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First POST: Vitam Et Bello

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, February 5 2014

Vitam Et Bello

  • According to NBC News, a secret division of GCHQ (Britain's NSA) has launched distributed denial of service attacks against chat rooms used by members of Anonymous.

  • McGill professor Gabriella Coleman writes in Wired that this news raises serious concerns:

    There are clearly defined laws and processes that a democratic government is supposed to follow. Yet here, the British government is apparently throwing out due process and essentially proceeding straight to the punishment — using a method that is considered illegal and punishable by years in prison. Even if DDoS attacks would do more damage upstream (than to IRC), it’s a surprising revelation.
    The real concern here is a shotgun approach to justice that sprays its punishment over thousands of people who are engaged in their democratic right to protest simply because a small handful of people committed digital vandalism. This is the kind of overreaction that usually occurs when a government is trying to squash dissent; it’s not unlike what happens in other, more oppressive countries.

  • German media is reporting that before Angela Merkel, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's phone was also tapped by the NSA.

  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed that journalist Glenn Greenwald was "selling his access" to Edward Snowden's leaked documents "for personal gain." He added, " a thief selling stolen material is a thief." Funny, we thought that when a journalist sells a story based on leaked government documents that was called journalism.

  • Web pioneer Andy Carvin is joining Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media.

  • The Republican National Committee has launched an in-house tech incubator called Para Bellum Labs, the Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor reports. Para Bellum is Latin for "prepare for war." Here's aYouTube video from the RNC promoting the project.

  • In preparation for Open Data Day (Feb 22), the Open Knowledge Foundation is running a local open data census.

  • Hailing $750 million in commitments from Apple, AT&T, Autodesk, Microsoft, O’Reilly Media, Sprint and Verizon to public schools, President Obama said that, “In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools."

  • Gregory Ferenstein of TechCrunch reports that normally voluble open government advocates at the White House aren't talking about why the Obama administration is pushing to gut the DATA Act, which would improve federal spending transparency.

  • Has Facebook "changed the way we govern"? That's the claim made by Hayley Tsukayama in the Washington Post.

  • The Syrian opposition is disappearing from Facebook, Michael Pizzi reports for the Atlantic. Their pages are being removed by the company for posting graphic imagery or calls to violence, he says. A Syrian human rights activist who wrote Facebook asking the company to make an exception for groups that are trying to document the conflict didn't get a response, Pizzi adds.

  • Feminist hackerspaces are on the rise, reports Liz Henry for Model View Culture.

  • Crisis Text Line, the brainchild of Nancy Lublin, gets the front-page of the New York Times today.

  • This Philadelphia web designer stopped charging for his services a few years ago, working solely in the "gift economy."

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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