The Pirate Bay, delving further into the anti-censorship battle, may have just invented a new type of internet, hosted peer-to-peer, and maintained using the Bitcoin protocol.
Love them or hate them, The Pirate Bay are always ahead of the curve when it comes to digital rights, especially when it comes to copyright, DRM and censorship. Now I’m not one to say ‘they give me free shit, awesome hur dur’. Artist remuneration is important to me and in many senses TPB circumvents this. But the current copyright system is broken. Fractions of the dollar go to the artists, and the archaic content distribution models mean lots of content can’t be seen legally without a 100 channels of cable or a $40 DVD.
People consume media differently and the market largely hasn’t caught up. Progressive media groups, like Netflix, actually use TPB stats to work out what programs to book. It’s acknowledged that freely distributing your content is a great way to get exposed. Most bands will seed a torrent in the hopes it goes viral. So clearly there’s merit to the model.
“Thanks Pirate Bay”
Now if all TPB did was make it easier for people to OD on Game Of Thrones I’d still be impressed. Their fractured cloud hosted solutions and domain hopping have been a beacon of hope to everyone that feels uncomfortable with bolder and bolder attempts to centralise and regulate an internet built by and for free thinkers.
But what matters now is what they’re doing to bypass censorship.
You see the internet, and its contents, is a bit like an ocean. It’s huge, it’s untamed, it has dangerous disgusting depths and beautiful vistas. More and more however you, the user, are shunted onto the tourist beaches for your own good. You don’t even see “no access” signs for the areas that aren’t safe. Through the wizardry of IP blocking they make it so you can’t even see they where there. So instead you paddle in the shallows, reading 9gag and sharing snapchats of your cats hat.
TPB’s first step was the pirate bay browser, very similar to the tor browser, however without IP masking (so you aren’t anonymous). This browser means users aren’t limited in their access because of their location.
It’s not just China that limits it’s internet access, most countries live in a media bubble, from blocking access to movies and shows because licensing doesn’t allow it, to restricting the news that is readily available. The people in office aren’t even being subtle anymore. Consider the porn filter in the UK: they are restricting content based on the views of a moral minority who happen to hold political (and one would assume economic) power. If you think this is going to be anything other than more prevalent in the near future, or at this doesn’t effect you, then you need a better understanding of the role of free speech in government accountability.
The buccaneers behind pirate bay.
However even with IP masking, governments can still get right to the source, and block an IP address, confiscate servers, basically killing a website. All well and good to stop child porn and nuclear warhead plans from being distributed, however this is also more than likely to be used to silence boat rockers, dissidents and anyone that challenges the current politico-economic paradigm that keeps the suits in limos. Consider Wikkileaks, who have been under attack merely for holding the governments own actions up to the light for scrutiny.
The way TPB are addressing this will be a decentralised, peer to peer internet.
You heard me right.
This means domain blocking is impossible, server seizure can’t be achieved and the powers that be can’t do everything in their power to limit free speech that challenges the political or economic status quo.
The way it works is that it stores a sites indexable data when on your computer, so you host little chunks of the sites you visit, in much the same way as people host chunks of data when maintaining a seed for a torrent file.
Users will be able to register their ‘domain’ using bitcoin, on a first come first serve basis, renewing every year. This means that even the registration system is decentralised, in fact relying on a completely different decentralised network. That is one hell of a built in redundancy
It will be using a fake DNS system but there is no real IP address to take down, as the database will be scattered across a global decentralised network of users. No points of failure and no centralised control mechanisms means it could become a very robust platform to maintain free speech.
There are issues, for example what happens if you host illegal content unwittingly, or what happens if the bulk of sites you use are very data hungry? The system has just been announced so further news may quash or exacerbate these concerns.
Do we need it?
In a world where the original ideals of a free internet are being consumed by data discrimination, PRISM, the NSA and the TPP, this pirate web may be one of the few places where true subversive discussion can occur. It may just halt part of a concerted effort to turn the net into a homogenised tracking device, used to buy iPads and photograph food, whilst being spied on and lied to.
While people may ask why it is needed, it must be remembered that a benign government only stays so under constant scrutiny and absolute accountability to the governed. This can only occur where there is a completely unfettered platform for free speech and sharing to occur.
Love them or hate them, but what The Pirate Bay have done, are doing and will do with the peer to peer protocol may be key to your political freedoms and human rights in the future.