The Public Prosecutor of Rome has unilaterally ordered Italy's ISPs to censor 46 sites, and it appears the ISPs are complying, even though no complaint had been lodged against the sites, nor had any judge issued any order related to them. This doesn't bode well for the governance style of the new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, a young politician who is trying to set himself apart from the autocratic Berlusconi regime, which used tight media control as part of its corrupt governance strategy.
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Last month, I wrote about the announcement of the $25 Firefox OS smartphone, aimed at developing world users who have never owned a smartphone and can't afford a high-end mobile device. An editorial by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry describes how such a device could find an audience of billions, and spur a new ecosystem of developing world developers who make software that's geared not just to the Firefox OS platform, but also to the unique needs of people in the developing world.
The vision of Firefox OS is a contrast to the Zuckerberg plan to supply "Internet" to poor people in the form of an ad-subsidized, all-surveilling walled garden. As Susan Crawford says, "That's not the Internet -- that’s being fodder for someone else's ad-targeting business. That's entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination -- a crucial limitation on human life."
Asking whether the Internet is good or bad for freedom misses the point. It's clear that network technologies have the power to track and control their users, and the power to free and enrich them. The right question to ask is: "How do we get an Internet that does more for freedom?"
Firefox OS sounds like part of the answer.
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One year ago today
Welcome to your Awesome Robot: instructional comic turns kids & cardboard boxes into AWESOME ROBOTS!: Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is a fantastic book for maker-kids and their grownups.
Five years ago today
Norway's public broadcaster sets up its own torrent tracker using same code as The Pirate Bay: By using BitTorrent we can reach our audience with full quality, unencrypted media files. Experience from our early tests show that if we're the best provider of our own content we also gain control of it.
Ten years ago today
Is Klingon copyrighted?: You can copyright a dictionary, certainly, but can you copyright grammar? I'm not sure you can copyright grammar at all, since it is a set of rules regarding word usage. Grammar is an idea, that can probably only be expressed in a fairly limited number of ways, even if fanciful.
Edward Snowden is speaking at SXSW on Monday
at an event that I'm also part of.Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee (and on whose watch the abuses that Snowden has detailed occurred) has demanded that his appearance be cancelled
. Pompeo says that Snowden lacks credibility in the area of "privacy, surveillance, and online monitoring." Pompeo demonstrably lacks credibility in the area of the First Amendment.
Janice writes, "The Harlequin Creature is a journal of poetry and prose that is hand-typed at typing bees by a circle of friend and volunteers from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor to New York. Copies are hand-bound and numbered; a limited number include artwork by a feature artist. The journals are available at 9 bookstores and shops across the globe, as well as by pre-order online for the next issue. As an organization, Harlequin Creature is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation founded in 2012 in New York."
Caitlin Roper's 25th anniversary appreciation of Katherine Dunn's magnificent novel Geek Love manages the improbable trick of doing the book justice. Geek Love is a one-of-a-kind wonder of a novel, unique in voice, subject matter and emotional affect. Nothing I've ever read or done has made me feel the way Geek Love makes me feel every time I re-read it (it's a book I've loved since my teens). The feeling isn't entirely pleasant, but it's an important feeling, and one I need to get in touch with every couple of years.
Roper's piece features a rundown of all the amazing things that Geek Love has inspired in its quarter century, from the Jim Rose Sideshow Circus to mountains of weird and amazing fan-art. It also gives a glimpse of Dunn herself and the events that led her to write her wonderful masterpiece. I bought my wife a copy of Geek Love when we started courting. I couldn't imagine spending my life with someone who hadn't read it.
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I linked to the seven-hour video file from Trustycon, the convention held as an alternative to RSA's annual security event, inspired by the revelation that RSA took money from the NSA to sabotage its own products.
Now Al has broken down the video into the individual talks, uploading them to Youtube. This is very handy -- thanks, Al!
TrustyCon Videos Available
Dan Gillmor's got more to say
about the news that K-cups are getting coffee DRM
and what it means in the wider world: "Just as the police and security agencies are racing deploy all new technologies to spy on everyone – whether the law permits it or not – private industry is racing to retain as much control as possible over the products and services it sells, and thereby control over us."
