China is reportedly blocking and redirecting queries of Google Blogsearch, Yahoo and other search sites, all to its own Baidu site. While one can see this in political or economic terms, it’s much deeper and sadder than that.
There has long been a trend toward seeing the Net as a plumbing system for “content” all owned and filled public and private entities that can be muscled into selectively valving whatever flows through it — and not as a worldwide “place” with a nature beyond containment by countries or companies. That’s what it was designed to be, but in reality it’s not.
Can we protect the Net as something non-national? I doubt it. It’s been two years since I wrote Saving the Net, and not much has been done. Today in most countries* the Net has little or no legal standing as something other than a “medium” (pipes, that is, like the cable TV and telephone lines that “carry” it into our homes and businesses) for pumping “content”. Worse, lobbying forces anchored in the “pipes & content” conceptual system are more than formidable, especially here in the U.S.
I see little cause for optimism here, beyond whatever spine the search engines and other large sites can muster when doing business with countries like China — and others who share China’s belief that censorship (for whatever reason) is a Good Thing.
* Maybe some of the rest of ya’ll have details here. Bring ’em on.