Yesterday, I posted my reaction to Bruce Sterling's essay The Ecuadorian Library, where Bruce described activists as "living in a pitiful dream world where their imaginary rule of law applies to an electronic frontier." Danny O'Brien, who recently returned to a job at the Electronic Frontier Foundation after a stint at the Committee to Protect Journalists, has written an excellent essay on the way that civil liberties and civil society groups and activists have devoted their lives, and risked their safety, in the cause of civil liberties online.
Read the rest
As Xeni wrote, yesterday's vote to de-fund the NSA's warrantless dragnet surveillance came within a whisker of passing. 205 Reps voted in favor of asserting innocent Americans' right not to be spied upon; 217 voted against, and 12 abstained -- enough to have carried the day. Who were these heroes and villains and absentees? Here are their names from the full roll call.
If you live in the district of a Congresscritter who voted in favor of defunding the NSA, please call her or him and say thank you. If your Congresscritter voted in favor of you being spied upon at all times and in every way forever, call that person up and do some shouting. The anti-NSA side was thoroughly bipartisan. There are undoubtably some "no" voters who can be persuaded to switch to a yes if they think that their constituents really care about it. We are so close.
Same goes for abstainers -- if those 12 had bothered to show up for work yesterday and voted with the Constitution they've sworn to uphold, the day would have been carried.
Click through the jump to see the full lists, courtesy of Techdirt.
Read the rest
Congress is voting tomorrow on a bill that would defund the NSA's program of warrantless, mass, illegal spying on innocent Americans. You -- -- need to hit the link below, enter your ZIP code, get contact details for your congresscritter and call that number and give the staffer who answers a firm, polite, serious piece of your mind. This is a great chance to make an important change in the world. Do it.
A critical vote is happening tomorrow, July 24th, on the Defense Appropriations Bill in the House of Representatives. The bill gives taxpayer money to fund defense programs, including NSA surveillance.
Yesterday, an important bipartisan amendment to that bill was green-lighted to be voted on tomorrow. Proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (MI), the amendment would remove funding for blanket collection of phone records and metadata from cell phone service providers.
The summary of the amendment on the House of Representatives website reads:
Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under
the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215
of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call
records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an
investigation under Section 215.
The vote on this bill is critical. We need to flood Congress with calls in support of the amendment, and hold our representatives accountable.
A crucial vote is happening that could end NSA surveillance
Here's the second part of my interview with TVOntario's "The Agenda" (part one was posted earlier this week) in which we talk about hacktivism and Aaron Swartz.
Cory Doctorow: Aaron Swartz and Hacktivism
Last weekend, I took part in a panel at Yoko Ono's Meltdown festival at Southbank in London, on "Technology and Activism," along with Jamie Bartlett (Director for the Analysis of Social Media at DEMOS) and David Babbs (Executive Director of 38 Degrees), chaired by Olivia Solon from Wired UK. It went well and covered lots of ground, and the Meltdown people were kind enough to put it all online.
BTW, if you're interested in my upcoming talks, I've got a page listing them.
Technology and Activism - part of Yoko Ono's Meltdown
Dave Groff sez, "TONIGHT city planners will be holding a community consultation on the re-zoning applications, this will be one of the few opportunities at which the public can give input to the planners on a project that could profoundly change our neighbourhoods."
Date: **TONIGHT** Thursday, June 6, 2013
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00 pm
Place: College St United Church, Sanctuary / Auditorium, 454 College Street, northwest corner, College and Bathurst
Kensington is the best neighbourhood in Toronto and practically the last one untouched by rampant condo-ization and chain-storification.
Petition: Don't Let Wal-Mart and a shopping mall destroy Kensington Market
Hacking Politics is a new book recounting the history of the fight against SOPA, when geeks, hackers and activists turned Washington politics upside-down and changed how Congress thinks about the Internet. It collects essays by many people (including me): Aaron Swartz, Larry Lessig, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Masnick, Kim Dotcom, Nicole Powers, Tiffiny Cheng, Alexis Ohanian, and many others. It's a name-your-price ebook download.
Hacking Politics is a firsthand account of how a ragtag band of activists and technologists overcame a $90 million lobbying machine to defeat the most serious threat to Internet freedom in memory. The book is a revealing look at how Washington works today – and how citizens successfully fought back.
Written by the core Internet figures – video gamers, Tea Partiers, tech titans, lefty activists and ordinary Americans among them – who defeated a pair of special interest bills called SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) and PIPA (“Protect IP Act”), Hacking Politics provides the first detailed account of the glorious, grand chaos that led to the demise of that legislation and helped foster an Internet-based network of amateur activists.
Last summer, a nun, a drifter, and a house painter broke into the secure compound surrounding the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
— the laboratory that made uranium for the Manhattan Project and continues to be a major part of America's nuclear infrastructure. Their goal: To put America on trial. Dan Zak has written an amazing piece for the Washington Post, blending this story with the history of Oak Ridge and and in-depth look at the future of the US nuclear weapons program. Very much worth your time. — Maggie
Ruben "Tom the Dancing Bug" Bolling sez, "I organized this video, getting cartoonists as diverse as Trudeau (Doonesbury), Spiegelman (Maus, etc), Keane (Family Circus), Mazzucchelli (Batman etc), Mo Willems (Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny) and others to illustrate a script advocating gun law reform narrated by Julianne Moore (!) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (!!)."
