Boing Boing 

FBI pays for malware so it can spy on us with our phones and computers

The Wall Street Journal covers the FBI's use of malware to take over peoples' computers and phones, including one package that is used to turn the microphone in Android devices into a remote listening device. The story is alarming, but misses the two most significant points:

1. That this undermines the security of all of us, not just the people whom the FBI spies upon. The fact that the FBI and other law enforcement organizations have created a market for bugs that can be turned into spyware means that people who find bugs are less likely to present them to the manufacturers for patching. That means that when those bugs are independently identified by criminals, we're all at risk of having our devices subverted.

2. The same companies that sell malware to the FBI also sell it to dictatorships around the world. The FBI legitimizes the development of spyware that is used by despots to decide whom to arrest, whom to disappear, and whom to murder.

Read the rest

What is the social media style of protest?

Zeynep Tufekci's essay analyzing the role that social media played in both the #OccupyGezi and the Arab Spring explores the differences and similarities between different uprisings, and has some very incisive things to say about what social media contributes to political change movements:

It was after the Gezi protesters were met with the usual combination of tear-gas and media silence something interesting started happening. The news of the protests started circulating around social media, especially on Twitter and Facebook. I follow a sizable number of people in Turkey and my Twitter friends include AKP supporters as well as media and academics. Everyone was aghast at the idea that a small number of young people, trying to protect trees, were being treated so brutally. Also, the government, which usually tends to get ahead of such events by having the prime minister address incidents, seemingly decided to ignore this round. They probably thought it was too few, too little, too environmental, too marginal.

On that, it seems they were wrong. Soon after, I started watching hashtags pop-up on Twitter, and established Twitter personas –ranging from media stars to political accounts– start sharing information about solidarity gatherings in other cities, and other neighborhoods in Istanbul. Around 3am, I had pictures from many major neighborhoods in Turkey –Kadıköy, Bakırköy, Beşiktaş, Avcılar, etc– showing thousands of people on the streets, not really knowing what to do, but wanting to do something. There was a lot of banging of pots, flags, and slogans. There were also solidarity protests in Izmit, Adana, Izmir, Ankara, Konya, Afyon, Edirne,Mersin, Trabzon, Antalya, Eskişehir, Aydın and growing.

Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25 to #geziparki

No internet for Syria

Nicole Perlroth: "Syria’s access to the Internet was cut on Tuesday. The most likely culprit, security researchers said, was the Syrian government." [NYT]

The tweets you should follow in a crisis aren't necessarily the most obvious

Some interesting research based on the Arab Spring uprisings suggests that the best people to follow on Twitter during a crisis are often not particularly influential on Twitter outside the crisis. Likewise, they aren't likely to have had many followers before the event. Essentially, it's evidence supporting the common sense idea that, if you want the most accurate and relevant information, your best bet is to find people closest to the source, rather than relying on third-hand accounts.

Where does Assad's online army come from?

Syria's brutal Assad regime has damned few allies left in the world, but one of them, Russia, is governed by a dirty-tricking ruling elite who've made a science out of manipulating Internet opinion. This may explain the weird, stilted pro-Assad astroturf army who appear in any discussion of the regime's atrocities to explain that it's all a Jewish conspiracy.

And on like that. SyriaTribune maintains a YouTube channel stocked with clips from — surprise — Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today portraying Assad as the victim of a bloody-minded western conspiracy. A self-described French intellectual named Thierry Meyssan — author of 9/11 The Big Lie — reveals that TV images purporting to show Assad’s massacres of civilians were prepared by the CIA, along with White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and “aims at demoralizing the Syrians in order to pave the way for a coup d’etat.” The #FakeRevolution hashtag on Instagram provides pictorial, meme-filled boosterism for Bashar, like a screengrab from Time’ app kindly telling user mybubb1e to stop voting for Assad for Person of the Year or Hillary Clinton with flames shooting out of her eyes and ear, courtesy of Bashar4Ever.

