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.
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 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.
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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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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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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Dan sez, "Hi, I'm one of the organizers for Restore the Fourth (Utah) and we've successfully adopted the highway in front of the NSA spy factory in Bluffdale, Utah. Clean up the NSA!"
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Noah Swartz writes, "In January, after nearly two years of government prosecution and harassment, my brother Aaron Swartz died. Aaron was eclectic and prolific in his activism. In the wake of recent events, we especially feel the loss of his unique brand of activism. It is not just that we now have one less voice in the chorus, or even that we lost such a unique voice. We've lost a tireless activist, and a central motivator, someone who could make us seriously question the morality of our actions and show us how to do better. I want to host events around the world to bring together those of us who are fighting to change things, and perhaps to ignite others with a spark from Aaron's flame. Let's spend a weekend together to be, as Aaron would say, part of Team Impact."
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Free/open source programmer and Creative Commons activist Bassel Khartabil faces torture in notorious Syrian prison
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.
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."
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.
Good idea -- YouTube announces a way to blur faces in videos. I hope they add a feature that puts Guy Fawkes masks on people, too.
Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share the winning point in your 8-year-old’s basketball game without broadcasting the children’s faces to the world, our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube.
YouTube is proud to be a destination where people worldwide come to share their stories, including activists. Along with efforts like the Human Rights Channel and Citizentube that curate these voices, we hope that the new technologies we’re rolling out will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform.
For A is For founder and actress Martha Plimpton, the shock of the rhetoric surrounding the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy, as well as the success of the ensuing advertiser boycott, inspired her to gather a group of friends to brainstorm a strategy more formal than clicking “like” on Facebook. The group was united in their outrage and their growing awareness that the status of women’s rights was by no means a done deal. In fact, things that we had all taken for granted, like, um, access to birth control pills, were very much at risk of being gone in our own lifetimes. Our own children, planned or unplanned, may not have the same choices we had when wanting to start, or wait to start, their own families. What could be done to have a real impact?
Plimpton promptly founded A is For, an organization that unifies the diverse voices and issues in the new women’s movement under the reclaimed symbol of the red letter A --that instantly recognizable symbol of excoriation and shame that heroine Hester Prynne was forced to wear in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter. Used by Prynne’s Puritan Boston community to brand and shun both her and the baby girl she had out of wedlock, the A stood for Adultery -- and the double standard to which women were held. The group A is For takes back the A by re-appropriating its meaning to one of dignity, defiance, and autonomy, and encourages others to reclaim the A to define what it means to them. A is For Awareness, A is For Affordable Health Care. A is For Ass-kicking. You get the idea.
Immediately, Plimpton proposed starting an “A” ribbon campaign in direct response to the shaming of Sandra Fluke in the attempts to silence her. The group agreed that the new movement needed an ongoing unifying symbol, the red letter A, to serve as a bold historical reminder that women will not be shamed into silence. One major goal would be to distribute the A to every person and organization fighting for women’s human rights in this country and around the world to wear proudly in solidarity. As for immediate change on the ground, within a month of starting the organization, A is For partnered with The Center for Reproductive Rights to be their direct action partner. Money raised via donations for the ribbons would go to CRR to fulfill their mission of “advancing reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.” Now A is For had found a way to have a real impact (besides the Facebook “like” button). CRR is currently winning one major battle in their fight at the front lines to keep the one abortion clinic left in the state of Mississippi open.
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Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution - exclusive interview with author Doug Fine
Too High to Fail covers everything from a brief history of hemp to an insider’s perspective on a growing season in Mendocino County, where cannabis drives 80 percent of the economy (to the tune of $6 billion annually). Investigative journalist Doug Fine follows one plant from seed to patient in the first American county to fully legalize and regulate cannabis farming. He profiles an issue of critical importance to lawmakers, media pundits, and ordinary Americans -- whether or not they inhale. It’s a wild ride that includes swooping helicopters, college tuitions paid with cash, cannabis-friendly sheriffs, and never-before-gained access to the world of the emerging legitimate, taxpaying “ganjaprenneur.”
While researching the book, what did you learn about cannabis and the use of it that surprised you?
