The US State Department has formally censored the “Liberator,” a file describing the construction of a plastic gun by a 3D printer. Officials say the censorship is vital to “US national security and furthering US foreign policy objectives.”
The file was removed from a website by its creator Cody Wilson, and replaced with a note confirming that the State Department’s Defense Trade Controls agency had ordered its removal. At the time it had reportedly been downloaded over 100,000 times.
State Department officials patting themselves on the back as though this was a fait accompli appear not to understand how the Internet actually works, and despite the file being “banned” it is still readily available worldwide.
Bittorrent technology allows individuals to share the file over a distributed network, and literally thousands of such individuals are hosting the file, meaning it can be acquired in a matter of a few seconds with little effort. It is believed to have been downloaded in this manner millions of times since the ban.
The Pirate Bay, one of the sites hosting torrent files linking users to the distributed network, insists it will not remove the link, saying that for nearly 10 years it has never removed anything because of outside pressure and that this would not be the first. Given the distributed nature of the content, it is literally impossible for the State Department to truly force it off of the Internet in any permanent way.
A similar attempt to ban information sharing was seen in 1999 with DeCSS, the file which allows computers to decode DVDs for personal viewing. Several attempted bans were carried out in the ensuring years, but the file, only 434 bytes, was and is trivially available worldwide.