Meet the Assadosphere, the Online Defenders of Syria’s Butcher [Spencer Ackerman/Wired]

Why dictators (don't) shut down the Internet

Warren Ellis's Vice column, "How to Shut Down Internets," looks at the phenomenon of Middle Eastern dictators shutting off their nation's Internet during moments of extremis. Here's the money graf:

There are two reasons why these shutdowns happen in this manner. The first is that these governments wish to black out activities like, say, indiscriminate slaughter. That much is obvious. The second is sometimes not so obvious. These governments intend to turn the internet back on. Deep down, they believe they will be in their seats the next month and have the power to turn it back on. They believe they will win. It is the arrogance of power: they take their future for granted, and need only hide from the world the corpses it will be built on.

For me, this raises a couple of much more interesting questions:

1. Why would a basket-case dictator even allow his citizenry to access the Internet in the first place? (A: Because the national economy can't function without it)

2. Why not shut down the Internet the instant trouble breaks out? (A: Because it would be immensely unpopular, even among your sympathizers; also, see 1.)

Update: Bruce Schneier adds: "The reason is that the Internet is a valuable tool for social control. Dictators can use the Internet for surveillance and propaganda as well as censorship, and they only resort to extreme censorship when the value of that outweighs the value of doing all three in some sort of totalitarian balance."

How to Shut Down Internets

Molotov cocktail in the shape of a heart


"Armament" is Francis Baker's Arab Spring-inspired Molotov cocktail in the shape of a glass heart: "I created this work, inspired by the Egyptians and the so called Arab spring. The visual starting point is the Molotov cocktail that has been the weapon of choice for the protesters. There is a connection in any conflict between the combatants."

armament (via Richard Kadrey)

Glenn Greenwald replies to CNN's attempt to discredit story about compromised Bahrain coverage

Yesterday, I blogged Glenn Greenwald's Guardian story about CNN suppressing its own award-winning documentary on human rights abuses in Bahrain, which Greenwald linked to CNNi's commercial relationship with the ruling Bahraini regime. I was quickly contacted by two different PR flacks from CNN with a list of small, picky points it disputed about Greenwald's article, presented as though this constituted a thorough rebuttal. I immediately noticed that CNN's reps didn't dispute that the company had threatened to cut off Amber Lyon's severance payment if she continued to speak out on the issue, so I asked about it.

CNN's reps both told me they couldn't comment on "individual employees," which is awfully convenient. How nice for them that they can prepare and circulate a dossier that disconfirms minor elements of its critics' stories, but that it has some nebulous confidentiality code that prevents it from confirming the most damning claims made by those critics. Given that Lyon is no longer a CNN employee, and that she has divulged this threat, this feels more like an excuse than a reason. I certainly hope that CNN's own investigative journalists wouldn't accept such a pat evasion from the PR flacks that contact them.

Glenn Greenwald has published a thorough rebuttal to CNN's memo:

CNNi has nothing to say about the extensive financial dealings it has with the regime in Bahrain (what the article called "the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it"). It has nothing to say about the repellent propaganda it produces for regimes which pay it. It has nothing to say about the Bahrain-praising sources whose vested interests with the regime are undisclosed by CNN. It provides no explanation whatsoever for its refusal to broadcast the iRevolution documentary. It does not deny that it threatened Lyon's severance payments and benefits if she spoke critically about CNNi's refusal. And it steadfastly ignores the concerns and complaints raised by its own long-time employees about its conduct.

In sum, CNNi's response does not deny, or even acknowledge, the crux of the reporting, and simply ignores the vast bulk of the facts revealed about its coverage of, and relationship with, the regime in Bahrain. Indeed, one searches its response in vain for any explanation to the central question which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked nine months ago:

Reply to response from CNNi

CNN suppresses its own award-winning doc on human rights abuses in Bahrain; has commercial ties to the regime

CNN sent its investigative correspondent Amber Lyon to produce an expensive documentary on the Arab Spring, including human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lyon and her crew were violently detained by Bahraini security forces, but soldiered on and made "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring," which went on to win awards and acclaim after its sole airing on CNN.

