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.
Read the rest
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.
Read the rest
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
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more information on Blue Coat, a US company whose "deep packet inspection" products are being used by the Syrian secret police with reportedly horrific consequences for Syrians who dare to express dissent online. Blue Coat denied knowledge of the products' use in Syria, then changed their tune after incontrovertible evidence surfaced. Now they've told the WSJ that they don't want their products used in Syria because it's illegal to sell technology to Syria.
But what they haven't said is, "We don't want our products used in Syria because they're being used to figure out who to kidnap, torture, and murder."
And they haven't said, "We'll stop selling our products to countries like Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia" -- repressive states (that are legal to sell technology to) where Blue Coat's products are used in the same fashion as in Syria.
Read the rest
In other words, Blue Coat is only concerned about breaking the law, not about helping in human rights violations. Depending on the program, criminal penalties for violating OFAC regulations can range from $50,000 to $10 million with imprisonment ranging from 10 to 30 years for "willful violations."
Given Blue Coat's early denials, we're skeptical that their violation wasn't willful. As Andrew McLaughlin put it in a tweet, "Shame on Blue Coat. Their denials re knowingly assisting Syria censorship don't ring true."
Blue Coat's blatant lack of concern for human rights is alarming. There are far more repressive regimes in the world than there are embargoed countries.
The Oakland PD's use of projectile weapons such as flashbang grenades used in the
assault (possibly by non-OPD officers
) on the Occupy Oakland camp seems to violate the 2004 court settlement it agreed to
in a class-action settlement with Iraq war demonstrators who were assaulted by police: "You would think that after signing an agreement and paying out taxpayer money to 'compensate' for abusive police practices, the Oakland Police Department would learn how to behave in a civilized fashion when dealing with people exercising their First Amendment rights." (Thanks, Cowicide!
) Read the rest
According to Chinese activists, the production of a Hollywood movie called "21 and Over" from Relativity Media in the Chinese city of Linyi has led to human rights abuses. Local activists accuse the government of Linyi of horrific corruption and violence, and the arrival of the production crew has been attended by gangs of unidentified thugs who stone and beat activists, diplomats and journalists who try to visit the site.
In the past several weeks, dozens of activists and Chen's supporters have risked being violently assaulted to attempt visits to his home in a bid to draw attention to his plight. The latest group was made up of 37 petitioners who traveled there by bus from Beijing on Sunday and fled after being attacked by about 50 unidentified thugs as they approached Chen's village, said one petitioner, Peng Zhonglin, from Jiangxi province. Linyi police refused to comment when reached by phone.
Human Rights Watch's senior Asia researcher, Nicholas Bequelin, said it was puzzling that Relativity appeared comfortable cozying up with the city's political leadership.
"They seem to be eager to assume this role of being a prop in Linyi's propaganda campaign to cast itself as a civilized municipality that promotes culture when the reality is that it is not only holding one of China's most prominent human rights defenders, but going to extraordinary lengths to persecute him," Bequelin said.
Activists slam US studio for filming in China city
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Next week marks the inaugural Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference (AKA Rightscon) in San Francisco. This event will explore the role that technology plays in the expansion -- or elimination -- of human rights and the ways that technologists and high-tech firms can either help or harm humanity. In an age when American companies supply "deep packet inspection" technology to the Iranian government so that Iran's secret police can figure out whom to brutally murder (to cite just one example among many), this is an important question.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is dispatching several staffers to speak at the event, and they've provided a helpful guide to the more interesting sessions to keep an eye on.
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Google, a Rightscon sponsor and participating organization, as well as a member of GNI, is just one example of a company that has done a lot of thinking on human rights: its YouTube platform has been instrumental in getting news out of Syria, thanks to a policy that allows violent content to remain available if intended for documentary or educational purposes. And just this week, Google expanded its use of encryption technology to default to SSL search on Google searches.
Twitter, whose General Counsel Alex MacGillivray will be among the keynote speakers at Rightscon, is another company that has taken human rights under consideration when designing its policies, particularly when it comes to free expression. Another rights-thinking company is Mozilla, whom the EFF has praised for its stance on privacy.
On the lists of attendees and sponsors, EFF also sees several companies about which we have grave concerns.
Justin Elliott in Salon
: "New documents obtained by the ACLU show that the FBI has for years been using Census data to “map” ethnic and religious groups suspected of being likely to commit certain types of crimes." Read the rest