The Duty of the Internet

IStock_000002499985XSmallI was struck this morning by the juxtaposition of two very important stories having to do with the Internet’s role in the world.  Specifically, its role in promoting transparency and freedom of information.

The first story came out in the NYTIMES this morning.  In an article entitled, “In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly,” reporter Brad Stone writes:

“Sophisticated Internet users have banded together … to publish and widely distribute a secret code used by the technology and movie industries to prevent piracy of high-definition movies.

“…its relentless spread has already become a lesson in mob power on the Internet and the futility of censorship in the digital world.”

The code, by the way, is: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0.  Lookit me, I’m a revolutionary!  (Need a mnemonic?  Stone pointed to this song, posted to YouTube.  Not exactly Edwin Starr’s “War,” but still a modern-day classic song of resistance.)

Now compare this “let freedom ring” story to this one, in WIRED:  “Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death.”  The article points to Army Regulation 530–1: Operations Security (OPSEC), which puts strict rules in place for all electronic communications – it could even extend to private email.  Still, it’s blogging that is already getting hit hard:

“…with the regulations drawn so tightly, ‘many commanders will feel like they have no choice but to forbid their soldiers from blogging — or even using e-mail,’ said Jeff Nuding, who won the bronze star for his service in Iraq. ‘If I’m a commander, and think that any slip-up gets me screwed, I’m making it easy: No blogs,’ added Nuding, writer of the ‘pro-victory’ Dadmanly site. ‘I think this means the end of my blogging.’

“Active-duty troops aren’t the only ones affected by the new guidelines. Civilians working for the military, Army contractors — even soldiers’ families — are all subject to the directive as well.”

There is a historical precedent for this (as WIRED also notes): “Troops’ mail was read and censored throughout World War II.”  Still, in this age of rampant electronic communications, amplified by umpteen upload options and anonymizer protocols, I’d like to think that the soldiers’ true, unvarnished voices can find a way through the meshwork of harsh new regulations. 

It’s a lot more important to us – as a country, as global citizens – to hear the voices of our warriors on the frontlines than it is to burn an advance copy of a warrior movie like 300

I wonder if the code wizards who unlocked the 32–characters of the piracy code could band together again, this time to find a way to guarantee the anonymity of our soldier bloggers?

Let freedom ring.

Posted on: May 3, 2007 at 10:17 am By Todd Defren
3 Responses to “The Duty of the Internet”


  • First off, as to “futility of censorship”… IT’S SOMEONE ELSE’S FUCKING PROPERTY! The futility is in the now apparent failure to lock one’s door to the horde of marauding geek looters. And then you post it too Todd. WTF! I hope every general counsel of every client you represent reads that. I’d have you fired first thing Monday morning.

    As to “revolutionary”… that’s a total mockery of the word. The American Revolution was a fight for representative government and to own private property. It was NOT about mob rule, trespass, theft and anarchy.

    THEN, to some how relate that to the Army controlling the battle environment. Again, WTF! To say that the Army could extend restriction on communications even to private email, is to not understand the military.
    There is no private anything when you’re in the Army. YOU’RE A SOLDIER!

    And to end with ML’s “Let Freedom Ring!”… WTF Todd!!!

    Truly, this is your worse post ever. You first sided with a concept completely antithetical to what you do for a living; you then take a dog leg left and demonstrate a completely naïve understanding of what war is all about; and then you rob from a cultural icon to put a bow on it.

    This is the very stuff that makes PR embarrassing.

    - Amanda

  • Tom Biro says:

    Now I obviously don’t know the ramifications of these devices in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we started to see the proliferation of mobile devices being used, after being registered by third parties, in order to blog in that fashion. Just a thought.

  • Great post, Todd. Can only agree … the freer the flow, the more freedom we know!

    Posted a link today to Shel Israel’s post urging support for re-introduced Federal Shield Law, a much-needed protection of free flow of information in the the traditional journalism realm.

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