most people (since 1991). I know the concepts and the goals of a lot of people who have used it and created it. Heck, I've downloaded music and movies, etc. too. But honestly, if now what we have is a bunch of people who think that stealing is ok because that is what the Internet was designed to allow us to do (see replies to this thread [slashdot.org], then were we really so right to choose an open Internet?

    If anything, I think its time for the Internet to get back in touch with r
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsmithy (35869)

      I've been on the Internet longer than most people (since 1991). I know the concepts and the goals of a lot of people who have used it and created it. Heck, I've downloaded music and movies, etc. too. But honestly, if now what we have is a bunch of people who think that stealing is ok because that is what the Internet was designed to allow us to do (see replies to this thread, then were we really so right to choose an open Internet?

      All the internet is doing is helping to demonstrate how and why copyright i

    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:32PM (#22693302) Journal
      Society takes a rather long time to accomplish it, but consensus does eventually grind through topical issues over a course of a generation or two.

      It may surprise people to recall that it was Star Trek of all things which, after the Mobile Phone, made a big point to announce that Replicators (seen first here with media, and coming in 20 years with mainstream custom-form solids) would seriously thrash economic theory.

      Trek eventually settled into a kind of Meritocracy-for-Rent, where the right to be a part of some high-skill group (such as the Enterprise) was the payoff for being able to keep up on a par with that group.

      Also, the Internet is bringing the Big Brother question to its proper discussion level by actually demonstrating what was previously an abstract conceptual warning.

      "Experts"... Many of us here may qualify if that term is generous enough. Any one of us could moderate out the worst of youtube style TurboTroll users - and for forums that don't have this site's free speech theme, that is in fact necessary to protect basic functioning value.

      My favorite example of a real "Expert" here is our friendly neighborhood NewYorkCountryLawyer. When he posts, we get really quiet and listen. : )
      • by westlake (615356) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:30PM (#22694000)
        It may surprise people to recall that it was Star Trek of all things which, after the Mobile Phone, made a big point to announce that Replicators (seen first here with media, and coming in 20 years with mainstream custom-form solids) would seriously thrash economic theory.

        You want to understand the impact of replicators?

        Ralph Williams' short story from 1958 "Business As Usual, During Alterations" throws buckets of cold water on the whole idea.

        In Williams' world anyone can copy an Eames chair, the Calder mobile, but only one man can design it and only one shop can produce the master. In Williams' world, intellect and creativity remains scarce and valuable.

      • Also, the Internet is bringing the Big Brother question to its proper discussion level by actually demonstrating what was previously an abstract conceptual warning.

        Big Brother was a warning against a real, extant threat -- the Soviet Cult of Personality. It's hardly Orwell's fault that simple selfishness destroyed the idea.

        Unfortunately, the secondary aspects of 1984 match the current technology just enough that any reasonable government surveillance is deemed "Orwellian" and thus beyond discussion. Well, at least on the 'net. The real world of lawyers and police officers are able to draw enough similiarties that it's simply not an issue.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arabagast (462679)
      but do you want the possibility to post anonymously (say, you are Chinese) just because people download shitty Hollywood movies and some top 20 music ? I would like an open internet, not a network being monitored left and right - some may even say this is already happening. We have to make it clear that monitoring traffic is not O.K . I want my personal messages to be personal, and not being read by a god damn agency somewhere.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        The Internet is being monitored left and right. The USA is doing it big time as part of Bush's "patriot act". The Chinese are doing it big time for censorship and suppression of anything anti-Chinese communist. And the Russians are doing it too.

        In fact, just about every government is at least monitoring it. Some are actively censoring it. Some use the information the glean to arrest, detain, and question citizens.

        Governments even set up shill TOR sites so they can monitor traffic in and out of anonymi
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by phaunt (1079975)

          (...)

          In short, your personal messages are not personal. And they are being read by an agency somewhere. (...)

          It is real and it's happening now.

          And, most importantly and frighteningly, the average user doesn't give a damn.
        • by CptNerd (455084)
          Like an earlier poster, I've been on the Internet for a long, long time (since early '89), and I've always known that no communication over the Internet is "private" unless it's encrypted, and even then the packets are always subject to copying. It's the way TCP/IP is set up, you have no control over where the packets get routed, and you have no control over what each router along each packet's path is allowed to do with those packets. Anyone who ever thought that the Internet was somehow "private" was ei
          • I agree. I would also bet that, at least while not so many people are encrypting their e-mail, encrypting e-mail would tend to bubble it up to a higher profile and make you more likely to be monitored in general.

