"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Internet Censorship’

Edward Snowden’s Not The Story. The Fate Of The Internet Is.

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm
Edward Snowden

While the press concentrates on the furore surrounding Edward Snowden’s search for political asylum, it has forgotten the importance of his revelations. Photograph: Tatyana Lokshina/AP

Oldspeak: “Here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.  The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered… Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious…. Third… the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant…. (Fourth) No US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.” –John Naughton

“Look past the “Where’s Waldo” narrative that been propagandized by state media outlets. The last free and open source of communication and distribution of free information and truthful knowledge is fast becoming a thing of the past. It’s being turned into a global surveillance network. You no longer should have any reasonable expectation for privacy of any activities you engage in digitally. The Stasi couldn’t have dreamed of doing it better.” –OSJ

By John Naughton @ The U.K. Guardian:

Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world’s mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.

In a way, it doesn’t matter why the media lost the scent. What matters is that they did. So as a public service, let us summarise what Snowden has achieved thus far.

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users’ data.

Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn’t have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.

These are pretty significant outcomes and they’re just the first-order consequences of Snowden’s activities. As far as most of our mass media are concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap – speculation about Snowden’s travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical appearance, etc. The “human interest” angle has trumped the real story, which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world actually works and the direction in which it is heading.

As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.

The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”

That’s all at nation-state level. But the Snowden revelations also have implications for you and me.

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you’re thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.

And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” she said, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity.”

Spot on. So when your chief information officer proposes to use the Amazon or Google cloud as a data-store for your company’s confidential documents, tell him where to file the proposal. In the shredder

 

 

How Cryptography Is A Key Weapon In The Fight Against Empire States’ Campaign For Global Control

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm
A telecommunications station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“Africa is coming online, but with hardware supplied by China. Will the internet be the means by which Africa continues to be subjugated into the 21st century?’ Photograph: Mao Siqian/Corbis

Oldspeak: “The new great game is not the war for oil pipelines. It is the war for information pipelines: the control over fibre-optic cable paths that spread undersea and overland. The new global treasure is control over the giant data flows that connect whole continents and civlisations, linking the communications of billions of people and organisations… Meanwhile, the United States is accelerating the next great arms race. The discoveries of the Stuxnet virus – and then the Duqu and Flame viruses – herald a new era of highly complex weaponised software made by powerful states to attack weaker states… Once upon a time the use of computer viruses as offensive weapons was a plot device in science fiction novels. Now it is a global reality spurred on by the reckless behaviour of the Barack Obama administration in violation of international law…. Cryptography can protect not just the civil liberties and rights of individuals, but the sovereignty and independence of whole countries, solidarity between groups with common cause, and the project of global emancipation. It can be used to fight not just the tyranny of the state over the individual but the tyranny of the empire over smaller states.-Julian Assange.

“The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.” –Tom Clancy

“This is why Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, the late Aaron Schwartz and other of their ilk are have been pursued, persecuted &  prosecuted with such relentless ferocity. They understand that information, truthful information, has profound and transformative power to change the world for the betterment of all.  They understand that the new slavery is digital, and are selflessly trying to liberate our minds and bodies  by widely disseminating previously secret, truthful information.  They understand that information is not “aiding our enemies” as our controllers tell us; it’s liberating them and us as well. It’s leveling the playing field. It’s exposing lies, corruption, exploitation, murder, illegality, subjugation, greed, sociopathy,  and countless other manner of aberrant and destructive behaviors  that are putting our civilization and planet in peril while being used to control us and take advantage of our ignorance.  They understand that truthful information is key to protecting civil liberties, human and planetary rights. People are currently being controlled quite effectively with yodabites of false information.  Assange et al understand that it’s in our controllers best interests to keep our attention focused on triviality and not reality. The small portions of truthful information that have disseminated are already having significant effects. Independent journalists and whistleblowers are the preeminent threat to the Supra-Governmental Corporate Network. It it why they are being held up as dangerous enemies of the state.  Elites must suppress their efforts at all costs for the terminally corrupted system they’ve created to continue to function at status quo. Total freedom of information is a powerful agent of democracy and equality. Elites are doing all they can to prevent it from becoming reality. Computer code is the new nuclear bomb. Our controllers cannot allow The People’s finger to be on the button.” –OSJ

By Julian Assange @ The U.K. Guardian:

The original cypherpunks were mostly Californian libertarians. I was from a different tradition but we all sought to protect individual freedom from state tyranny. Cryptography was our secret weapon. It has been forgotten how subversive this was. Cryptography was then the exclusive property of states, for use in their various wars. By writing our own software and disseminating it far and wide we liberated cryptography, democratised it and spread it through the frontiers of the new internet.

The resulting crackdown, under various “arms trafficking” laws, failed. Cryptography became standardised in web browsers and other software that people now use on a daily basis. Strong cryptography is a vital tool in fighting state oppression. That is the message in my book, Cypherpunks. But the movement for the universal availability of strong cryptography must be made to do more than this. Our future does not lie in the liberty of individuals alone.

Our work in WikiLeaks imparts a keen understanding of the dynamics of the international order and the logic of empire. During WikiLeaks’ rise we have seen evidence of small countries bullied and dominated by larger ones or infiltrated by foreign enterprise and made to act against themselves. We have seen the popular will denied expression, elections bought and sold, and the riches of countries such as Kenya stolen and auctioned off to plutocrats in London and New York.

The struggle for Latin American self-determination is important for many more people than live in Latin America, because it shows the rest of the world that it can be done. But Latin American independence is still in its infancy. Attempts at subversion of Latin American democracy are still happening, including most recently in Honduras, Haiti, Ecuador and Venezuela.

This is why the message of the cypherpunks is of special importance to Latin American audiences. Mass surveillance is not just an issue for democracy and governance – it’s a geopolitical issue. The surveillance of a whole population by a foreign power naturally threatens sovereignty. Intervention after intervention in the affairs of Latin American democracy have taught us to be realistic. We know that the old powers will still exploit any advantage to delay or suppress the outbreak of Latin American independence.

