Before protestors were successful in toppling the Egyptian government, officials tried to silence them by effectively shutting down the country's Internet. Though the blackout lasted a mere five days, we were all reminded just how much a government can, if it chooses, control that particular means of communication.
Columbia Law professor and free software advocate Eben Moglen wants to do something about that. As The New York Times reported Tuesday, Moglen told a group of software developers recently that current social networks are dangerous in situations like what happened in Egypt, simply because they are so centralized.
But if everyone had a small encrypted server that plugged into the wall and could be loaded with their own information and programs, the story says,
there would be no one place where a repressive government could find out who was publishing or reading "subversive" material.
Moglen said the device would be "the size of a cellphone charger, running on a low-power chip." Running free software, the device becomes a Freedom Box, according to Moglen, presumably because once adoption spreads, these boxes will take away a government's power to quash revolution with nothing more than the flip of a few switches.
To organize the free software that will be available for the servers, Moglen has founded the Freedom Box Foundation. The organization's goal is to raise "slightly north" of half a million dollars. The first Freedom Box should be available a year after that goal is met, Moglen said.