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EP PODCASTSXML

March 16, 2007

The Sky Is Falling (Or Not)

Digital Destiny coverBill Moyers says Jeff Chester "is the Paul Revere" of the internet revolution. Well, maybe not. It's true that Jeff is fighting some of the right corporate exploiters of culture — and it should be noted that Moyers has had plenty of experience fighting that same fight in the broadcast world — but it is unclear to me, still, how well or not the known history of broadcast maps onto the world of the internet. No doubt many powerful groups would like to see the internet turned into an advertising driven variant of television. But to my mind an exaggerated fear betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what the internet is. So while I applaud what Jeff's doing and think he makes a number of excellent points I remain unconvinced by the story he's telling. Nevertheless, if Bill Moyers says it's that important a lot of people will believe it. Listen and decide for yourself. Total runtime here of an hour and thirteen minutes.

Listen

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Comments


I am convinced by Jeff Chester and that his story is that important.

The takeover of broadcast media began in earnest in the mid 70s (if not earlier) by Wall Street and investment bankers.

Events are much accelerated today. We are still largely fortunate to get an honest exploration of ideas by way of sites such as this — largely thanks to the early incompetence of corporations bent on monopolizing the net.

How long will we be so lucky?


I spend my life solving information problems for large corporations, the truth is they are flat out tracking information on their own customers let alone what color you might prefer, the problem is not in collection but meaningful organization of the information. These so called "incredibly powerful systems" just don't exist in the way that this guy imagines. Sure there are big systems but they generally work very poorly.


I second R’s comment and am also convinced Jeff Chester’s fight is vital. George sees the internet with today’s perspective, but what will it be like in a few years? No one knows. But one thing is for certain, if corporations (and its sycophant government) throw enough money at it, coupled with citizen inaction, it’ll evolve into whatever form best suits them, not us. It has happened for television — and to some extent the printed media— and it will happen for the internet, if not for people like Jeff Chester or legislation like Net Neutrality.

A simple illustration: The recent proliferation of hosts behind a NAT-enabled router (network address translation/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_address_translation) means that most people do not have true end-to-end connectivity and cannot participate in some Internet protocols. End-to-end connectivity has been a core principle of the Internet thus some people regard NAT as a detriment to the Public Internet. Although this problem is now being partially circumvented, a simple technology such as NAT could have fundamentally changed the internet’s landscape. This is because users behind NATs require a third party to connect with each other.

NAT is not an isolated example and I’m sure there’ll be other technologies which have the potential for massive centralization. My point is that from a technological perspective, the Internet can be controlled — maybe not all of it but at least the parts that matter.

Legislation can also be used. Look at how draconian copyright laws can be twisted for corporate control of internet content. Digital Rights Management, Digital Millennium Copyright Act or Trusted Computing are but of few examples of a palette of tools to consolidate the internet into fewer hands.

Bogus anti-terror laws and forced data-retentions of logs are already being used to enforce massive surveillance of our internet usage. Who then will browse the dissenting EP website in the future if they know it will be added to their profile kept on them at the NSA? Would EP ever host a video news clip taken from Fox without fear of being sued for copyright infringement? OK sure, you can setup any website you want on the internet, but who’s going to go if you can’t include the appropriate content for fear of being sued? Or if they can’t access it because your users are behind some sort of ‘new age NAT’?

I think it’s a definite possibility which needs to be envisaged. That is why people like Jeff need to keep up the fight. ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.


@Craig Tindale: ‘there are big systems but they generally work very poorly’? Well the TSA’s Advance Passenger Screening profiling system works very badly indeed, but it’s still used to the distress of passengers. ‘Incredibly powerful systems’ already exist: Google indexes billions of webpages, it seems to organize the information in a meaningful way to me and I use it everyday. Tracking people is no different. If there is the will, it’ll happen. I see no insurmountable technological barrier.

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