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[tor-talk] Current State of Mailing Lists / Forums about Internet Freedom, Security and Privacy?



Hello.

I was originally writing this post for tor-talk mailing list, which is a
general
mailing list hosted by Tor Project to discuss online anonymity and
cryptography
technology, I later realized it was probably a good idea to seek feedback
from
other lists so I crossposted it to many of them. It's all my humble
options and
please forgive if it's inappropriate.

In the history of the Internet, there were always some communities who found
themselves (or placed themselves) in the center of the storm on cutting edge
development related to Internet freedom, security and privacy in the past 30
years.

Back in the 80s, sci.crypto and a handful of newsgroups were prominent and
widely read by everyone in the field of security and cryptography. In the
90s,
there were comp.risks and the Cypherpunk mailing list, and they are probably
everything you need for resources and discussions. In 2000s, Bugtraq and the
Full Disclosure movement started, where all the security holes were
debated and
exposed.

Those communities were center of the mass, brought all the talent people
together, to conduct free discussions and research about everything
ongoing in
the field, no matter it was news, debate, designs, programs, rumors or
personal
argument, with light or no moderation, where ideas crashed on each other and
produced fruitful new approaches.

Unfortunately, it looks like that this kind of communities is becoming
endangered
species. It's hard to find anything similar after 2008 (or ~2005)? All the
existing lists are dead pools now with few threads, some newsgroups still
exist,
but are toxic now since only narcissists are posting, and no other
existent members
to stop them since, they were all gone. The remaining lists are becoming
project-centric, only discuss specific technical issues and not a general
platform of discussion, such as this tor-talk (historically, mailing lists
named
as "-talk" were usually popular, like a party). seclists.org still has some
historically famous lists but they are not very active, comp.risks only
has news
digest now! No posters! The Cryptography mailing list on metzdowd.com is
still
moving, but only 3 or 4 topics are discussed monthly (but in-depth, which is
good), with strict on-topic policy. Other popular forums, like HackerNews or
Reddit, functions more like a brief digest instead of a general purpose
online
forum.

Where are all the hackers, developers, cryptographers, activists,
researchers,
etc gone?

1. It seems that the arise of social media, like Facebook and especially
Twitter, is partially responsible for the current state of deterioration of
online forums, as now all the latest and interesting information are tweets,
and everyone's on Twitter. They are turning the Internet communities to be
less
and less formal and sophisticated people, Have a new project? Instead of
writing
a 1000 words short essay and debating with all the experts in the mailing
list,
just send a 50-word tweet and post the code to GitHub!

2. It seems that the scope of Internet freedom, security and privacy has
expanded infinitely, it's infeasible to talk to everyone on Earth in this
field
by posting in two or three mailing lists, everyone moved to their personal
(physical and online) social network to talk is a natural result of it.
This is
how the Cypherpunk list dead according to some, I believe the same thing is
going on everywhere. (sorry if Cypherpunks found it's offensive, no
intention to
insult, but just no longer the center of mass according to John Gilmore in
2002).

3. It seems that the Internet is no longer an academic thing and compared to
popular culture online, the research community becomes almost invisible and
finally led to the collapse of many of them.

4. It seems that the Internet is no longer an utopian "cyberspace", but
now with
lots of threats, such as doxxing and mass surveillance. 20 years ago it's
normal
for a hacker or activist to post a controversial research, with the phone
number
and personal address attached in a mailing list, and joining monthly offline
meetings. But now, many of them, or perhaps even you, the one who is reading
this post, would prefer a low profile in the community, or proactively
separate
different works. Many are also prefer a private Off-the-record talk over a
public debate, prefer small private groups with encryption over big open
space.
Some even proactively obscure or erase online records. This has two
consequences,
first, the Big Brother has to work harder and it's good. But it also means
the
community as a whore becomes harder to communicate with each other, there are
always time when someone discovered something which is unnoticed to
others, or
comes up with an exceptionally good idea. But a fragmented community is more
difficult to promote them. (It's also difficult to conduct a historical
research
in the future, which can be a problem. In contrast the Usenet posts from the
80s are still here and it's good for history and research, but bad for
privacy,
but it's another topic).

Look! Number 1, 2, 3, 4 actually goes together, towards the same end!

Does anyone have an option about how the things going on today? Any
explanations
of the current state of the Internet communities? And what is your
recommendation
of a good online fourm for general discussion of freedom, security and
privacy?

Cheers,
John Random


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