The Dark Side of the Net

Censorship, It’s easy to say I believe in or I’m against censorship. But in truth it’s not that black and white, there is so much gray in this debate that you don’t see until you dive deeper into it.

A couple years ago I tried a program/service call Freenet (google it). At that time it was a bit buggy and had many problems so I uninstalled it. This week I decided it was time to try it again after a few friends reconnected me with idea.

What is Freenet: (From the site):

Freenet is free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. To achieve this freedom, the network is entirely decentralized and publishers and consumers of information are anonymous. Without anonymity there can never be true freedom of speech, and without decentralization the network will be vulnerable to attack.

Communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are “routed-through” other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is.

Users contribute to the network by giving bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive (called the “data store”) for storing files. Unlike other peer-to-peer file sharing networks, Freenet does not let the user control what is stored in the data store. Instead, files are kept or deleted depending on how popular they are, with the least popular being discarded to make way for newer or more popular content. Files in the data store are encrypted to reduce the likelihood of prosecution by persons wishing to censor Freenet content.

This sounds like the type of project I believe in and would like to help. While installing it and going through the long process of getting keys from trusted friends to just be able to connect to the “freenet”, I thought of the many things it may be doing to help the world. China bloggers are being censored each day, their blogs are shut down and some are even arrested, is this a place that they can express their opinions freely? I this the place I can find out what is really happening in Iraq and will this have sites explaining the bugs in some software and hardware that many companies hide from the public? These are just a couple ways it could help in todays world.

Getting keys can be a long and drawn out process, specially if you are really going to trade with only people you trust. I didn’t have the time, so I connected to their IRC channel and within 2 hours had traded my “key” with 12 others, Yes! i’m up and running. My first link I hit off the home page starts to open, and continues to open…. 5 minutes later a page finally opens. I know there’s tons of encrypting and data flying everywhere off others computer, so i’ll deal with the slowness (but this will get to you, you have to open a site and go watch some tv for most sites)

The first link I come to makes me question Censorship. This links to porn, no big deal i’m used to the web, but it has a warning.. If offended but children underage, do not click! OK WTF. I’m on a network that can not be traced, nothing is sitting on one server, bits and pieces everywhere, even on my computer, and the first link I see is child porn. I know that someone will always find a terrible way to use some technologies, maybe this is 1 site out of the hundreds of good ones.

Now three days later, I’m really thinking of uninstalling the program. I love the consept and always try to give things a chance, but it seems that this is a good idea gone bad. Living in the US where not alot of what is said is censored, what else can this be used for, humm anything illegal .. I guess everyone has their line they draw in the sand, i’ve played with hacking hardware/software and everyone has downloaded an mp3 they shouldn’t have but I guess this crosses my line. What happens when a terrorist group starts using this? (oh wait, they won’t it’s too damn slow!!)

I know this has been very negative and I do point out that this does have promise, I just wasn’t able to find it. I also know this will probably be scanned by the FBI because of the words in the post, so hello agent 🙂

If you have found a real use for freenet that isn’t illegal, i’d like to hear from you. (and no i won’t argue that the very things i’m talking about is censorship, maybe it is, but when others are hurt by something, maybe it should be a law, another reason i’m glad i’m not in politics)

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One Comment to “The Dark Side of the Net”

  1. Curbob 3 January 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    found this good video talking about Darknet (Freenet) the talk for 10 seconds about the good it can do, but this talk was created to be about illegal downloading and the RIAA

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