Category Archives: Censorship

New Media and Democracy: Freenet
Date Created: July 29, 2014  Date Modified: July 29, 2014

Its been a long time since blogging on the New Media and Democracy theme, and its been a long time since I have published anything on this blog really; however today I found myself sharing to some technophobs the Freenet project.

This user was advocating that we as a public adopt a similar initiative, the fact there exists such a project is largely unknown in the broader community. Hopefully I have put this person onto technology they will actually use, and hopefully they will put others onto it.

Code is only of any use when it is being executed.

[REPORT] Freedom of the Internet
Date Created: October 3, 2013  Date Modified: October 6, 2013

Freedom House, a human rights group has published their 2013 Report of Internet Freedom, and being some of the major developments this year it is worth reassessing where we think we stand:

1. Blocking and filtering: In 29 of the 60 countries evaluated, the authorities blocked certain types of political and social content over the past year. China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia were the worst offenders, but filtering in democratic countries like South Korea and India has also affected websites of a political nature. Jordan and Russia intensified blocking in the past year.

2. Cyberattacks against regime critics: Opposition figures and activists in at least 31 countries faced politically motivated cyberattacks over the past year. Such attacks are particularly prevalent during politically charged events. For example, in Malaysia and Venezuela the websites of popular independent media were repeatedly subject to DDoS attacks in the run-up to elections.

3. New laws and arrests: In an increasing number of countries, the authorities have passed laws that prohibit certain types of political, religious, or social speech online, or that contain vague restrictions related to national security that are open to abuse. In 28 countries, users were arrested for online content. In addition to political dissidents, a significant number of those detained were ordinary people who posted comments on social media that were critical of the authorities or the dominant religion.

4. Paid progovernment commentators: A total of 22 countries saw paid commentators manipulate online discussions by discrediting government opponents, spreading propaganda, and defending government policies from criticism without acknowledging their affiliation. Spearheaded by China, Bahrain, and Russia, this tactic is increasingly common in countries like Belarus and Malaysia.

5. Physical attacks and murder: At least one person was attacked, beaten, or tortured for online posts in 26 countries, with fatalities in five countries, often in retaliation for the exposure of human rights abuses. Dozens of online journalists were killed in Syria, and several were murdered in Mexico. In Egypt, several Facebook group administrators were abducted and beaten, and security forces targeted citizen journalists during protests.

6. Surveillance: Although some interception of communications may be necessary for fighting crime or combating terrorism, surveillance powers are increasingly abused for political ends. Governments in 35 countries upgraded their technical or legal surveillance powers over the past year.

7. Takedown and deletion requests: Governments or individuals can ask companies to take down illegal content, usually with judicial oversight. But takedown requests that bypass the courts and simply threaten legal action or other reprisals have become an effective censorship tool in numerous countries like Russia and Azerbaijan, where bloggers are threatened with job loss or detention for refusing to delete information.

8. Blocking social media and communications apps: 19 countries completely blocked YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or other ICT apps, either temporarily or permanently, over the past year. Communications services such as Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp were also targeted, either because they are more difficult to monitor or for threatening the revenue of established telecommunications companies.

9. Intermediary liability: In 22 countries, intermediaries—such as internet service providers, hosting services, webmasters, or forum moderators—are held legally liable for content posted by others, giving them a powerful incentive to censor their customers. Companies in China hire whole divisions to monitor and delete tens of millions of messages a year.

10. Throttling or shutting down service: Governments that control the telecommunications infrastructure can cut off or deliberately slow (throttle) internet or mobile access, either regionally or nationwide. Several shutdowns occurred in Syria over the past year, while services in parts of China, India, and Venezuela were temporarily suspended amid political events or social unrest.

Source

[REPORT] Digital Freedoms in International Law
Date Created: October 29, 2012  Date Modified: October 29, 2012

Released Monday from Global Network Initiative, is the following report Digital Freedoms in International Law, which addresses many of the issues relating to protecting human rights on-line. It looks into state driven censorship in oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and it also highlights the lack of accountability corporations have in the digital eco-system when it comes to human rights violations:

…there are special problems in applying law generally, and human rights law in particular, to the new global, digital environment. Laws are still mainly drawn up for an environment with clearly defined territorial jurisdictions. And much of the control over the Internet rests in the hands of private companies, whereas traditional human rights law almost entirely focused on states. This raises problems of both “prescriptive” and “enforcement” jurisdiction, and of “privatised” (or semi-­-privatised) law enforcement, without adequate remedies.
Page 14

Also mentioned is the corporate sectors willingness to comply with take down requests, and that they have a moral obligation not to facilitate such:

companies should think in advance of possible risks arising from undue state demands made upon them, and they should take measures – including technical measures – to try and make it possible for them to deny or at least minimise their cooperation. They must afterwards help the victims of their enforced cooperation with such allegedly undue and illegal state actions, to alleviate the harm done as much as possible.
Page 23

I would however suggest that it is the corporate interests manipulating the states; tho this might be me speaking from a political, rather than a legal perspective.

