Thursday, May 24, 2012

Black and Grey and White

Terrorism and kiddie porn.  There, I said it.

In looking over some of the black/grey/white uses of an off-the-Net network, I'm going to start with the big scary ones that people are going to raise red flags about and say, "Why are you doing this?  This is SCARY!"

So terrorism and kiddie porn.  One of the most common stories you'll see if you research Sneakernet on Google is Osama bin Laden's use of the tactic to avoid detection for years, even when he was living in a pretty nice neighborhood and his front-men (posing as brothers) were handing kids payoffs rather than returning their stray baseballs that came in over the compound walls.  Couriers would take bin Laden's e-mail drafts via Sneakernet to another location and send them from outside, obfuscating the trail.  In fact, the lack of telephone and Internet connection to the compound was one of the tip-offs that something was up.

I mention kiddie porn because it's the other great bogeyman of our age.  Any time you talk about any sort of sharing that isn't wide open for everyone to see, people bring up the idea that "wait, couldn't a CHILD PORNOGRAPHER be using this?  Where are all the PEDOPHILES?"  Well, let's get real.  I'm sure terrorists and child pornographers are way ahead of indie and folk musicians when it comes to setting up their own networks.

But it's the CONTENT that is black, not the network setup.

A person-to-person Sneakernet is also going to be useful for swapping around a lot of grey content.  By this, I mean pirated media.  Some people would rate this as the blackest of the black (i.e. the RIAA and MPAA), and some people would say there's absolutely no problem with it.  I'm more in the lightish-grey realm as a low-grade content provider and a medium-grade content viewer.  I'd like to eventually get paid for something I create, yes, but I also know that most people I want to share things with a) don't have the money to buy an album from me if they don't know it's a quality production (it isn't), and b) would be more likely to pay to get into a place to see me play the guitar live.

So let's acknowledge that both black and grey content can be shared on ANY network, and then put that behind us.

Why would we want a Folk Sneakernet?

More and more often, educational institutions and Internet service providers are being pressured into throttling traffic that could be involved in piracy.  In the "six strikes" plan, those who repeatedly are pointed out by the RIAA/MPAA for suspicious activities will  have their download privileges cut off in stages as part of a collusion with major ISPs.  This is not government censorship, mind you-- this is all under the aegis of copyright protection.

But what if these copyright magnates find your torrenting of your own new hit album suspicious?  Well, the burden of proof is on you, according to these policies, and for a $35 processing fee, they might consider letting you go back to sharing what you've created.  It's white content, but the entire file-sharing network is labeled as black because it's competition.  (By the way, did you know those pirates could be terrorists sharing kiddie porn?)

In another time, I hope we're able to see this through the appropriate anti-trust lens.  But until then, let's use the Internet for everything it's good for-- e-mail, Web browsing, all that good stuff.  And when our audience is within sneaker-distance, let's use the Sneakernet.

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