Freenet – the darknet is coming

Jul 2nd, 20102 Comments

Freenet is free software which lets you anonymously share files, browse and publish “freesites” (web sites accessible only through Freenet) and chat on forums, without fear of censorship. Freenet is decentralised to make it less vulnerable to attack, and if used in “darknet” mode, where users only connect to their friends, is very difficult to detect. Their tag-line goes something like this;

I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry that 10 or 15 years from now, she will come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?’”
Mike Godwin, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Now of course freedom of the press is certainly something Freenet could help with, however it seems to have many other potential applications, many of which are somewhat less benevolent. The ability to distribute copyrighted music, videos, software etc immediately spring to mind.

I think what they’re getting at is people in ‘less free’ countries (I think China is mentioned in the documentation!) can use this software to communicate surreptitiously with the outside world, other free thinkers, freedom fighters and so forth, without landing themselves behind bars or tied to a post.

Maybe what’s less obvious is a similar potential to apply in other countries. (like the UK!). If you wanted to start a revolution for example, in this day and age, surveillance being what it is, trying to organise anything on any sort of scale is almost impossible without detection – unless of course the use of very difficult to detect and trace ‘dark networks’ becomes prevalent.

Not to mention lesser (and dare I say more likely) applications where people are able to publish websites that talk about racism, immigration, religious terrorism, and other politically correct / taboo subjects, without special interest groups threatening to burn one’s house down.

So, Freenet, friend or Foe?

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2 Responses to “Freenet – the darknet is coming”

  1. avatar mark says:

    How long before governments tag it as a “terrorist threat”, and use it as an excuse for tighter control of the interweb?
    What type of encryption are they using, and if strong enough will the US government try using the Arms Export Control Act, or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations again, as they tried with PGP?
    Are these valid arguments?
    It’s certainly going to become a target for MPPA, FAST, et al.

  2. avatar madpenguin says:

    Mmm, they could make it ‘illegal’ , then of course speeding is illegal, but 96% of all UK motorists exceed the stated speed limit more than three times per week .. and of course it tries to be invisible when operating, so it’s going to be hard to detect ..

    If they try to ban it in the UK, or US, or wherever, it’ll just migrate (as other packages have) to regions beyond our (government’s) control. Fortunately / Unfortunately, the Internet is (currently) is physically beyond the control of any government, although some try quite hard, it’s all best efforts rather than absolutes.

    After all, if it were possible to control the web in such a manner, just for kick off Al Queda wouldn’t be able to repeatedly post their anonymous videos .. ;)

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