"Let's take the Internet out of the control of terrestrial entities."
This call to arms, issued by hacker activist Nick Farr, is the rallying cry behind a new plan to launch satellites into space to prevent Internet censorship.
Farr, a spokesperson for the Germany-based Chaos Computer Club, outlined the group's mission at this week's Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, the BBC reported. Calling for an "uncensorable Internet in space," Farr outlined the CCC's Hackerspace Global Grid, a project that also will involve setting up low-cost ground stations to track and communicate with the fast-moving satellites.
The time is now
Farr, who introduced and began soliciting donations for the Hackerspace Global Grid this summer, said the project is now a top priority because of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that some critics say could have catastrophic effects on freedom of communication and the way people connect to the Internet.
"Hackers are about open information; we believe communication is a human right," Farr said.
The CCC's only motive in launching the proposed satellites is knowledge, he said, and the desire to "put humanity back in space in a meaningful way."
Working with Constellation, a German aerospace research initiative, the Hackerspace Global Grid plans to have three prototype ground stations in place by the first half of 2012.
Tricky tech and a legal black hole
The hackers might not have an easy go of it, Alan Woodward, a computer science professor at the University of Surrey, told the BBC.
"Low-Earth-orbit satellites, such as have been launched by amateurs so far, do not stay in a single place but rather orbit, typically every 90 minutes," Woodward said. "That's not to say they can't be used for communications, but obviously only for the relatively brief periods that they are in your view."
"It's difficult to see how such satellites could be used as a viable communications grid other than in bursts," he added.
There's a legal black hole to contend with, as well: Outer space is not governed by the countries beneath it, Woodward explained, so while the CCC's satellites could function as planned, "any country could take the law into their own hands and disable the satellites."