Open Ballot: Is the internet dead?


The NSA, GCHQ, Frenchelon and their counterparts in other countries are spying on every detail of our online lives. Even the once-private lands of Tor are no longer safe. Here in the UK, David Cameron wants our ISPs to start filtering our web content to protect our innocent minds.

The internet once stood as a haven for free speech, but it increasingly seems like it's being taken over by marketing companies and governments. Our question to you this week is: Has this killed the spirit of the internet?

Can it ever regain the heady sense of freedom it once held (Should it?), or are we doomed to browse a soulless shell of a network for the rest of our lives?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments and we'll read them out on our up coming podcast.

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Your comments

The internet is too big to die (famous last words!)

I think that the internet has reached an important point in it's development, where people will take stock of the fast-paced changes that have happened so far and readjust their expectations and use, but the internet is certainly not dead.

What I think will happen is that there will be a larger amount of turmoil for a while, and things will settle - and the result will be a more robust, fairer system than it is now.

Things will be different, but the internet will have grown up a little.

PRISM break!

Not yet, but we need to fight:

Encrypt as much as possible. Use software and services recommended on Even if we can't stop the NSA et al trying to monitor us now, let's make it as difficult as possible.

Most importantly, educate people who use the old "I'm innocent, so why should I worry?" argument. Show them examples of abuse from history.

Whenever you meet anyone from a political party that supports this, ask them why the government can monitor everything the people do, but the people can't monitor everything that goes on inside the government.

Not dead, just changing

I don't think the Internet as a "thing" is dead, I think it is just becoming something closer to how we see our electricity, gas, roads & rail. It's no longer new and exciting, but it is necessary. We can look forward to ever tighter regulation and more expectation that we are always being watched.

The question is what will we find next that is new and exciting? I fear it may be that we seek out solitude in places where GCHQ Kinect devices are not installed, to play offline games like Trivial Pursuit (complete with banned facts about Fracking and Trade Unions) with our forbidden friends.

No, not optimistic.



Looks like

Looks like we're have to go back to notes in forked sticks.


The “net” is dying. Governments cannot tolerate freedom. Absolute control and subjugation is what they want. And marketers? Human evil of the vilest sort.

from my refuge in the Amazon

If there is as much unpleasant material on the internet as newspaper articles would have us believe, then it seems only right that governments should seek to clamp down, it seems to me more a question of establishing what is and isn't legal..freedom to express your ideas is one thing, freedom to promote hatred in the minds of those of limited intelligence is quite another


Yes for sure !


On an unrelated note, could someone tell me why my post (at 11:15am) is the only one with an advert in it? I don't think it is something I did...?

RE: Ads?

It always goes in the third comment down. Feel free to abuse this knowledge if you get the chance to create the third comment on any upcoming posts.


I think facebook, twitter et al. were killing the internet (providing us with walled gardens in which to play where we could forget about silly ideas like making stuff for ourselves).

This surveillance stuff has, if anything, reinvigorated a desire to return to something more decentralised, home-grown, democratised, I think.

And whatever 'they' try to do do lock us down, well, 'we' have better hackers and a shitload more of them. We'll find away around.

*try to do to, *a way

Really should proofread, sorry.

Anonymous Penguin

Not dead for it never was alive.

But no more "Anonymous Penguin" unless we have more widely available and easy to use encrypted communication tools.

We've become overly complacent

I see two major threats to the internet and, because of the large role the internet plays in our private lives, or general right to privacy and free speech.
One is that so many fail to see the dangers in allowing this increase in surveillance. Just one of the recent revelations should have been more than sufficient to incite a bloody uprising of the masses. But many seem to have a naive trust in our intelligence agencies and governments despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and simply don't care or appreciate the magnitude of how much we're losing right now and how hard it will be to reclaim it.
The other is that a majority of us have gotten complacent. You could argue that it's not the responsibility of the government not to unjustly spy on us, but rather our responsibility to make that as difficult as possible. With a large selection of tools readily available, and more and more being released every they as a result of a constant stream of disgusting revelations, it's difficult to understand why everyone is not already jumping behind their encrypted VPNs and encrypting their communications.
We will see a giant push against the atrocities currently being commited against us, but I'm unclear as to how this will take form. It's likely it will take many forms. It will be interesting to see.


