Message to NETmundial: protect fundamental Internet freedoms

Jeremie from France's La Quadrature du Net sez, "The farcical illusion of 'multistakeholder' discussions around 'Internet governance' must be denounced! For the last 15 years those sterile discussions led nowhere, with no concrete action ever emerging. In the meantime, technology as a whole has been turned into a terrifying machine for surveillance, control and oppression. The very same 'stakeholders' seen in IGFs and such, by their active collaboration with NSA and its public and private partners, massively violated our trust and our privacy."

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Web developers: EFF needs your help with important pro-democracy tool!

Rainey from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, and Taskforce.is have teamed up to build a public domain tool that makes it easier for everyday people to contact Congress. EFF wants to use it so that Internet users can effectively stop Congress from enacting laws that don't make sense for technology and advocate for laws that protect our rights. But once it's done, it will be free software that anybody will be able to use it and improve.

"There's already a functional prototype, but it's not quite finished: we need web developers to donate time to help us finish off creating individual files for each member of Congress. Please pitch in for a few hours if you can, and help us make the voices of Internet users heard in the halls (or at least the inboxes) of Congress."

Dear Web Developers: EFF Needs Your Help

(Thanks, Rainey!)

Gay activism in the 1970s

Rebecca J. Rosen recalls "the transformative decade between Stonewall and AIDS", an age of activism whose "improbable unveiling" began with a riot sparked by drag queens.

At its core, that transformation was about visibility. During those years, there was the first gay television movie; a sexy on-screen kiss between two men in Sunday, Blood Sunday; and the release of Cabaret, which has been hailed as the first movie that "really celebrated homosexuality." There were gains in politics too: Edward Koch, then serving in Congress, "became one of the first elected officials to publicly lobby on behalf of the homosexuals of Greenwich Village," Kaiser writes. Gay Pride Week was established. Perhaps most significantly: In December of 1973, the board of the American Psychological Association voted 13-0 "to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders."

Save the Internet: Stop Fast Track

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Want to help save democracy? The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a super-secretive trade agreement that threatens everything you care about. It's been negotiated behind closed doors with ample input from over 600 corporate lobbyists -- but no access for journalists or the public. Sound bad? It gets worse. The corporate interest groups pushing for the TPP are the same folks that brought us SOPA, ACTA, and NAFTA."

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Help ORG fund a legal director!

Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work. We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG."

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Tim Wu on the Aaron Swartz documentary

In the New Yorker, Tim Wu reviews The Internet's Own Boy, a documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz. Wu, the scholar and lawyer who coined the term "Net Neutrality," does a good job of framing Aaron's life in the context of his activism. The film has just premiered to good reviews at Sundance.

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Events for London hackers and designers who want a better world

Carla sez, "There are two upcoming ways for designers and coders to put a little good out into the world. First, you can land a job that lets you spend your time making positive social change. On February 6 join WebVisions at Essence in London for short presentations from Essence Digital, Buddy App, PaveGen, Streetbank, and Sidekick Studios. Learn different ways that you can turn your vocation into a force for good. Second, be a part of WebVisions' Hackathon for Social Good on February 8. Held at Fjord London, programmers and designers will spend the day working collaboratively to build programs and applications that benefit local nonprofits." Cory 1

Remembering Aaron Swartz

It's been a year since Aaron Swartz killed himself. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Parker Higgins has posted a memorial to him that I found quite moving. I miss Aaron a lot.

I've been feeling pretty hopeless about the future lately, and I think a lot of it has been driven by the impending anniversary of Aaron's death. The last couple years were hard ones.

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Coalition to fight mass Internet surveillance declares global day of action, Feb 11


A broad coalition of organizations -- including Boing Boing -- have joined forces to declare February 11 a day of action in memory of Aaron Swartz and against NSA Internet spying and mass surveillance. Just as we did with the SOPA fight, we're asking people who care about this to make their own personal expressions of resistance, and take the case for caring about this and fighting back to the people closest to them. Each of us knows the arguments that will convince our friends and loved ones.

The Day We Fight Back sets out a number of ways you can participate, small and large. This is a fight we can win.

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URGENT: Input needed on EU copyright consultation

Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, writes, "The European copyright reform is here -- and we have the chance to influence policy reform in this area for the first time in at least 15 years, and there is no way to say when this chance will come around again. The European Commission has opened up for consultation on their proposal for legislation (which then will be sent to the European Parliament) and you, as an individual, alien or organization can give your honest opinion about whatever copyright has done, good or bad, for and to you in the past decades.

