Peter Sunde On... [re: Assange believes too late for any pervasive privacy]
grarpamp at gmail.com
Sun Dec 13 21:50:00 PST 2015
On Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 3:38 AM, Zenaan Harkness <zen at freedbms.net> wrote:
> Feels like a sell out. I suspect he feels he's being pragmatic.
Too late? Selling out? Giving up? Or the realization of much bigger
things at play, and focuses yet to come...
Pirate Bay Founder: ‘I Have Given Up’
December 11, 2015 // 02:26 PM EST
“The internet is shit today. It’s broken. It was probably always
broken, but it’s worse than ever.”
My conversation with, Peter Sunde, one of the founders and
spokespersons of The Pirate Bay, did not start out optimistically.
There’s good reason for that: In the last couple of months, the
contemporary download culture shows heavy signs of defeat in the
battle for the internet.
Last month we saw Demonii disappear. It was the biggest torrent
tracker on the internet, responsible for over 50 million trackers a
year. Additionally, the MPAA took down YIFY and Popcorn Time. Then
news got out that the Dutch Release Team, an uploading collective,
made a legal settlement with anti-piracy group BREIN.
While it might look like torrenters are are still fighting this
battle, Sunde claims that the reality is more definitive: “We have
Back in 2003 Peter Sunde, together with Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid
Svartholm, started The Pirate Bay, a website that would become the
biggest and most famous file-sharing website in the world. In 2009,
the three founders were convicted of “assisting [others] in copyright
infringement” in a highly controversial trial.
"Stop treating internet like it's a different thing and start focusing
on what you actually want your society to look like."
Sunde was incarcerated in 2014 and released a year later. After his
time in jail he started blogging about the centralization of power by
the European Union; ran as a candidate for the Finnish Pirate Party
during the elections to the European Parliament; and founded Flattr, a
micro donation system for software developers.
I wanted to speak with Sunde about the current state of the free and
open internet, but this conversation quickly changed into an
ideological exchange about society and capitalism—which is, according
to Sunde, the real problem.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
MOTHERBOARD: Hey Peter, I was planning on asking you if things are
going well, but you made it pretty clear that that isn’t the case.
Peter Sunde: No, I don’t see any good happening. People are too easy
to content with things.
Take the net neutrality law in Europe. It's terrible, but people are
happy and go like "it could be worse.” That is absolutely not the
right attitude. Facebook brings the internet to Africa and poor
countries, but they’re only giving limited access to their own
services and make money off of poor people. And getting government
grants to do that, because they do PR well.
Finland actually made internet access a human right a while back. That
was a clever thing of Finland. But that’s like the only positive thing
I have seen in any country anywhere in the world regarding the
So, how bad is the state of the open internet?
Well, we don’t have an open internet. We haven’t had an open internet
for a long time. So, we can’t really talk about the open internet
because it does not exist anymore. The problem is, nobody stops
anything. We are losing privileges and rights all of the time. We are
not gaining anything anywhere. The trend is just going in one
direction: a more closed and more controlled internet. That has a big
impact on our society. Because they are the same thing today. If you
have a more oppressed internet, you have a more oppressed society. So
that's something we should focus on.
But still we think of the internet like this new kind Wild West place,
and things are not in chains yet, so we don’t care because everything
will be OK anyhow. But that is not really the case. We have never seen
this amount of centralization, extreme inequality, extreme capitalism
in any system before. But according to the marketing done by people
like Mark Zuckerberg and companies like Google, it's all to help with
the open network and to spread democracy, and so on. At the same time,
they are capitalistic monopolies. So it’s like trusting the enemy to
do the good deeds. It is really bizarre.
Do you think because a lot of people don’t consider the internet to be
real or a real place, they care less about its well-being?
Well, one thing is, we have been growing up with an understanding of
the importance of things like a telephone line or television. So if we
would start to treat our telephone lines or TV channels like we treat
the internet, people would get really upset. If someone would tell
you, you can’t call a friend, you would understand then that this is a
very bad thing that is happening. You understand your rights. But
people don't have that with the internet. If someone would tell you,
you can’t use Skype for that and that, you don’t get the feeling it’s
about you personally. Just by being a virtual thing, it's suddenly not
directed at you. You don't see someone spying on you, you don't see
something censored, you don't see it when someone deletes stuff out of
the search results out of Google. I think that’s the biggest problem
to get people's attention. You don't see the problems, so people don’t
feel connected to it.
Screenshot from the documentary TPB - AFK (The Pirate Bay - Away From
Keyboard). From left to right: Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and
I would rather not care about it myself. Because it’s very hard to do
something about it, and not become a paranoid conspiracy person. And
you don’t want to be that. So rather just give up. That’s kind of what
people have been thinking, I think.
What is it exactly that you have given up?