Consider simple geography. Everyone knows oil resources drive global geopolitics. The flow of oil determines who is dominant, who is invaded, and who is ostracised from the global community. Physical control over even a segment of an oil pipeline yields great geopolitical power. Governments in this position can extract huge concessions. In a stroke, the Kremlin can sentence eastern Europe and Germany to a winter without heat. And even the prospect of Tehran running a pipeline eastwards to India and China is a pretext for bellicose logic from Washington.

But the new great game is not the war for oil pipelines. It is the war for information pipelines: the control over fibre-optic cable paths that spread undersea and overland. The new global treasure is control over the giant data flows that connect whole continents and civlisations, linking the communications of billions of people and organisations.

It is no secret that, on the internet and on the phone, all roads to and from Latin America lead through the United States. Internet infrastructure directs 99% of the traffic to and from South America over fibre-optic lines that physically traverse US borders. The US government has shown no scruples about breaking its own law to tap into these lines and spy on its own citizens. There are no such laws against spying on foreign citizens. Every day, hundreds of millions of messages from the entire Latin American continent are devoured by US spy agencies, and stored forever in warehouses the size of small cities. The geographical facts about the infrastructure of the internet therefore have consequences for the independence and sovereignty of Latin America.

The problem also transcends geography. Many Latin American governments and militaries secure their secrets with cryptographic hardware. These are boxes and software that scramble messages and then unscramble them on the other end. Governments purchase them to keep their secrets secret – often at great expense to the people – because they are correctly afraid of interception of their communications.

But the companies who sell these expensive devices enjoy close ties with the US intelligence community. Their CEOs and senior employees are often mathematicians and engineers from the NSA capitalising on the inventions they created for the surveillance state. Their devices are often deliberately broken: broken with a purpose. It doesn’t matter who is using them or how they are used – US agencies can still unscramble the signal and read the messages.

These devices are sold to Latin American and other countries as a way to protect their secrets but they are really a way of stealing secrets.

Meanwhile, the United States is accelerating the next great arms race. The discoveries of the Stuxnet virus – and then the Duqu and Flame viruses – herald a new era of highly complex weaponised software made by powerful states to attack weaker states. Their aggressive first-strike use on Iran is determined to undermine Iranian efforts at national sovereignty, a prospect that is anathema to US and Israeli interests in the region.

Once upon a time the use of computer viruses as offensive weapons was a plot device in science fiction novels. Now it is a global reality spurred on by the reckless behaviour of the Barack Obama administration in violation of international law. Other states will now follow suit, enhancing their offensive capacity to catch up.

The United States is not the only culprit. In recent years, the internet infrastructure of countries such as Uganda has been enriched by direct Chinese investment. Hefty loans are doled out in return for African contracts to Chinese companies to build internet backbone infrastructure linking schools, government ministries and communities into the global fibre-optic system.

Africa is coming online, but with hardware supplied by an aspirant foreign superpower. Will the African internet be the means by which Africa continues to be subjugated into the 21st century? Is Africa once again becoming a theatre for confrontation between the global powers?

These are just some of the important ways in which the message of the cypherpunks goes beyond the struggle for individual liberty. Cryptography can protect not just the civil liberties and rights of individuals, but the sovereignty and independence of whole countries, solidarity between groups with common cause, and the project of global emancipation. It can be used to fight not just the tyranny of the state over the individual but the tyranny of the empire over smaller states.

The cypherpunks have yet to do their greatest work. Join us.

Facebook Censors Prominent Political Critics; Deactivated Accounts In Coordinated Purge

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm

8316464299 f197dba5e3 b Facebook Even Censors ART

Oldspeak:”The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum” –Noam Chomsky Facebook is the incarnation of Chomsky’s statement. This is hardly surprising. Meanwhile the rays of sunlight between the U.S. with its inverted totalitarian kleptocracy, and overt, hardcore totalitarian regimes grow fainter and fainter. It seems to be just as NSA Whistleblower William Binney said  says as he holds his thumb and forefinger close together,  “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.” Private, terms governed, electronic social networks, masquerading as public, free, all sharing democratic spaces. While we are constantly encouraged to share our feelings and everything else about ourselves on facebook, only a very narrow range of reality control approved feelings and things are acceptable. All others are removed. This is genius of this variant of Big Brother. It’s not something to fear or avoid. You love it. You tell it everything. You share everything gleefully. Where you are, who you’re with, when, why, how, how long, etc, etc, etc…. It’s the perfect narcissism cultivating surveillance tool. It is your friend.  Big Brother is your friend. “Ignorance Is Strength”

Update: Facebook Yields to Pressure: Reactivates Political Critics’ Accounts

By Washington’s Blog:

We’ve previously documented that the largest social media websites censor government criticism.

For example, Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For instance, Facebook deletes accounts created by any Palestinian resistance groups.

Today, Facebook deactivated the Facebook accounts of some of the leading American political critics.

For example, former diplomat and U.C. Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott told us that his Facebook account was suddenly deactivated today without any justification.

So did Richard Gage, founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

And Michael Rivero, owner of the popular website What Really Happened.

Infowars – one of the world’s most popular alternative media sites – confirms that accounts for the following political commentators have been shut down:

  • Kurt Nimmo, writer for Infowars.com and formerly Counterpunch
  • Aaron Dykes of Infowars
  • Jason from Infowars
  • Infowar Artist

Indeed, Facebook told an Infowars reporter last year not to post anything political:

Be careful making about making political statements on facebook … facebook is about building relationships not a platform for your political viewpoint. Don’t antagonize your base. Be careful and congnizat (sic) of what you are preaching.

And Infowars also confirms that the Facebook account for Natural News – one of the most popular alternative health sites – has been shut down.

