Is the Internet broken?

As amazing as the Internet is for commerce, communication, and education, it might have been better. Imagine opening your email and not finding any spam. Imagine your children or your little brother not happening into any pornography.

Pete Ashdown spoke at the Utah Open Source Conference earlier this year. He touted the virtues of the Internet for open communication and open government. He said the Internet is the “only working anarchy” and we “shouldn’t change it.”

At the same conference, Phil Windley quoted Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the Internet, as saying he would have liked it different. “Vint wishes that the original design of the Internet had required that each endpoint…be able to authenticate [itself]….”

Vint is saying every computer on the Internet should identify itself. Anonymity allows bad actors to go unregulated. If authentication and identity were built-in, perhaps we might reduce Internet maladies like spam, phishing, and predatory porn.

Pete, Phil, and Vint are smart people. But they seem to disagree about whether the Internet needs change.

The H2M and CP80 proposals imply that something is broken about the current Internet. If so, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine changing it. People built the Internet and people can change the Internet. It’s supposed to serve us, not the other way around.

I tend to agree that we can do a better job of protecting children from pornography. I’m not sure what the solution is. Perhaps it’s H2M or CP80, or maybe something else. But if we believe the Internet is broken and can be better, we have every right to fix it. To quote Bill Cosby’s father:

You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me, I’ll make another one look just like you. (Wikiquote.org)

5 replies on “Is the Internet broken?”

  1. Pete: Neither H2M or CP80 would censor the Internet, only classify speech into “harmful to minors” or not. This helps preserve free speech by empowering parents to choose.

    Vint Cerf and others believe that the more regressive Internet is the one without an identity system. I’m not sure why you believe we can’t change it. The Internet is a tool we built. If it’s not working we can change it.

  2. China believes we should change and regulate the Internet in a regressive manner. However, in spite of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on censorship, the data still gets through.

    What I see from CP80 and others cringing over content they don’t agree with is a lot of hand waving and “We should do this sentiment.” What they fail to realize is that routers, computers, and digital data have no moral standards. It isn’t so much that I believe change will never come to the Internet as we know it, it is that regressive change is impossible.

  3. Missy, funny. šŸ™‚

    I think you’re right about not saying “that’s the way I am” or “that’s the way it is.”

    CP80.org has educational material you could use in a letter. I’d also mention the H2M proposal and point people to the video. And I’ll keep my eyes peeled for ways that non-inventors of the Internet can get more involved.

  4. I thought you invented the internet? Were you just kidding about that?
    That’s surprising that Pete believes “we shouldn’t change it.” There aren’t many things I can think of where that statement would be appropriate. Elder Maxwell once said, “There are very few things in life we can say, ‘That’s how I am.'” I’ve always been drawn to that idea and I think it applies to much more than the personal characteristics and attributes we’re trying to develop. My guess is that a lot of people feel intimated by the series of tubes and pipes we call the internet, intimidated to the point that they aren’t aware it could be fixed or changed. How would you suggest the average Joe voice they would like to see some changes? Sometimes I fear because I don’t understand the technical aspect well enough should I even be allowed to comment. While I am willing to educate myself, I recently attended the Protecting Families from Pornography Conference, I’m not quite sure where an average citizen like myself, where would my efforts be well spent? If I was going to write a letter to someone about my grievances, who would I send that to? That’s not a rhetorical question; most of the conclusions I’ve come to are not on so grand a scale as how we change the internet.

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