It's time again for Boing Boing's guide the charities we support in our annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The EFF's mission has never been more important: as laws like SOPA are rammed through Congress, as bloggers around the world are arrested and tortured with the collusion of American network-surveillance companies, and as the FBI's unconstitutional, warrantless use of surveillance technology like GPS bugs comes to light, EFF is poised to be center-stage in the fight for a free and open world with a free and open Internet. —CD
Creative Commons has permeated my life in a thousand ways -- on Boing
Boing and in my writing, Creative Commons is responsible for how I get
the job done and how I get paid for it. CC's advocacy of a nuanced,
intelligent position on creativity and sharing changes the lives of
creators, educators, scientists, scholars, and kids, all over the world. —CD
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83 of the Internet's most prominent inventors, founders, and engineers have penned an open letter to Congress in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is slated for markup in the House today. The signatories warn that the bill will compromise fundamental Internet infrastructure and undermine the security of the net.
Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship. It is also true regardless of whether censorship is implemented via the DNS, proxies, firewalls, or any other method. Types of network errors and insecurity that we wrestle with today will become more widespread, and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.
The current bills -- SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly -- also threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government. When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control. We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance as a design requirement for new Internet innovations. This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish.
This is the last chance to tell your representative to keep the Internet free before the markup: have you phoned DC yet? Read the rest
James from New America Foundation sez, "Ivan Sigal and Rebecca MacKinnon, respectively executive director and co-founder of Global Voices, describe how copyright enforcement legislation must respect Internet freedom. (Remember when CarrierIQ tried to silence Trevor Eckart's research?) The precedent the U.S. sets poses greater dangers abroad:"
In countries whose judicial systems are less independent and where legal defense for bloggers is rare, abuse of copyright law to stifle activism is much easier. The Russian government last year used a crackdown on software piracy as an excuse to confiscate activists' computers. The Chinese government used copyright claims to crack down on critics of the 2008 Beijing Olympics who sometimes used modified images of the Olympic mascots in their critiques.
In China 'copyright' is one of many excuses to crack down on political movements," a Chinese blogger, Isaac Mao, told us. "If a new law like SOPA is introduced in the U.S., the Chinese government and official media will use it to support their version of 'anti-piracy.'"
Online piracy laws must preserve Web freedom
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When Mohammed el Gorani was a boy in Saudi Arabia, he found that he could not find good work or education because his family was from Chad. A friend from Pakistan offered to connect him with relatives there who would help him get educated. He took his work savings and flew to Pakistan, where he was kidnapped by local thugs and sold to the US Army as an Al Qaeda operative. He was tortured by the thugs, then tortured by the Army, then sent to Guantanamo for six years, where he was tortured further. He was eventually released and exonerated, but a confidential agreement between the government of Chad and the US State Department prohibits him from rejoining his family in Saudi Arabia. He suffers lasting health problems. Here is his story.
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We landed at another airstrip. It was night. Americans shouted: ‘Terrorists, criminals, we’re going to kill you!’ Two soldiers took me by my arms and started running. My legs were dragging on the ground. They were laughing, telling me: ‘Fucking nigger!’ I didn’t know what that meant, I learned it later. They took off my mask and I saw many tents on the airstrip. They put me inside one. There was an Egyptian (I recognised his Arabic) wearing a US uniform. He started by asking me: ‘When was the last time you saw Osama bin Laden?’ ‘Who?’ He took me by my shirt collar and they beat me again. During all my time at Kandahar, I was beaten. Once it was like a movie – they came inside the tent with guns, shouting: WE CAUGHT THE TERRORISTS!
Four years after their initial Freedom of Information Act request, Gawker has received and published 4,500 pages' worth of detail on the way that mercenaries from Blackwater and other defense contractors conducted themselves in Iraq. Their basic procedure appears to have been to shoot any car that attempted to pass or tailgate any of the convoys they guarded, especially if the driver was a "military aged male." Then, with no followup (or very little), they would conclude that the driver was unharmed and drive on, filing a report later. One victim of a Blackwater mercenary shooting was a judge, who was wounded in the leg (though the mercs' report claimed he was unharmed). The State Department backed the mecenaries on this; in Gawker's words, 'The State Department determined that shooting at judges for driving too fast in their own country is "within the established Department of State policy for escalation of force."' Other drivers were shot because they carried passengers with "devices" in their hands -- such as mobile phones.
When Blackwater teams were caught lying about their roadside battles and executions, they faced little or no discipline. The State Department officials supervising the mercenaries' behavior were told that discipline "would lower morale" among the mercenaries, and seemed to accept this at face value.
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A July 2007 email from one State Department official to several colleagues—apparently in reference to the judge's shooting—openly worried about contractor teams indiscriminately shooting their way around Iraq:
When was the last time we...looked into all the other contractor PSD elements running around Iraq?
