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FCon, THE Answer To Anonymous Publishing


Posted by Non-Hamster on February 4th, 2011

Over the last couple of years there's been a lot of this kind of story in the news.  Some blogger tries to publish something anonymously on a blog, almost always with the intent of exposing something they see as an injustice of some kind, and next thing you know the person, company or government is hauling somebody into court demanding the identity of the blogger.  The blog host ends up getting ordered to reveal the blogger's identity and then the lawsuit hits them and things really get ugly (not to mention expensive!) from there.

I've seen people react to these stories and say things like "so much for freedom of speech" or "he/she was just trying to expose something that shouldn't have been going on in the first place".

In some countries it's even worse where blogging about your political beliefs can get you thrown in jail or even just shot if it happens to disagree with those in power.

The point is that I don't believe that most of these people were guilty of anything but trying to expose a truth that powerful people, corporations and or government agencies didn't want published because at the very least it embarrasses them and tarnishes their carefully crafted public image as 'nice guys' or even exposes them as the actual 'bad guys' that they really are by publishing various details about what they're really up to.

Obviously just setting up a blogspot account isn't going to cut it because the lawyers almost always get that court order and the identity of the blogger is handed to them on a silver platter.  What they need is a publishing platform that is truly anonymous, where their identity cannot be handed over because nobody knows it.

Fortunately there is such a thing.  It's called FCon (Freenet Classic OpenNet).  It's a free program that allows you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship.  The network is completely decentralized and those who publish or retrieve information using that network are completely anonymous.

(note: That anonymity does of course depend on the person publishing having the sense to be careful about not including details that could provide clues to their identity)

In this post I use "FCon" and "freenet" interchangeably and by "freenet" I mean freenet 0.5 and NOT the newer freenet 0.7.5 which is still a very much UNsecure ALPHA version that in my experience, barely even works most of the time

When an FCon user downloads a file, message, or views a "freesite" from the network it is transmitted between FCon nodes in encrypted form and they are routed through many other nodes (any of which could randomly keep a copy of all or part of the information being requested) which makes it essentially impossible for anyone to determine who is downloading it, or what it is, or who inserted it into the network in the first place.

Freenet Classic OpenNet has other peer to peer networks beat hands down in terms of security AND in terms of file availability.

First, node operators do not control or know the contents of their datastore because it is encrypted.  Instead, files are kept or deleted automatically based on popularity.  If a file goes long enough without being requested and the datastore is full, then it will be deleted to make room for more popular content.

Because of the way requests for files are handled, there is no way to know if any given request coming from another node originated on that node or is simply being automatically forwarded from a chain of other nodes.

As for availability, with every standard P2P network out there, when the nodes that a file originates from (in P2P terms "is seeded from") goes offline then that file isn't available anymore.

In Freenet Classic OpenNet, once a file has been inserted into the network it remains available even after the node that it was inserted from goes offline because copies of it are made randomly around the network every time somebody requests it.  The more something is requested, the easier it is to get.

So if you've got some big secret you want to spill but you don't want to have all those nasty legal hassles, or if you just believe in freedom of speech and want to contribute to it, then it would be a good idea to check out http://peculiarplace.com/freenet/.

On that page you will find the files you need along with some basic setup instructions to get you started.  Once you have freenet running you can install Frost, which is a messaging and file sharing system where you can communicate anonymously with other freenet users, ask questions and learn more about how to get the most out of it and build freesites which are websites that exist entirely within the network.

If somebody were to anonymously publish something within freenet that they wanted to be exposed to the world they could ask other freenet users to repost it on the regular internet in different jurisdictions.  That way it would still get out but anonymity would be perfect and takedown notices are meaningless on freenet.

Now I'm sure that somebody will come along and say something on the order of "but freenet is slower than the regular internet."

To that I'll say yes, it is.  The reason it's slower is because it's first goal is security and that means encryption, on several levels.  This takes time to process.  Speed was never the first concern, it was intended to be secure.

Freenet is "censorship proof".  Once something is inserted into the network it is not possible to take it down.  Given the author is careful about personally identifying details, it is perfectly anonymous.  You cannot determine who inserted or who downloaded something.

That said, I have found that once a node has been up and running 24/7 for a day or two that it's no slower than Tor and in my opinion, it's often better than Tor when loading freesites.

Technorati Tags: whistleblower, anonymous, network, freedom of speech, censorship, anonymous publishing, anonymous internet, anonymous blogging, anonymous blogger, takedown notice

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