But CNN International, "the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East," has never aired the doc. While cutting the doc, Lyon was pressured to include statements from the Bahraini government that she knew to be lies. And CNN itself under-reported the ongoing abuses in Bahrain. Now, CNN has threatened Lyon with sanction for her continued work to uncover the reason that her doc was blackballed by the international arm of her former employer. CNN itself has been remarkably friendly to the Bahraini regime, with which it has close financial ties.

Here's more from Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:

On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:

"A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."

The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.

Why didn't CNN's international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring repression? (via Reddit)

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition is a wry little 45-page booklet that is, superfically, a book of practical advice for totalitarian, autocratic and theocratic dictators who are looking for advice on how to shape their countries' Internet policy to ensure that the network doesn't loosen their grip on power.

Really, though, this is Laurier Rochon's very good critique of the state of Internet liberation technologies -- a critical analysis of what works, what needs work, and what doesn't work in the world of networked technologies that hope to serve as a force for democratization and self-determination.

It's also a literal playbook for using technology, policy, economics and propaganda to diffuse political dissent, neutralize opposition movements, and distract and de-politicize national populations. Rochon's device is an admirably compact and efficient means of setting out the similarities (and dissimilarities) in the Internet control programs used by Singapore, Iran, China, Azerbaijan, and other non-democratic states -- and the programs set in place by America and other "democratic" states in the name of fighting Wikileaks and piracy. Building on the work of such fierce and smart critics as Rebecca McKinnon (see my review of her book Consent of the Networked), The Dictator's Guide is a short, sharp look at the present and future of networked liberation.

Firstly, the country you rule must be somewhat "stable" politically. Understandably "stable" can be defined differently in different contexts. It is essential that the last few years (at least) have not seen too many demonstrations, protests questioning your legitimacy, unrest, political dissidence, etc. If it is the case, trying to exploit the internet to your advantage can quickly backfire, especially if you can't fully trust your fellow party officials (this is linked to condition #3). Many examples of relatively stable single-leader states exist if in need of inspiration, Fidel Castro's Cuba for example. Castro successfully reigned over the country for decades, effectively protecting his people from counter-revolutionary individuals. He appointed his brother as the commander in chief of Cuba's army and managed his regime using elaborate surveillance and strict dissuasive mechanisms against enemies of the state.[49] As is always the case, political incidents will occur and test your regime's resilience (the Bay of Pigs invasion or the missile crisis, for example), but even massive states have managed to uphold a single-party model and have adapted beautifully to the digital age - in China's case, despite close to 87 000 protests in 2005.[2] Follow these states' example and seek stability, no matter what your regime type is. Without it, you are jeopardizing the two next prerequisites and annihilating your chances to rule with the internet at your side. If you are in the midst of an important political transformation, busy chasing counter-revolutionary dissidents or sending your military to the streets in order to educate protesters, you will need to tame these fires first and come back to this guide afterwards.

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition

HOWTO survive a DDoS attack

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a comprehensive, multi-lingual guide to keeping sites that are undergoing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks alive.

Denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly common phenomena, used by a variety of actors—from activists to governments—to temporarily or indefinitely prevent a site from functioning efficiently. Often, the attack saturates the target with server requests designed to flood its bandwidth, leaving the server unable to respond to legitimate traffic.

Though the owners of major sites often have the resources to fend off or even prevent such attacks, smaller sites—such as those belonging to small independent media or human rights organizations—are sometimes permanently disabled due to a lack of resources or knowledge.

This guide aims to assist the owners of such websites by providing advice on choosing an appropriate webhost, as well as a guide to mirroring and backing-up their websites so that the content can be made available elsewhere even if their site is taken down by a DoS or DDoS attack.

