The kiwi in the coal mine
A tier 1 ISP bans Kiwifarms. Is this the beginning of the end for the freedom of the internet? Yes and no.
This week there was a scare involving a notorious site that is testing the limits of internet freedom as of 2022: Kiwifarms.
“Kiwifarms has been blackholed by a tier 1 ISP
A tier 1 ISP is a service provider that owns and operates a network large enough that they don't have to pay other networks to operate on the Internet. Think AT&T.
Tier 2 and 3 ISPs own much smaller networks or none at all, and pay larger tier 1 networks or other tier 2 networks to access parts of the Internet.
If a tier 1 network blackholes a website, any traffic routed through it is dropped which effects every ISP downstream that uses that tier 1 network.
This means that even if the ISP you use to connect to the internet is not the same ISP that blackholed Kiwifarms, the farms may still be unreachable by you if your ISP uses the network resources of the tier 1 that blocked Kiwifarms.”
— Nigerian Prince Andrew
This is what users experienced:
“When I called my ISP, they were completely confused by the whole situation. They told me that they don't block anything without a court order or a FBI directive. I can tell that they're frustrated and told me they're doing everything they can. They suggested I use a VPN but I kindly reminded them that this is a legal American website, hosted in America. I should be able to access it using an American ISP. The guy I was talking to was really nice and pro free-speech but he was honest with me that the solution might be to write my congressman or something.”
— a Kiwifarms user
What is this Kiwifarms?
I vaguely know about Kiwifarms, it’s not my cup of goulash, I don’t like drama. Kiwifarms is by default about drama.
Nigerian Prince Andrew in a private online forum summarizes it so (take everything with a grain of paprika):
Kiwifarms is a forum that grew out of the CWCki forums, which was a website dedicated to discussing notorius online sperglord Christian Weston Chandler, also known as Chris chan
Kiwifarms began including boards and threads about people with an online presence other than chris, dubbed lolcows (as they can be milked for laughs).
The forum doesn’t really limit what you can say, which angers many people because you can make fun of people that would get you banned anywhere else, i.e. trannies, gay people, black people.
The incident that originated this shit was Keffals gloating about getting destiny banned from twitch(I think?), and josh discussing it on stream\ someone on the forum creating a thread on keffals. Josh 'Null' Moon, KFs owner/operator ended up doing an podcast about keffals In which Josh shows evidence that Keffals ran a discord called 'Catboy Ranch' in which the adult Keffals talked to underage boys, encouraging them to transition and sending them collars to wear. Keffals was also a friend and associate of bobposting, a twitter troon who ran a site that sold bathtub HRT to minors, packaged in gross creepy hentai boxes.
Following this, Keffals began a campaign to have cloudflare, Kiwifarm’s DDoS mitigation provider, drop the forum as a client. Many other trannies, weirdos, and people across the political spectrum that had threads on KF signal boosted this, resulting in cloudflare dropping KF. Since then, many more services have dropped KF now that the site is in the larger public consciousness.
Additionally, Kiwifarms as an entity is apolitcal, and users create threads about both left and right wing internet figures, such as nick fuentes and Andrew Torba. This has resulted in KF having very few to no powerful friends, meaning almost no one with any power is going to bat for them.
You get it? I kind of, I knew about Chris Chan, he’s Internet 2.0 famous.
I like this summary because it speaks for itself on a meta level: if I were to read it verbatim to any normal, IRL person, they wouldn’t understand much. Even if they’re in tech, as long as they have a healthy, balanced life, most of the references would draw blanks.
If much of what’s written above makes little sense to you, it’s not because you’re too old, that kids are into weird stuff these days; many of the characters mentioned, should you look them up — don’t bother — are closer to 40 than 20. Maybe all of them are, I’m willing to take that risk (who cares if I’m wrong, this shit is virtual). Nigerian Prince Andrew’s not a teen either, you can be sure of that. Being well versed in this is not a function of being up-to-date with the young, it’s a function of keeping up with the extremely online.
It’s drama involving extremely online people. Antisocial people.
“As of now:
Africa no problems
Asia no problems (except for some places in Japan)
EU no problems
Most of South America OK
UK very spotty
— a Kiwifarms user
Why should You care though? Because Kiwifarms and its owner, Null serves as a canary in the coal mine. How far can one push against the will of the janitorial elite?
What is the ultimate limit of your freedom of self-expression? Kiwifarms is kind of there. It really is just a forum for extremely online people, the internet before social media was full of these, back then, but we’re not back then anymore.
When “start your own” is used to hand-wave freedom of expression concerns over deplatforming away, it’s important to keep an eye on the viability of alternative platforms.
The betrayal of the Antisocials
I have a draft on this topic, for now, in short: during the last decade, the antisocial nerdom that was the guardian of digital anarchy became the janitorial enforcer class for the oligopoly.
Social media offered them a good enough substitute for the IRL social approval that they had always craved, in exchange for submission. They took the deal.
You’re now at the mercy of vengeful, sadistic weirdos. So is everyone who you love and care for IRL, as long as they’re on social media.
This is why this drama, which shouldn’t be affecting normal people, ultimately resulting in the ISP ban, made possible by the Antisocials’ overrepresentation in the tech janitorial class, creates a precedent that is a danger to all of us.