Reports are that the Facebook accounts of a number of other political critics were suspended or deactivated today as well, including:

  • Robert M. Bowman, former director of the “Star Wars” defense program under President Ronald Reagan
  • Anthony J. Hilder, popular radio host
  • William Lewis
  • Wacboston
  • Michael Murphy
  • Mike Skuthan
  • Packy Savvenas
  • Sean Wright and Katherine Albrect

 

Google Transparency Report Shows U.S. Gov’t Surveillance, Requests For Removal Of Information From Internet On The Rise In 2012

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oldspeak:”Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise– the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. Andre Breton, too, dreamed of this paradise when he talked about the glass house in which he longed to live. If totalitarianism did not exploit these archetypes, which are deep inside us all and rooted deep in all religions, it could never attract so many people, especially during the early phases of its existence. Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way. and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.” –Milan Kundera In a totalitarian state, there is ever more surveillance, ever more restriction of acceptable thought, ever more disappearance of  ‘undesirable’ information. And people (like Samir Khan, Anwar-Al Awlaki and his 16 year old son). Lies become truth. Ignorance is seen as a strength. War masquerades as peace, pervading ever aspect of out language and culture.  The free and open internet is fast becoming a thing of the past; incrementally being ever more censored, edited, surveilled and controlled. It is the way of the world in the turnkey totalitarian police state the U.S. has morphed into.

By Brittany Fitzgerald @ The Huffington Post:

The internet is becoming an increasingly monitored sphere.

According to Google’s sixth bi-annual Transparency Report, released on Nov. 13, the number of government requests to remove or survey content from the search engine’s services steadily increased in 2012.

Google’s report on the rise in digital interference from Big Brother comes amid furor over a sex scandal involving former CIA Director General David Petraeus, who resigned from his position last Friday and admitted to an affair. Sources said Petraeus had a relationship with Paula Broadwell, who in 2012 published a fawning biography on the general. In this couple’s case, the affair was uncovered using Gmail metadata buried in email exchanges.

“Broadwell will now become part of the statistics that Gmail reports in its next semi-annual transparency report on government data requests,” Wired deftly noted after reporting on methods the FBI used to uncover the affair.

In a blog post explaining the most recent Transparency Report, Google writes that from January to June of 2012, government officials made 20,938 inquiries about 34,614 specific accounts. These figures were higher than those reported in the previous report.

Take a look at the graph below to see how government requests to Google have increased since the company began releasing this information in 2009:

google transparency report

The amount of content that governments want completely removed from Google’s services is a number that also saw a sharp increase throughout the last six months. While this statistic has remained relatively steady in previous reports, the company received 1,791 requests to remove 17,746 pieces of content in 2012. Check out the numbers in the graph below:

google transparency report

“Government surveillance is on the rise,” Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou states in Google’s blog post. “[G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report.”

But The Atlantic is quick to point out that Google doesn’t comply with all of these requests. In fact, since 2010, the company has been less compliant with governments’ requests for removal of content from Google services. In the United States, Google said it recently complied with less than 50 percent of these government requests.

But governments’ requests for user data is another story. According to the Transparency Report, Google still complies with 90 percent of these orders in the U.S.

So should you be worried about your personal email accounts? Most people probably shouldn’t be, according to Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. “The government can’t just wander through your emails just because they’d like to know what you’re thinking or doing,” Baker recently told the AP. “But if the government is investigating a crime, it has a lot of authority to review people’s emails.”

Necessary Illusions – Thought Control in a ‘Democratic’ Society: Facebook, Reddit, Digg Censor “Controversial” Content

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Big Brother is Watching You‘. “Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For example, Facebook deletes accounts created by Palestinian resistance groups.” ‘Downvote’ bots, Chinese style ‘content censors’. ‘Persona Management Software’ Government-controlled armies of  ‘Virtual People’  hundreds of fake profiles controlled by a few real people. “Fake people manipulating and,in some cases, even manufacturing the appearance of public opinion.” Edward Bernays would be too pleased to see the awesome system his early machinations have spawned. An omnipresent, surreptitious, propaganda, censorship, thought control and consent manufacturing system. And that system has been operating for close to 100 years, getting ever more sophisticated and insidiously ingrained in American life. “Ignorance Is Strength” “Freedom Is Slavery”

By Washington’s Blog:

Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For example, Facebook deletes accounts created by Palestinian resistance groups.

Digg was caught censoring stories which were controversial or too critical of the government. See this and this.

Now, even social media site Reddit – which helped launch the anti-Sopa Internet blackout and publicize GoDaddy’s slimy Sopa support – is doing the same thing.

As just one example, posts from this website are being censored by Reddit. Specifically, a friend of this site who has submitted stories to Reddit has received the following messages of rejection from a Reddit moderator named davidreiss666:

from davidreiss666 via /r/worldnews/

WashingtonBlog is not something we consider a good source for r/Worldnews.

 

from davidreiss666 via /r/worldnews/

Please submit that story from an alternate domain. Thank you.

 

And another moderator named Maxion:

from Maxion via /r/worldnews/

I am sorry but this submission is not appropriate for this subreddit.

There are certainly also more open-minded moderators at Reddit. But a couple of censors can squash discussion on entire topics.

Why Are They Censoring?

Why are they censoring?

Well, censorship is rampant in America … and social media has grown so big that it has become a target as well.

In addition, as I pointed out last year [for ease of reading, we’ll skip indentation]:

Wired reported on Friday:

The Pentagon is looking to build a tool to sniff out social media propaganda campaigns and spit some counter-spin right back at it.

On Thursday, Defense Department extreme technology arm Darpa unveiled its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. It’s an attempt to get better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media. SMISC has two goals. First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself.

This is more than just checking the trending topics on Twitter. The Defense Department wants to deeply grok social media dynamics. So SMISC algorithms will be aimed at discovering and tracking the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” on social media, according to Darpa’s announcement.

***

SMISC needs to be able to seek out “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations” developing across the social sphere. SMISC is supposed to quickly flag rumors and emerging themes on social media, figure out who’s behind it and what. Moreover, Darpa wants SMISC to be able to actually figure out whether this is a random product of the hivemind or a propaganda operation by an adversary nation or group.

Of course, SMISC won’t be content to just to hang back and monitor social media trends in strategic locations. It’s about building a better spin machine for Uncle Sam, too. Once SMISC’s latches on to an influence operation being launched, it’s supposed to help out in “countermessaging.”

***

SMISC is yet another example of how the military is becoming very interested in what’s going on in the social media sphere.