Keeping Your Site Alive

Syrian insurgency front lines

The complex zones of control in Arab Spring uprisings can be baffling. Here's the BBC's new map of Syria's myriad front lines (compare to religious demography), which makes everything perfectly clear.

Swedish telcoms giant Teliasonera complicit in mass surveillance in the world's worst dictatorships

The Swedish news show Uppdrag Granskning has posted an hour-long investigative journalism piece establishing the link between the giant Swedish telcoms company Teliasonera and oppressive regimes around the world. Teliasonera sold and supported network equipment that was used to spy on dissidents, journalists, political reformers, union leaders, and the general public in Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Here's EFF's writeup of the piece:

The investigative report, titled “Black Boxes,” in reference to the black boxes Teliasonera allowed police and security services to install in their operation centers--which granted them the unrestricted capability to monitor all communications—including Internet traffic, phone calls, location data from cell phones, and text messages—in real-time. This has caused concern among Swedish citizens and Teliasonera shareholders, who had previously been assuaged by assurances from the telecommunications company that they follow the law in the countries in which they are operating. After a meeting with Peter Norman, Sweden’s Minister of Financial Markets, the chairman of Teliasonera’s board of directors issued a statement, announcing that they had launched “an action programme for handling issues related to protection of privacy and freedom of expression in non-democratic countries, in a better and more transparent way.”

Teliasonera’s declaration of good intentions may be too little too late after the damning evidence of abuse compiled by Uppdrag Granskning. Documents obtained by their investigators showed an Azerbaijani had his phone tapped after he published a piece about being beaten at the hands of government security agents while covering a story. The report also found that black-box surveillance was used in Belarus to track down, arrest, and prosecute protesters who attended an anti-government protest rally following the 2010 Belarusian presidential election. One Azerbaijani citizen says he was interrogated solely due to the fact that he voted for the Armenian representative in the 2009 Eurovision song contest.

Swedish Telcom Giant Teliasonera Caught Helping Authoritarian Regimes Spy on Their Citizens

Consent of the Networked: indispensable, levelheaded explanation of how technology can make us free, or take away our liberty

I've just finished Rebecca MacKinnon's Consent of the Networked, and now I'm kicking myself for letting it languish in my review pile for as long as I did. It is an absolutely indispensable account of the way that technology both serves freedom and removes it. MacKinnon is co-founder of the Global Voices project, and a director of the Global Network Initiative, and is one of the best-informed, clearest commentators on issues of networks and freedom from a truly global perspective.

MacKinnon does a fantastic job of tying her theory and analysis to real-world stories. She illustrates how governments are figuring out how to use networks to take freedom away, to control debate, to find and crush dissent. She shows how Internet corporations -- even the ones with a good track-record on protecting their users -- are prone to cooperating with the worst, most repressive instincts of governments (including supposedly liberal western governments).

But she also describes how technology contributes to freedom, and how savvy use of technology, combined with activism in the realm of Internet governance, lawmaking, and corporate affairs can turn technology into a force for liberation, accountability and freedom. She teases out the good and the bad of technology, working from recent examples like the Arab Spring uprisings, and names names and cites facts and figures when it comes to companies and governments who worked to undo the liberating power of technology.

Most of all, MacKinnon lays out a roadmap for tipping the technological balance towards freedom. She describes how diverse groups, including ones she works with, provide opportunities for all of us to work for positive change, in our capacity as citizens, employees of corporations, members of government, and as clued-in techies.

MacKinnon is a realist, but never a cynic, and provides a much-needed straight-shooting, levelheaded account of how the Internet changes power-relationships. This book should be read by anyone who cares about freedom today and in the decades to come.

Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom

Official book site

Malware targeted at Syrian activists can operate webcam, disable AV, keylog, steal passwords


A fake PDF purporting to contain information on "the formation of the leadership council of the Syrian revolution" is circulating. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin and Morgan Marquis-Boire report, it's bad news for people who install it.