            That's just guesswork on my part but I wouldn't bet against it being true.

            I don't know that much about the details of low-level packets and such, but if people moved encrypted e-mail over to https ports and made it look more like https traffic, maybe that would help to obfuscate things?
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by CptNerd (455084)
              Hm.

              Simply taking elementary graphics, applying new, obfuscatory, generally reliable algorithms processed heuristically, you utilize secure, effective Internet technology.

              Wasn't That Fun?

      • by OakDragon (885217) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:00PM (#22693776) Journal

        ...I would like an open internet, not a network being monitored left and right...

        If it's an open internet, it's certainly open to being monitored.

        I want my personal messages to be personal, and not being read by a god damn agency somewhere.

        Then you may want to refrain from sending your personal messages over an essentially public network that was pretty much designed to pass your message through an indefinite number of points before being delivered.

    • by Original Replica (908688) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:46PM (#22693394) Journal
      I think its time for the Internet to get back in touch with reality.

      The social contract that we call "government" is just an shared idea that has been realized by the efforts of very large numbers of people throughout history. Having a different shared idea embodied in the internet is no more or less "real" than the idea of government, it just doesn't have the same amount of history or communal effort put into realizing it yet. Order, Justice, Law, those things are just ideas. Reality is Gravity and Thermodynamics. I think the internet is actually more in touch with the physical realities of the universe than most of the government is.

      When you look at how most people want our society to be, the internet is a more accurate reflection of that desired society than our government is namely because much larger numbers of people have a more direct and malleable input into the internet than they do of their governments. This is important because the "reality" you mention is the social contract that is what makes us a society, as opposed to a mere collection of intelligent bald apes.

      Social contract theory provides the rationale behind the historically important notion that legitimate state authority must be derived from the consent of the governed. The starting point for most of these theories is a heuristic examination of the human condition absent from any social order, termed the "state of nature" or "natural state". In this state of being, an individual's action is bound only by his or her conscience. From this common starting point, the various proponents of social contract theory attempt to explain, in different ways, why it is in an individual's rational self-interest to voluntarily subjugate the freedom of action one has under the natural state (their so called "natural rights") in order to obtain the benefits provided by the formation of social structures. [wikipedia.org]
      Because of it's newness and sudden growth the internet partially escaped the rule of military force and the meat-space reality of scarcity [wikipedia.org]. Because of this the social contract has manifest differently than in "real world", however that doesn't make it any less valid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox (846076)
      But honestly, if now what we have is a bunch of people who think that stealing is ok because that is what the Internet was designed to allow us to do

      *sigh*

      Do you know the difference between punching someone in the face or stabbing them dead

      One is called assault and the other is called murder.

      What you are describing as theft is most likley copyright infringement.

      Neither is ok, but using the internet to copy copyrighted material is not theft but copyright violations which are judged and prosecuted under a who
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:18PM (#22693210)
    Out of the hands of anarchists... and into the hands of self-policing communities. What exactly does he think anarchism means in practical terms?
    • by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:06PM (#22693494)

      Out of the hands of anarchists... and into the hands of self-policing communities. What exactly does he think anarchism means in practical terms?


      Self-policing communities means that he's making the decisions. Anarchists means that somebody else is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mfnickster (182520)
      > Out of the hands of anarchists... and into the hands of self-policing communities. What exactly does he think anarchism means in practical terms?

      Simple, really-- anarchy means no laws. Given that, every individual is either self-policed or policed by others (or both). Having a "self-policing community" means having laws. It conflicts with anarchy. Whether the laws are voted on or imposed from above, or whether the policing is done by volunteers or the government, is really irrelevant next to the fact t
      • by Cal Paterson (881180) * on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:44PM (#22693706)

        anarchy means no laws
        I'm not sure this is true. Anarchy is generally agreed to mean the absence of government, and this is different from "no laws". Wikipedia agrees [wikipedia.org]

        Having a "self-policing community" means having laws.
        Not true either. Anarchists (including prominent ones like Chomsky) have often put stated that their form of government does include rules, though I don't know enough about anarchism to state exactly what. One interview I've read is with Peter Jay [chomsky.info] and this includes some clarification about some anarchist views on the rule of law.

