The Internet Archive has launched a campaign against tech regulation by setting up a Wayforward Machine, semi-parodying its famous Wayback Machine archiving site.
The Wayforward Machine paints a picture of the internet in 2046 – smeared with censorship, regulation, governmental interference, and more.
On typing in any well-known web address to the Wayforward Machine, the viewer is presented with a number of popups – all of which suggest a nightmarish future where governmental surveillance reigns supreme and privacy is heavily frowned upon.
Visiting the BBC website brings up a popup stating: "Content on the site you are trying to access is protected by the Content Truth Gateway," while trying to reach Google.com shows that the Chocolate Factory has ceased to function after being regulated out of existence – perhaps intended as the sole light at the end of the tunnel rather than a sign of crushing defeat for freedom.
The site was launched to mark the IA's 25th anniversary, exploring how the World Wide Web might look in a quarter of a century from now. Many Reg readers will recall those halcyon days of 1996 when Microsoft was reeling from accusations of breaking competition laws, Google and Facebook didn't exist, and social media as a concept revolved around internet message boards – or IRC for the technically adept.
We are the resistance!
On top of the Wayforward Machine, the IA has also published a timeline of things that could go wrong for the US side of the web, including repeal of section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, which protects hosts and platform operators from being legally liable for user-generated content.
The timeline is pretty hysterical (sample: "2027: In the wake of the new copyright laws, Wikipedia faces myriad lawsuits for making 'copyrighted facts' freely available. It is forced to shut down on all centralized networks, but articles are still written and accessed on the Decentralized Web") in its attempt to convey a serious message about overregulation causing harm to the WWW as we know it.
It also veers into more gloomy predictions ("2030: Lower income students are priced out of higher education") that have less to do with internet regulation, and ends on the Mad Max-esque note: "2046: Driven underground, activists for the Internet Archive organise resistance."
- Campaigners warn of an 'algorithm-driven censorship' future if UK Online Safety Bill gets through Parliament
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- We take a look at proposed Big Tech regulations in the UK: Heavy on possible fines, light on enforcement
Internet regulation is a particularly hot topic at the moment. US calls to regulate tech companies have grown ever louder in recent years while in the UK, the promised Online Safety Bill seems certain to make using the internet a much more insecure experience thanks to mandatory age verification, which is a main plank of the government's campaign to regulate (mostly) US-based tech companies.
If all of this isn't depressing enough for you, the IA has also set up a Twitter account based in 2046 that makes Edgar Allan Poe's oeuvre look like the Mr Bean Annual. We'll leave you to find that for yourself, dear reader. ®