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Newsbyteblog: the blog of newsbyte regarding all things IT, free speech, copyright and patents and other things deemed interesting.

Monday, June 06, 2005


As promised, I thought it was time for some feedback for those that responded. I'll go top to bottom:

Fingerprinting in cyberspace

Anonymous1: Well, yes and no. Not OS-wise, low level or not. But you could 'spoof' the time-stamp, if you dynamically and randomly reset your computers' clock every time you send something out (or at least, frequently do so). This is within the realm of the possible, but not all that convenient to do, and none of the anonymous P2P systems I know of use this or even try. Basically, you wouldn't get rid of the time-skew, but you would make it impossible to reliable determine that it came from your computer, and thus they wouldn't be able to uniquely indentify you(r box).

Nextgen: The uniquely identifying characteristics of the clock-skew is independent of the CPU usage. However, I have spoken with Toad (coder of freenet) about this and he sees this as no threat to anonimity in regard to Freenet. If the nodes don't rely the request as a router, but act as if the requests come from their box, then obviously, the timestamp/clock-skew will be of that particular node that last send the request (which is analysed by RIAA/etc.). In that case, it doesn't, indeed, interfere with the "reasonable deniability" claim one can make, because one can still claim that, while it's your timestamp/clock-skew, the originating request does not come from you. Much as is the case with the IP itself, thus.

The way Freenet goes wrong

chiraz: well, thanks for the compliment. :-) Though I'm as much being viled for my remarks as praised, frankly. Usually, by those that don't like my comments, I'm readily depicted as a troll. Ah well, it's all in the eye of the beholder, I guess, but it won't stop me from pointing out things that *I* think are important issues. This can be a bit less then diplomatic, but on the other hand, I always try to give rational arguments for what I say or claim, and I try to be consistent and not fall into ad hominem attacks. Things true trolls (or even many slasdotters) have difficulties with, sometimes.

As for your questions; the 'publishing' indexes are the best you can get to search Freenet, because, as I said, a true search-engine in google-like style is not implemented, and suggestions I made in this regard have been dismissed. Yet, I still think this is one of the huge drawbacks of Freenet. (Though the major one being that it is very slow and unresponsive, which the new version may or may not improve on). I think Toad already knows about zero-knowledge, but since it's closed source (I believe), and the system is quite different, I don't think he or Ian are inclined to use much from it. In fact, I2P is much more usefull in this respect, and even there they hardly use any ideas, let alone code, from it.

It should be noted that 'absolute anonimity' does not exist, and even the Freenetcoders themselves acknowledge this, as can be seen on 'attacks and weaknesses' on www.freenethelp.org. So, it revolves around the level of anonimity, indeed. However, I must say that the stronger the anonymity is, the better - in all cases - if everything else remains the same, ofcourse. Ofcourse, that's nice in principle, but in a practical sense, you always have an inherent trade-off, which often translates in anonymity versus speed/etc. I would think that, depending on the cause, most people would rather have speed then anonimity as a general rule - however, when the RIAA steps up its legal attacks, for instance, the level of anonimity reqiuired could well augment too. So it really depends on how much one is prepared to sacrifice ease-of-use or speed, versus the ability to remain anonymous, which, in turn, is dependent on what a user is prepared to do for additional safety and on external factors.

All by all, I would say that once a system is difficult enough to 'get into' for the RIAA that it's not worth the trouble anymore, then you are probably safe enough with non-military strength anonymous systems. In fact, very lightly encrypted systems could do the trick, if you remain with social P2P networks ('friends only'). the difficulty there would not be the level of anonimity of the system itself for the RIAA, but rather the difficulty of finding P2P based small social networks, getting into that network, and actually prosecuting persons (since in most countries, sharing among friends is legally allowed in some instances). Clearly, the **AA would not find the trouble worthwile to try to infiltrate such small networks (even if they could), just for the insure possibility of sueing a very small group of people. (There are also drawbacks ofcourse, such as a comparitavily limited amount of data on the network).

But, extremely strong anonymous P2P systems are not really necessary, for RIAA purposes only, I would say. However, states, agencies and some other companies have much more to lose/gain, and often much more power and willingness to pursue individuals. the classical example of the chinese dissident comes into mind, but also whistleblowers in Western countries, which often are threatened, sued or forbidden to bring their embarrassing revalations into the public. clearly, there, you need a very strong level of anonymity, because a weak one will be broken and thus only delude someone into thinking he is safe. For those kind of people I think it is imperative that they have true, strong anonymity. The 'acceptable level' there obviously needs to be a lot higher then for joe doe that wants to download an mp3.

