A general hold-up on scarce resources of the infosphere

We knew it for ages: there are scarce resources hidden in the abundance of the infosphere. Some are as old as the Internet, such as root and second-level domain name servers and the last mile infrastructure. Solutions to remove them (open spectrum based access, P2P name binding) are not trivial and were the object of much resistance. Other scarce resources exist because of network effects and technical constraints: the key one is the present search engine monopoly. Yet other exist only because we were lazy using alternatives, or because these alternatives were the object of wars conducted by private interests and governments. This is the case for centralized hosting of contents, for which P2P was (still is) a powerful alternative.

Now it’s an all out offensive, conducted by both governments and private companies to capture these scarce resources and use them against our newly acquired capabilities. Anything can serve as a pretext: child porn, copyright infringement, diplomatic secrets, on-line gambling, the pain of telecommunication companies CEOs who have to shuffle too many bits by hand because of greedy Internet users. Thus domain name seizures, private initiative preventive filtering of applications by Apple and contents by Google, partial censorship (exclusion from auto-completion) of search keywords by Google, administratively-ordered filtering of sites. This hold-up will – fortunately – not be successful, or at least not in countries that will stop short of sheer totalitarianism. However, if not stopped, it will drive alternatives underground. It will harm the true regulation that, as any social construct, the digital world needs. This regulation can only be based on conventions, the respect of socially negotiated rules, police action in cases of direct risks for the security of persons and infrastructures, and fair judicial processes when needed to punish crimes and offenses and compensate damages that they create.

This post is also available in: French

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