The billboards are white with simple black type. They say things like, "The Internet should be regulated," "Artists need to play by the rules” and “Your Data Should Belong to the NSA.” Their stark simplicity and generic nature are something chilling and Orwellian. They have shown up in large U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
Now it has been revealed that BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file sharing service, is behind the billboards, which are intended to be a wake-up call to Americans about privacy and the ownership and regulation of technology. BitTorrent “outed” itself as being behind the signs in a blog post entitled “Maybe You Saw the Signs” today, and said they are meant to combat complacency among Americans when it comes to technology.
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“These statements represent an assault on freedom,” blogged Matt Mason for BitTorrent. “They also, for the most part, represent attitudes Internet culture has accepted. Chips we’ve traded for convenience. Part of the allegiance we’ve sworn to the web’s big platforms and server farms. That’s what you get for going online.”
BitTorrent emphasizes the public needs to know what’s at stake when it comes to the struggle to control the World Wide Web. Complacency could lead to many digital rights being restricted.
“As a society, we’ve chosen to accept data centralization: personal information as property of a powerful few,” wrote Mason. “We’ve chosen to accept walled gardens of creativity: a lifetime of work (our life’s work) locked into digital stores that take 30% of the revenue and streaming services that pay pennies in royalties. We’ve chosen to accept surveillance culture: the right of security agencies to violate the Fourth Amendment; to see and store data as they see fit.”
BitTorrent is no stranger to controversy when it comes to legal struggles over rights and accusations of piracy. From 2010 to 2011, more than more than 200,000 BitTorrent users were sued for allegedly sharing copyrighted material online, according to TorrentFreak. Last year, the UK High Court ordered five Internet service providers to block BitTorrent search engine “The Pirate Bay.”
Edited by Alisen Downey