Eric: Glad to hear you recognise the feeling. Sometimes, I have the impression Ian acts as if I'm the only one - some lone whiner - that has any critique on Freenet, but obviously this is false, and here as well as in private email, I have had a lot of responses showing that mpany people have the same complaints about the project. The sooner he realises that, the sooner he might coime to the insight that maybe what all those people say DOES, in fact, have a basis, and something should be done. (Fat chance, I know ;-)

That said, I still think Freenet, on itself, is a cool project, at least in principle. I never heard of Kenosis, frankly. I had a look, and it seems interesting, albeit in an embryonic sate...and I'm also not sure how active development actually is (?). Anyway, I have had similar offers in the past from MUTE and a lot of others, but I must say I'm already busy enough with Freenet and I2P, and I'mnot looking for yet a third anonimity project at this time. If the new version of Freenet turns out to be, once again, useless, however, I might decide to quit my involvement with the project completely, and look for another project. I'll keep Kenosis in mind, and I'll have a look now and then, rest assured. :-)

Anonymous2: Ah well, yes, some can be pretty rude. I never understood that attitude, because, at the end, it are your own users/contributors you arte chasing away. Unless, ofcourse, you consider all non-coders as nuisances, and not as contributors, as Ian often has the tendency to do.

Anonymous3: Indeed, a monumental difference!! Ermm...well, a difference, anyway ;-). As a non-native english speaker, I must say I have huge difficulties with some things, and this is one of them. I never can say whether it should be then or than, and, in fact, the question almost never comes up. I sorta automatically assume and use then in almost all instances. It really is an automatism; being wrongly yet utterly convinced it's written correctly. I'll try to pay attention to it, but seen the fact it's an automatism, it's actually harder to do so then with english words that I doubt. (In fact, my latest slashdot-article (about cosmos 1) shows the same error, as other pedantic nerds have friendly pointed out ;-).

Anonymous4: well, I would swich the 'church' and 'experiments' around. ;-) Actually, I think Toad does his best, and maybe even Ian has good intentions, but both have the tendency to rigidly do what they were already planning to do, *whatever* others may say. Add bad management and a big ego in the case of Ian, and you already know why many of his projects, while interesting, never seem to work properly. But please keep giving money, whetever anonymous sytem you prefer! the concept as a whole is really important and necessary to implement (and will become more so in the future, I fear).

Freedom of speech, the paradigm

Anonymous5: Thanks for the "Fire in a crowded theater"-pointer. You make very good points, and, with your quotes, describe exatly what I wanted to convey. Indeed, it hits the nail exactly, and I feel a bit of despair, sometimes, when I try to convey those basic thoughts and principles of free speech to my friends, most of whome are earopeans, and have that strange tendency of free-speech ambiguity. In my vision, free speech CAN be absolute, as long as you define free speech adequatly. If the main goal is conveying thoughts, ideas and concepts to another person, with the presemtion of a possibility to mutual communication (debate, thus), then all should be allowed, indeed. If the main goal is something else, like creating panic in a theatre, or hurting someone (even when only with slander) one could make a case that it isn't a matter of free speech at all. Revionistic books clearly convey an idea, thought or concept (wrongly as it may be), and it is possible to write rebutals in response, so...

However, I doubt the tendency in europa is going to improve, in this respect. Halo1 once claimed that my theory of the 'slipping slope' was not correct; that people would not broaden the 'racism' card to stiffle more free speech. Alas, this turns out to be untrue: many EU countries continue to impose immer stringent laws that stiffle free speech more and more. It used to be that 'racist speech' was forbidden. Then revionistic books about jews were forbidden, even though most of those books weren't racist (at least not openly). Now, some countries have gone even further, like in belgium, where they made a law that ANY book that 'minimised' any 'genocide' was to be forbidden. Where the belgian judges were to decide what was to be considered minimising the violence, deciding what constitutes and count as genocide and what not, etc. Thus, soon, one could get sued for whatever one writes about whatever attrocity commited by whatever ethnic group, if it is deemed that you do not adequately describe the gravity of it.

Now, whatever moral objections one may have, and I certainly abhor human suffering and violence as much as the next person, I'd rather have the truth, then some emotionally inspired self-righteous moral pressure that the state deems it should impose on (the free speech of) people. Luckily, that belgian law was SO absurd and untaniable vague, I heard they were going to amend it. But whatver comes out, it will still suck, nevertheless.

Ofcourse, not only europeans can be so ambigious towards free speech. Even free-speech proponents in the USA, like Ian, have dificulties with it. (Ok, he has come back to europe, so technically, he's no longer a USA dude, but still...) You are either for free speech, or not. Yet, some people, like Ian, have a distrubingly hypocrite way in looking at free speech. This became apperent in one of the latest discussions I had on his blog - which he, ofcourse, censored afterwards by deleting it:

Well, tastes differ, aparently, so I can't say it's the best I ever heard,
but it's not bad at all, true.