The latest surveillance malware comes in the form of an extracting file which is made to look like a PDF if you have file extensions turned off. The PDF purports to be a document concerning the formation of the leadership council of the Syrian revolution and is delivered via Skype message from a known friend. The malware installs a remote administration tool called DarkComet RAT, which can capture webcam activity, disable the notification setting for certain antivirus programs, record key strokes, steal passwords, and more. It sends this data back to the same IP address in Syrian IP space that was used in several previous attacks, including the attacks reported by CNN in February, the Xtreme RAT Trojan EFF reported in March, and this sample from March 21st.

Syrian Internet users should be extremely cautious about clicking on suspicious-looking links, or downloading documents over Skype, even if the document purportedly comes from a friend.

Campaign Targeting Syrian Activists Escalates with New Surveillance Malware

Trompe l'oeil graffiti vanishes Egyptian military barrier


Noordijk sez, "Egyptian graffiti artists make this military street barrier 'disappear.'"

Sheikh Rihan mural

Meet more western companies that arm dictators and torturers with network spyware

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation profiled FinFisher and Amesys, two of the companies that had been caught selling network spying tools to despotic regimes around the world, including Hosni Mubarak's Egypt and Muammar Qaddafi's Libya. This week, EFF continues the series with profiles of Italy's Area SpA (which sells electronic tracking software to Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria) and Germany's Trovicor (which sells spyware to a dozen countries in the Middle East and North Africa).

In 2011, at the same time that news of Syria’s violent crackdown on democratic protests graced the pages of the world’s newspapers, an Italian company called Area SpA was busy helping the Syrian’s dictator Bashar al-Assad electronically track the dissidents his army was firing upon in the streets. Area SpA had begun installing “monitoring centers” that would give the Syrian government the ability “to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country” as well as “follow targets on flat-screen workstations that display communications and Web use in near-real time alongside graphics that map citizens’ networks of electronic contacts.”

Worse, as the violence in Syria escalated in mid-2011, “Area employees [were] flown into Damascus in shifts” in the government’s push to finish the project, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Spy Tech Companies & Their Authoritarian Customers, Part II: Trovicor and Area SpA

Meet the western technology companies who sell network snooping technology to torturing dictators


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun to publish a series of informative corporate biographies of technology companies that make network spying equipment and sell it to torturing dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi. These companies' publish sales material advertising their use of tools created for the express purpose of breaking domestic and international law, and operate from countries like the UK (FinFisher) and France (Amesys). EFF urges prosecutors in these countries to investigate the spyware companies for complicity in human rights abuses.

The Wall Street Journal has since reported about FinFisher’s techniques and its technology’s dangerous capabilities. It works much the same way online criminals steal banking and credit card information. Authorities can covertly install malicious malware on a user’s computer without their knowledge by tricking the user into downloading fake updates to programs like iTunes and Adobe Flash. Once installed, they can see everything the user can. The FinFisher products can even remotely turn on the user’s webcam or microphone in a cell phone without the user’s knowledge.

FinFisher doesn’t pretend to market their products for solely lawful use. In 2007, they bragged that they use and incorporate “black hat (illegal and malicious) hacking techniques to allow intelligence services to acquire information that would be very difficult to obtain legally,” according to a report by OWNI.

Spy Tech Companies & Their Authoritarian Customers, Part I: FinFisher And Amesys

Can we get cat-sharing sites to harden themselves against Iran's secret police?

In my latest Guardian column, "The internet is the best place for dissent to start," I look at Ethan Zuckerman's recent talk on the Internet and human rights, and the way that cute cats create the positive externality of a place for dissent to begin and flourish, and look at the problems this causes:

Zuckerman's argument is this: while YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (and other popular social services) aren't good at protecting dissidents, they are nevertheless the best place for this sort of activity to start, for several reasons.

First, because when YouTube is taken off your nation's internet, everyone notices, not just dissidents. So if a state shuts down a site dedicated to exposing official brutality, only the people who care about that sort of thing already are likely to notice.

