In a recent column (“Homeland Security Mission Creep: ‘Intellectual Property Crime’“), I wrote that file-sharing had apparently become the latest “terrorist threat” targeted by the national security state. Against this background, the immediatelty following shutdown of 73,000 blogs using the blogetery WordPress platform hosted by Burstnet is especially alarming. Burstnet announced that, in compliance with an urgent and extraordinary request by “law enforcement officials,” it was shutting down blogetery. Their motivation is suggested by the tens of thousands of hits if you Google the blogetery site for “rapidshare” and “megaupload.”
Maybe this is what Holy Handwringing Joe Lieberman meant by an Internet “kill switch” to protect against “terrorism.”
This is just the latest example of a growing phenomenon: businesses treating their own customers as criminal suspects, while serving “the Authorities” as their primary actual clientele. That’s why your bank informs the Feds of large money transactions, Home Depot reports purchases of chemicals used in meth labs, and the drug store keeps track of the amount of Sudafed you buy.
The first question that comes to mind is: Who pays Burstnet’s bills — “the Authorities” or the customers?
A friend at work recently had a relevant experience with her broadband ISP, Cox Communications. Apparently her grandkids had downloaded a movie from some torrent site and Disney had leaned on Cox (with Cox presumably rolling over and giving them customer records without due process). The lady at the cable office called her up and began warning her “You need to monitor your grandkids more closely,” and assorted other things she “needed to do.” Normally I’d expect that kind of condescending lecture from someone who was paying ME money, not the other way around.
If you haven’t had your daily dose of irony, Secretary of State Clinton recently warned other countries against the dangers of imposing burdens on civil society: “progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions. But when governments crack down on the right of citizens to work together, as they have throughout history, societies fall into stagnation and decay.”
Clinton added that “Democracies don’t fear their own people.” I imagine the guy in the Guy Fawkes mask would get a big laugh out of that. For a government that doesn’t fear its own people, the U.S. “democracy” spends an awful lot of time obsessing over whether we’re ingesting prohibited substances into our own bodies, downloading songs, and other “terroristic” activities that it’s made its business. Talk about paranoia! “Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they have imagined to do.”
The shutdown of file-sharing sites will probably backfire, I’m afraid. Such authoritarian actions by the Copyright Nazis and their government spear-carriers will, I fear, lead to an outcome that should alarm all good citizens. Sadly, denial-of-service attacks against the websites of various government agencies, the RIAA and MPAA, have become increasingly frequent in recent years. If you’re the kind of juvenile person who takes misguided pleasure in seeing bad things happen to some of the most wicked people in the world, just Google “DOS+attack RIAA+website.” Shocking.
At one time the cat and mouse game between hackers and the RIAA got so intense that for a while the RIAA was constantly shifting its site around between low-profile servers, to protect itself from hackers (kind of like Saddam randomly sleeping in a different palace every night as an anti-assassination precaution).
The latest such incident was “Operation T*tstorm,” a distributed DOS attack by the hacker group “Anonymous” on the sites of the Australian Parliament and Ministry of Communications in retaliation for increased censorship of porn websites.
Thank God these poor misguided anti-social saps have mitigated the potential harm by focusing up till now on the public websites of organizations they hate, instead of on the intranets on which their actual functioning as organizations depends. I greatly fear that someday soon some utterly reprehensible sociopath will manage to do this, and when someone like Mitch Bainwol shows up at work and logs on to check his email, he’ll see nothing but a blank screen.