Why decentralisation and federation are the future of online media Over the last decade or so, I’ve been commenting in fits and starts around a theme: Centralisation of internet infrastructure and services is anti-democratic. Starting with Iran’s internet blackout following the 2009 presidential elections, I have been less-than-methodically reviewing the impact of centralised networks on the internet’s […]
Over the last decade or so, I’ve been commenting in fits and starts around a theme: Centralisation of internet infrastructure and services is anti-democratic. Starting with Iran’s internet blackout following the 2009 presidential elections, I have been less-than-methodically reviewing the impact of centralised networks on the internet’s ability to ‘treat censorship as damage, and route […]
A blog post by Renesys Corporation experts, who provide network data collection and analysis services, suggests that access to all but one of Iran’s five major international data connections has been severely degraded. Some have speculated that this is because the Government of Iran, which controls most national telecommunications systems, has imposed a strict regime of Internet filtering on its population.
Notwithstanding these events, activists organised their protest efforts through online messaging sites such as Twitter, which had apparently been overlooked by censors. One message implored activists to climb to the rooftops and give voice to their protest by shouting ‘Allah’u akhbar’ (God is great). By 4:00 a.m. local time on June 13th, the noise of the rooftop protest was deafening. The outcry has only increased since then. Significantly, the same tactic was used at the outset of the 1979 revolution that ousted the US-supported Shah of Iran and ultimately led to the rise to power of the current theocratic regime.
This riveting spectacle provides us with an object lesson in the effects of communications networks on democracy and social movements.
Farhad Manjoo says the Revolution will not be digitised. His recent Slate column, subtitled “How the Internet helps Iran silence activists” makes the obvious point that technology makes all aspects of communications easier – even the unpleasant ones. But his lazy analysis misses the import of his own observation.
The key to all this is his failure to distinguish between the network and the protocol. Manjoo says that the Internet helps Iran’s repressive efforts. That’s not true, at least not nearly to the extent he thinks. The network – the physical infrastructure of cables, switching and routing equipment, is what’s trapping people right now. If it weren’t for the end-to-end nature of the software protocols that make up what we conveniently call the Internet, little if any news at all would have emerged from Iran.
The underside of the world woke up today to find their world turned upside down. Facebook made good on its threats, and then some. Faced with legislation that would require it to pay for sharing news content on its platform, the company didn’t just take their ball and go home. They tore the sandlot up, […]