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Washington Post: Battle of the Internet

“A decade or so ago, libertarians believed their triumph was
inevitable. The Net would empower individuals at the expense of
government and corporate hierarchies: The little guy could
disseminate his views without a publisher or distributor; the
humble activist could download reams of free data, and so debate
government officials on a newly equal footing. Peter Huber, a
celebrated cyberprophet, proclaimed the inversion of George Orwell.
Technology would not empower Big Brother. Rather, it would subvert
him.”

“This argument had a rather Marxian feel to it. Shifts in the
technology of production would force shifts in the superstructure
of ideology, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. In the
revolutionary world to come, digital communes would trump outdated
national boundaries; the state would wither away; the architecture
of the Internet would evolve without top-down direction, and nobody
would own it. Instead, programmers would produce and share the code
of cyberspace under rules resembling the Marxian dictum: From each
according to his abilities, to each according to his needs….”

“Of course, the libertarians have not given up; and within the
urban landscape of the Net there still lurk village-like
communities. The open-code movement, which develops software
cooperatively and free of charge, thrives on the energies of
villagey hackers; their pride and joy, a free operating system
called Linux, is said to work better than Microsoft’s
standard-issue product. The open coders argue that, in cyberspace,
disparate hackers can triumph over urban power centers: They will
crack the encryption that protects corporate Web sites; they will
destroy authoritarian order with anarchic viruses; they will devise
decoys to confuse Carnivore-type eavesdropping programs. Perhaps,
but The Powers That Be are equally determined.”

Complete
Story