The McCluskey report on press regulation in Scotland is flawed for an innumerable number of reasons, some of which have been set out by LoveandGarbage, Alex Massie, and esteemed comrade editor James amongst others. It’s a creaking pile of uninformed, unenforceable, overreaching, illiberal, misconceived nonsense that has been quickly disowned by the people who commissioned it.

What really struck me, and I confess a particular long standing interest here, was the continued utter misunderstanding of the nature of the internet.

Now, the current internet is not The Internet that I grew up on. For one thing, capitalising it looks a bit odd now, even though it’s a single, unique entity and so should be a proper noun. For another it’s vastly more centralised and that means there are clearly defined and easily accessible points of control, at least for the small walled gardens that the majority of people live on.

When I was a lad we had a truly decentralised, unstoppable, designed to keep pace with cockroaches in the event of nuclear war, discussion system called USENET. It’s a master piece of robustness in the face of attack which also means that it’s hugely difficult to design a censorship system for (although the folks on* tried their best with the Breidbart Index), and that’s not taking into account the various sub-networks what would probably today be called the “dark USENET” if folk knew what USENET was.

Even the web, that bane of the Proper Internet, was pretty open. There were a multitude of places you could host things, but mostly you found someone with a box wired into some reasonably connected router with a peering agreement or too, maybe a frac-T1 if you were lucky (and your dad used to kill you before you woke up) and hey, bonsaikittendotcom.

These days… not so much. You’re an authoritarian government? You call up Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook or… you probably only need to call them actually. If something isn’t doing the rounds on the uninformed echo chamber that is Twitter  it’s probably hosted on some server sitting in the Amazon Web Service cloud and if you can’t find it via Google it may as well not exist.

McCluskey’s failure to grasp anything that’s happened in the last 20 years is depressing but pretty predictable – the Digital Economy Act with its talk of “intellectual property addresses” highlighted just how wide spread fundamental misunderstanding about the Internet still is. What worries me more is that we have essentially squandered the most important technical revolution of the last two centuries and placed it in the hands of  half a dozen companies most of whom make all of their money from advertising and who operating in a single judicial system. As we’ve seen in Egypt this makes them extraordinarily vulnerable to pressure, and there’s a risk that view of the internet held by people like him and Ted Stevens is becoming truer over time not because they are altering their views but because the way we use the internet is heading in that direction.