Getting worse before it gets worse again

China is reportedly blocking and redirecting queries of Google Blogsearch, Yahoo and other search sites, all to its own Baidu site. While one can see this in political or economic terms, it’s much deeper and sadder than that.

There has long been a trend toward seeing the Net as a plumbing system for “content” all owned and filled public and private entities that can be muscled into selectively valving whatever flows through it — and not as a worldwide “place” with a nature beyond containment by countries or companies. That’s what it was designed to be, but in reality it’s not.

Can we protect the Net as something non-national? I doubt it. It’s been two years since I wrote , and not much has been done. Today in most countries* the Net has little or no legal standing as something other than a “medium” (pipes, that is, like the cable TV and telephone lines that “carry” it into our homes and businesses) for pumping “content”. Worse, lobbying forces anchored in the “pipes & content” conceptual system are more than formidable, especially here in the U.S.

I see little cause for optimism here, beyond whatever spine the search engines and other large sites can muster when doing business with countries like China — and others who share China’s belief that censorship (for whatever reason) is a Good Thing.

* Maybe some of the rest of ya’ll have details here. Bring ‘em on.

4 comments

  1. Mike Taht’s avatar

    Usenet. No one owns it. But the RIAA thinks usenet.com does… this just in….

    The RIAA finally goes after usenet

    At least, anyone with half a brain can show usenet has substantial non-infringing uses. Here’s hoping that usenet.com can win… eventually.

    So long as usenet news still flows it’s a free world.

  2. Seth E’s avatar

    Certainly this isn’t a good thing, but is there really much of a difference between China blocking Google and Google blocking sites for China that China finds offensive? In fact, what they’re doing seems reasonable, why NOT eliminate the middleman? They clearly can suppress their people much better then our companies can.

  3. Trey Tomeny’s avatar

    This is why the Private Identity Network proposal  replacegogle.com) provides that the limited data and limited power central entity operate in the computing cloud of the Identity Provision entities and own no tangible assets at all.

    Governments can only influence property and persons that are within their range of force. With the central entity of the PIN formed as a private partnership among participating network members, it will be beyond most government influence- at worst they can cut off a finger or a toe, but not kill the whole body, and it will be a starfish body that grows back.

    If I ever seem overzealous in my promotion of the PIN, it is because I dread the day when the Internet becomes an instrument of oppression rather than liberation. I believe it is incumbent upon us to come up with a version of the Internet that governments won’t have an easy excuse to meddle in.

  4. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Doc,

    Report from the field: Where I am in China, Google Blogsearch and Yahoo both work fine.

    The rumour here is that censorship happens at the ISP level, so it can vary wildly from place to place (and in China that covers a lot of territory). Also, I find that a proxy like anonymouse.org gets around most instances of site blocking.

    None of which changes your larger point about the net being co-opted (yes, I’m part of THAT generation) by political and economic big boys who want, of course, to use it for their own purposes.

    [Insert your choice of Kurt Vonnegut quotations here.]

    Cheers,

    Eric

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