Big brother is here to stay.

The most ironic is that it was not imposed. It is us that joint, by free will, the system (facebook, google, ...) and love it.

So, if we want it and we love it, we have what we deserve.


It all depends on how people see it as. Who knows how long had NSA or PRISM existed. Everything is a conspiracy, never trust anyone, trust no one but yourself (and of course the awesome people at Linux Format!) and use TOR!
PS We still miss you Mike (or maybe it's just me....?)

Big brain

I wonder if anyone's considered the fact that the internet is a two way street? We have to remember that it was never initially designed to be secure, for the record. If I'm wrong, please feel free to correct many. Anyhow, everyone (and everything) that monitors the internet, can be monitored too.

no, yes, sort of, maybe...

The internet isn't dead.

Our freedom to use it privately is dying by inches though.

It's like all good things... sooner or later someone will cover it with red tape and charge us for the privilege. Just look at the music industry. Soulless corporate shell that churns out boy bands and Justin Bieber.

I hope the internet will not turn into a Simon Cowell subsidiary wannabee.


As Unix/Linux users we must do what we do best: adapt/modify/fork.

They read emails - we encrypt.
They read the encryption - we make better encryption.
They take the Information Highway - we tunnel.
One step ahead.
Adapt Mr Anderson. Become Neo.

Agent Smith: You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson...

Neo: My name... is Neo.

Twas ever so

My first experience of the online experience was CompuServe. CompuServe 'owned' the internet. Nowadays the internet experience is controlled by Google and Apple, and the Government is taking a closer and closer interest. So have things ever really changed?


Wasn't it Graham who said on the TuxRadar Podcast (I'd like know when, so I could make a ring tone...):

"The internet is rubbish!"


Wasn't it Graham who said on the TuxRadar Podcast (I'd like know when, so I could make a ring tone...):

"The internet is rubbish!"

Bulletin Board Services

We need some new technology that works similar to BBS's. Decentralised and more private and I can be at home again with PCBoard and ANSI graphics :D

It better not be!

A complete expiry of the internet is unthinkable.

I'd have to start spending more time with my wife.

There's always fishing, I suppose.


catching up

The internet isn't dead, were just catching up with the Chinese

Is the internet braindead

I've always found it hard to really understand the concept of "The Internet" (big I and I). The whole concept of an internet (little I) is it a collection of networks.
Even as I write autocorrect on Firefox is saying I've spelt internet (little I) wrong because it should be Internet (big I)

As regards Cameron's comment, it shows the whole stupidity of what they spout in the aim to grab headlines. You cannot blanket ban. Where is the line drawn? For me the line should not be drawn at all. Do I automatically get marked for being a naughty person because I ask not to be blocked
Case in point: Scunthorpe, in the early days it was hard to get information on the sea side town because of poor filtering software for naughty words (sCUNThorpe).

Okay make things easier for parents or people in general to turn on filtering, but it should never be turned on as a default, for a start kids will always find their way around it, so it's a costly pointless exercise that will cost us all money and economically cripple our internet. Does this also concern data transiting to outside the country?

If this happens we might as well go and live in China, at least they have growth.


I always think of Scunthorpe as a seaside town. It's not really.

The first sentance should have read

I've always found it hard to really understand the concept of "The Internet" (big T and I).

We are owned by the big corporations.

When we read articles about Peter Mandelson having lunch with David Geffen then putting forward plans for draconian file-sharing laws and then the Patrick Mercer controversy we need to realize that politicians are not acting in our best interests but those of the oligarchs and the big corporations.
Big money making laws to govern us.
Cameron's crusade against the internet is just an appeal for support from the Tory heartlands. The ones you see at the party conferences in twinset and pearls, smelling of decay and lavender, and tory women are no better.
Think of the chidren. You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

Depends how you use it!

If the internet was supposed to be a nice way to communicate with all your terrorist buddies without anyone knowing then yes, it probably is dead. However, I still have access to all the sites and content that I care about, and because there is nothing illegal (for now) about reading news on Slashdot or catching up with an old friend via facebook I don't really mind if anyone watches what I'm up to. I live so little online that none of my "metadata" is valuable or personal.
I understand that we should all be using encrypted email and tor, but the fact remains that even though I can hide data in pictures or make and use one-time pads, the vast majority of the people I contact can't. So for now, the only encryption I'll be using is good old ROT26.