Indeed, as I wrote in February:

I noted in 2009, in an article entitled “Does The Government Manipulate Social Media?”:

The U.S. government long ago announced its intention to “fight the net”.

As revealed by an official Pentagon report signed by Rumsfeld called “Information Operations Roadmap”:

The roadmap [contains an] acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

“Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience,” it reads.

“Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” it goes on.

***

“Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system”.

Indeed, the Pentagon publicly announced years ago that it was considering using “black propaganda” – in other words, knowing lies.

CENTCOM announced in 2008 that a team of employees would be “[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.”

The Air Force is now also engaging bloggers. Indeed, an Air Force spokesman said:

“We obviously have many more concerns regarding cyberspace than a typical Social Media user,” Capt. Faggard says. “I am concerned with how insurgents or potential enemies can use Social Media to their advantage. It’s our role to provide a clear and accurate, completely truthful and transparent picture for any audience.”

In other words, the government is targeting “social media”, including popular user-ranked news sites.

In addition, when you look at what the Israeli lobby has done with Megaphone software to automatically vote stories questioning Israel down and to send pro-Israel letters to politicians and media (see this, this and this), you can start to see how the U.S. military – an even larger and better-funded organization – could substantially influence voting on social news sites with very little effort.

Moreover,the military has outsourced many projects to private contractors. For example, in Iraq, much of the fighting has been outsourced to Blackwater. And governmental intelligence functions have largely been outsourced to private companies.

It is therefore not impossible that the government is hiring cheap labor to downvote stories on the social media sites which question the government, and to post pro-government comments.

(other governments and large companies “astroturf” online as well. See this, this and this.)

I pointed out the same month:

Government propagandists, their hired private contractors and useful idiots are creating “downvote bots” or scripts to bury stories which question the government.

***

One free, simple scripting program to create automatic downvotes of certain topics or news posters is called “Greasemonkey”, which is commonly used on large social news sites such as Reddit.

For example, there are some 2,480 hits … for the google search site:reddit.com greasemonkey downvote. This is some 2,480 times that Reddit users are publicly admitting to using greasemonkey (see also this).

Propaganda agents obviously aren’t going to publicly brag about what they are doing, and you can bet that their use of downvote bots is much greater. Moreover, they probably have more sophisticated software than Greasemonkey.

Today, Raw Story reports that the Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people:

Internet users would be well advised to ask another question entirely: Are my “friends” even real people?

In the continuing saga of data security firm HBGary, a new caveat has come to light: not only did they plot to help destroy secrets outlet WikiLeaks and discredit progressive bloggers, they also crafted detailed proposals for software that manages online “personas,” allowing a single human to assume the identities of as many fake people as they’d like.

The revelation was among those contained in the company’s emails, which were dumped onto bittorrent networks after hackers with cyber protest group “Anonymous” broke into their systems.

In another document unearthed by “Anonymous,” one of HBGary’s employees also mentioned gaming geolocation services to make it appear as though selected fake persons were at actual events.

“There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas,” it said.

Government involvement

Eerie as that may be, more perplexing, however, is a federal contract from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, located south of Tampa, Florida, that solicits providers of “persona management software.”

While there are certainly legitimate applications for such software, such as managing multiple “official” social media accounts from a single input, the more nefarious potential is clear.

Unfortunately, the Air Force’s contract description doesn’t help dispel their suspicions either. As the text explains, the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be “replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent.”

It continues, noting the need for secure virtual private networks that randomize the operator’s Internet protocol (IP) address, making it impossible to detect that it’s a single person orchestrating all these posts. Another entry calls for static IP address management for each persona, making it appear as though each fake person was consistently accessing from the same computer each time.

The contract also sought methods to anonymously establish virtual private servers with private hosting firms in specific geographic locations. This would allow that server’s “geosite” to be integrated with their social media profiles, effectively gaming geolocation services.

The Air Force added that the “place of performance” for the contract would be at MacDill Air Force Base, along with Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad. The contract was offered on June 22, 2010.

It was not clear exactly what the Air Force was doing with this software, or even if it had been procured.

Manufacturing consent

Though many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology, the reasonable fear should be perfectly clear. “Persona management software” can be used to manipulate public opinion on key information, such as news reports. An unlimited number of virtual “people” could be marshaled by only a few real individuals, empowering them to create the illusion of consensus.

***

That’s precisely what got DailyKos blogger Happy Rockefeller in a snit: the potential for military-run armies of fake people manipulating and, in some cases, even manufacturing the appearance of public opinion.

“I don’t know about you, but it matters to me what fellow progressives think,” the blogger wrote. “I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn’t credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can’t be trusted, I won’t base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight.

“That’s me. I believe there are many people though who will base their judgment on rumors and mob attacks. And for those people, a fake mob can be really effective.”

***

“Team Themis” [tasked by the Chamber of Commerce to come up with strategies for responding to progressive bloggers and others] also included a proposal to use malware hacks against progressive organizations, and the submission of fake documents in an effort to discredit established groups.

HBGary was also behind a plot by Bank of America to destroy WikiLeaks’ technology platform, other emails revealed. The company was humiliated by members of “Anonymous” after CEO Aaron Barr bragged that he’d “infiltrated” the group.

And see this, this, this, this.

***

Postscript: Gaming social media is only one propaganda technique employed by the government:

  • The New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages
  • A 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques
  • The Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda
  • And one of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda

SOPA & PIPA Shelved But Is ACTA Unstoppable? Little Known International Censorship Treaty Crafted In Secret Without Public Debate

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 11:13 am

Oldspeak:ACTA IS A THREAT TO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND OPEN ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE.  It contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA. It goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. We’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification.” –E.D. Cain “…after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.” –Sue Gee The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. Secretary Of State (1977-1981) The scientific elite are relentlessly working to assert more and more control over access and dissemination of information. A free and open internet must be closed and restricted to achieve those ends. The people will need to stay informed and vigilant against these dire threats to our freedoms.

By E.D. Cain @ Forbes Magazine:

When sites like Wikipedia and Reddit banded together for a major blackout January 18th, the impact was felt all the way to Washington D.C. The blackout had lawmakers running from the controversial anti-piracy legislation, SOPA and PIPA, which critics said threatened freedom of speech online.

