On Boundaries, Part II

I could have sought links on social media companies’ real names policies, polarization of politics, and more, but I’ll stick to these for now.

Foreign Policy: “Global Internet Gumshoes Claim to Have Broken the Super Privacy Tool Tor” (November 2014)

This section of the Internet, reachable only via a Tor browser, is colloquially known as the dark web, and its use of Tor, which stands for “The Onion Router,” preserves the total anonymity of its users. Tor does this by bouncing the Internet connections of its users off a network of servers distributed around the world. By passing a signal through a series of servers, a user’s Internet activity becomes untraceable. It’s a powerful tool for both human rights activists seeking to avoid being traced by an authoritarian regime and for cyber-criminals trying to dodge the NSA and FBI. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has repeatedly cited Tor as one of the main tools to fight back against mass government surveillance.

Now, Western law enforcement agencies claim to have broken the tool. If true, this week’s arrests and takedowns would represent a huge development in efforts to crack down on anonymous corners of the web. “It’s a game changer,” Ulf Bergstrom, a spokesman for the European Union’s legal coordination agency, told the Wall Street Journal. “You’re not anonymous anymore when you’re using Tor.”

MIT Technology Review:Why the World Needs Anonymous” (November 2014)

Anonymous may strike a reader as unique, but its efforts represent just the latest in experimentation with anonymous speech as a conduit for political expression. Anonymous expression has been foundational to our political culture, characterizing monumental declarations like the Federalist Papers, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly granted anonymous speech First Amendment protection.

The actions of this group are also important because anonymity remains important to us all. Universally enforcing disclosure of real identities online would limit the possibilities for whistle-blowing and voicing unpopular beliefs—processes essential to any vibrant democracy. And just as anonymity can engender disruptive and antisocial behavior such as trolling, it can provide a means of pushing back against increased surveillance.


The Atlantic: “A More Psuedonymous Internet” (August 2014)

I believe that elastic selfhood is crucial for people’s personal development, but it’s important for broader innovation, too. We need space to experiment and risk-tolerant environments where people can learn.

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