Ukrainian leather mask-maker Bob Basset's unveiled his latest creation, a menacing stormtrooper that calls to mind the recent Euromaidan violence.
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Carol writes, "After a much-needed break, this week Phil & Kaja Foglio started up a new story arc on their multiple-Hugo-award-winning 'Girl Genius' comic series.
This new story arc is a good place for new readers to jump in, as Agatha Heterodyne sets out on a new adventure.
'Girl Genius' is a long-form series, with three new full-color comic pages posted on the site each week. Updates appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 'Girl Genius' has been running since 2001, following the gaslamp fantasy adventures of Agatha, the titular girl genius mad scientist."
I love this stuff. Here's my review of the novel version of the story.
Here we are, back with the second act of the Girl Genius story!
Jim Munroe sez, "Ten years from now, videogames are so immersive that teenagers learn lethal skills just by playing. They're called hapheads.
The folks I made Ghosts With Shit Jobs with made this trailer I adapted from a book-length story I'm working on. Don't know if we can honestly call what we do lo-fi sci-fi anymore -- with fight scenes and full-on special effects, it's way more in the mold of traditional action sci-fi. I'm thinking what'll set it apart is the characterization of the father & daughter (my emotional entry into the story, thinking about my relationship with my daughter in 10 years) and the subcultural millieu that'll emerge."
Our good pal Brandon "Offworld" Boyer has cancer. Lucky for Brandon, he signed up for medical insurance with Humana not long before he was diagnosed. Unlucky for him, Humana has decided unilaterally not to cover his cancer treatments and has stuck him with with a $100,000 bill. He's raising money from the Internet to help pay for his life-saving treatments. I'm in for $100. If you're thinking of getting insured, be warned: Humana will screw you and screw you and screw you.
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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has submitted written testimony [PDF] to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance. Glyn Moody's Techdirt post gives a great tl;dr summary of the document, but you should really read it for yourself. It's ten single-spaced pages, but Snowden turns out to be an extremely talented writer who beautifully lays out his arguments, managing the trick of being dispassionate while simultaneously conveying the import of his subject matter.
Snowden makes the point that his testimony doesn't disclose anything that the press hasn't already published, but there's been so much that it's worth reviewing some of it. He directs our attention to something I'd missed: the NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) spends an extraordinary amount of time lobbying EU nations (and other countries) to change their laws so that the NSA can legally spy on everyone in the country. What's more, they cook these deals -- for example, they'll get German permission to listen in on everything by non-Germans and get a Danish deal that covers all the non-Danes, but since the Internet backbones traverse both countries, they can spy on Germans in Denmark and Danes in Germany. As Snowden says, "The surest way for any nation to become
subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy."
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a terrible world leader among terrible world leaders: a xenophobic bigot and homophobe, committed to resource extraction economies and the destruction of social programs, who denies climate change. He's planning a visit to the state of Western Australia, and to send him off, WA Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam gave him some campaign advice -- and hope for people who despair of a world grounded in something other than kleptocratic corporatism. This is no Julia Gillard rant, but it's in the same league. Say what you will about Australian politics, they do love a fine rant.
Neoliberalism Dressing-Down: Australian Senator Ludlam on Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Lisa T. McElroy is a law professor who's spending a year at the University of Denver with her two kids, one in high school and one in middle school. She learned that she could opt her kids out of the standardized tests the school administered. So she did. What followed was a total educational freakout, as the principal, vice-principal and administration alternately cajoled and guilted her over her kids' non-participation in pedagogically suspect, meaningless, destructive high-stakes testing.
McElroy's story is a snapshot of an educational system in the process of implosion, driven by the ridiculous idea that schools are factories whose product is educated kids, and whose employees must be made "accountable" by measuring anything we can put a number on -- attendance and test-scores -- at the expense of actual educational outcomes.
Despite the fact that the best-performing educational systems in the world don't treat teachers as assembly line workers and kids as standardized injection molds to be squirted full of learning, the west continues to pursue this approach, scapegoating teachers' unions and pitting parents against them when the real enemy is the doomed idea that schools are a specialized kind of industrial plant -- and the project of selling off public schools to privatized educational corporations that collect public funds to educate kids, but only to the extent that this can be done without undermining their shareholders' interests.
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