Unfortunately for free-speech advocates, censorship is still a serious threat.

Few people have heard of ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, but the provisions in the agreement are just as pernicious as anything we saw in SOPA. Worse, the agreement spans virtually all of the countries in the developed world, including all of the EU, the United States, Switzerland and Japan.

Many of these countries have already signed or ratified it, and the cogs are still turning. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. The Bush administration started the process, but the Obama administration has aggressively pursued it.

Indeed, we’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification. The time to stop the treaty is now, and we may need a second global internet blackout to call attention to it.

Here’s a quick video primer:

ACTA bypasses the sovereign laws of participating nations, forcing ISP’s across the globe to adopt these draconian measures.

Worse, it goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world.

Despite ACTA’s secrecy, criticism of the agreement has been widespread. Countries like India and Brazil have been vocal opponents of the agreement, claiming that it will do a great deal of harm to emerging economies.

I’ll have more on the agreement as it emerges. But to briefly sum up, ACTA contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA.

  • ACTA spans virtually all of the developed world, threatening the freedom of the internet as well as access to medication and food. The threat is every bit as real for those countries not involved in the process as the signatories themselves.
  • ACTA has already been signed by many countries including the US, but requires ratification in the EU parliament and the US Senate.
  • The entire monstrosity has been negotiated behind closed doors and kept secret from the public. Technocrats, beholden to the deep pockets of the entertainment lobby, have masked the agreement behind the misnomer of “anti-counterfeiting” when in fact it goes much, much further.

If you thought SOPA would break the internet, ACTA is much worse. And it could become law across the global economy without so much as a murmur of opposition.

Worse still, it’s not alone. Even more restrictive provisions exist in another trade agreement currently being hammered out by various nations.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveller organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”

The global economy needs to be seen as separate from those nations which comprise the global community of states. Civil society and a free global economy are not the same thing as the bogeyman so often referred to simply as “globalism.”

The free flow of goods and information is as much threatened by the global state apparatus as it is assisted by it, and industries with a vested interested in maintaining the status quo through draconian protectionist measures are now threatening the last frontier of the truly free economy.

By threatening the internet and free speech, the entertainment industry threatens its own existence. But with only short-term profits in mind, this will not deter them.

Yes, our lawmakers fled from SOPA and PIPA when push came to shove, but they have ACTA to fall back on. Notably, few of them are speaking out against this even more dangerous treaty. Not surprisingly one of the lone voices of dissent is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who has spoken out against the treaty.

“It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law,” he wrote. “But regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law … the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.”

Even absent US participation, however, we should all be worried about the implications of this and other trade agreements on the global economy, the ripple effects of which would reach all of us regardless of geographical location.

Remember, when one of these bills or trade agreements falls, another rises up to take its place. ACTA has been in the works for several years. SOPA almost passed into law unopposed. The threat to civil society isn’t going away.

If you care about freedom of speech, or if you have participated in SOPA protests, please help spread the word about ACTA. You can sign a petition to stop it here.

By Sue Gee @ I-Programmer

Last Wednesday’s blackout by Wikipedia, Reddit and other sites raised awareness of PIPA and SOPA but there’s another threat to the open Internet, ACTA and has already been signed in US and elsewhere.

There has been jubilation about the fact that both the PIPA and SOPA bills that were being debated by the US Congress have stopped being an immediate menace.

Yes the action taken by Wikipedia had the desired effect, as did the signatures of the citizens who petitioned President Obama. However, in reality we should view the outcome as a temporary setback for the supporters of this legislation.

They will no doubt try again and we just have to hope that the next proposed legislation is less draconian.

The lasting achievement of the Internet Strike was that it alerted ordinary Internet users to the idea that there are freedoms we currently take for granted that could be blocked with widespread adverse affects.

But while many more people now know about SOPA and PIPA, how many have heard of ACTA – which by having the status of an international trade agreement rather than one country’s law has been introduced without the level of debate accorded to proposed legislation?

According to La Quadrature du Net, a French advocacy group that promotes the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet:

ACTA is one more offensive against the sharing of culture on the Internet. ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an agreement secretly negotiated by a small “club” of like-minded countries (39 countries, including the 27 of the European Union, the United States, Japan, etc). Negotiated instead of being democratically debated, ACTA bypasses parliaments and international organizations to dictate a repressive logic dictated by the entertainment industries.

La Quadrature says ACTA aims at imposing new criminal sanctions and online censorship in the name of copyright.

The US, Canada and many other countries have already signed the ACTA agreement and it was recently adopted by the European Union but it has yet to be debated by the European Parliament and so there is still a short window for protest against ACTA to prevent it being enacted.

Watch the video below to discover why we need to say No to ACTA and refer to La Quadrature’s Wiki to discover how to take action against it.

At this time the Internet is under more threat from sources that are alien to it, or worse fear it, than at any other. However, we are not good at spotting legislative controls that could harm what we do. Partly because it is a different technology and we don’t know the jargon, but mainly because stealth works in the favor of any party trying to pass restrictive legislature.

In the past most of the attempts to control the Internet have come from commercial interests, and piracy was its main target. Now, after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.

The big problem is that, even when we do notice, the ethos of the web works against us. The web should be open, information should be free and, even when Wikipediawent dark to protest against a bill that would clearly damage the Internet, manyWikipedians thought it was a bad thing for the most noble enterprise, an encyclopedia, to get embroiled in politics.

We desperately need a less idealistic view of the web, one that can defend its freedoms while minimizing the evil within.