Chrome (and Chromium-based browsers, probably including the alternative browser you’re using right now) is as dominant as Internet Explorer once was, if not more. The latter became the focal point of a panic in the 1990s over tech monopolies. Normies didn’t care about the browser they used back then, and they still don’t care; the ones who were supposed to care now work for the powerful, so Google’s dominance goes unchallenged. If the Antisocials are unwilling to voice an objection, the normies will just quietly stand by as ISPs start shutting down dissenters, one by one, more and more.
Should we be sounding the alarms? Yes. Absolutely. As we should have done when Trump was silenced on Twitter.
But this substack is about clarity and positivity, so instead, I will relativize the danger. I’m not saying there’s nothing to see here, but I’m also not running around with my asshole on fire that “the Orwellian dystopia got one step closer”, for a very good reason: the state of digital freedom used to seem a lot more bleak in the past, at least in the colonies.
I have memories, depressing memories. Revisiting them brought me some dread, but it also put things into perspective. Overall, I’m unnerved by this whole ISP censorship fiasco.
Business Software Alliance
In the 1990s, software was in boxes, on disks, and was ridiculously expensive. Microsoft had a monopoly over personal computing. Other computing was ruled by other big fish. Everything was proprietary.
Almost no one had legal software: it cost too much, not paying for it was one saving you could easily achieve. It wasn’t really an option to become a pirate, software and music cost money we didn’t have. We could barely keep the hardware in our shitboxes up-to-date.
Linux was around; it was like getting an old Italian car to become a skilled car mechanic, having to deal with everything from the rusting body work to the electrical system. A full time hobby. If you wanted a car to get from A to B, it wasn’t an option. In 2022, desktop linux is about to become widely popular — just as it always had been in the past 25 years.
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Not that anyone cared if you had legal software: the process was part of the punishment. The police could just show up, take your computer as evidence, and you’ll have a few fun years going to court. Even if you were just a teenager.
“To curb the illegal use of software, the big software companies established the BSA (Business Software Alliance) at the end of the last decade, whose experts "quietly" contacted the APEH [Hungarian IRS] experts in September - during a seminar in Budapest.”
— Vas Népe, October 1995
Around the Millennium I start publishing software. Eventually one becomes quite popular, especially in schools. It’s a Windows application. I don’t get any money from it, of course, but I also don’t get any credit. That would bring too much attention.
I publish it “underground”. Even my friends don’t know much about it. My name’s not attached to it.
Everyone’s guilty, so we kept our heads down.
Some businesses weaponize this to shut down competitors: a police raid can take all your computers and data away as evidence for months, if not years. A game developer gets shut down this way. So much for protecting the industry. BSA is of course not here to represent Hungarian software developers, it’s here to represent American giants. It’s here to intimidate.
They have notorious billboards featuring handcuffs, even in my small town of the Post-Socialist rust belt. The whole country was going down the shitter (1995 was the low point), massive unemployment, massive inflation, and the cronies of the richest man in the world had the audacity to lecture us about buying software that costs as much as the monthly minimum wage, or else get dragged over the coals.
There was no advocacy for the victims of the “software police’s” overreach; it flew over most people’s head. The politicians were happy to oblige: our elite was Euroatlanticist, IP enforcement was a benchmark of convergence to the West, it could never be severe enough.
Police, judges and the IRS all got training by BSA, and had the blessing of the Hard Power elite to go wild.
A friend of mine ordered Sim Whatever from a pirate catalog. A dumb move, but he was just a kid, 12 years old or so. The pirate got shut down by the police. The police had a list of clients, with my friend on it, so they showed up one day, took away his PC, and now he was involved in a court case. It was only resolved years later.
Years of being in limbo, for the crime of ordering Sim Whatever. As if the police would take your car away for having a pirated album, because it has a CD player, and now you’re a potential criminal.
In the colonies, these American giants could run wild. They were massive money bags and an embassy of Western progress on their own. Law enforcement was clueless, and whatever training they got, they got it from BSA.
The only winning move was to keep your head down. Oh you use Linux? Good luck explaining it to the police (they don’t care) or at the court. This was our reality.
No one cared. There was no justice. We were lawless.
Yet we kept going. Kept our heads down. Accepted that we are criminals, all of us, Eastern European kids hurting the margins of Microsoft.
Eventually this whole situation petered out. As more and more people started using computers, it became impractical (and politically troublesome) to threaten the majority of the voter base and their children with fucking prison sentences. The turning point was around 2002, when internet penetration started making draconian computer-related legislation everyone’s problem.
I’m sure IP laws are still around, we’re a civilized, EU-conform country, but the enforcement got a lot more reasonable. BSA Hungary went quiet a while ago.
You should pay attention to what happens to Kiwifarms; things can get a lot darker, especially if the perpetrators can do it unchallenged. With the techno-janitorial class being unwilling to stand up to this, or being actively involved in shutting down dissent, hard times might be ahead. But it can also, as my anecdote shows, eventually improve, you just have to make it everyone’s problem. One way to do so is by sharing this post!
If my inner Eastern European 90s kid is far from panicking, neither should you.