Freedom. It’s nice, right? It ought to be… the freedom we enjoy was paid for with the blood of our forefathers, and is maintained by the blood of our siblings. And no freedom is more precious than that of speech. From it all other freedom flows.
Unfortunately there are still many oppressive regimes that do not offer the luxury of free speech, and people are being tortured and killed for speaking out against injustice. (As I’ve often noted.) This is why I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and provide financial support for the Freenet Project.
Freenet is free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. To achieve this freedom, the network is entirely decentralized and publishers and consumers of information are anonymous. Without anonymity there can never be true freedom of speech, and without decentralization the network will be vulnerable to attack.
One prominent feature of the current Freenet Project is that in order to join the network you must enter through someone you trust, or at least someone you know. This is called “Darknet” and it ensures that the people you are connecting to aren’t the very people you’re afraid of. In some places merely using Freenet can land you in jail… or worse.
The one drawback is that it can be a little difficult to get connected (which is not so bad when your life depends on it). For this reason, the project is being expanded to include a feature whereby users, at their sole discretion, can opt to let Freenet find neighbors for them. This will be called “opennet” and will trade some security for convienence in order to allow more people to participate.
Time Magazine had the following to say in 2000:
The implications are profound. Dissidents in totalitarian states could use Freenet to post samizdat that once had to be cautiously hand-circulated. Whistle-blowers could safely bring smoking-gun documents to light.
But Freenet could also be put to less high-minded use. Critics say it will be a boon to drug dealers, terrorists and child pornographers. And it poses a new threat to intellectual-property rights. With Napster, at least there’s a company to sue and a way to trace individuals who have downloaded CDs. If Freenet catches on, it may be impossible to find anyone to punish.
Rationale for Support
More than a decade ago when I founded HTMLHelp.com I had a vision of the Internet as the “great equalizer”. I believed that it would free us from the content filtering imposed by mega-media companies and governments. It turns out this has been true for most of us – but not all.
I view supporting the Freenet Project as a logical extension of that original dream, this time to include people who were previously unable to freely participate.
After careful discussions with my friend Ian Clarke, and as a demonstration of my support for this project, I have awarded Freenet $10,000 towards advancing the software to it’s next release. Additionally, advertising revenues from One Man’s Blog for the remainder of 2007 will be donated to the Freenet Project.
I’m not doing it for the tax benefit, but to draw attention to a cause that is very much in need, and worthy, of support. As an example, see the Freenet China news page which subverts the governments attempts at censorship.
I would encourage you to provide financial support to the project as well. Freenet serves as a modern day equivalent of the Underground Railroad, and this is your opportunity to help procure freedom for those who can’t help themselves. Please, donate whatever you can to this 503c non-profit organization. Even $5-$10 helps considerably.
From the Founder
Here is a video of Freenet founder Ian Clarke delivering a lecture about the project. It gives an overview and discusses the challenges of free expression that people face:
Try it Out
If you are interested in actually trying out Freenet, first download it here, then read the Wiki about how to get it running. If I know you personally, or you are a prominent netizen that I can research thoroughly, you may send me a request and I’ll serve as your entree into the Freenet.
Please note, some people are having a hard time connecting to the Freenet. The funding which I’m providing (and hopefully YOU) is being put to use specifically to solve this problem and to enable even more people to gain access to freedom of speech.