But when YouTube goes dark, all the people who want to look at cute cats discover that their favourite site is gone, and they start to ask their neighbours why, and they come to learn that there exists video evidence of official brutality so heinous and awful that the government has shut out all of YouTube in case the people see it.

The internet is the best place for dissent to start

LOLcats and the Arab Spring - human rights and the Internet

On the CBC Ideas podcast, a lecture by Ethan Zuckerman on the connection between LOLcats, Internet activism and the Arab Spring:

In the 2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture, Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, looks at the "cute cat" theory of internet activism, and how it helps explain the Arab Spring. He discusses how activists around the world are turning to social media tools which are extremely powerful, easy to use and difficult for governments to censor. The Vancouver Human Rights Lecture is co-sponsored by the UBC Continuing Studies, the Laurier Institution, and Yahoo.

The Vancouver Human Rights Lecture - Cute Cats and The Arab Spring

MP3 link

Guide for bloggers who worry that they'll be imprisoned by their governments

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Global Voices Advocacy have produced a guide for bloggers who believe that their work is liable to get them arrested or kidnapped by the authorities:

All bloggers should:

* Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information:
- Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts
- Contact information of family members
- Information about any health conditions
* Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts
* Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it
* Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive
* Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data
* Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest-- This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations
* Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts
* Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations*
* Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you're detained (see below)

For Bloggers at Risk: Creating a Contingency Plan

UPDATED: Danish human rights activist arrested in Bahrain, faces torture: will Danish foreign minister intervene?

Update: Zainab is back home!

Carstenagger sez, "The blogger and human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been detained since Thursday, December 15th, where she was detained after being teargassed while participating in a peaceful demonstration. Her husband and her father are imprisoned, her father sentenced to life in prison and allegedly hideously tortured. Zainab is in *great danger* of being tortured, given the present climate in Bahrain. Zainab is a very courageous activist, which prompted NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof to tweet: 'I suggest that Bahrain officials avoid torturing and imprisoning @AngryArabiya. Some day she could be their president.' Here is how YOU can help: Zainab is a Danish citizen. Our new Minister of Foreign Affairs is all too fond of photo ops with Hillary Clinton, but he will succumb to pressure and hopefully create a diplomatic incident to protect one of his citizens. Please drop him a line on udenrigsministeren@um.dk and express your concern for Zainab Alkhawaja and ask him to use his influence to demand her release [Ed: see above -- she's back home]."

Dansk aktivist anholdt i Bahrain (Thanks, Carsten!)

(Photo: @mazenmahdi)

TIME names "The Protester" 2011 Person of the Year

In TIME magazine's 2011 Person of the Year issue, this cover by artist Shepard Fairey, portraits of more than 50 protestors from around the world, and an essay by Kurt Andersen:

Massive and effective street protest' was a global oxymoron until-suddenly, shockingly-starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester, once again, became a maker of history....The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured. Any day that Tunisians, Egyptians or Syrians occupy streets and squares, they know that some of them might be beaten or shot, not just pepper-sprayed or flex-cuffed. The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City.

"Protester" is an interesting choice of language. "Activist," or "Occupier" if the focus is on America, would have also been apt.

The related "Runner-up" interview with Ai Weiwei is a great read, too. I was surprised not to see Julian Assange or Steve Jobs mentioned in this annual foo-fah; their lives and work certainly had an impact (though neither is a simple hero in my book). The former Apple CEO, who died this year after a long battle with cancer, isn't mentioned at all.

What do you think?

Egypt: 33 dead in Tahrir protests, as "Arab Spring" mirrored in bloody Fall

[Video Link, warning: graphic content.] Reuters reports: "Cairo police fought protesters demanding an end to army rule for a third day on Monday and morgue officials said the death toll had risen to 33, with many victims shot in the worst violence since the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak."

Below: Gotta love the cotton candy vendors who are still out there, peddling their fluffy pink wares, even as tear gas and live ammo are deployed against protesters by the military police.

