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Among other things, Barlow claimed that on the Internet “identities have no bodies” so that persons acting there are immune to “physical coercion.” More to the point, he wrote, “Cyberspace does not lie within your borders,” implying an insurmountable lack of jurisdiction, and thus coercive power.
As Edward Snowden’s exile, Ross Ulbricht’s arrest, and Defense Distributed’s capitulation attest, such a view is just plain wrong. But what 2013 showed us is that as Internet technology advances, the direct and indirect costs that the state must incur to maintain a same level of information control continues to increase. This means that the margin on which information can be effectively controlled is also shrinking continuously.
As a result, while the Internet can, no doubt, be regulated, and information can be controlled, and those who speak and transact can be punished, it can only be done on an increasingly small margin, and at an increasingly high cost. This dynamic is inherent in, and determined by, the nature of the Internet, and it can only get stronger in 2014.