Options for the Established Order: live with WIkiLeaks, or shut down the Net.

Yesterday, I wrote that the current WikiLeaks row is the defining confrontation between the old political order and the culture of the Net. Up to now, it’s all been about castigating authoritarian bullies like the Chinese regime. But now it’s about ‘liberal’ democracies. Dave Winer is explains it better — as usual.

While the politicians and reporters are getting a fumbling on-the-job education in the architecture of the Internet (an NPR reporter said, hesitatingly, that it appears as if the server is now in Switzerland), the next question is where does the running stop? When does the situation reach equilibrium? What’s the best outcome for the people of the planet?

It seems to me that at the end of this chain is BitTorrent. That when WikiLeaks wants to publish the next archive, they can get their best practice from eztv.it, and have 20 people scattered around the globe at the ends of various big pipes ready to seed it. Once the distribution is underway the only way to shut it down will be to shut down the Internet itself. Politicians should be aware that these are the stakes. They either get used operating in the open, where the people they’re governing are in on everything they do, or they go totalitarian, around the globe, now.

BitTorrenting is already under way. So we’ll see.

En passant: doesn’t Hilary Clinton’s landmark speech on Internet freedom look a bit ironic now? Here’s a sample:

The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something happens in Haiti or Hunan the rest of us learn about it in real time – from real people. And we can respond in real time as well. Americans eager to help in the aftermath of a disaster and the girl trapped in that supermarket are connected in ways that we weren’t a generation ago. That same principle applies to almost all of humanity. As we sit here today, any of you – or any of our children – can take out tools we carry with us every day and transmit this discussion to billions across the world.

In many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.

During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States’ belief in that truth is what brings me here today.