Read the rest

Kickstarter for documentary on the global protest movement

Taghi Amirani, who's running a Kickstarter for a documentary called "We Are Many," writes, "The film is about the global protest movement linking the massive global Iraq War protests of Feb 15 2003 to the Arab Spring and now the Occupy movement. It tells the remarkable story of people power taking center stage. Actor and activist Danny Glover is a contributor and Executive Producer. Jesse Jackson and Brain Eno are featured. And writer of The Rocky Horror Show Richard O'Brien has become our biggest donor so far."

We will bring you the real story, the people's story, including interviews with those whose protest experiences catapulted them into founding 'people powered' campaigning movements. Most of the people who helped create the biggest human gathering ever seen in one day are unknown ordinary people reaching for the extraordinary.

We will demonstrate the remarkable links between the 2003 protests and the Arab Spring, as well as with the occupation of cities across Europe, and now in America too. The Occupy Movement in America and rest of the world is the latest chapter of one of the great untold stories of people power. Our cameras are there to capture the historic moments.

We Are Many

Tunisia recognizes the American Transitional National Council

Tunisian Facebook users have plastered Obama's Facebook page with thousands of messages in support of the Occupy movement:

Among the comments, Tunisian Facebook users circulated “Arab Spring” jokes, such as: “Tunisia is the first country to recognize the American Transitional National Council,” referring the revolutionary upheaval in Libya and the global recognition of the Libyan transitional council.

The Facebook users described it as a “virtual surprise attack” on. Many of the recent entries on his 2012 presidential campaign page were bombarded with as many as 20,000 comments each.

“Tunisian people are calling the U.S. authorities to respect freedom of expression and not to resort repression and assault on the rights of American citizens,” read one comment, which was reposted by several users.

Another comment read: “Tunisian people denounce violations against the American people by the security forces, which affect the freedom of expression.”

Tunisians poke fun at Obama in assault on his Facebook page

(Image: Occupy Philadelphia || Oct 6, 2011, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from janeanger's photostream)

Egypt: Tarek Shalaby on "Free Alaa. Again."

"Alaa’s detainment proved to be a lot tougher than I had initially hoped for. It’s a wake up call for the expensive price of freedom, and it makes one value the struggle on the one hand, but curse the incomprehensible cost on the other. I just didn’t think that the news of Alaa in military prison would affect me so strongly. But it did. As it will, when he’s released. And as it will, when our fight reaches victory."—Tarek Shalaby.

Free Alaa. Again.

This weekend, Egyptian blogger, Twitter activist, and human rights advocate Alaa Abd El Fattah (@alaa), who is something of a legend, went in to a military court in Egypt for interrogation. "He refused to answer the military’s questions, refused to grant them legitimacy, and was thus detained for 15 days," Jillian York writes in this blog post about her friend.

At Global Voices, Amira Al Hussaini has more here, and Rasha Abdullah has more here. At the NYT, Bob Mackey has background on the case. Egyptian activists around the world are outraged.

This isn't the first time Alaa has gone to jail for political reasons: there was a high-profile internet campaign five years ago for his freedom, when he was held under similarly trumped-up charges. The regime hasn't changed. The images in this post are all from that campaign.

Read the rest

Blue Coat, a U.S. tech firm, admits Syria used its products to censor the web during "Arab Spring"

A U.S. company that makes Internet "filtering" systems admits that Syria has been using at least 13 of its devices to censor Web activity there. This news comes as the Syrian government cracks down on its citizens and silences their online activities.

Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., says it shipped the Internet "filtering" devices to Dubai late last year, believing they were destined for a department of the Iraqi government. However, the devices—which can block websites or record when people visit them—made their way to Syria, a country subject to strict U.S. trade embargoes.

WSJ.com (via @csoghoian).

Zahra's Paradise: graphic novel about Iranian uprising is a story and a history

Zahra’s Paradise, a new book from FirstSecond, collects in one volume the serialized (and brilliant) webcomic, written by two pseudonymous Iranian dissidents.

Read the rest