Project Meshnet aims to create a censorship-free Internet.
According to its wiki, “Project Meshnet aims to build a sustainable decentralized alternative internet,” and:
Project Meshnet was created out of the /r/darknetplan community in order to fight back against Internet censorship by Corporations and Governments around the world. It aims to use a combination of software and hardware to achieve the goal of a censorship free Internet.
A lofty goal indeed.
In simple terms, this alternative Internet will be a decentralized peer-to-peer network, similar to a file-sharing network. Computers running Project Meshnet’s software – cjdns – will be able to route encrypted data via other computers running cjdns, circumventing the mechanisms currently used to censor content.
But would a censorship-free Internet really be a good thing? Or even possible? There are undoubtedly threats to the integrity and neutrality of the Internet. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web, had this to say in 2010:
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.
While these are very real problems, I don’t think Project Meshnet’s alternative Internet is the solution. In the previously linked article, Sir Tim said:
Web developers, companies, governments and citizens should work together openly and cooperatively, as we have done thus far, to preserve the Web’s fundamental principles, as well as those of the Internet, ensuring that the technological protocols and social conventions we set up respect basic human values. The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.
And he’s absolutely right. We need to protect what we have; not try to create an alternative that invariably would eventually suffer from all the same problems as the current Internet. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Last week it was reported that Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay had formed The Internet Association: a body “dedicated to advancing public policy solutions to strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet.” Google and Facebook already spend about $5 million per year between them on lobbying activities in the US and, despite The Internet Association’s seemingly altruistic mission statement, it’d be foolish to assume that its main objective is anything other than to protect members’ bottom lines.
Despite corporate and governmental interests, I believe the integrity and neutrality of the Internet can – and will – be maintained. We’ve managed to do it thus far, and I think Internet users ensure that we continue to do so.
What do you think?