 

For more information please visit:

EFF’s International Issue Page on ACTA: https://www.eff.org/issues/acta

European Digital Rights’ (EDRi) coverage here: www.edri.org/stopacta

La Quadrature du Net’s coverage here: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/acta

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s (FFII) blog on ACTA http://acta.ffii.org/

Twitter hash tags: #ACTA

Twitter accounts:

@StopActaNow

@ffii

@EDRi_org

@laquadrature

“Internet Censorship Affects Everybody”: The Global Struggle For Online Freedom

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Oldspeak: The reason why these issues are so important for ordinary Americans and really go beyond just sort of a nerdy, geeky technical issue is that in today’s society, we, as citizens, increasingly depend on internet services and platforms, mobile services and platforms, not only for our personal lives and our businesses and our jobs, but also for our political discourse and political activism, getting involved with politics. And so, it’s very important that people who are exercising power, whether they’re corporate or whether they’re government, that are exercising power over what we can see, over what we can access, over what we can publish and transmit through these digital spaces, need to be held accountable, and we need to make sure that power is not being abused in these digital spaces and platforms that we depend on. And so, that’s why this SOPA and PIPA legislation and the fight over it is so important, is who are you empowering to decide what people can and cannot see and do on the internet, and how do you make sure that that power is not going to be abused in ways that could have political consequences. And we’ve actually seen how existing copyright law has sometimes been abused by different actors who want to prevent critics from speaking out.” –Rebecca MacKinnon Chinese style internet censorship is coming to America. It may not happen now, but you can bet this won’t be the last effort to do so.

Related Stories:

Understand Today’s Internet Strike: SOPA, PIPA And A Free Internet

Wikipedia, Reddit to Shut Down Sites Wednesday to Protest Proposed Stop Online Piracy Act

Censorship, Capitalism & “Personalization” The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You

Internet Censorship Bills Up For Vote Dec 5th – “Stop Online Piracy Act” & “Protect IP” Garner Enthusiastic Bi-Partisan Support In Congress

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Rebecca MacKinnon in Washington, D.C., author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Rebecca, the internet has been touted as such a tremendous liberating force. When we look at the events of this past year, the uprisings throughout the Middle East, part of the discussion of how that moment came is because of the internet, because of social media. And yet you talk about, more often than not, the internet is being used to spy on, to crack down on—spy on people, crack down on civil liberties. Talk about what you have found and how this relates to the legislation that we’re seeing now being developed in Washington.

REBECCA MacKINNON: Well, thanks very much, Amy, for having me on here today.

And just to connect my book to the issues that you were just discussing in the previous segment about the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, I think the reason why this—these issues are so important for ordinary Americans and really go beyond just sort of a nerdy, geeky technical issue is that in today’s society, we, as citizens, increasingly depend on internet services and platforms, mobile services and platforms, not only for our personal lives and our businesses and our jobs, but also for our political discourse and political activism, getting involved with politics. And so, it’s very important that people who are exercising power, whether they’re corporate or whether they’re government, that are exercising power over what we can see, over what we can access, over what we can publish and transmit through these digital spaces, need to be held accountable, and we need to make sure that power is not being abused in these digital spaces and platforms that we depend on. And so, that’s why this SOPA and PIPA legislation and the fight over it is so important, is who are you empowering to decide what people can and cannot see and do on the internet, and how do you make sure that that power is not going to be abused in ways that could have political consequences. And we’ve actually seen how existing copyright law has sometimes been abused by different actors who want to prevent critics from speaking out.

But coming back to the Arab Spring, my book is not about whether the good guys or the bad guys are winning on the internet. The internet is empowering everybody. It’s empowering Democrats. It’s empowering dictators. It’s empowering criminals. It’s empowering people who are doing really wonderful and creative things. But the issue really is how do we ensure that the internet evolves in a manner that remains consistent with our democratic values and that continues to support people’s ability to use these technologies for dissent and political organizing. And while the internet was part of the story in the Arab Spring in terms of how people were able to organize, it’s not so clear to what extent it’s going to be part of the story in terms of building stable democracies in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, where the dictators did fall, let alone in a number of other countries.

In Tunisia, for instance, there is a big argument going on, now that they’ve had their set of democratic elections to the Constitutional Assembly, and they’re trying to write their constitution and figure out how to set up a new democracy. And Tunisia, under Ben Ali, was actually one of the most sophisticated Arab countries when it came to censoring and surveillance on the internet. And quite a number of the people who have been democratically elected in Tunisia are calling for a resumption of censorship and surveillance for national security reasons, to maintain public morals and public order. And there’s a huge debate going on about what is the role of censorship and surveillance in a democracy, and how do you make sure that power is not abused.

And they turn and look at the United States, they look at Europe, and censorship laws are proliferating around the democratic world. And there’s not sufficient discussion and consideration for how these laws are going to be abused. And we’ve seen, actually, in Europe, with a number of efforts to censor both copyright infringement as well as child pornography and so on, that a lot of this internet blocking that happens, even in democracies, oftentimes exercises mission creep, so things that weren’t originally intended to be blocked end up getting blocked when the systems are in place. It’s really difficult to make sure that the censorship does not spread beyond its original intent. It’s very hard to control. So, this is one of the issues.

It’s not that the internet isn’t empowering. It’s not that the internet can’t help the good guys—it certainly does. But we’re at a critical point, I think, in history, where the internet is not some force of nature. How it evolves and how it can be used and who it empowers really depends on all of us taking responsibility for making sure it evolves in a direction that’s compatible with democracy, and that it doesn’t empower the most powerful incumbent governments or the most powerful corporations to decide what we can and cannot see and do with our technology.

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca MacKinnon, talk about the phenomenon, Control 2.0.

REBECCA MacKINNON: Right. So, Control 2.0 is what I refer to in terms of how authoritarian governments are evolving in the internet age. And so, one example I use is China. And China, in many ways, is exhibit A for how an authoritarian state survives the internet. And how do they do that? They have not cut off their population from the internet. In fact, the internet is expanding rapidly in China. They now have over 500 million internet users. And the Chinese government recognizes that being connected to the global internet is really important for its economy, for its education, for its culture, for innovation. Yet, at the same time, they have worked out a way to filter and censor the content overseas that they feel their citizens should not be accessing.

And what’s even more insidious, actually, is the way in which the state uses the private sector to conduct most of its censorship and surveillance. So, actually, what we know as the Great Firewall of China that blocks Twitter and Facebook, that’s only one part of Chinese internet censorship. Actually, most Chinese internet users are using Chinese-language websites that are run by Chinese companies based in China, and those companies are all held responsible for everything their users are doing. And so, they have to hire entire departments of people to monitor their users at the police’s behest and also to not just block, but delete content that the Chinese government believes infringes Chinese law. And, of course, when—in a country where crime is defined very broadly to include political and religious dissent, that involves a great deal of censorship. And it’s being conducted, to a great degree, not by government agents, but by private corporations who are complying with these demands in order to make a profit in China.