Hillary Clinton's in The Hague, telling world leaders not to censor the Internet.
Mrs. Clinton, in her remarks, also cited efforts by countries to change the way the Internet — now largely self-regulated and globally interconnected — is governed. Although she did not name the countries, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan introduced a draft resolution at the United Nations this year that would allow greater government control over the Internet in individual countries. The United States opposes the resolution.
Mrs. Clinton said such a proposal would undermine the very nature of the Internet. “They aim to impose a system, cemented in a global code, that expands control over Internet resources, institutions and content and centralizes that control in the hands of the government,” she said.
Meanwhile, the US government is set to pass SOPA, a censorship law that gives America the power to censor and shutter any website in the world. In case you're wondering how that might work, have a look at what happened with Dajaz1.com.
Dajaz1.com is a hiphop blog that was seized by ICE and the Justice Department a year ago, on the basis of incompetent research by a new hire fresh out of college and some lying affadavits from the RIAA (who claimed, among other things, that they represented the copyrights of companies who are not RIAA members).
Dajaz1.com was sent music by hiphop labels, who begged them to post it -- they even got requests from the VP of one label -- and was a powerhouse in the hiphop world, appearing on Vibe's list of top hiphop blogs. Read the rest
James Losey from the New America Foundation sez, "Sascha Meinrath and I have a new article arguing that bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP amount collectively punishment, something that Americans have a history of rebelling against:"
The United States of America was forged in resistance to collective reprisals—the punishment of many for the acts of few. In 1774, following the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed a series of laws—including the mandated closure of the port of Boston—meant to penalize the people of Massachusetts. These abuses of power, labeled the “Intolerable Acts,” catalyzed the American Revolution by making plain the oppression of the British crown.
More than 300 years later, the U.S. Congress is considering bills that would lead to collective reprisals against online communities. The Senate’s PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House are supposed to address copyright infringement and counterfeiting. In reality, they are so technically impractical that they do little to address these problems. They would, however, undermine participatory democracy and human rights, which is why these bills have garnered near-universal condemnation from both human rights groups and technologists.
The Internet’s Intolerable Acts
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The UK government has officially apologised to computing giant and war hero Alan Turing for forcing him to take hormone injections as "therapy" for being gay (driving him to suicide), but now a petition has been mounted to get an official pardon Turing's 1952 for "gross indecency."
We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' with another man and was forced to undergo so-called 'organo-therapy' - chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the UK government and UK history. A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.
Grant a pardon to Alan Turing
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Kaspersky Lab has pulled out of the Business Software Alliance
(a trade group dominated by Microsoft) because of the group's support for the Internet-killing SOPA law
currently working its way through the US House of Reps: "the company believes that the SOPA initiative might actually be counter-productive for the public interest, and decided to discontinue its membership in the BSA as of January 1, 2012." Read the rest
My latest Publishers Weekly column is "Copyrights vs. Human Rights." In honor of Human Rights Day on Dec 10, I've written a piece on publishing's shameful support of SOPA, a law that will punish the online services that are so key to coordinating and publicizing human rights struggles around the world.
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The U.N. characterizes access to the Internet as a human right, and government research in the U.K. and in the U.S. shows the enormous humanitarian benefits of network access for poor and vulnerable families: better nutrition, education, and jobs; more social mobility and opportunity; and civic and political engagement. Yet the services that provide the bulk of these benefits—search engines, Web hosts, and online service providers like Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube—could never satisfy the requirements set out in SOPA. The only way for these platforms to satisfy SOPA would be to all but shut off the public’s ability to contribute and to throttle free expression for all but those entities that can afford to pay a lawyer to certify that their uploaded material will not attract a copyright complaint.
Another group of important entities that could never satisfy SOPA are the civic-minded hackers and security researchers scrambling to improve the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). In 2011, the DNS was attacked several times, including a breach attributed to the Iranian secret police, which used forged certificates to allow them to impersonate governments, banks, and online e-mail providers like Gmail and Hotmail. If passed, SOPA would ban the production or dissemination of tools that could subvert its blocks, and that would include tools the world’s technologists are creating specifically to help defeat government censorship and surveillance.
The head of Canada's secret police has asked the government to fight against a proposed ban on information gleaned through torture. The chief of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says that torture is essential to Canada's security in its fight against terrorism.
In the letter, Judd urges the minister to fight an amendment to C-3 proposed by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh that would prohibit CSIS and the courts from using any information obtained from torture or “derivative information”: information initially obtained from torture but subsequently corroborated through legal means.
“This amendment, if interpreted to mean that ‘derivative information’ is inadmissible, could render unsustainable the current security certificate proceedings,” Judd writes.
“Even if interpreted more narrowly to exclude only information obtained from sources and foreign agencies who, on the low threshold of ‘reasonable grounds’ may have obtained information by way of torture, the amendment would still significantly hinder the Service’s collection and analysis functions...”
