COICA, the bill that made waves last week as an affront to free speech and due process rights, was recently postponed, to the net’s great relief. While it seems to have been the kind of inflammatory election-year FUD bill we see very often in this country, it brought up several issues that are worth taking action on.
The bill is ostensibly to “combat online infringement, and for other purposes,” but broadly speaking, it would grant “root access” to one of the fundamental technologies running the web: DNS. Here’s the question: if such an important technology could come so easily within a breath of being in the clutches of politicians and lobbyists, why do we rely so much upon it?
It’s a miracle that the web is as open as it is. Although we have many legitimate issues with packet prioritization, surveillance by ISPs, and the boundaries of free speech, the fact is that our internet is insanely open when you consider how it might have been with just a little nudge in another direction early on. Such nudges have actually taken place, and have had their effects: various sites and services have been shut down with huge fines and penalties, and laws have been established for the prompt takedown of copyrighted content (already lacking due process, I might add).
But the result of these nudges is always decentralization. Bruce Lee would have been proud. They can’t hurt what they can’t hit, after all, and so it was that ideas like Bittorrent and others arose. While their overwhelming use for illegal file sharing says something of mankind’s nature, these ways of transferring data are secure and secret.
I can transfer a file directly to another IP address based on peer to peer discovery. So why do I have to contact a private, third-party company for information on where a website lies? Centralized DNS is ripe for replacement, or perhaps I should say disruption.