The nature of the Net

The words “community” and “communication” have the same root. Whenever you put a communication network, you put a community as well. And whenever you take away that network –confiscate it, outlaw it, crash it, raise its price beyond affordability — then you hurt that community.

Bruce SterlingThe Hacker Crackdown

Blue Ribbon[Entire text of Telecommunications act of 1996, 391K] [Title Five of the Telecom Act] [EFF Internet Censorship Legislation Archive] [VTW Archive] [CDT archive] [Robert Corn-Revere’s Analysis of the Exon amendment] [Events in the life of the 1995 Communications Decency Act]

This page contains links to sites and organizations that will have an effect on the future development of the Net. It has been divided into three sections:

Social aspects of emerging technology
This is the real cutting edge. These sites contain information on the ramifications the Net will have for our society and how it has, and will, shape it.
Information on legislation that will affect the Net
We’ve come this far without much government intervention, but with the Net’s increasing visibility it is being subjected to ever more legislation. These sites are concerned with informing users of events that concern the Net.
Security and Privacy on the Net
As we use networks to communicate ever more critical information, issues concerning privacy and secure transmission crop up. Here you can find links to sites with encryption software, and others with basic security tips.

The Net is by definition a structure that individualism thrives within, so it should not come as a surprise that different people have different attitudes towards all of these issues. Yet, as with all other things it helps to be well-informed before taking any stand (especially so with an entity that is still in its infancy) and these sites attempt to inform us about the events and issues that concern all users of Computer Networks. In the end the decision to seek out such information rests upon the individual. The Net is somewhat like a tempermental child, we are the ones who will determine (often unknowingly, and with the assistance of forces we cannot completely nderstand) what sort of nature it will have and as residents of a planet that will be changed by the Net we have a interest in the form it will take. I believe there are more than enough people who care about the future of Computer Mediated Communication to make a difference while this future is being determined. We are all moulding this future simply by using this technology, and demonstrating constantly (to both ourselves and those who have not had the opportunity to use the Net) how useful and rewarding it can be. The future as they say, is in our hands. (If this whole paragraph sounds deterministic, it is a result of our cause-effect thinking, and “Because of what came before” is a good answer to the question “Why?”. Chaos theory is frightening.)

It’s instructive to remember how far we’ve come, and how far this technology may take us. In an article entitled As we may think, Vannevar Bush speaks of what we can expect from the rapid advances to be made in technology. The article was published in 1945, and one can only marvel at the unexpected directions progress has taken, while feeling a vague uneasiness when confronted with a presentiment that seems almost visionary. Hesse’s Glass Bead Game may be played by all of us not to far into the distant future.

Social aspects of emerging technology



Further information on legislation affecting the Net

The description of the organizations are in their own words as far as possible.


American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU has been dealing with Civil Liberty issues since 1920. This gopher has a collection of documents describing ACLU’s work, including information about some of the lawsuits they are and have fought on behalf of Net users.
CATO Institute
The non-partisan public-policy research foundation, based in Washington DC. Promoting public policy based on limited government, free markets, individual liberty and peace.
Center for Democracy and Technology
CDT is based in Washington DC and works towards advancing constitutional civil liberties and democratic values in new communication technologies.
Computer Professionals for Social responsibility
Pages developed by people concerned with the effects of computers on society.
Cyberwire Dispatch
News related to Cyberspace, collected and presented by the fiesty Brock N. Meeks.
Electronic Frontier Canada
Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC) was founded to ensure that the principles embodied in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are protected as new computing, communications, and information technologies are introduced into Canadian societyi.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The organization founded by Mitchell D. Kapor and John Perry Barlow to evaluate the social impacts of emerging networking technology.
League for Programming Freedom
LPF works towards preventing the establishment of monopolies in software development.
Privacy International
As the name suggests this is an International organization that deals with issues related to privacy. Privacy International is especially concerned with the ways in which emerging technologies can be used to inavade individual privacy. Their Washington office is called the Electronic Privacy Information Center
Student Association for Freedom of Expression
SAFE is a group at MIT that is involved with issues pertaining to free speech, especially as they apply to academia. They have a lot of material and reports at their site.
THOMAS:Legislative Information on the Internet
These are the text archives of the US Congress provided through the Library of Congress.
Voter’s Telecommunication Watch
VTW is a volunteer organization, concentrating on legislation as it relates to telecommunications and civil liberties.


Security and privacy on the Net


Announcements and Information related to security

Encryption software

” The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”

–John Gilmore