BTW, it is '...who do you want to be with ?'

Without doubt, of all your projects, this Indy stuff is the best you (and/or your bro) have ever made. At least in the actual-working-good departement.
(I'll refrain from saying why, because otherwise this will get deleted again. You see? Censorship works! ;-)

#1 Newsbyte on 2005-05-15 11:08 (Reply)
If you want freedom of speech, you are welcome to start your own blog. Otherwise, I'm afraid you are a guest here, and I reserve the right to delete any comment where you appear to forget that.

#1.1 Ian Clarke on 2005-05-15 11:38 (Reply)
Well, I didn't say you don't have the right (and even when I would, the point would be rather moot, in a pragmatical sense). Obviously, I can't really do anything about it.
But nevertheless, seen your projects (like freenet), which completely revolve around free speech, and which you defend with free-speech arguments, it rather seems weird that you would have such high regards for free speech, but not on your blog.

You can call persons who make comments as being 'guests', but the fact is, your blog is publically accessible, and since you ask for comments, one could as easily regard them as contributors to your blog. Regardless, either way it does not imply that one can't give criticism (at least, that's my viewpoint, maybe you think 'guests' or contributors should only speak positively?).

If it were spam or the like, one would have an argument for deleting it. I think even you have to agree, however, that none of my posts were spam. Mostly, they were bugreports about Indy, but those where I mentionned that Indy works far better then any of your other projects - at least in my opinion - got deleted. Apart from the question about you having the capability of deleting those comments, does that strike you as being right or fair, in particular?

I'll leave the answer up to you.

If you are openminded, I'm willing to argument WHY Indy is working-wise, far better then any of your other projects thusfar - even though, as concepts, they are all pretty interesting (and I've tried all of them out, btw), with factual examples. But ofcourse, if you deem that criticism does not constitute a contribution, and herefor I'm not a contributor to the blog or the projects but merely a 'guest', and guests should never give criticism - well. obviously you're right about deleting comments you don't like, then.

#1.1.1 Newsbyte on 2005-05-15 13:19 (Reply)
You have a rather warped view of freedom of speech if you think it makes it somehow immoral for me to edit my blog as I see fit. If you don't like the fact that I remove your flamebait comments, then set up your own damn blog, but please don't whine to me about freedom of speech. It is rather pathetic to compare yourself to people who are really denied their freedom of speech.

You can say what you want on your own blog or in other forums, but I am under no obligation to allow my blog to be your soapbox.
Just so we are clear, on the whole I am not interested in your views, and I am not alone in this. If you weren't so arrogant you might perhaps think about why you are the only person on the Freenet mailing lists that I have blacklisted.

Of course, based on past experience I am sure you will find a way to blame others for this, rather than looking at your own behaviour.

If you want a forum in which you can express your views, set up your own blog, but please don't expect me to provide you with a soapbox.

# Ian Clarke on 2005-05-15 14:43 (Reply)
"You have a rather warped view of freedom of speech if you think it makes it somehow immoral for me to edit my blog as I see fit."

Immoral? Where did I claim that? "Weird" is what I said, and that would possibly be hypocritical in a worst case scenario. You are very easy in calling posts flamebait, calling people pathetic, or giving lectures on behavioural attitudes - while not implementing them for your own.

All this has nothing do do with deleting comments that you dislike. The question rather is; where those comments correct or not. I'm willing to argument and show why they are, with actual examples (and I'm not talking about Freenet only, but also about dijer). If they were right, then it is not fair to shrug it of as 'flamebaits', and if you're not interested in any proof, at least you should acknowledge that.

While you can say a lot about me (which you do), at least I'm integer in what I say; that's why I retracted the post in which I said there wasn't a changelog for build 12. If it was only 'flamebait' like you call it, I would hardly have done that, now would I?

"You can say what you want on your own blog or in other forums, but I am under no obligation to allow my blog to be your soapbox."

This was not the point. I already said in my first paragraph that no one could force you into obliging to do anything, on your own blog. So you are argumenting something I didn't even contest. What I AM saying is, that claiming to be a stauch supporter of free speech, and at the same time censoring (by deleting) posts because you don't like them, is contradictory.

Do you have a right to delete them? No doubt. Can I create my own blog? No doubt. It doesn't change anything to the central point of being contradictory in regard to the pro-free-speech yet censoring comments you don't like, however.

"Just so we are clear, on the whole I am not interested in your views, and I
am not alone in this."

