Views on the desirability of anonymous P2P
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Proponents of anonymous P2P sometimes argue that such technology is desirable and in some cases necessary to ensure freedom of speech and the free flow of information. They claim that true freedom of speech, especially on controversial subjects, is difficult or impossible unless individuals can speak anonymously. They argue that if anonymity were not possible, one could be subjected to threats or reprisals for voicing an unpopular view. This is one reason why voting is done by secret ballot in many democracies.
Opponents argue that while anonymous P2P systems may support the protection of unpopular speech, it also protects illegal activities not protected under free speech, such as fraud, libel, the exchange of illegal pornography, the planning of criminal activities, distribution of untraceable spam, or denial-of-service attacks. They hold that the advantages offered by such systems do not outweigh these disadvantages, and that existing communication channels are already sufficient for unpopular speech.
Consequences of P2P anonymity
Pornography trading is common on anonymous P2P networks, and some believe that the networks aid terrorism. There are several responses to these criticisms, one being that information is neutral and that it is people acting on the information that is good or evil. A second is that these current issues are examples of moral panics, and that if anonymous peer-to-peer networks had been around in the 1950s or 1960s, they might have been targeted for carrying information about civil rights or anarchism.
Other issues include:
A common ideal for anonymous peer to peer networks is to make it impossible to hinder the spread of information. This is typically achieved through encryption, making one kind of information indistinguishable from any other.
- Anonymous spam, and DDos attack can be performed.
It is difficult or impossible to uphold laws that can be broken through P2P networks. This could lead to the breakdown of intellectual property (though see digital rights management).
- With anonymous money, it becomes possible to arrange anonymous markets where one can buy and sell just about anything anonymously. Assassination markets would be the dark side of this. Note that the transfer of physical goods between buyer and seller may still compromise anonymity.
- It is easy to publish any information you want without the possibility of having your physical identity revealed. This could be used to openly publish information that governments forbid, like child pornography, but on the other hand, controversial information which the government wants to keep hidden, such as details about
- corruption issues, could still be published.
- Anonymous money could be used to avoid tax collection. That could lead to a movement towards anarcho-capitalism. It is highly unlikely that all necessary transactions could be done anonymously, however, a government could still rely on property taxes (possibly raising them).
Some friend-to-friend networks allow you to control what kind of files your friends exchange with your node, in order to stop them from exchanging files that you disapprove of.