Well, I have given up the idea that we can win this fight for the internet.
The situation is not going to be any different, because apparently
that is something people are not interested in fixing. Or we can't get
people to care enough. Maybe it's a mixture, but this is kind of the
situation we are in, so its useless to do anything about it.
We have become somehow the Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy
Grail. We have maybe half of our head left and we are still fighting,
we still think we have a chance of winning this battle.
So what can people do to change this?
No, I think we are at that point. I think it’s really important people
understand this. We lost this fight. Just admit defeat and make sure
next time you understand why you lost this fight and make sure it
doesn’t happen again when we try and win the war.
Right, so what is this war about and what should we do to win it?
Well, I think, to win the war, we first of need to understand what the
fight is and for me it’s clear that we are dealing with ideological
thing: extreme capitalism that’s ruling, extreme lobbying that’s
ruling and the centralization of power. The internet is just a part of
a bigger puzzle.
And the other thing with activism is that you have to get momentum and
attention and such. We have been really bad at that. So we stopped
ACTA, but then it just came back with a different name. By that time,
we had used all our resources and public attention on that.
The reason that the real world is the big target for me, is because
the internet is emulating the real world. We are trying to recreate
this capitalistic society we have on top of the internet. So the
internet has been mostly fuel on the capitalistic fire, by kind of
pretending to be something which will connect the whole world, but
actually having a capitalistic agenda.
Look at all the biggest companies in the world, they are all based on
the internet. Look at what they are selling: nothing. Facebook has no
product. Airbnb, the biggest hotel chain in the world, has no hotels.
Uber, the biggest taxi company in the world, has no taxis whatsoever.
"I have given up the idea that we can win this fight for the internet."
The amount of employees in these companies are smaller then ever
before and the profits are, in turn, larger. Apple and Google are
passing oil companies by far. Minecraft got sold for $2.6 billion and
WhatsApp for like $19 billion. These are insane amounts of money for
nothing. That is why the internet and capitalism are so in love with
You told me the internet is broken, that it was always broken. What do
you mean by that and do we have extreme capitalism to blame for it?
Well, the thing is the internet is really stupid. It works really
simply in a simple manner and it doesn’t take any adjustments for
censorship. Like, if one cable is gone, you take the traffic through
some other place. But thanks to the centralization of the internet,
(possible) censorship or surveillance tech is a whole lot harder to
get around. Also, because the internet was an American invention, they
also still have control of it and ICANN can actually force any country
top level domain to be censored or disconnected. For me that’s, a
really broken design.
But it has always been broken, we just never really cared about it,
because there always have been a few good people that made sure that
nothing bad happened before. But I think that’s the wrong idea. Rather
let bad thing happen as quick as possible so we can fix them and make
sure it does not happen in the future. We are prolonging this
inevitable total failure, which is not helping us at all.
So, we should just let it crash and burn down, pick up the pieces and
Yes, with the focus on the big war on this extreme capitalism. I
couldn’t vote, but I was hoping Sarah Palin won last time in the US
elections. I’m hoping Donald Trump wins this year’s election. For the
reason that it will fuck up that country so much faster then if a less
bad President wins. Our whole world is just so focused on money,
money, money. That’s the biggest problem. That’s why everything fucks
up. That’s the target we have to fix. We need to make sure that we are
going to get a different focus in life.
"We don’t have an open internet. We haven’t had an open internet for a
Hopefully technology will give us robots that will take away all the
jobs, which will cause like a massive worldwide unemployment; somewhat
like 60 percent. People will be so unhappy. That would be great,
because then you can finally see capitalism crashing so hard. There is
going to be a lot of fear, lost blood, and lost lives to get to that
point, but I think that’s the only positive thing I see, that we are
going to have a total system collapse in the future. Hopefully as
quick as possible. I would rather be 50 then be like 85 when the
system is crashing.
This all sounds quite like some sort of Marxist revolution: a total
crash of the capitalist system.
Well, yeah, I totally agree with that. I’m a socialist. I know Marx
and communism did not work before, but I think in the future you have
the possibility of having total communism and equal access to
everything for everybody. Most people I meet, no matter if they are a
communist or a capitalist, agree with me on this, because they
understand the potential.
So, is there like a concrete thing we should focus on? Or do we need
to aim for a new way of thinking? A new ideology?
Well, I think the focus needs to be that the internet is exactly the
same as society. People might realize that it’s not a really good idea
to have all of our data and files on Google, Facebook and company
servers. All of these things need to be communicated al the way to the
political top, of course. But stop treating internet like it's a
different thing and start focusing on what you actually want your
society to look like. We have to fix society, before we can fix the
internet. That’s the only thing.
Topics: Open Internet, Pirate Bay, piracy, capitalism, Internet, culture
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