Monday, December 06, 2010

Routing around censorship

Since Wikileaks started dumping America's diplomatic dirt, it has been subjected to an increasing number of attacks, both legal and illegal. Its servers have been taken down by DDOS attacks by "patriotic" hackers, and then its domain has been taken offline after being dropped by its (American) DNS provider. Those behind these attacks are obviously hoping that it would result in the suppression of Wikileaks and the information it is hosting. They couldn't be more wrong. Instead, it has had the usual effect, spawning a horde of mirrors. So now instead of the leaked material being in one place, its everywhere, and circulating peer-to-peer as well.

Its a classic example of the Streisand Effect. The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it; attempts to suppress information instead help it to spread further. Even if the US does something catastrophic, and starts drone-bombing servers, the leaked data is already circulating as a torrent and has been downloaded thousands of times; all Wikileaks has to do is tweet a 256-bit key (about 32 characters of text), and it all goes public, without their redactions to limit the names of US sources who might be in danger.

This information - or anything else people choose to leak - cannot be suppressed. Those in power will just have to learn to live with a more transparent world. And if they can't, we're better off without them.