        Anarchism is probably the most misrepresented of all political creeds, even more than fascism or communism. While I am certainly no expert (nor anarchist) you're putting forward statements that are clearly untrue, even at a glance.
        • >> anarchy means no laws
          > I'm not sure this is true. Anarchy is generally agreed to mean the absence of government, and this is different from "no laws". Wikipedia agrees

          Actually, the Wikipedia article you linked gives "state of lawlessness" as part of its first definition - I would consdier "no laws" to be synonymous with "lawlessness."

          And while it describes anarchy as absence of "government," not laws, the words "legislation" and "democracy" and "enforcement" are all absent from the article. Give
  • I didn't get it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by cyxxon (773198) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:19PM (#22693218) Homepage
    Hm, article contains word blogosphere. Stopped reading there. And up to that word, I did not really get what "JZ" wanted to say anyway, it sounded more like an incoherent ramble by TFA's author. Anyone care to elaborate?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      could be worse, he could of said blagotubes (http://xkcd.com/181/).
      I have to admit that i didn't even bother reading more than the summary, saying something has to be taken out of the hands of anarchists is never a good start, because by anarchists he means people!
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:45PM (#22693384) Homepage

      Yeah, the article is pretty incoherent. Hard to tell whether it's an incoherent summary of a coherent talk, or a correct summary of an incoherent talk.

      One problem is that he talks about the internet as if it were a nation-state. The internet is a tool. Calling me a "netizen" is like saying that I'm a citizen of my screwdriver.

      If a society is organized along centralized, authoritarian lines, then the problem isn't that that has a bad effect on the internet, the problem is that the whole society is screwed up. I care about whether there's free speech or not; the issue isn't free speech on the internet, it's free speech. I care about "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures;" the issue isn't whether TSA employees demand to paw through my laptop's email boxes, the issue is whether the bill of rights is being raped in general in the U.S. as a response to 9/11. If copyrights and patents are out of control, that's an issue for our society as a whole, not just for the internet.

    • by asuffield (111848)

      And up to that word, I did not really get what "JZ" wanted to say anyway, it sounded more like an incoherent ramble by TFA's author. Anyone care to elaborate?


      It's the old "we have to kill ourselves before they kill us" argument, as it is usually applied to the internet, that's all. Nothing new under the sun today.
  • Imaginary Property (Score:2, Interesting)

    by biscon (942763)
    I think intellectual property (or at least the current laws governing it) will be responsible for the death of the internet as we know it today.
    We will still have something called the internet, but it will be some proprietary closed crap. Unlike today everyone and their dog won't be able to just put up a page in a days work.

    I would love to be wrong though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by westlake (615356)
      Unlike today everyone and their dog won't be able to just put up a page in a days work.

      Meaning you might have to put some effort into creating original content for the web instead of just posting - or plagiarizing - the work of others?

      It interests me how the Geek lusts to rip off Steamboat Willie. While the real artist moves on and produces a Ratatouille.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by multisync (218450)

        t interests me how the Geek lusts to rip off Steamboat Willie. While the real artist moves on and produces a Ratatouille.

        You speak for yourself.

        This geeks produces his own precious creations, while at the same time wanting a more balanced agreement between those who contribute to art through its production and those who contribute to it through its appreciation. I'm not sure, but I suspect it's really those who simply seek to make a profit off of it that are the threat to the process.

    • In the future, it's not hard to imagine us running the hardware of today on community mesh networks of wired or unwired kind. The best advice I could give any entrepreneur is to snap up pristine examples of today's best hardware, because the only way 'The Man' will be able to force proprietary crap on us which prevents DIY network efforts is to change the hardware.
  • by NickFortune (613926) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:24PM (#22693244) Homepage Journal

    So he's saying that the only way to stop the 'net from being placed under centralised control would be to place the 'net under central control?

    All right. I'm being flip, and I'm sure there has to be more to it than that. All the same, how do you prevent the two cases from becoming functionally equivalent? If you hand net governance into the hands of a small clique, the obvious moves for those who want to unfairly exploit the net is to gain control of the clique.

    All this would do is open a second avenue of attack for the forces he seems to be so worried about. That's if we accept the initial premise that the 'net is doomed as things stand... and I'm not sure that I do.

