Last night I wrote a manifesto trying to sum up all my thoughts in my internet censorship investigation. As I made it completely out of the blue as a sketch it was in my mother tongue (spanish) but today I decided to translate it, just in case anyone who don't speak spanish wanted to read it. The original is in this link. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this! I'd love to read them.
I’m only twenty-one, but still, since I can remember, Our routine has changed considerably. When I was a toddler, internet was already a thing, but even tho, my firsts steps on the internet were unorganized, webpages were simpler and communication was slower (email, forums, etc). Some others, more veteran, will even remember the internet incoming in our lives. We trust on the internet for communicating , work or study. A new era of information has been established.
At first, users on the internet were a few students, scientists and businessmen and women, but now we’re all users. This phenomenon should not be ignored, we’re living an era motivated by money, but this virtual environment is built over open and decentralized information, selflessly promoted by programmers and users. The internet meant a new state model, but free, without a core, a government to control everyone, and users don’t take part in a social structure, ideally all the users are equal. This system, which could be thought as chaotic, not just worked, it worked so good it became the roots of our current society. Far from being chaotic, it raised what we can call “netic or the net ethics, a ghost in the net that inspire the users.
This potential, tho, this society scope, isn’t ignored by governments and private entities. A clear example of this is the huge and wide BigData investigations. This decentralized system of sharing information could be a powerful tool like no other, but sadly it could be interpreted as a weapon, too, for some of this governments and entities. At the same time internet appears, so does the censorship of it. All around the world, different countries try to establish control over the internet through censorship and surveillance. This is the case of China, Russia, USA, UK, Arabia Saudi, India, Vietnam and so it goes. These countries censor, manipulate and surveil their users, but far from being punished for it, they are sometimes clapped by the users. This entities use protection and fear as a shield against privacy arguments.
It’s inescapable to feel down about this stage, but fortunately not everything is negative. At the same time internet, censorship and first digital society steps appeared, so did the hackers (calling hackers those who are interested and curious about tech, not crackers) that anticipated the internet potential in society, as well as the fear it will raise. Different hackers such as Mitch Kapor, Perry Barlow, Wozniak, Gilmore or Stewart Brand founded and co-founded the EFF, and openly defended speech freedom and privacy on the internet. In this scenario the first Hacker Con appeared (ironically in 1984) where also these issues were discussed (not only out of virus did the hackers lived, but also out of criticism). We don’t need to go back that much, tho, we can talk about a guy widely known in techculture. Edward Snowden is an example of the netics we alked about before and, as Goldstein in nineteen-eighty-four, Snowden is considered both a traitor and a hero, depending on who you ask. Julian Assange was also involved in the internet boom, and tagged it as “one of the best things humanity could have”, in its ideal state. Getting even more closer to our days, MalwareTech, this guy who stopped the ransomware and was also recently arrested by the FBI, told me in a brief conversation about his idea about anonymity on the internet and how he thought there should be anonymity for all the users, no middle ground on that, but he also thought it was probably, not possible.
As we can see through history, those hackers who has approached to investigate internet society and politics, has similar ideas but different opinions. This is why, leaded by those hackers, some associations are created in order to defend ourselves as a group. And not only I’m talking about programmers, also journalists, as they suffer censorship in their own bones. So not only the EFF or TOR project fight against internet censorship, so does Reporters sans frontiers (journalists without frontiers). Julian Assange, mentioned before, is a clear example of how hacking and journalism can stick together well. This can be also seen in cases like Kosovo crisis in 1999, media could not officially show what was truly happening (executions, rapes, and such leaded by the government) but the EFF released a safe server users could freely use to send messages and tell the truth.
“We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. Eric Hughes wrote in his Cypherpunk manifesto (1993). John Gilmore, wrote in “Privacy, Technology and Open Society about his will to take advantage the internet potential in order to make the society understand the power of privacy. Internet privacy and digital rights let us be active and critic members of society, in this lies its significance. How can we be useful in this fight?
For the users, some “healthy routine should be expected, such as using alternative browsers (I2P, TOR), non intrusive OS like Linux or spend some time taking advantage of decentralized communication to read the news.
But we, as hackers, as programmers and engineers, we can reach further. Hackers could be considered wizards by those who are far from terminals and code lines, these wizards can, as they already did, change the path of society. Hannah Arendt explained in his work “About Revolution that the word “revolution has its origin in “restoration which leaded in some confusion. But in this case I find the concept perfect. Hackers doesn’t want to create something new, but they want to ask for what Internet was supposed to be in its origin, as it was thought by its creators, which doesn’t make it less of a revolution. To keep ourselves in a coherent path, we don’t aim for individualism, we fight for a community, in which you don’t need to start a thing, you can just participate on it, or start it and let other keep it (open source).
The potential, the tools, the digital and social structure is already there. Only the programmers, hackers and engineers are left.