Internet Kill Switch
Leaders everywhere fervently pray for a “kill switch” for the Internet. Many of them undoubtedly have projects underway, or perhaps have completed such projects, within the bounds of their reach. Governments and like entities that would exercise control over information have good reason to be concerned about control of the Internet, in the wake of Wikileaks and the Arab Spring. As a result, we, the people who would be controlled in such a manner, should become more aware of Internet control issues.
The Internet was designed, perhaps diabolically in the minds of the military industrial complex that funded its development, to resist being cut off or broken. Internet protocols will try endlessly to find any route possible that will get around road blocks and interruptions that are thrown in the way of the flow of information. The Internet (capital I) is not one network, but a network of thousands of smaller internets (lowercase i) that are autonomously operated. These smaller networks include cable companies, phone companies, Internet transit companies such as Level(3), and “ISP”s, all of which are potentially dispensable and not critical to the operation if the Internet. Even users have choice in how they connect. If you home connection is shut off, there is the Internet cafe, etc. This decentralized design was intentional, and does have the effect of resisting centralized control. And who would want centralized control anyway? Only those who would control the flow of information. Just what we don’t want. Right? One would hope.
This was all very obvious to users of the early Internet. But many users have come on board since the commercialization of the Internet who have no clue what the Internet really is, how it works, or why it was designed the way it is. This lack of awareness is, as is often the case, a threat to our freedom. Some education is in order. The need, and a partial solution, is manifested in the recently formed “Chokepoint Project“.
Introducing the Chokepoint Project
On February 27th, 2011, the order was given to “turn off” the Internet in Egypt, limiting communications and voiding commerce conducted online. Egyptian Internet services resumed on February 2nd. Fastforward just a few weeks later, this time Libya commences its disconnect February 18th, with a blackout occurring March 4th.
Shutting down the Internet in two countries sent shock-waves across the world. We also heard people like American Senator Liberman asking for access to a similar kill switch. These actions force us all to ask ‘Who owns The Internet?” and what are the implications of the said controls over connectivity and scenarios for their use?
If you believe the Internet is not something that can or should be soley controlled by politicians or people inside the higher echelons of nation states, resulting in situations like Egypt and Libya, we’d love to tell you about what we are building.
The Choke Point Project addresses the events of recent months with the clear aim of mapping nodes of Internet connectivity and who maintains their control and what this may mean. We believe there is the need for a more decentralized Internet beyond the complete control of nation states and corporate influence.
A quick look at the Chokepoint Website leaves the impression that it is produced by individuals who never knew a world without the Internet, and do not fully grasp what it is or how it fits (and does not fit) with the world in which we live. Nor are the issues of privacy and control apparently fully grasped. But it’s an important start. It’s important work, and there are many who need to be educated to the threat that controlling power poses. One is immediately concerned that a road map is being produced that will greatly assist those who would exercise control over the Internet. But knowledge is power, more so when placed in the hands of the public than when placed in the hands of insulated power-mad bureaucrats and their minions.