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FreeNet (or, What Price Freedom?)

By nascent in News
Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 02:11:47 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Many of you have heard of Freenet already. In fact, we covered it right here on kuro5hin earlier this month. Well, now that the Big Media has gotten wind of the project, news of it has started to pop up in the legacy media organs as well. And inevitably, it seems, they all tend to focus on the "criminals and pedophiles" angle. As the title says, what price freedom? Read on for more info. [editor's note, by rusty] Blurb written by me, the rest of the story is nascent's work. :-)


First, the basics from FreeNet's website:

Freenet is a peer-to-peer network designed to allow the distribution of information over the Internet in an efficient manner, without fear of censorship. Freenet is completely decentralized, meaning that there is no person, computer, or organisation in control of Freenet or essential to its operation. This means that Freenet cannot be attacked like centralized peer-to-peer systems such as Napster. Freenet also employs intelligent routing and caching meaning that it learns to route requests more efficiently, automatically mirrors popular data, makes network flooding almost impossible, and moves data to where it is in greatest demand. All of this makes it much more efficient and scalable than systems such as Gnutella.

To become a part of Freenet all you need is a computer with an Internet connection and the capability to run a Freenet server. We are currently developing a Java server which we have been testing over the past few weeks, but which is not yet release quality. You can download a snapshot of the latest code from the menu on the left.

Awesome, right? Well Reuters spins it this way:

L O N D O N, March 22 - An Internet system designed to guarantee anonymous free speech on the Web could be used by child pornographers and terrorists, according to New Scientist magazine.

Amazing. These people are so ripping mad about the decentralizing power of the net that they're willing to use child pornography as a shield. This exact argument ("it'll assist in illegal activities") could be used against just about ANY modern innovation. Cell phones. Cryptography. eMail. [sigh]

To paraphrase a dead president, those that would give up freedom for a little security deserve neither.

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FreeNet (or, What Price Freedom?) | 13 comments (13 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
You know this makes me all the more... (none / 0) (#3)
by kraant on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 06:34:27 AM EST

kraant voted 1 on this story.

You know this makes me all the more deppressed that bandwidth charges for my cable modem are something like 30c a meg :(
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

That's OK, because my house could b... (none / 0) (#4)
by pwhysall on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 06:40:09 AM EST

pwhysall voted 1 on this story.

That's OK, because my house could be used to harbour criminals. Therefore my house is wrong and should be banned. I could rip apart the can of Diet Fanta I'm drinking now and slash someone's throat with it. I can't believe we still allow Diet Fanta to be sold to *children*. Is it just me, or is the mass media turning into a bunch of right-wing reactionary idiots?
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown

Re: That's OK, because my house could b... (none / 0) (#10)
by FlinkDelDinky on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 07:44:45 PM EST

In the U.S. I think it would be more proper to say left-wing reactionaries. 
Especially since the more leftist groups have superior grass roots
orginization.

Of course, they're all the same at the extreme anyway.


[ Parent ]
... (none / 0) (#5)
by marlowe on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 10:33:07 AM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Is there a Wired article on this ye... (none / 0) (#2)
by hattig on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 10:45:11 AM EST

hattig voted 1 on this story.

Is there a Wired article on this yet?

I agree, arguments that "this can be used for X and Y and even Z!!!" (where X and Y and Z are bad) are always used as an argument against anything new that changes the status quo. "Cars can be used to kidnap children!", "Sweets can be used to lure children!", "Twinkies can be used to shorten your lifespan!" aren't heard though :-)

Strikes me as typical American PanderPolitik, where the politicians use the worst in everything to try and get votes for themselves, by appealing to everybodies worst fears ("YOUR children are in DANGER from these satellites, they might fall on their heads!", "YOUR job is in DANGER if we import olive oil from Europe!!", "Vote for ME and I will stop all these horrible ideas, and we can never progress at all!")...

A couple of us were having a bull s... (none / 0) (#1)
by rongen on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 02:11:47 PM EST

rongen voted 1 on this story.

A couple of us were having a bull session around th ework-station today discussing how FTP is just as good a tool (although less convenient) for sharing MP3s as napster is... Why not sue anyone who distributes FTP clients or servers (or email attachments, zip drives, CD-ROMs, microphones---quick call the feds!)?

That was just an aside and one which I am sure you have all thought of before. But it is pertinent to this story. It's true: anything can be "spun" to make it look bad, it's called negative propoganda. I really think that old-style media purveyers know the wind is changing and their 19th century business models won't be viable for much longer (information is no longer a scarce resource, so it's getting harder to demand a large sum of money for it). They are preying upon people's tendencies to view unfettered freedom as an invitation to descend into anarchistic mayhem. Morals in our society are connected to prosperity (a person who doesn't follow them will be rejected by the community and not do well finacially---yes I am aware of the tendency to decadence among the rich and powerful, although this may be exaggerated by the media somewhat---sex sells).

So what does unfettered freedom on the Internet equal? Amoral behaviour... so don't trust those new info-hippies... Nope put you trust (and money) in the hands of the established media... They want the average consumer to view the Internet as a big shopping mall. What a drag. :)
read/write http://www.prosebush.com

Re: FreeNet (or, What Price Freedom?) (none / 0) (#6)
by dgfitch on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 02:48:01 PM EST

Just to play the devil's advocate to your straw man:

Full anonymity is obviously a blessing and a curse. It could quite simply be turned on its side and used as a method for disseminating information amongst international, distributed terrorists. Or, say, distributing sensitive information about you from an unidentifiable source.

