I have pointy hats to sell

I’m in the middle of an application I hope to roll out tomorrow if the pieces fall into place. I’m pushing up the publication date to celebrate all the Web 2.0 activity this week (both Yahoo and Google released map APIs today in honor of the Where 2.0 conference. I imagine the MSN folks are burning the midnight oil). However, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my new business: selling tinfoil hats to webloggers.

I already have the ideal domain: Tinfoil Project. Strange name for a photo weblog, but not bad for selling tinfoil hats, eh? And I think the market is ripe for this type of business. I mean, now that the US has become a fascist empire, it’s only a matter of time before The Party, mind-reading ray guns in hand, goes after webloggers who host their sites on US servers.

Consider the recent concerns about Flickr moving its data centers from Canada to the US. A free citizen of Canada, Tris Hussey, writes:

In the States civil liberties are truly a farce and a sham. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and compel Yahoo/Flickr to open up the data doors to them on the basis of “national security” or that a “person of interest” has photos there. They don’t need a warrant. Yahoo/Flickr will not be able by law to inform you that this has happened, going to happen, etc.

And it goes beyond this. Given the right-wing politics of the day, how long will it be before Yahoo is forced to close or restrict the tags “nude” and “erotic”? This would not happen in Canada.

The U.S. has become a country where law enforcement, the people supposed to be protecting our rights, can enter your home, without a warrant or you present, search it, take evidence, close it up, and not reveal this to you. You can be held without charges, access to a lawyer, or outside communications.

I’m sure that Osama Bin Laden will close his Flickr account before the data center move is finished. But just in case he doesn’t, he should be aware that his photos, residing in data centers in California, are subject to arrest by the Department of Homeland Security.

And too bad about Penthouse–those DHS-sanctioned drapes play havoc with the photos. The new Republican Greasemonkey script, which pastes cute little tape X’s over nipples in bare breast photos is kind of cool. However, I don’t know that I agree that Howard Dean’s face looks like a nipple.

Wait! Wait! Who’s that at the door! Oh sure he says pizza man, but how do I know he’s who he says he is? Does he have a digital ID? Where’s his InfoCard?

Sigh, it’s tough to be a blogger in the US.

Damn! That sounds like a song:

My baby done left me
She walked out the door.
She’s leaving the country
Won’t be here any more

Oh I’m just a US Blogger, and I’m feeling so blue.
Yes, I’m just a US Blogger, and don’t know what to do.
The world thinks we’re crap, and the government agrees.
I’m just a US Blogger, a global disease.

Of course, as Ben Hammersley has said, thank goodness the States isn’t the Net.

We don’t need to explain what the internet is, or what the funny “http://” thing at the bottom of the article means. Even the BBC can confidently state “for more on this, go to bbc dot c.o. dot u.k. slash radio four” and not have to explain just what the hell it’s talking about. In less than a decade, this is an incredible change.

But now we need to add a new clause. There’s something missing from sentences that needs to be replaced, lest we all get the wrong idea. That clause is “in the US”.

Almost every story, written in the past few days about the Grokster case have missed this clause out. So, filesharing applications are now liable to new legal contraints. Yes. In the US. Not here. Not in China. Not in India. Not across the majority of the world. The Supreme Court of the United States of America may have made a silly ruling, or it may not, but it did it in the US. Last we checked, their bailiwick doesn’t extend outside of the fifty states.

Tell me something, Ben. You ever tried to wax the floor of an elephant cage? With the elephant still in it?

I mean no disrespect to either Tris or Ben, truly I don’t. We in the States are all too aware of the precarious nature of many of our freedoms. I am ashamed of what we have done in Iraq, and horrified about what we’re doing in Cuba. Within the country, we frisk visitors in our airports, keep brain dead women alive and 13 year olds pregnant, monitor folks who check out certain books, and hassle photographers on bridges. Word has it with the new ruling on the Ten Commandments, some church groups are collecting money to put monuments everywhere. Soon we’ll be neck deep in cheesy, mass produced, ugly as sin monuments to Christianity; monuments, ignored as quickly and completely as Sunday sermons are ignored come Monday.

(Of course, more money on monuments means less money to give to politicians so every dog has his day.)

Our fight to maintain our freedoms, though, is hard enough without having to battle hyperbole on top of it. If it’s too dangerous to move Flickr photo databases to the States, do we now remove all data centers for all technology out of the country? Not just data centers: file sharing applications, too. Of course, as I wrote long time ago, the fact that the software is created in another country doesn’t matter once its effects cross borders. After all, P2P file sharing works by placing files on intermediate machines in response to requests. This means that at any point in time, your box could be hosting who knows what: copyrighted movies, nude pictures, illegally copied music, or the plans for an invasion of Pittsburgh.

What do we do then? Or since we’re talking ‘borders’ here, and I’m just a US blogger– what should you all do? Consider the US damage and route around us? Might be hard to reach Foo Camp, Ben. And Tris: what’s the French Canadian word for ‘Gnomedex’?

If this all were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. At any time, any number of countries will come up with any number of rules and regulations and laws and walls; some might even make sense but knowing governments most will be silly if not downright oppressive. All we can do is do what we’ve always done: the best we can. Yes, even we poor old sods in the States.

We can’t start putting borders on the internet. What impacts one of us, impacts all of us.

(Link to Tris thanks to Suw, thanks to jr. Link to Ben thanks to Julian and Euan.)

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