Today my friend Jonathan Zittrain gave a great talk that I moderated at IE that was called “The Future of the Internet and how to avoid it”. Here´s a video of a similar talk he gave at Oxford in what seems a much more elegant setting. Jonathan´s lecture was brilliant: the first half was a brief history of the internet, the second half a brief history of what went wrong with the internet. His point is that we need to fight back internet vandalism (virus makers, spammers and the like) before the internet closes up. While I did not agree with Jonatahan as to the extent of the danger, I agreed with him that censors love opportunity to censor and that there´s clearly some risk. Now call me a one track mind but this the one story that stayed with me of all the ones that Jonathan used to illustrate how “evil” people are compromising the openness of the internet. It is the one of how bot builders put horny humans to work for them. Pretty clever.

You know about Captcha right? Captcha, those weird characters that appear every time you have to register to something to the internet (including posting comments in my blog) so machines know you are human. The key to a Captcha is that machines make them but only humans can decipher them. So what did this spammers do to crack the system? They started a site that I believed he said was called Free Porno and the trick is that they asked people to register to it using Captcha with a catch. The catch was that the images they had to decipher were the ones that the spammers had to decipher to spam such sites as….my blog!

PS: I told this story during dinner and my second daughter 14 year old says that the rumor in her class is that Captcha is actually a test to prevent stoned kids from joining certain sites.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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