So you keep saying. But even if you're not interested in them, if you are truelly for free speech, you could not read them, instead of deleting it. Are you obliged to do that? Certainly not, but at least you would be more consistent with you free-speech stance.

"If you werent so arrogant you might perhaps think about why you are the only person on the Freenet mailing lists that I have blacklisted."

Frankly, this says more about you then about me.

"Of course, based on past experience I am sure you will find a way to blame others for this, rather than looking at your own behaviour."

Idem dito. You have nothing but avoided looking at your own behaviour, and blaming it on me. At least I'm openminded enough to let persons convey their thoughts, even with you. So, YOU blacklisted me, YOU cut of the emailaddy without prior warning, YOU delete posts because you don't like them. And it is all my fault, because poor you are just forced to do all those things.
Yeah, right.

I didn't do any of those things with you or your posts, and I wouldn't even if I could. Is this, because I think you are less arrogant then you find me? I doubt it. It's because, I too, am for free-speech, but at least I try to be consistent in it.

But hey, in your view I'm only flamebaiting again, and I'm all blaming it on others again, right? It's SO easy to dismiss anothers' viewpoint by resorting to blanket statements then by giving arguments, isn't it?

"If you want a forum in which you can express your views, set up your own blog, but please dont expect me to provide you with a soapbox."

Want? I expect a forum in which a person can give criticism certainly when comments are asked and the maintainer of the blog is someone who claims to be all for free speech, and even has a project dedicated to it.

And mind you, the major part of my posts were bugreports, which, aparently, you don't are particulary interested in, dixit yourself. And the fact that I say that Indy is the best project yet, compared to the others you made thusfar, in a good-working sense, you deem to be 'abuse of a guest' and 'flamebait'. Well, couldn't it be siply true? Or does your own bias towards me make my posts 'uninteresting' and 'flamebait' (even when containing bugreports), whether they are valid comments or not?

It seems clear the expectation about being allowed to make critical comments was unwarranted, but it does make it a valid point that you are being inconsistent, and at least you should acknowledge, then, that you only want positive comments.

I mean, c'mon: are you truelly, really of the opinion it is fair and integer to say in one post that all "feedback has been incredibly positive", while at the same time, you delete posts that are less positive? If you don't think there is something hypocritical about that, then, indeed, we seem to miss any common ground to have a rational discussion about the subject.

Now, of course I know Ian won't lay awake at night because of what I say - and frankly, I'm not laying awake of his comments neither - but, despite that, I find myself having difficulties accepting any form of hypocrisy, and, however one wants to turn it, Ian IS being hypocrite here. He claims he is not interested in what I say, yet, he corrects his blogentry accordingly when I point out an error. I mean, if one truely thinks I'm saying nothing worthwhile, then why change something that I point out? But all this is BS, because we both know my comments were not spam or the like; it clearly fell within the area of free speech. Since he claims he is a proponent of free speech (he actually created and manages a free speech P2P system after all, which he strongly defends with free-speech arguments), one would assume this is true as a matter of principle, and not merely a matter of convenience to get Freenet of the hook. So, if he really means it, and he is for free speech, then he should show that in exactly those areas where the free speech is dependent of him...like on his own blog.

Strange, then, that he defends his deletions and 'clean ups' with the argument that he's the boss on his blog, and he has the right to do it. Well, duh! What has 'right' got to do with it? Ofcourse he has the right! Might makes right, after all. And yes, he's the boss on his blog, which is why it is the more puzzling that he does not allow free speech on his own blog. His counterarguments about me not being a chinese dissident misses the point completely: you don't have to be chinese, nor a dissident, before one can use (or censor) free speech. From the moment you censor someone, then you are limiting his free speech, period. And yes, I can have free speech on another forum or my own blog, and maybe a chinese dissident can have free speech in solitary incarceration in his cell, but it's not about what the alternatives are, it's about the fact of being censored or not. THAT defines censorship and thus, free speech. Whether or not I can say it 'elsewhere', does not mean he's not limiting free speech on his own blog, even while claiming to be for free speech; hence the apparent contradiction between his claimed principles and his actions.

Thus, certainly, Ian has the right and the capability of censoring me on his blog...but it IS censoring. He should at least acknowledge that. And, what's more, once one agrees that he censors, on his own blog - where he has the power to do so or not - then one can not come to another conclusion that he's being hypocritical: claiming to be for free speech, yet censoring it himself, even when he has the option to act according to his own (claimed) free speech principles.

Sometimes, I doubt people will move forward in this respect, ever. But then I read some stuff, like you wrote, and I realise there are others who actually 'get it' what free speech actually stands for. :-)


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