The European Commission does not want too many replies at all. The EC has given an extremely short consultation period: only 60 days for 80 questions. It has not provided any translations of this document, and in addition the language used is very technical. Not all Europeans are able to read English, and one thing is for sure: The upcoming copyright reform is going to affect them. The timing, Christmas and holiday period, when people are sure to be busy with other matters, is also strategic. The Commission has rejected pleas on extending the consultation period and providing translations at least in French, German and Polish.

I believe this consultation is important for the future of culture and knowledge in Europe. We cannot make peer-to-peer filesharing illegal -- that is how we, in modern times, share culture, information and knowledge. To make people liable for the content of webpages they link to is just absurd. The objective of copyright should not be to make normal usage and sharing of culture criminal -- but that is a likely outcome of the European copyright reform, unless we make ourselves heard.

Go to www.copywrongs.eu and answer the questions which are important to you. You do not have to answer all the questions, only the ones that matter to you.

The original consultation can be found here, and there's a simplified version here.

The deadline is 5 February 2014. Until then, we should provide the European Commission with as many responses as possible!

Amelia Andersdotter, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party, and I, Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, had a workshop on the Copyright Consultation at the 30C3 in Hamburg. We didn't have a clear idea of what the results should be, just that we wanted to motivate as many as possible to answer the consultation. One of the outcomes of that workshop was www.copywrongs.eu, something way beyond what Amelia and I had ever dreamt of. The great people from the Pirate Party Austria, Wikimedia in Germany and Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, all really deserve lots of praise for such hard work.

Help reform copyright! (Thanks, Ásta!)

Call your Congresscritter today, help kill patent trolling

It's make or break time for the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), with less than two days until a crucial vote. The Act injects some much-needed reform into the patent system (though it doesn't go far enough), and it's been moving strongly through Congress, coming out of committee with a 33-5 vote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking its supporters to call their reps to tell them to support the bill.

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How big corporations and government spy agencies surveil and sabotage activist groups

In Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations [PDF] a November 2013 report from a DC thinktank called The Center for Corporate Policy, researcher Gary Ruskin documents the scary, corrupt relationship between major corporations, private security firms, and secret police agencies like the FBI. These entities engage in highly militarized spying and sabotage campaigns against activist organizations from Greenpeace to the Camp for Climate Action, to Occupy and more; planting spies and provocateurs in their midst, compiling dossiers on organizers, and going through their trash for evidence of plans. Included in the opposition are active-duty CIA agents, who are allowed to moonlight for private clients in their off-hours, and the FBI, whose involvement in corporate anti-activist espionage was condemned in a 2010 report from the Office of the Inspector General in the US Justice Department.

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Six ways that NSA and GCHQ spying violated your rights, and six things you can do about it


Ruth from the Open Rights Group sez, "With the huge amount of evidence leaked by Edward Snowden on surveillance by the NSA and the GCHQ, the Open Rights Group has compiled a list of the top 6 points that everyone should know about how their rights have been violated. To combat this tide of privacy-invasions ORG also list the 6 key things that they want to do in response, and how you can help the biggest year of campaigning against mass surveillance. We believe that if enough people speak up we can change how surveillance is done."

ORG is great organisation (I helped to found it, but am not involved in its daily operations in any way, apart from marvelling at the staffers and volunteers there) and their game-plan for mapping and securing redress for spy agencies' lawlessness is exemplary. I hope you'll join the group and help out.

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Captain America in a turban

Captain america subway 620x412

Vishavjit Singh, a Sikh cartoonist, spent a day in NYC dressed as Captain America in a turban. (Photo above by Fiona Aboud.) Over at Salon, Singh posted some of what he learned from the experience. Below, a bit of that and also a video of the superhero in action.

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Artist/activist nails scrotum to Red Square

On Sunday, Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to Red Square. It was an act of protest against what he called the "police state" of today's Russia. According to The Guardian, "Pavlensky has a history of self-harming art, including sewing his lips together to protest against the jail sentences given to members of Pussy Riot and wrapping himself in barbed wire outside a Russian government building, which he said symbolised 'the existence of a person inside a repressive legal system.'"