Probably the most surprising revelation to me after a year spent on the front lines of the Drug War is how ready Middle America is for the coming Drug Peace -- especially with regard to legalizing cannabis. One collective I researched, in Orange County, CA (yep, Nixon's stomping grounds) had seniors as the majority of membership. These were people for whom cannabis was not political. It was medicine that worked: for arthritis, glaucoma, appetite stimulation. Americans recently polled at 56% in favor of regulating cannabis like alcohol, up from 49% a year ago. So we could be close to the kind of mainstream tipping point that ended alcohol Prohibition. And that surprised me. The "Brains on Drugs" stigma is disappearing, even in the heartland.
Who stands to profit from keeping cannabis illegal, and who will profit if it is regulated like alcohol?
Well, I first off like to always impart a sort of Humility Preface before prognostication. We don't know exactly what the future may bring, but we do have a lot of history as an example. Prohibition breeds organized crime. That's who profits from the status quo, on the business side. With the regulation of cannabis like alcohol, I heard some of today's farmers worry that we'll get a few Coors type overlords. That may be, but when Jimmy Carter changed the brewing rules, the microbrewery age exploded, and the farmers I cover in Too High to Fail are confident that there will likewise always be room for the top shelf craft farmer, the way that there's always room for Sierra Nevada or New Belgium today. I agree with them: we're talking about a multibillion dollar industry that's already bigger than corn and wheat combined. Imagine the tax revenue! Another beneficiary of the coming Drug Peace era is the American people, in the form of energy independence: a USDA biologist told me that when it comes to cannabis as a biofuel source, “It’s magnitudes more productive than corn- or soy-based ethanol. But it’s not even on our blackboard because it’s a federal crime.” Thus were the farmers I followed practicing a kind of patriotic civil disobedience. One day they'll be teaching university courses to students dubious that their crop was ever really illegal.
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As part of my protest against ACTA I signed up to the fightforthefuture.org web page, and asked them to contact my MEP on my behalf, which they did.
Now that ACTA has been defeated, Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West and UKIP Deputy Leader, emailed people who had protested, en masse. (I am in Devon in the South West, so he is not my particular representative).
I include the email below, but the interesting part is the forwarded message underneath, which includes a list of all TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY ONE people who signed up...
33 minutes after receiving the email I received another from Paul Nuttall requesting the recall of the email, a little late really.
I frequently hear from career Euro activists that the Members of the European Parliament have little or no IT expertise and support. Everyone has mixed up CC and BCC at some time or another, but using CC or BCC to send an email to 2,021 people in the first place is poor solution to a common problem. It's the kind of thing that your IT department should be able to sort out for you, by creating a mailing list with a single address whose membership MEPs can manage through a browser.
Update: Lee, who submitted the item, clarifies: "The email wasn't BCCd or CCd to the 2021 petitioners, the email that Paul Nuttall forwarded contained the list of emails in it's body. Indeed it seems very much like this list of emails was used to create an email group, which Paul Nuttall then used. He just made the very foolish mistake of forwarding an email containing peoples personal information, whilst saying how UKIP will defend UK citizens rights and privacy."
It's possible that some of the people whose identities were revealed in the email could face workplace sanctions for opposing ACTA (I know a lot of people in the entertainment industry who privately oppose many of their employers' initiatives), so revealing their identities is a potential big deal.
It would be great to see a free/open web service that let people securely send messages to their MEPs, and then also made it easy for the MEPs to reply to them, individually or as a group. If the European Parliament and individual MEPs' parties and staffers can't handle interaction with their constituencies, then the constituents may have to handle it for them.
Update: I received this from Paul Nuttall's office:
May we please ask that you publish our response and apology - and we of course also extend that apology personally to you.
Please find the statement below.
Office of Paul Nuttall
As a libertarian party we are in favour of internet freedom.
We oppose ACTA in its entirety and we are currently campaigning against the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) which contains many ACTA-like provisions.
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People visiting the Russian-language Wikipedia today will find it blacked out, in protest of a proposed far-reaching Internet blacklist plan in Russia. Similar measures were used in the Italian Wikipedia to protest an Italian Internet censorship law, and in the English Wikipedia to protest SOPA/PIPA. The Russian proposal, Bill 89417-6, will establish a national censorwall that blocks "all websites containing pornography, drug ads and promoting suicide or extremist ideas." Here's a Google Translate translation of the Wikipedia message:
Today, July 10, the Duma hearings are going to amend the Act for information that could lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the Internet in Russian, including the closure of access to Wikipedia in Russian.
Wikipedia community protests against censorship, dangerous to free knowledge, open to all mankind. We ask that you support in opposing this bill.