It Ain't What It Used To Be

And that's neither good or bad, it all kind of balances out. As someone who uses the internet primarily as a conduit for finding information, I'd say it's never been better. In the last 10 years the sheer volume of information has increased exponentially. Something that I searched for 5 years ago and found no results for I now have to weed through pages of info.
There are new and better viruses, malware, and tracking methods. But there are also new and better methods of dealing with this problem.
The issue of government spying and censorship are symptoms of a larger problem than just internet freedom. It hardly stops there, and the fight for protecting our freedoms should be on a larger scale than protecting our internet use. Anyone living in a city with a surveillance camera on every corner should understand this.

You don't care

Just notice you do not have to take care!

If it dies, you sell more paper copies of LinuxFormat and everyone is happy to get the podcast on your DVDs.

If it lives, you sell more digital copies and put the podcasts online...

What lucky guys you are...

nothing to fear

Of course the Internet is not dead. Sir Humphrey is simply redefining the Internet in the wider national interest and this aim is shared by governments the world over. We should not fear those who have our best interests at heart.

the ashes

In Affectionate Remembrance
The Internet,
which died at GCHQ
7th AUGUST, 2013,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances
N.B.—The body will be cremated and the
ashes taken to the NSA

Educate and Encrypt

No the internet is not dead, but it is changing. We talk as if it is a public good or perhaps a social good, but I'm not sure it is, and increasingly we are being cajoled into believing it to be a private good. The truth is it has characteristics of several of these.

The problem is that the internet does not grow on trees and must be costed and provided in some way. When we were originally piggy backing on the military/academic system, they paid the bills. Today it has grown beyond that simple need, it has been monetised and big business is the powerful lobby we enable it to be. Big Data has arrived and I fear it is the sibling to Big Brother. Lets be honest which government of any political persuasion is going to miss the opportunities of combining these two... for the common good of course.

Educate and encrypt. There the LXF objective redefined :-)

Nothing to fear?

The only "best interests" governments have at heart are their own. They pay scant regard to the wishes of the people (except in the run-up to elections). Monitoring of communications is nothing new. I'd be surprised if the US military weren't doing it in the days of ARPAnet/DARPAnet 30-40 years ago!

No, the internet's not dead, but the genie's out of the bottle

Of Course Not!

This question is ridiculous! What could happen to the Intern...

it is the beginning

a bit late, though, some very interesting points on the matter in this article by the Zeit, german newspaper zeit_de digital datenschutz 2013-08 internet-pioniere-nsa komplettansicht (german) goo_gl/WN5ztR (ggogle translation) or google "zeit ist das internet noch zu retten"

Good Intentions

I understand the need to prevent certain events and protect citizens (e.g. prevent terrorist attacks, stop pedophiles, etc.) and I agree. What worries me is the small step that it would take, once governments start dictating to ISPs what should and should not be blocked, before other sites get blocked in the name of 'security' and 'protection'. It may well start with good intentions, but I don't trust any government to have control of the Internet.

Is the Internet dead? No. In many ways it is still very young and it's growing rapidly. We need to help direct it in a responsible manner and prevent the minority from ruining it. Perhaps rather than governments blocking sites, parents can become more involved in using filters to protect their children. Perhaps groups like LULZSEC could target those who are causing the problems and not just government bodies like the NSA.

The Internet should be free, but we need to work together to keep it that way.

Just a thought :)

Listening to the discussion from Scunthorpe

Just catching up with this thread via the podcast...

...the reason that you can get no information on Scunthorpe isn't the rude word, just common sense.

(Welsh ex-pat doing missionary work in Scunny)

The internet isn't dead but it sure is dead inside.

The Internet used to be a place of knowledge, exploration and intelligent geekery.
It's now a haven for 13-year-olds to display to the world how much they love Justin Bieber and hate their ex boy/girlfriends.

You can do a lot of things

You can do a lot of things on the internet. In my case, I am getting services from best essay writers are found on

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