Regulating the Internet

Regulating the Internet

David T. A. Wesley (Northeastern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch026
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Established U.S. law has long held that computer code is a language, like any other language, and is therefore subject to same free speech protections afforded other forms of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Computer code also protects free speech through cryptography that enables protected communication between two or more parties. This article will consider the legal history of computer code as free speech and how it can be used to promote other forms of free speech through cryptography and secure communications. It will further argue that the deep web and dark web are direct results of these precedents, and while they can be abused by cybercriminals and malicious state actors, they are also indispensable in promoting free speech and human rights.
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The telegraph was one of the first uses of technology to communicate information. In the early 20th century, the language of automatic telegraph operators in many ways resembled computer code. For example, when a telegraph operator would send a message, the message was encoded with special terms – dux for duplex, mux for multiplex, gm for good morning, etc. With the advent of the automatic telegraph, words such as printers, machines, and bugs took on new meaning. A bug, for example, was an electrical disturbance that could cause the signal to drop out momentarily or even cause the system to hang (Brackbill, 1929).

Similarly, the first computer engineers created unique computer codes that later developed into their own languages. In the 1950s, as computers became more complex, engineers began to recognize the problem of making this increasingly complex machine language intelligible. Brownson (1953) wrote, “In communicating with each other, we seek to communicate concepts; in defining terms for manipulation by computers, man will have to find out exactly what he believes and make coherent and integrated sense of it.”

Bar-Hillel (1953), a pioneer in machine translation, saw this as “a real challenge for structural linguists,” but he also believed that it would only be a matter of time before machines acquired a “semantic organ.” “One of the decisive steps in certain methods of machine translation is the determination of the syntactic structure of any given sentence in the source-language (i.e., the language from which we translate) to a required degree of explicitness.” As a result, computers that “were originally designed to solve certain mathematical problems… might well be recombined to yield similar results in noncomputational fields” (Bar-Hillel & Bar-Hillel, 1951).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Blockchain: An encrypted ledger that protects transaction data from modification.

Deep Web: Internet sites that are not indexed by mainstream search engines. It can include password protected networks, such as corporate networks, email, and subscription only newspapers.

Clearnet: Mainstream websites that are indexed by popular search engines, like Yandex, Google, and Bing.

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation is a European regulation that governs the protection of data and right to privacy of European citizens and residents.

TOR: The Onion Router is an Internet protocol that a uses multiple encrypted relays to protect user anonymity.

The TOR Browser: An Internet browser that is specially designed to use TOR to access both dark web and clearnet sites.

Virtual private network (VPN): A remote server that creates an encrypted connection between the client and server to protect access.

Dark Web: A part of the deep web that uses hidden services to promote anonymity and prevent unauthorized access.

Onion: A hidden Internet domain that disguises a site’s true Internet (IP) address. Onion domains are accessed using TOR, usually through a specially designed Internet browser.

Encryption: A form of cryptography that protects data from being viewed without a decryption key.

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