I am in DC for a couple of days to attend the Internet@Liberty conference. It is a great event with many different speakers, thinkers and participants. I am particularly impressed by the bloggers and dissidents that risk so much by speaking up and attending events like this. It is thought-provoking and makes me think that we, in democratic states, do not appreciate the Internet to the extent we should.
One of the themes that I have heard be expressed is the worry about how states and others are pressuring intermediaries to take on regulatory roles in the internet ecologies. I think it is a valid concern, but it may have two different explanations.
In one we are concerned because we think that the Internet intermediaries will be careful, censor speech and generally engage in behavior that will chill the freedom of expression. In the other we believe that the pressure on intermediaries will change the topologies of the network as we have seen it do in the case of web-napster-kazaa-gnutella-bittorrent. I think the second one is more interesting, and worrisome.
What if the network we produce by increased regulatory pressure is not open for data discovery in the same way the network we have today would be? What are the costs for us as citizens if that should happen?
Questions, questions. I do believe that raising questions is more than half of the work, but sometime soon I hope to have the opportunity to sketch different answers.