    • And besides, HOW would you go about installing any kind of Net governance in the first place? State governments have some kind of chance of at least trying to govern the Internet, since they can pressure ISPs and other players with their legislative powers. I don't see everyone on the Internet, even just the companies that run the infrastructure, suddenly agreeing to be governed by some body of experts. Then again, maybe Zittrain is proposing something completely different than a new method for governance o
    • I personally find the whole idea that any group could control the Internet tantamount to saying that any group can control all religions. No there aren't the same thing, but to me the concept is similar. You might be able to control parts of the net, but as soon as people find out this is the case they will migrate elsewhere. The whole concept of the internet is that it is (relatively) free and is a worldwide community. Thus the only possible policing polity or agency, or what-have-you, would have to be
    • by rs79 (71822)
      " So he's saying that the only way to stop the 'net from being placed under centralised control would be to place the 'net under central control? "

      No, he saying where there needs to be some sort of aurhority, it should be a community of experts not some random government wonks.

      The internet has no central control, it's edge controlled. There are a couple of single points of failure choke points like the root servers at the physical level, and ICANN at the political layer, but these can both be routed around
  • the Internet has to be taken out of the hands of the anarchists, the libertarians, and the State, and handed back to self-policing communities of experts.

    and just how do you propose to make a state surrender its own interests and that of its prime constituencies to outside "communities" answerable to no one but themselves?

    YouTube criticised for gang rape video [timesonline.co.uk]
    Rape Video Posted on YouTube Not Removed for 3 Months [clevelandleader.com]

  • by thewils (463314) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:35PM (#22693318) Journal
    Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation says that Internet should be Governed and Regulated?

    Sounds like a nice make-work project to me...
  • I find the statement that something should be taken out of the hands of Libertarians to be contradictory and wrong.
  • the experts. I'm sure the people that built the Titanic were experts too. I know that just the other day I was saying to the wife, "Wife, I really can't stand all of these people saying what is on their minds. What we need is a self appointed elitist university type to run the Internets."
  • Yuck. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @12:46PM (#22693396) Journal
    Err, sorry, but the clique of 'experts' would be just as (if not more) dangerous than the corporation or state.

    Personally, and IMHO, as long as everyone is forced to keep to open standards, and as long as there are cheap and easy ways to access a network based on them, nobody can close anything off.

    The Internet is (still) beyond the power of the individual or small group to control it. Put up a firewall? TOR springs up. Implement network throttling on certain types of traffic? That type of traffic will suddenly mimic other types. ISP locks you out due to political discomfort? You get another one who is willing to sell service at the same or lower price. Mandate locks and controls at the telco level? WiFi and NoCat springs up to build a mesh. Even Cuba, which has the tightest controls of any networked country, has one hell of a Sneakernet going on with geek sticks and covert data transfers... slow, but workable.

    North Korea is about it for the ultimate Internet control, but only because they literally don't have an infrastructure installed, at least not outside of a few elite homes, palaces, and offices.

    The closest anyone has come to a corporate-built 'walled garden' style of network was AOL (which had an "Internet" button to leave that network and get online). AOL's garden (in case no one noticed) is dead, and the corp is a mere shell of its former self.

    To top all that off, corporations live and die by their customer base - the more locks they place on it, the less access they have to it.

    Nope - I just don't see it happening anytime soon.

    /P

  • Russia and China wink and nod when their people commit crimes against richer countries. Nigeria and other countries have many internet cafes which are havens to criminal enterprises, and that the police can't dismantle because they're so ineffective (and often the culture too is corrupt or sympathetic to the criminals because they target the "colonial powers" or some shit like that). It's failure or outright tolerance for this behavior on the part of government that is to blame.

    As to the issue of experts, o
    • I guess you would be a good example of the kind of "intellectuals" you describe.

      The dang problem with all those pesky intellectuals is that they are frequently educated. This country has traditionally valued an education that provided a broad foundation of knowledge. Even if one of those know-it-alls specialized in, say, particle physics of some sort, they would also have had quite a few upper level classes in other subjects such as literature, biology, scientific method, history, etc.

      The education sy
  • Take a look at a map of it sometime, it's now heirarchical, it isn't a web any more and hasn't been for years. This is down to ISP control of routing, peering arrangements.