FWIW, I'm thinking they're pushing the child pornography button a bit too hard as well. So it goes.

Keep in Touch (none / 0) (#7)
by henrik on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 02:58:52 PM EST

<SHAMELESS PLUG>

I've been working on something, not quite like freenet, for some time. KiT is yet another instant messenger, with your basic buddy list and messages. But i've added fairly good encryption (1024 bit RSA and 128 bit IDEA) to the concept - all just to keep your messages from they hands of people trying to find out what you do. It's currently very alphaish, and the client crashes fairly often - but it is useable. Anyone feel like this would be a worthy project? I could use some help ;)

Acctually, come to think of it, KiT's not very much like freenet at all - all they share is the desire to keep control in your hands. Argg - now i can't even justify this post that way. :)

</SHAMELESS PLUG>

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!

Re: Keep in Touch (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by ramses0 on Fri Mar 24, 2000 at 11:42:31 AM EST

I have no idea why more instant messengers don't support encryption? This seems like a perfect thing to drop into the linux versions of licq or gaim.

It could be as simple as standardizing on a message format:

---- GPG Encrypted Instant Message Follows ----
Version: GnuPG v1.0.1 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: For info see http://www.gnupg.org

UhsxHqGTCHGRo6E0navK63xWLCBpj2Xk67Vu2USfRK+x9au7zkK+9+1AvctAKqFQ
3BPpA/9wONGpcvlVRAOL4IdIxK/zlCqu+Wls7cyzYKcawq4vLMrAvACebfUf+btQ
HRxcslM7yaLF6gxoruOehShxbWoIgOBF0aKuTgLVGAGnwcCvDs7OfHzYQrQtdOZe
---- End GPG Encrypted Instant Message ----

And then have licq or gaim send these messages on their same networks. Come to think of it, ICQ has almost everything a secure message distribution system needs: hack the client so that the "about" response is really your public key... keep the private key stored locally, and encrypt messages before sending. Whenever a modified client recieves an encrypted message, grab the senders public key from the Username/IP located in the message header, and decrypt.

This might save you a substantial amount of time over programming your own complete client/server solution. Also since licq is open source, they'll certainly appreciate this added functionality.

I haven't looked at your page, I just thought you had a good idea and wanted to wish you luck.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Keep in Touch (none / 0) (#12)
by henrik on Sun Mar 26, 2000 at 06:44:36 AM EST

Even encrypted messages reveal a lot about you if the rest of the protocol is in plaintext. (like who you're talking to and who you have on your buddy list for example)

And well - i've already implemented the server and client. :)

thanks :)

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Freenet needs to be even more ambitious (none / 0) (#8)
by stimuli on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 03:25:09 PM EST

I fully expect that the establishment's response to Freenet will simply be to ban it fully. That is to make running a Freenet node effectively illegal. How could they do that? One method is to pass a law that makes the owner of the machine running the node responsible for everything on it. They find some kiddie porn: you go to jail. Since the whole point of Freenet is that there is no way to police it, it will effectively shut it down, at least in countries like the US where such things could be enforced.

Of course the police would still have to find your Freenet node to catch you, but Freenet itself doesn't do much to hide the IP's of distant nodes on the network. So once they uncover one node, many others will soon fall. There was some talk on the Freenet mailing list regarding if Freenet could operate in places such as China, and the general agreement was that it could not.

This is too bad. The point of making something that the Chinese couldn't find is that it could then effectively work in the future climate of the US also.
-- Jeffrey Straszheim

Re: Freenet needs to be even more ambitious (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by nascent on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 05:27:13 PM EST

What if part of the setup is such that no complete file is on any single machine. For example, you XOR the bits and then compress each half. In order to get a given file, you'd have to get the key which would retrieve it from the two computers. But since what I have on *my* computer is essentially nothing ...what can they say? "He had a file that was complete gibberish - ie useless and indescernable from noise, a file that he had absolutely no possible way of knowing it was sitting on his computer"?

This type of bludgeoning might be par for the course in China, but it won't fly in the US ...well, not for at least another 10 years anyways.

See, the great thing about the net is that we can always dig a bit deeper. Much like Stallman is using copyright law to turn copyright law on it's ear (with the GPL), hackers can use regular internet commerce as an untouchable medium for global communication. They can only erradicate us by erradicating themselves. And when the time comes to pick between a few billion in revenue and some child pornography, the issue will be soundly quashed like a dead chick on the Kennedys lawn.


nascent
http://www.intap.net/~j/
[ Parent ]

Re: Freenet needs to be even more ambitious (none / 0) (#13)
by Deven on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:28:33 PM EST

I'm thinking along the lines of Hamming codes. They can be used for error correction with fairly arbitrary levels of protection, and would also have data spread across multiple machines as a side-effect. (ECC on memory and hard drives are usually a form of Hamming codes; even simple parity bits are Hamming codes, albeit the simplest form.) These codes could be used to correct the "errors" caused by deliberate pollution of FreeNet; if a bogus document were inserted into the system, the Hamming codes would catch it and correct the error unless too many bogus copies exist. Thus the system could be made more resistant to failure and intentional or accidental corruption of data integrity...

Deven

"Simple things should be simple, and complex things should be possible." - Alan Kay
[ Parent ]

FreeNet (or, What Price Freedom?) | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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