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Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets

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Eben Moglen

Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia, is developing the Freedom Box, a personal server that makes data harder to intercept.

Credit: Courtesy of Yana Paskova for The Chronicle

Traction for the free-network movement is growing as activists, scholars, and entrepreneurs pursue efforts to repurpose existing online networks or create parallel networks to fight corporate or governmental repression.

"The Net we have is increasingly monitored, measured, and surveilled everywhere by everybody all the time," notes Columbia Law School professor Eben Moglen. He has built an encryption device designed to function as a personal server that automatically scrambles digital data to make its interception by unauthorized parties more difficult.

Moglen's invention is one of numerous concepts that participants will promote at the Contact Summit in October. Other ideas include the creation of two parallel Internets, one for banks and entertainment giants, and the other for independent artists, civic discourse, and academic research. Meanwhile, the Project Byzantium initiative uses a mesh network approach to construct a homemade Internet that could go online if parts of the global Internet are shut down by a repressive regime.

There also are mesh network efforts to create an "Internet in a suitcase" to be established wherever unrestricted Internet access is needed. The U.S. State Department awarded a $2 million grant to the New America Foundation to build such as network for use by dissidents abroad.

From Chronicle of Higher Education
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