Why True Internet Regulations Are Impossible
Forewarning and full disclosure before I begin my piece. For the purposes of this article I will be attempting to explain why regulating the internet is not truly possible. I will not be discussing whether or not there should be regulations or what kinds of behavior needs to be restricted. This article is meant to be informative and not political.
We all know the internet. If you don’t then I’m not entirely sure how you’re reading this. That said, there’s been a lot of talk from a lot of different places about the concepts and ideas of regulating the internet. However, if you work in a software related field, this concept probably sound hilarious to you without me needing to explain it to you. For the rest of you, allow me to let you into the little joke.
You see, there is no feasible way to regulate the content on the internet. In fact, your best vector of attack and regulation would be to destroy all cable and landline connections, but that still wouldn’t work given the existence of satellite provided internet. But why is all this impossible? Allow me to explain over the course of these next two articles. I’ll start off by giving a few very well known examples that illustrate the problem beautifully. So as to remove political natures and debate from the discussion, I’ll be using two examples of things that are very clearly illegal behavior.
One of the most well known illegal websites on the internet is “The Pirate Bay”. For those who have never heard of it, “The Pirate Bay” is a website dedicated to the piracy and illegal distribution of pretty much anything and everything. Whether it be music, movies, games, books, or anything else you could imagine, “The Pirate Bay” probably has you covered. So with all these illegal behavior going on, why doesn’t some government shut it down? Well, the United States government actually did exactly this, or at least tried to.
Back in early December 2014, the police in Stockholm raided the company that was backing “The Pirate Bay”. This worked for a total of four days. That’s it, four days. After those four days were up, another group that had brought back another site called IsoHunt also brought back “The Pirate Bay”. It was redecorated with a ghost ship instead of the regular image. The team behind this new site stated they would happily taken down their clone the minute the original came back online.
One week later, they released a tool that would crush any hopes of keeping “The Pirate Bay” down permanently. This tool was called, “The Open Bay”. It was a free, easy to distribute, easy to use, and well maintained tool that allowed the creation of what next became known as “The Hydra Bay”. This tool allowed anyone who used it, to create a perfect replica of “The Pirate Bay” as well as connecting them together with the massive network of already existing sites. They had turned one of the world’s most illegal websites into a literal hydra. By cutting off the original “The Pirate Bay” site, we now had more clones to count that would be unreasonable to attempt to track down and bring down.
Three days after the hydra broke out into the wild, a timer appeared on the original site. It was a simple flip clock that showed how long the original site had been down. The timer then changed on as the new year began, to show a countdown to a new
event. This new event, launching at the end of the first month of the new year, was the return of the original site. This resurrection even came with yet another logo change, showing a phoenix instead of their usual pirate ship, to truly show the revival.
So why does this make the internet impossible to regulate? Well, let’s look at some of the lessons learned. First off, taking something down off the internet only seems to make it proliferate. This is actually quite well documented as a phenomenon called the Streisand Effect. Any attempts to regulate or remove any kind of behavior on the internet only seems to exacerbate the problem more so.
Additionally, another lesson learned here is that even if you bring down the original bad actor, it’s only a matter of time until another bad actor appears. Worse yet, the new bad actor will have learned from the mistakes of the original, making catching and stopping them even harder. It is partially due to this mentality, that the group known as Anonymous models themselves after the movie V for Vendetta. The movie itself states it perfectly by stating that beneath the mask, there is more than flesh. That there is an idea, and that ideas are bulletproof.
Join me again in my next piece as I talk about my second example of why truly regulating the internet is a fool’s errand.