According to a recent article by Ars Technica, the gang at 4Chan (Anonymous) is promoting its members to use the new “High Orbit Ion Cannon”, a simple DDoS tool that is more full-proof at ensuring its user remains anonymous.
What does this mean for the rest of us? Nothing if you don’t use the internet. But if you’re business’ website goes down for a while after the gang gets around to playing with their tool (they are more like a collaboration of a bunch of rogues, but that’s what a gang is, right?), you probably won’t be able to maintain an objective opinion of this group.
What’s a good opinion of Anonymous? As someone in the Ars article’s comments section pointed out, when you are a bunch of rogues, you get the reputation of the worst member, but organization would only make it easier to target the members. Thus, Anonymous is stuck with the bad reputation? Does it sound like I’m being sympathetic to the group? Read on.
Anonymous has or could have some pluses. For one thing, in a digital age, the last thing we want is to be gagged. Internet censorship, which is what the members of Anonymous should fight against, needs to be stopped, but in the right way (and taking out Pay Pal is more than just rude, though I don’t know all the details on that story, so I shouldn’t say anything). Some censorship is needed on things, but this is the job for the people and businesses involved, not the government. Come to think of it, this is a very long argument I’ll have to develop. But first….
Anonymous has its downside. Active tech news sites have their once-a-month story of something related to what Anonymous dabbles in. The most common news is them starting DDoS attacks on whoever isn’t following their agenda, particularly businesses who, in my opinion, have the right to do legal business in the way they please. Comments concerning Anonymous I often see on boards and forums often times point out how Anonymous is being counter-productive and restricting the freedoms of others – something they should be promoting.
The internet can do something funny to you: It can make you want to hide and lie or it can make you be very very honest because people around the world could be reading what you are saying. In my case, I’m going to be honest: I don’t know enough about these issues to give a perfect solution to our digital problems. But I can come up with several questions concerning this issue and try to answer them (or at least start). Let’s have a look at some…
What kind of internet do we want in the future? One of unlimited freedom or one of extreme censorship?
This is a broad question and assumes a false dichotomy. We are already currently experiencing an internet that is part censored and part free. (By “censored”, I mean someone is watching and will take down content they deem as having been illegally uploaded.) Censorship isn’t a bad thing. There are many things on the internet I don’t want on there. But then we come to the next question:
Who should do the censoring?
In the ideal world, we wouldn’t have things to censor. But in the less ideal world, it’d be nice to at least have people censor themselves. Sometimes this isn’t possible. After all, the people who had the guts to put bad things on the internet obviously aren’t going to censor themselves / take their stuff down, unless they had some change of heart. Even then, the content may have already been downloaded by someone else who also decides they want to share it.
Should the government be censoring the internet?
The government’s job, in my opinion, is to defend men from themselves and from each other. This includes a list of things, but it doesn’t include the internet. First, censoring the internet is not in the government’s job description, as laid out in the Constitution of the U.S., and second, government is limited to blanket laws that end up affecting everyone in unintended ways. I call witnesses SOPA and PIPA to the stand.
The biggest issue with the two bills wasn’t their limitations on piracy, but their blanket coverage that infringe on what people believe are their rights to freedom of expression, including file sharing. I don’t know about you, but I found mediafire to be very convenient for downloading legal stuff that the creator didn’t want to make a entire website for. Thus, the idea of shutting down file sharing services and search engines that hosted links to them was really going to tick people off. Granted, that brings up another point:
What are the moral issues involved here?
This question is so much better and more refreshing than “what do you prefer?” – just saying.
The major issue here is “piracy”. This is a very funny and fuzzy word, used to describe any action of copying digital information and sharing it without the copyright “owner’s” consent. The Biblical term for piracy is “stealing”, so by attaching the term “piracy” to such acts of copying, companies have, in effect, labeled people as thieves.
There’s a gyp job in here somewhere.
That’s not a question, but ok. Yes, there is a gyp job going on.
Companies want to make money, so they “sell” people a product and tell them that there are strings attached by making them read an end user license agreement (EULA) before installing their program or downloading it. People install or download without reading the EULA because they already believe they have certain rights to the program (maybe not anymore, but keep reading). The software and media businesses try to hold onto the market for their products to maximize their profits. On one hand, it seems like, in an ideal world (that is, one without “piracy”), the company would reap the most profit possible. Actually, this isn’t true, and even my father, a professional in the music industry, knows this. Simply put, if you share your stuff, more people will know about you. Unless you’re in the software industry, but even then, there are the benefits of open sourcing your software. (more on this subject, coming up)
Trouble comes when people want to share their files. Rather than arguing for the freedom of expression or that having things digitally means that no one is losing anything (which is what “stealing” implies), as many have done already, I must insist on a different perspective:
When you sell a product to someone, they think they own it. After all, they paid for it, and you “sold” it to them. Companies say they are selling you a license, but they don’t advertise that. Usually, it’s just assumed. Except that this is plain deception. A while back, a man was sued by AutoCAD for reselling old versions of one of the company’s products. He won the case. Why? I’ll let you read the full story. It’s what I was going to say anyways.
Update: new article continuing what I had to say.