Barbra Streisand, the Internet, and you

Barbra Streisand, the Internet, and you

By Paul Venezia
Created 2012-05-07 03:00AM

You may be aware of a phenomenon called the Streisand effect [1]. It's named after Babs, of course, when she flipped her lid over the fact that a picture of her Malibu beach house was among over 12,000 photos taken of the California coastline back in 2003 during a government-sanctioned project to document coastal erosion. She sued everyone she could and tried to get the picture removed from the Internet -- which we all know is impossible.

As a result of her freakout, the picture of her house became an international curiosity, and people from all over the world flocked to find the image, whereas prior to her hissy fit, nobody really knew or cared about it. Her misguided attempts at concealment actually increased the visibility of the photo exponentially.

[ See Paul Venezia's classic post "Why politicians should never make laws about technology [2]." | Read Ted Samson's analysis of the latest constraint frighteningly close to becoming law: "How CISPA could kill the cloud [3]." | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Data Center newsletter [4] to stay on top of the latest developments. ]

It would seem the same thing happened in the United Kingdom. The U.K. High Court ruled that five British ISPs block access to The Pirate Bay, citing copyright infringement concerns. The Pirate Bay subsequently received a tidal wave of new visitors and traffic [5], creating the opposite result of what the court intended. Frankly, anyone with a pulse should have seen that one coming. But it seems that it's much more than a single site or even related to file sharing -- it may be causing a fundamental change in how humanity views and uses the Internet.

Over the past few years, we've seen an unprecedented attack on the open Internet [6]. Horrible bills like SOPA [7] and CISPA [8] in the United States, ACTA abroad, and the heavy-handed attempts at Internet censorship and control by nations such as Australia, Iran, and China may be actively supporting the very thing they wish to quash: a state-controlled and state-monitored Internet. In many countries, the attempts to push through legislation that flies in the face of simple privacy and liberty rights simply because the medium has changed has not gone over well with the younger, digitally inclined generation who've grown up with the open Internet. They may not have any power to effectively overturn these horrid bills, but they surely can circumvent them in myriad ways -- and are actively doing so.

I've written about jailbreaking the Internet [9] in the past, and it's already happening, before any of these truly disturbing laws hit the books. The site TorrentFreak recently reported on the results from a survey conducted by a research group at Sweden's Lund University that shows that 40 percent more 15- to 25-year-olds are using alternative methods to access the Internet [10] since 2009. These methods are primarily VPNs and anonymizing proxies. The kids are way ahead of the old men writing legislation [2] to try to control something they don't understand.

What may be happening here is that the more the governments of the world try to constrain the open Internet, the more they give rise to innovations to circumvent those constraints. It's a game of cat and mouse, but you might be hard-pressed to figure out which one is the cat and which the mouse.

Within a few years, one or more of these bills might actually become law. If the recent information on the NSA's massive data collection efforts [11] are any indication, those bills may ultimately be unnecessary except for use as platforms for prosecution. The word that today's teens and 20-somethings are hearing is that they're being spied on and their access to information is being curtailed for absurd reasons. The FBI is also getting into the game, demanding that they be given backdoor access to any social networking site [12]. In many ways, the response from knowledgeable users is to shrug and do an end-run around it, rendering the whole mess useless to catch bad guys, yet still collecting data on millions of innocent people.

If the proclaimed reasoning behind all of this data collection and constraints is to assist law enforcement or to protect copyright, it has failed before it's even begun. There is no way to win this game -- and to try with such ridiculous tactics simply shines a light on the alternative.

We hear again and again that if they outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. There's some truth to that. If they outlaw the free and open Internet, you can be certain the outlaws will have no problem continuing to communicate over the Internet without detection -- and so will those who aren't outlaws and simply don't want their every Google seach documented. The forces of darkness may try, but their pointless endeavor to lock down the Internet can never succeed.

This story, "Barbra Streisand, the Internet, and you [13]," was originally published at [14]. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog [15] at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter [16].

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Source URL (retrieved on 2012-05-07 11:43AM):


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