It’s easy to find alarming evidence that we’ve lost our way when it comes to civics in the US. But longtime global activist and MIT prof Ethan Zuckerman says there’s a lot to get excited about too, if we’re willing to think in new ways about what it even means to be civically engaged in the digital age.
Ethan’s working with a group of scholars and practitioners (I’m one of them) to track how young people are expressing voice and exerting agency in public spheres through participatory politics. Registering to vote or campaigning for a candidate are obvious and important political moves. But so is appropriating Occupy for hurricane relief, mobilizing Hunger Games fans to organize for real-life civil rights, or producing a libertarian music video professing a crush on the economist Friedrich Hayek, (thanks Liana Gamber Thompson).
But here’s the rub. If we’re willing to take this expansive view of civics, how do we start to make sense of what any given activity really achieves in the world? When does “voice” make a difference? That’s the question Ethan took on this week in his keynote, How Do We Teach Digital Civics? at the Digital Media and Learning conference in Chicago. He offered this diagram as a way to map actions into one of four quadrants.
Want to figure out where your own civic moves fit in the mix? You can watch Ethan’s whole talk here. It’s an attempt to envision an approach to civics that engages young people’s imaginations and networks rather than telling them what to do.
The video from Aaron Swartz's memorial in San Francisco isn't the kind of thing you weep over. It's the kind of thing you stand up and salute. Aaron's friends stood up, and, one after another, demanded that his memory be honored by action, by justice, by dedicating yourself to the fight. It's the best start to the week of all.
Aaron Swartz Memorial at the Internet Archive, Part 1 (January 24, 2013)
Suicide Girls has just published part two of its two-part interview with me about Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother (here's part one). In it, we talk about activism, clicktivism, and the future of Internet-connected politics:
There is a lot of cynicism about clicktivism and the idea that if it’s too easy to be politicized, if all you need to do to take action is click an online petition, then it siphons off energy that could be used to change the world. It’s probably true that some people go, I’ve done my bit, I clicked that petition. But other people who never would have taken any political action start with that one click.
The height of the barrier to entry has to be correlated with the overall size of the movement. If it takes an enormous affirmative step to start your journey, then a lot of people will never start. If on the other hand it’s cheap to try, then a lot of people will try. And the more people you have trying, the more people you will have who will find that it’s what they want to do. That’s the upside of it. This is why I’m not cynical about clicktivism. This is why I’m glad to have a spectrum of ways that people can engage. The shopkeeper understands that the first requirement for selling things is getting people in the door; a political activist has to understand that the first requirement for building a movement is to have people take some step to want to be involved in a movement. And the smaller that step can be, the easier it is to get them involved.
I think of it like a church…It’s a tiny minority of people who join the clergy, but all of the people who join the clergy started by showing up on Sunday. If step one is eschew all material things, take a vow of silence and a vow of chastity and wear a hair shirt for the rest of your life, your clergy will be thinly populated. You need a step one that isn’t total engagement for the rest of your life, right?
Cory Doctorow: Homeland Part 2
Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian free/open source developer and Creative Commons activist, has been in prison in Syria since June, and his colleagues around the world have been agitating for his release. Now, the news gets worse: a recently released fellow inmate reports that Khartabil has been subject to harsh treatment and torture in Syrian custody. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin:
According to a new Amnesty International report, a released detainee has informed Bassel Khartabil’s family that he is being held at the Military Intelligence Branch in Kafr Sousseh and had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated.
In response to this alarming news, Bassel's friends and supporters around the world have launched a letter-writing campaign, hoping to flood Syrian officials and diplomats with physical mail demanding that Khartabil be formally charged and given access to a lawyer or released immediately. Participants are encouraged to send photographs of their letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Torture Fears for Open Source Software Activist Detained in Syria
(Image: Bassel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream)
Yéle, the Haiti charity of rock star Wyclef Jean that took in some $16 million after the 2010 eaarthquake, is bust. How bust? So bust that their domain, yele.org, has expired.
Deborah Sontag in the NYT, writing about the rockstar who once thought himself a good choice as president of Haiti:
"In a new memoir, Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-born hip-hop celebrity, claims he endured a “crucifixion” after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake when he faced questions about his charity’s financial record and ability to handle what eventually amounted to $16 million in donations."
Read the rest
The Newtown Creek Armada preview from Newtown Creek Armada on Vimeo.
Nathan Kensinger is an artist "whose work explores hidden urban landscapes, off-limits structures, and other liminal spaces." He told me about a project that he, Laura Chipley, and Sarah Nelson Wright are working on called The Newtown Creek Armada:
It's a public art installation that is using remote control boats and underwater cameras to explore the Newtown Creek, a federal Superfund Site in New York City.
The installation opens this weekend, when we will be inviting the public to pilot our fleet of nine miniature boats, and to film their own voyage on the Newtown Creek. We will also be presenting several videos of our voyages that document the more polluted parts of the creek, which is home to the second largest oil spill in the United States, and has been used as a dumping ground for heavy industry and raw sewage for over 150 years. Despite this history, nature is slowly returning to the area, as we discovered on our voyages.
The Newtown Creek Armada