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca, talk about specifics, like Facebook, Facebook—changes in Facebook features and privacy settings, exposing identities of protesters to police in Egypt, in Iran. Talk about Google. Talk about Apple removing politically controversial apps.

REBECCA MacKINNON: Right. So, for instance, with Facebook, Facebook has its own kind of type of governance, which is why I call private internet companies the “sovereigns of cyberspace.” And so, Facebook has a rule where it requires that its users need to use their real name, their real identity. And while some people violate that rule, that makes them vulnerable to having their account shut down if they are discovered. And so, the reason they do this is that they want people to be accountable for their speech and prevent bullying and so on. And that may make sense in the context of a Western democracy, assuming that you’re not vulnerable in your workplace or anything like that, which is even a question, but it means that you have to be—as an Egyptian activist or as an activist in Syria and so on, you’re more exposed, because you have to be on Facebook using your real name.

And actually, a group of prominent activists in Egypt who were using Facebook to organize an anti-torture movement were doing so, before the regime fell, under fake names, and actually, at a critical point where they were trying to organize a major protest, their Facebook group went down, because they were in violation of the terms of service. And they actually had to find somebody in the U.S. to take over their Facebook page so that they could continue to operate.

And you also have a lot of cases of people in Iran. There have been a number of reports of people being tortured for their Facebook passwords and so on. And the fact that Iranian users are, in most cases, using their real names makes them a great deal more vulnerable.

And as you know, here in the United States, Facebook recently was subject to a fine and had to reach a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission because of the changes in its privacy settings that had been sudden at the end of 2009. People had made assumptions about whether their friends could be seen or not publicly. Suddenly those settings changed, and it exposed a lot of people in ways that, in some cases, were very dangerous.

But also, let’s take some other companies and some of the issues that users face. Apple, in its App Store, it has different versions of its App Store in different parts of the world. And their Chinese App Store censors applications that the Chinese government believes to be controversial. So, for instance, the Dalai Lama app in the Apple Store is not available in China. But Apple employees are also making a lot of other judgments about what content is and isn’t appropriate, that goes according to standards that are much more narrow than our First Amendment rights. So, for instance, an American political cartoonist, Mark Fiore, had an app in which he was making fun of a range of politicians, including President Obama, and Apple App Store nannies decided to censor that app, because they considered it to be too controversial, even though that speech was clearly protected under the First Amendment. So you have companies making these judgments that go well beyond sort of our judicial and constitutional process.

You also have Amazon, for instance, dropping WikiLeaks, even though it had not been accused, let alone, convicted, of any crime, simply because a number of American politicians objected to WikiLeaks. And so, there is this issue of: are companies, in the way in which they operate their services, considering the free expression rights and privacy rights of their users sufficiently to ensure that we’re able to have robust dissent, that people can speak truth to power in a manner that may be making current government officials very, very uncomfortable, but which is clearly protected both under our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca—

REBECCA MacKINNON: Should we be expecting companies to push back a bit more?

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the newly released government documents that reveal the Department of Homeland Security hired the military contractor General Dynamics to monitor postings of U.S. citizens on dozens of websites. The sites monitored included Facebook and Twitter, as well as several news sites, including the New York TimesWiredThe Huffington Post. General Dynamics was asked to collect reports that dealt with government agencies, including CIA, FEMA, ICE. Your thoughts?

REBECCA MacKINNON: Well, this is exactly the kind of issue that we need to deal with in a democracy. Now, if they have been hired to monitor postings that citizens are putting on a public website, I think that’s a reminder that our public information is public and that it’s being mined and watched by all kinds of people. But it’s also an example of why privacy settings are so important and why—why it’s important that people should be able to be anonymous if they want to be on the internet, if they fear consequences or if they fear misuse of the way in which they’re carrying out political discussions that could be used against them in different ways.

And there’s also a real issue, I think, in the way in which our laws are evolving when it comes to government access to information stored on corporate servers, that is supposed to be private, that we are not intending to be seen in public, which is that, according to the PATRIOT Act and a range of other law that has been passed in recent years, it’s much easier for government agencies to access your email, to access information about your postings on Twitter, even if they’re anonymous, than it is for government agents to come into your home and search your personal effects. To do that, they need a warrant. There is very clear restriction on the government’s ability to read your mail. Yet, according to current law, if your email is older than 180 days old, the government can access your email, if it’s stored on Gmail or Yahoo! or Hotmail, without any kind of warrant or court order. So, there’s a real erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights, really, to protection from unreasonable search and seizure. And this is going on, I think, to a great degree without a lot people realizing the extent to which our privacy rights are being eroded.

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca, we have 30 seconds, but the significance of Wednesday, of tomorrow, of Wikipedia and many other websites going dark in protest of the legislation here in the United States? What do you think is the most important issue people should take away from what’s happening and also from your book, Consent of the Networked?

REBECCA MacKINNON: Well, I think the action tomorrow really demonstrates that internet censorship affects everybody, it’s not just affecting people in China, that this is an issue that we all need to be concerned about, and it can happen in democracies as well as in dictatorships.

And the core message of my book is that if we want democracy to survive in the internet age, we really need to work to make sure that the internet evolves in a manner that is compatible with democracy, and that means exercising our power not only as consumers and internet users and investors, but also as voters, to make sure that our digital lives contain the same kind of protections of our rights that we expect in physical space.

AMY GOODMAN: Rebecca MacKinnon, I want to thank you very much for being with us, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, co-founder of Global Voices Online. Her new book is called Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom.