A sad week for freedom(s)…
Date Created: August 16, 2012  Date Modified: August 20, 2012

Earlier today I noticed a tweet from Wikileaks press mentioning a helicopter above the Ecuadorian Embassy. I had bee at uni all morning and had been in communication with business stakeholders most afternoon (tho I DID get time to do some work on the car). I had not checked Google Reader, Heard a television, smelled a newspaper of digested any form of media other than the multitude of billboard advertising decorating the bus shelters along South Street. This tweet was the first I had heard of what was part of one of the worst weeks for our online freedoms. I was aware earlier in the week of the governments willingness to push through parliament the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 on Wednesday (turns out I had the date incorrect, its Wednesday the 22nd). But then to have one of, not only Australia’s, but the worlds pioneering hacktivists this was surely one sad week for online freedom.

The implications extend beyond the protocol, IRL will suffer too. The implications of the UK revoking the Ecuadorian Embassy’s status, not only would be seen as an act of war by the Ecuadorians; As their Foreign Minister was quoted on the BBC as saying:

“If the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond.

But also this action, the evoking of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 UK, would in effect undermining the authority of protection offered to all diplomatic envoys, regardless of host nation or nation of origin. I would like to follow this story more but am a bit time precious tonight, I hope I dont start consuming media again on the weekend and find out that–EVERYTHING IS FINE, PLEASE CARRY ON WITH YOUR DAILY ROUTINE.

UPDATE: the following url is to the wikileaks insurance file, all 64Gb of it!:
https://thepiratebay.se/torrent/7050943/WikiLeaks_Insurance_release_02-22-2012. I will be following this story on twitter and be re-tweeting support messages for Assange (While trying to fit some required reading form my Law workshop tomorrow.)

Social Media or Social Engineering?
Date Created: October 3, 2011  Date Modified: January 21, 2013

I have previously posted before, our democratic freedoms are being circumvented online by an organised campaign against progressive ideals. This is no surprise to anyone who has been trolled out of online debates by neo-conservative posters zealously upholding the status quo.

So it should also be no surprise that this kind of Social Engineering is being utilized by corporate interests to manipulate the clean energy debate. As this report from The Montreal Gazette states:

The marketing has involved professional bloggers working for M THIRTY, a Toronto-based communications firm, who actively use social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter to simulate or kick-start online conversations with a consistent message promoting the views of their clients.

In the above instance it was stated the client was the Ontario Power Workers’ Union, however this type of faux user-generated content is available to any corporation or NGO who is willing to fit the bill. A price for opinion, so to speak.

The problem with this kind of assault of our freedom of expression is that it is a divide and conquer method to exponentiate any internal disputes within the groups where misinformation like this is posted. A reader of such a debate who is trying to learn the issues surrounding the topic is bombarded with this type of disinfo in such a way that they are unable to discern the truth from the marketing.

So how can the general public be expected to know the difference between a PR campaign and actual User-generated content? here are some of my thoughts:

  • Language:

    Marketing professionals use marketing language–such as “weasol words”, pejorative words and phrases to cause an emotive response with the reader. Logic is reason, not emotion.

  • Location:

    What are antagonists doing in the forum in question?, if they have a negative view of the topic in general, then why are they even concerned to join in the debate.

  • Finger-pointing:

    Who are these people blaming for the problem?. if there is a clear target of blame then is it congruent with the views of the forum which it is posted?.

  • Ganging up:

    Often it is more than one profile attacking a thread, look into those that are quick to support the questionable postee, are their views in line with those of the forum?.

there are other ways to tell an agent provocateur however one must remember that no checklist is fool-proof. There are a over a billion people on the web, and some of those people are idiots, trolls or even just ill-informed. But its good to know that the “shills” (as they say on conspiracy websites) do exist, and will try to manipulate your ideas.

Be forever vigilant. The internet is serious business.

New Media and Democracy: Wayback Machine
Date Created: September 23, 2011  Date Modified: April 9, 2012

I love archive.org, I go there an nab rights-free media all the time, and their wayback machine is a very useful tol for web designers and administrators to compare UI/UX changes over a long period of time–I used this many times when working at UNDA to highlight usability and design improvements I implemented (and once to recover a “missing” page, but thats another story…

However I never expected, possibly out of a narrow-mindset; that wayback would be defending our free expression of ideas, from Graham Readfearn (An Onymous Lefty):

A few days ago, when I was researching this piece for DeSmogBlog about the questionable coverage of climate change science by The Australian newspaper, I found that none of the links to my old News Ltd blog – GreenBlog – were working.
To be precise, the links worked, but there was no content on the pages. Just a white screen where about 650 posts and 14,000 comments used to be.
The record of an online blog session with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? Gone. The full Q&A with former UN general secretary Kofi Annan? Gone. My catalogue of critiques of News Ltd’s climate denial bloggers, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt? All gone.

Obviously News Ltd’s editorial guidelines decided that the particular content did not reflect the values and opinions of Rupert Murdoch so they 404’ed it. But wayback, being impartial (as I am aware the crawlers do not hold any political opinion, but correct me if I am wrong) has saved some of the content–and even discussion of the above.

Kudos to wayback for protecting our political speach, lets just hope they dont end up permanb& when the cleanfeed kicks in. Of course its not just the media moguls who have editorial discression over the tubez, Google themselves have been known to remove content without explanation, remember to read the ToS.