    The heirarchical control of IP addressing and routing leads to heirarchical control of the whole Internet; a naturally authoritarian system.

     
  • just what kind of porn "self policing communities" will produce?
  • Anarchism (Score:5, Informative)

    by sohp (22984) <(snewton) (at) (io.com)> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:07PM (#22693508) Homepage
    Zittrain lost me on his own misuse of the word anarchist. Politically, an anarchist is someone who simply rejects a society controlled by a coercive state. This, of course, is exactly what his 'communitarian corner' supports. His taxonomy distorts the debate by relying on the pejorative use of anarchy as a term for moral and political disorder.
  • Basically, we have to give up our freedoms to preserve our freedoms, right?
  • My first attempt at doing this, please feel free to ammend/critique:

    Your post advocates a
    ( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting spam (and malware). Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    (X) We have no idea wtf you are talking about
    ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresse
  • Forces of organized interests that do not play by the rules, like malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers

    Sorry to re-state something what has been said and said again on this site but most of these groups (well, except spammers) would not exist if Microsoft programmers were doing their jobs right. It would not exist if the most installed OS had a sane security policy. Blaming internet on these things is exactly like blaming the post office for receiving death threats or spam.

    It is an inevitable consequence of a good communication networks allowing anyone to connect.

  • "Forces of organized interests that do not play by the rules, like malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers are allowing another army of interests corporate protectionists, often to demand centralized, authoritarian solutions. This is the future of the Net unless we stop it.'"

    With almost no tweaks at all, you can say exactly the same thing about fraudsters, con men and fly-by-night businesses in the real world. There's no more reason to make Internet some kind of centralized, authoritarian regime t
  • By lumping Libertarians with Anarchists, Zittrain shows just how completely clueless he is. I am tempted to ignore the guy, except that he is looking like a dangerous Communist to me (as someone else has already stated).
    • by psychodelicacy (1170611) <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:26PM (#22693980)
      Oh, come on! He's not saying that Libertarians = Anarchists, but that they have a similar place on the top-down/bottom-down and Hierarchical/Polyarchical system which he is using to analyse this issue. The types of Libertarians he's talking about are specifically those who live their cyber-lives outside communities. Some FOSS developers, for example, who prefer not to be associated with particular projects or communities. He's not saying that "quadrant" in his model is necessarily a bad thing, but that it doesn't have the same power as the communitarian model to help resist the shutting down of the internet by top-down governmental regulation.

      If you read TFA, you might see the author's final comments on communitarianism - that it is a model which is built more on micro-institutions than hippy communes. This isn't a communist model, but one which asks for community expertise to be allowed to police net freedom rather than a totalising imposition of "solutions" from above.
      • But they do NOT belong in the same place. That is his error. He did not "call them" anarchists, but he DID lump them together. In the future, please read a post before replying.
        Second, he can SAY that his model is based more on institutions than a hippie commune all he wants, but his model is still STRUCTURED the same. A rose by any other name...
        Come on! The guy comes up with a wholly contrived "graph" that he claims supports his views (it doesn't... if it LUMPS libertarians with anarchists, and it does
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:05PM (#22693808) Homepage

    It's worth realizing that we've solved most of the problems with hostile sites on the Internet other than ones that involve Windows zombies. Nobody is spamming from an identifiable source any more; that gets spammers turned off fast, or arrested. Spamming is now done using Windows zombies.

    Hosting of scams tends to involve Windows zombies or server break-ins. We track this on our "Major domains being exploited by active phishing scams" [sitetruth.com] list. Notice that almost all the sites with multiple exploits listed are services that provide DSL connectivity. The single-exploit sites are usually break-ins. Most of the open redirectors have been fixed, so that hole has mostly been closed.

    The malware problem is, again, an endpoint problem, with programs given all the privileges of the user running them. Again, that's mostly a Windows problem. (Not that Linux is fundamentally better. Installs still typically have to be run as root. Few will run under a restrictive Secure Linux profile.) Of course, when Microsoft tightens things up, as they did minimally in Vista, people scream that their insecure apps won't run. Fixing the problem requires a clean start, like the OLPC [olpc.com]. If the OLPC technology gets some traction at the high school, college, and road warrior level, we might have a way out of the current mess.