Bahdi said the prohibition on torture was part of Canadian law long before the C-3 amendment. But CSIS needs to be made accountable, she said. “There has to be a cultural shift in CSIS so they take seriously the prohibition on torture and understand it’s not there to tie their hands behind their backs so they can’t do their work, but to ensure that their work has some integrity. … If torture produced national security, the regimes in the Middle East would be the safest places in the world.” [emphasis mine]
CSIS head urged government to fight ban on information obtained through torture
(Image: Torture Museum 4522, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from thukral's photostream)
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Tumblr has rounded up the effects of its participation in American Censorship Day, a global day of protest of the prosed Stop Online Piracy Act, the worst proposed Internet law in American legislative history. Tumblr users did themselves very proud indeed:
Yesterday we did a historic thing. We generated 87,834 phone calls to U.S. Representatives in a concerted effort to protect the Internet. Extraordinary. There’s no doubt that we’ve been heard.
Yesterday we did a historic thing. We generated... | Tumblr Staff
(via Beth Pratt)
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An enormous, diverse global coalition of press freedom and human rights groups have signed onto a letter (PDF)
opposing America's Stop Online Piracy Act, the worst proposed Internet law in the USA's legislative history. Included signatories are as varied as India's Center for Internet and Society, the Church of Sweden, Colombia's Karisma, the UK Open Rights Group, and Reporters Without Borders. The letter itself is a great piece of writing: "This is as unacceptable to the international community as it would be if a foreign country were to impose similar measures on the United States." (Thanks, Alan!
) Read the rest
As the House of Representatives opens hearings on SOPA, the worst piece of Internet legislation in American history, it has rejected all submissions and testimony from public interest groups and others who oppose the bill.
Irony Alert: The House is holding hearings on sweeping Internet censorship legislation this week -- and it's censoring the opposition! The bill is backed by Hollywood, Big Pharma, and the Chamber of Commerce, and all of them are going to get to testify at the hearing.
But the bill's opponents -- tech companies, free speech and human rights activists, and hundreds of thousands of Internet users -- won't have a voice.
Don't Censor Censorship Opponents: Let Us Testify!
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Chapel Hill police sent a heavily armed swat team to evict and arrest a group of some 80 Occupy Chapel Hill protesters who'd taken over a long vacant used car dealership (they also arrested members of the press covering the action). The police claimed the force was necessary because they'd been briefed that anarchist squatters use man-traps, and they believed this would be the case because the protesters had put banners in the windows and sited "strategic lookouts" on the roof. In other news: Chapel Hill police are credulous, dangerous dolts who set out to believe boogie-man stories about "anarchists" and seized on any rubric, no matter how farcical, they could find to support this a priori belief.
The brick and cinderblock building with large windows fronting the sidewalk is owned by out-of-town businessman Joe Riddle and has stood empty for many years. One demonstrator said they were acting in the tradition of working-class squatters' movements around the world that some say inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots across the United States.
The group printed a flier that proposed a possible new use for the space that would include a free clinic, kitchen, child care, library and dormitories, among other uses. The flier acknowledged they were breaking the law by entering the building.
"Make no mistake: this occupation is illegal," it said, "as are most of the other occupations taking place around the U.S., as were many of the other acts of defiance that won the little freedom and equality we appreciate today."
Police arrest Chapel Hill protesters who occupied vacant business
(Photo: Downsized cropped thumbnail from an image by Katelyn Ferral)
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Back in May, I linked to the perverse tale of Byron Sonne, a Toronto hacker and security researcher who was caught up in the G20 dragnet, part of the overall campaign of illegal harassment, arrest and violence against protesters in the city.
Sonne's trial is underway now, and Denise Balkissoon is covering it in depth for OpenFile.ca. Balkissoon's coverage cuts through the legal complexities and tedium and gets right to the point, and is as good as courtroom reporting gets.
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This week, the Crown conceded that Toronto Police used a ruse in order to get Byron Sonne to hand over his ID on June 15, 2010. Sonne—otherwise known as the G20 Hacker, or the Anarchist of Forest Hill—had been filming the $9.4 million security fence that went up before the international summit. A security guard called the police, and three officers stopped Sonne as he walked along Temperance St.
One asked for his identification. Sonne refused, stating that he knew it was his right not to identify himself unless he was being detained for a specific crime. So, bicycle officer Michael Wong told Sonne that he was being investigated for jaywalking under the Highway Traffic Act. “This was simply a ruse employed to obtain the Applicant’s identification,” reads the statement of fact submitted by the Crown Attorney. “It worked.”
In Sonne’s preliminary trial last winter, all three officers agreed that none of them had actually seen him cross the street illegally. On November 10, Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies decided this ruse meant Sonne was unlawfully detained, and that his rights were violated under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Human Rights Watch reports that instead of reducing violence, the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and "disapparances." Read the report. [Video Link] Read the rest