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Wikileaks Exposes Internet's Dissent Tax, not Nerd Supremacy

Dec 27, 2010, 22:33 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Zeynep Tufekci)

"Jaron Lanier's recent lengthy essay about Wikileaks is not really about Wikileaks; thus, it is unsurprising that he misses the central lesson of this affair. From the beginning, he makes the fundamental conceptual mistake of conflating individual human beings and powerful institutions, like governments and corporations; he then takes off on a dystopic vision of a world dominated by an imagined "nerd supremacist" ethic of complete transparency, collapse of private life, and unrestricted information flow, in which humanity is the slave of the machine.

"Horrifying as this vision is, it simply distracts from the main lessons of the Wikileaks affair: the increasing control of (relatively) unaccountable corporations and states over the key components of the Internet, and their increased willingness to use this control in politicized ways to impose a "dissent tax" on content they find objectionable. Ability to disseminate one's ideas on the Internet is now a sine qua non of inclusion in the global public sphere. However, the Internet is not a true public sphere; it is a public sphere erected on private property, what I have dubbed a "quasi-public sphere," where the property owners can sideline and constrain dissent."

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