Internet Censorship Bills Up For Vote Dec 5th – “Stop Online Piracy Act” & “Protect IP” Garner Enthusiastic Bi-Partisan Support In Congress

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

Oldspeak:“If there’s one thing this latest do-nothing Congress does well it’s draft bills to take things away from you. On the heels of a bill to indefinitely detain Americans without cause or charge , we have a bill that won’t do what it’s supposed to do, (fight piracy), but will put American internet censorship at the same level it is in CHINA. ‘Any holder of intellectual property rights could simply send a letter to ad network operators like Google and to payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, demanding these companies cut off access to any site the IP holder names as an infringer.’-Mike MasnickYou can be found “dedicated to the theft of US property” if the core functionality of your site “enables or facilitates” infringement. The core functionality of nearly EVERY internet website that involves user generated content enables and facilitates infringement. THE ENTIRE INTERNET ITSELF ENABLES OR FACILITATES INFRINGMENT.’-Joan McCarter Under the oft used guise of “security”, media corporations; ‘intellectual property’ owners like Viacom, Universal, Paramount, and Monster Cable will get to compile lists of “rogue sites” “dedicated to infringement”, to be targeted for shutdown,  while providing no substantive evidence of infringement. In reality, the goal is to stifle free speech and competition. Censorship. As American as apple pie.

Related Video:

Wyden Call To Arms — Ask Him To Read Your Name During Filibuster Of SOPA/PIPA Censorship Bills

By Joan McCarter @ The Daily Kos:

Because forcing austerity on the nation isn’t enough to keep Congress occupied and off the streets, they’re also plotting against the internet with SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and PROTECT IP in the Senate (BANANAS alert if you click that link). In a generally deadlocked body, this one seems to be on the fast track, potentially coming up for a vote in the Senate as soon as Dec. 5.

ArsTechnica provides the background.

Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website’s online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments. The credit card processors and the advertising networks would be required to take quick action against the named website; only the filing of a “counter notification” by the website could get service restored.It’s the world envisioned by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) in today’s introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US House of Representatives. This isn’t some off-the-wall piece of legislation with no chance of passing, either; it’s the House equivalent to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act, which would officially bring Internet censorship to the US as a matter of law.

Calling its plan a “market-based system to protect US customers and prevent US funding of sites dedicated to theft of US property,” the new bill gives broad powers to private actors. Any holder of intellectual property rights could simply send a letter to ad network operators like Google and to payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, demanding these companies cut off access to any site the IP holder names as an infringer.

If that sounds a little alarmist, it isn’t. Mike Masnick at Techdirt, in the “definitive post on why SOPA and Protect IP are bad, bad ideas” walks through the extensive list of problems with the bills.

The real fear is the massive collateral damage these bills will have to jobs, the economy and innovation.

  • The broad definitions in the bill create tremendous uncertainty for nearly every site online.  This sounds like hyperbole, but it is not.  Defenders of the bill like to claim that it is “narrowly focused” on foreign rogue infringing sites.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While PIPA targets only foreign sites, the mechanism by which it does so is to put tremendous compliance and liability on third party service providers in the US.  SOPA goes even further in expanding the private right of action to domestic sites as well.  We’ve already seen how such laws can be abused by looking at how frequently false takedown claims are made under the existing DMCA.  Of course, under the DMCA, just the content is blocked.  Under SOPA all money to a site can be cut off.  Under PIPA sites will just end up in court. Or, with both laws, an Attorney General can take action leading US companies to have to effectively act as network nannies trying to keep infringement from being accessible.  None of this is good for anyone building a startup company these days. […] And the definitions are ridiculously broad. Under SOPA, you can be found “dedicated to the theft of US property” if the core functionality of your site “enables or facilitates” infringement. The core functionality of nearly every internet website that involves user generated content enables and facilitates infringement. The entire internet itself enables or facilitates infringement. Email enables or facilitates infringement. […]
  • The risk of these broad definitions on perfectly legitimate companies is not theoretical: Defenders of both bills continue to insist that they’re only meant to deal with the worst of the worst.  If that were really true, the definitions would be a lot tighter and a lot more specific.  Even if this is the intention of the authors of both bills, the simple fact is that the very broad definitions in the bill, mean that any entrepreneur today will need to take significant compliance costs just to avoid the possible appearance of fitting the criteria. […]
  • The risk of these broad definitions on perfectly legitimate companies is not theoretical: Defenders of both bills continue to insist that they’re only meant to deal with the worst of the worst.  If that were really true, the definitions would be a lot tighter and a lot more specific.  Even if this is the intention of the authors of both bills, the simple fact is that the very broad definitions in the bill, mean that any entrepreneur today will need to take significant compliance costs just to avoid the possible appearance of fitting the criteria. […]
  • That uncertainty has extreme and quantifiable effects on investment in new startups.  A very detailed look at the uncertainty in the cloud computing space, prior to and after the decision in the Comedy Central v. Cablevision case, which effectively set the framework for the legality of cloud computing, showedmuch greater investment when the law was clarified to be in favor of letting these new services thrive.  Take that away, and investment in this engine of growth likely would be much lower. […]
  • Broadly expanding secondary liability is a dream for trial lawyers, but will be a disaster for business.  There’s been a move, associated with these bills to somehow demonize important concepts of safe harbors from secondary liability.  The suggestion is that secondary liability somehow “allows” bad activity.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Illegal activity is still illegal.  The point of safe harbors from secondary liability is blaming the party actually doing the action that breaks the law. […]
  • Going down the slippery slope of censorship is fraught with peril, both domestically and abroad.  Supporters of the law get angry any time people bring up censorship, but as law professor Derek Bambauer has made clear, any effort to block content is a form of censorship. […]

That’s just a handful of the problems with these bills Masnick highlights. It’s worth the read and worth taking the time to find out about this legislation, again because it seems to be action Congress is intent upon taking. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will filibuster the bill if it comes to the Senate floor, and will do it the old-fashioned way. He’ll read the names of censorship opponents from the floor of the Senate, from the list of people who sign the petition at http://stopcensorship.org/. Here he is talking about his efforts:

It’s possible that with enough support for the filibuster, leadership gives up on bringing this to the floor in the near future. After all, they’ve got an awful lot to get through between now and Christmas and if Wyden can find several senators to support him, they can threaten to tie things in the Senate up enough that the vote has to be postponed. That, along with Microsoft’s opposition to it, might just do the trick.