Publius: Speech without Accountability
10/9/2000; 2:35:18 PM
'Consider Publius, a censor-resistant Web publishing system described in mid-August at a computer security conference in Denver. Engineers at the conference greeted the invention warmly, presenting to its creators--Marc E. Waldman, a Ph.D. student at New York University, and Aviel D. Rubin and Lorrie F. Cranor of AT&T Labs-Research--the award for best paper. Publius is indeed an impressive technical achievement: a tiny little program that, once widely installed, allows almost any computer user to publish a document on the Web in such a way that for all practical purposes it cannot be altered or removed without the authors consent, even by an incensed government. In fact, authors can post files to Publius that even they themselves cannot delete. Yet it is quite simple for any Web surfer anywhere to view files published this way....
'Ironically, Publius may be ineffective in the very places where censorship is most oppressive. Bennett Haselton of the Censorware Project points out that it only protects against censorship on the publishing end. In a country like China, where the main problem is censorship on the receiving end (all inbound traffic is filtered through the ÔGreat Firewall of China), it is trivial for the censors to detect when someone is accessing a Publius document. So Publius seems to work only for those who are already guaranteed a right to speak anonymously and read what they like. To them, it extends the ability, if not the right, to disregard what the politicians, judges and constitution writers have decided is out of bounds.'
Ironically, I just made that last point two days ago in my essay independantly. Now I'll have to attribute it