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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."

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

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wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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