Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan invests in Internet surveillance company that backstops notorious dictatorships

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) has joined a private equity consortium that acquired the notorious Internet surveillance company BlueCoat, yoking teachers' retirement security to the fortunes of a company that has systematically assisted some of the world's most brutal dictatorships to censor and surveil their citizenry. Blue Coat has blood on its hands, people rounded up and tortured and even killed thanks to it and products like it, and it's a disgrace for teachers -- whose professional ethics embrace freedom, intellectual inquiry, and fairness -- to be part of the financial exit strategy for the people who founded and ran that company.

Ron Deibert and Sarah McKune from the University of Toronto's CitizenLab and Munk School of Global Affairs have written an op-ed in the Toronto Star, detailing some of BlueCoat's ethical unsuitablity, and the fact that the OTPP went into the transaction having been thoroughly briefed on what they were getting into.

If you'd like to read more about BlueCoat, check out CitizenLab's excellent report: "Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools."

Now, a year later, Citizen Lab has released a new report, Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools. Using a combination of technical interrogation methods, our researchers scanned the Internet to look for signature evidence of Blue Coat products. While our investigation was not exhaustive and provided only a limited window of visibility into the deployment of such tools, what we were able to find raises serious concerns.

We uncovered 61 Blue Coat ProxySG and 316 Blue Coat PacketShaper devices, which are designed to filter online content and inspect and control network traffic. While legitimate for some purposes, these capabilities can also be used for mass censorship and surveillance of a country’s Internet users. It is noteworthy in this respect that 61 of these Blue Coat appliances are on public or government networks in countries with a history of concerns over human rights, surveillance and censorship (see the work of the OpenNet Initiative documenting such concerns).

Specifically, we found the ProxySG product, designed to filter access to information online, in Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. We found the PacketShaper appliance, capable of deep packet inspection and mass surveillance, in Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela.

Teachers’ pension plan invests in Internet surveillance firm. (Thanks, Mom!)

Joseph Kony documentary: bringing the world's attention to the horrific Lord's Resistance Army

An activist group called Invisible Children has produced a 29-minute documentary on Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's horrific Lord's Resistance Army, which recruits by kidnapping children and beating and abusing them until they serve as soldiers. Invisible Children hopes that viewers of the video will be inspired to "go viral" with the campaign in a coordinated action on April 20 that, they hope, will spur the world's governments into taking decisive action against the LRA.

Wired's Spencer Ackerman describes the early success of the campaign and the criticisms that it has drawn from other human rights activists who say the video is "obfuscating" and accuse it of oversimplifying the complexities of US military intervention.

The visually sophisticated documentary tells the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal history in Uganda — it doesn’t say much about Kony’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — mostly through the eyes of Jacob, a child refugee whose brother was killed by the militia. At one point, the boy says he would prefer to die rather than to live in the world Kony has made. It hits like an emotional sledgehammer.

And that lays the foundation for the campaign the movie essentially advertises. The nonprofit group behind it, Invisible Children, supports President Obama’s recent deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help its army hunt Kony, a decision that required years of grassroots demands from humanitarian activists. In order to make sure the pressure keeps up, and Kony is ultimately arrested — this year — Invisible Children wants to plaster the cities of the world with red, visually striking KONY 2012 posters, stickers and t-shirts.

The video is essentially a plea to take the campaign viral in time for a planned action on April 20, in which Invisible Children hopes to mass-advertise KONY 2012 that night, globally, so the world will “wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters.” Action kits containing stickers, posters, bracelets, information and t-shirts are going for a $30 donation on the group’s website. And the filmmakers want to enlist celebrities, athletes and politicians for the campaign, everyone from Sen. John Kerry to Bono to Mark Zuckerberg.

Viral Video Hopes to Spur Arrest of War Criminal