    Once we get past outright criminality, we're faced with the "bottom-feeders" - the Made for Adwords sites, the "landing pages", the directory sites, the typosquatting sites, the domain parks, and similar annoying dreck. We're doing our bit to choke that off [sitetruth.com]. If you're willing to lump the bottom-feeders together with the crooks, it's easier to separate them from the sites with some degree of legitimacy.

    Most of the bottom-feeders get their revenue from Google's advertisers, via Google. Google is starting to do something about this with "landing page quality measurement" [google.com]. Their standards are very low, though, judging by what's still showing up in AdWords ads. (We have a free Firefox browser extension [sitetruth.com] that rates AdWords advertisers, so we have a way to look at this. Advertiser quality varies drastically by site: advertisers on Bloomberg look legit, LinkedIn, mostly OK, Myspace, mostly bottom-feeders.)

    There's a basic question here - how much of Google's revenue comes from bottom-feeders? Google recently tightened up their landing page standards, and Google's revenue dropped for the first time ever. Can Google still afford "don't be evil"? We'll find out this year.

    All of these things are endpoint problems. Down at the IP level, we're doing OK.

  • I have yet to see any posts talk about encryption yet, which is certainly where this will go eventually. Actually, it is already there, but we are talking about increasing it's use by an order or so.

    "Forces of organized interests that do not play by the rules, like malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers are allowing another army of interests -- corporate protectionists, often -- to demand centralized, authoritarian solutions. This is the future of the Net unless we stop it.'"

    So we are ta

  • by psychodelicacy (1170611) <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @03:31PM (#22694340)
    Okay, people. I'm getting a bit annoyed. I can understand a lot of the controversy over what's said in the article, but can we please remember one important point: Zittrain didn't write this article, and this is just one person's interpretation of what he said.

    When I give lectures, I'm generally shocked at the distortions of my words that turn up in my students' papers.

    From previous knowledge of Zittrain's works, I'd be more than surprised if he said some of the stuff that's attributed to him here. I'd ask everyone to take a step back, and wait until you've read the book to judge what Zittrain (as opposed to the article's author) has to say on this.
  • Reminds me of Plato's arguments in "The Republic": Ordinary Tyrannical gov't == Bad, but unfettered Democracy is also Bad. So what you need is to put the *right* people in charge...

    Of course, just as with Plato, the "right people" are defined as those in the speaker's own peer group (philosophers, internet "experts"). How convenient!
  • Some would argue that the anarchists, the libertarians, and the State ARE the self-policing experts
  • Somehow, I expected this guy to be some blue-haired old codger of a University professor, complete with "get off my lawn!", yearning for the old days before the Internet was something generally accessible. Instead, I find a thirty-something.

    Sure, I read the article. Lots of words, lots of big words, and high concepts. What does it all mean, really? Not much, I think, not much more than what anybody else has to say on the subject. Why? Because it's too big. The Internet has increased it's mass immensely, a

    • s/his big words and big ideas/the article author's big words and big ideas/
      There, fixed that for ya.

      This isn't some grumpy obsessive compulsive guy with a stick up his ass. This is someone who's involved in the Open Net Initiative [opennet.net] and Chilling Effects [chillingeffects.org], amongst others. Why not take a look at what he, himself, personally has to say [ox.ac.uk]?
      • Why not take a look at what he, himself, personally has to say?

        In truth, yes, might make more sense than the article itself did.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @11:22PM (#22697162)
    Hand everything over to the USENET cabal. They can surely whip this internet thing into shape. Okay. The "cabal" is probably down to one 40yr old guy still living in mom's basement. But we can dream can't we?
  • While I can't match Prof. Zittrain's large stable of self-invented multisyllabic words, I have a 2-syllable word for what he is saying:

    Rubbish.

    This guy needs to get outside and breathe some fresh air.

    He can't possibly believe the conclusion to which his flawed, fallacious, circular reasoning has brought him.

    To equate belief in democracy with anarchism and libertarianism.... to equate honest believe using the internet to communicate freely and to learn freely with "malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers"... to suggest that "malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers" are an organization... to suggest that there is only an either/or choice of allowing freedom to flourish or allowing "malware peddlers, identity thieves and spammers" to conduct themselves improperly without regulation.... to suggest that one type of authoritarian abuse would reduce the risk of greater authoritarian abuse... to suggest that the only permissible form of regulation is his suggested form of regulation... this is all sophistry.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.

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