A social internet revolution is happening right now but it’s not the usual diet of Facebook or Twitter. This revolution is concerned with an internet user’s privacy rights.
On the 26th October the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced to the House of Representatives in America as a bill to, “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” In essence the bill will give the right to copyright holders and the government to remove domain names featuring copyrighted material or counterfeit goods. Just how is this achieved? Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have an obligation to government to track a user’s progress online. It then seems rather ironic that the ‘free world’ America should be having these debates after the European Court of Justice ruled that copyright owners are unable to force ISPs to filter out content. The ruling also means national authorities are not allowed to adopt measures which require ISP general monitoring.
Thousands of informed users are protesting against SOPA. What if SOPA becomes law? How would transparency on the internet survive? The answer is one word, decentralisation.
In 2003 the YaCy search engine project was founded. It is a search engine which is decentralised (often entitled distributed search) and relies purely upon users indexing web content. User’s searches are not logged and results are all returned equally. It has been said that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is killing Google, Yahoo and Bing results – YaCy is immune. For the moment the project exists purely for the technologically minded (as they tend to be the innovators) but with the threat of SOPA, saturation of corporate communication online and invasion of privacy then such decentralised projects could be for a growth spurt.
Traditional social networking platforms really only started in the early 2000s but community based online projects can be tracked to the 1990s with the introduction of bulletin boards. To misquote Clay Shirky, “Where collaboration exists so does productivity”. Collaboration could be likened to users creating Linux to avoid the two goliaths Apple and Microsoft. Collaboration killed Microsoft Encyclopaedia Britannica to make way for Wikipedia. Collaboration resulted in projects such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. Yet these companies have become corporate monsters, a single entity bound by the laws of the lands they operate within.
The social internet revolution has begun.