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Closing the Internet

March 2, 2010

A lot of my current thinking is based around the dynamic of opening / closing. I’ve been considering the way in which elements of state power, and in particular the military and intelligence agencies, regard openness per se as a threat. Now, Wired’s Threat Level blog (just about my favourite reading right now), has an excellent take on the response to what has been termed (in a deliberately mixed-up phrase) the ‘open-source insurgency’. This  is the way in which the ex-head of US intelligence, now working for ‘contractor’*, Booz Allen Hamilton, Michael McConnell. is promoting the re-engineering of the Internet. This is necessary, it is argued, because the current openness of the Net means that terrorists and criminals can flourish. This re-engineering would make attribution, geo-location, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable”. In other words to close the Internet. remove everything that is innovative and democratic about it, and make it easier for agencies like the NSA to monitor it.

Along with a whole raft of measures like extending ‘lawful access’ regimes, introducing corporate-biased copyright and anti-peer-2-peer legislation, censorship and Net filtering, this is an attack on what the Internet has become and to turn it into something simply for consumption – something, in other words, more like television. But there is another layer here too – the US military, I suspect, still has a nostalgic longing for when the Internet was its private domain. It’s a long way from its origins, and now perhaps the military want it back. But it isn’t theirs anymore, it’s ours and we need to fight for it.

* or, more accurately, arm’s length consulting agency of the US state.

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