Hackers Plan Satellite Network to Fight Internet Censorship

A group of hackers are reportedly declaring war on Internet censorship, and they plan to fight back with their own satellite communications network.

A group of hackers are reportedly declaring war on Internet censorship, and they plan to fight back with their own satellite communications network.

Sound like science fiction? According to BBC News, the plan was recently outlined at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin. Dubbed the “Hackerspace Global Grid,” the project calls not only for the launching of satellites in orbit but also the development of a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.

Hacker activist Nick Farr reportedly first put out calls for people to contribute to the project in August in response to the threat of Internet censorship. He cited the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States as a prime example. If passed, SOPA would allow sites to be blocked based on copyright concerns. The law has drawn significant criticism however for being overly broad and infringing on first amendment rights.

“The first goal is an uncensorable Internet in space,” Farr told BBC. “Let’s take the Internet out of the control of terrestrial entities.”

According to BBC, Armin Bauer, a 26-year-old from Stuttgart, Germany, who is working on the Hackerspace Global Grid, came up with the idea of a distributed network of low-cost ground stations with some friends. Used collectively in a global network, these stations could pinpoint the satellites at any given moment. The team, which he added is working with German aerospace research initiative Constellation, hopes to have three prototype ground stations in place in the first half of 2012.

The hackers face a number of challenges to their plan however, including some that are not technological, noted Alan Woodward, a computer science professor at the University of Surrey.

“There is also an interesting legal dimension in that outer space is not governed by the countries over which it floats,” he said in an interview with BBC. “So, theoretically it could be a place for illegal communication to thrive. However, the corollary is that any country could take the law into their own hands and disable the satellites.”

*Homepage composite image via NASA Goddard Photo and Video‘s Flickr photostream

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