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First POST: Too Big to Read Our Mail

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 21 2014

Too Big to Read Our Mail

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier writes an oped for CNN arguing that the NSA should be broken up. Diverging from some anti-surveillance activists, he praises the agency's "Tailored Access Operations" group for its ability to secretly break into "the enemy's computers," but blasts NSA's dragnet collection of domestic and foreign civilians communications data and its "deliberate sabotaging" of once-thought-to-be-secure commercial encryption systems and the like, which "destroys our trust in the Internet…and makes us more vulnerable."

  • The most interesting part of of Schneier's piece is his suggestion that instead of focusing on breaking online security (the "signals intelligence" gathering role) it instead emphasize communications security. He writes:

    Computer and network security is hard, and we need the NSA's expertise to secure our social networks, business systems, computers, phones and critical infrastructure. Just recall the recent incidents of hacked accounts -- from Target to Kickstarter. What once seemed occasional now seems routine. Any NSA work to secure our networks and infrastructure can be done openly -- no secrecy required.

  • "Millions of Americans are now virtually incarcerated in algorithmic prisons," writes Bill Davidow in the Atlantic. How so? Through data-driven profiling that corporations and government use to predict everything from our credit worthiness to our behavior.

  • Eric Lipton details Comcast's "web of lobbying and philanthropy" for the New York Times.

  • Not included in Lipton's list of the ways Comcast has cultivated Washington powerbrokers and grassroots organizations alike: the time the company promised to expand its partnership with the nonprofit Common Sense Media as part of a list of "public interest commitments" that it made as part of its FCC filing seeking approval of its purchase of NBC Universal. As noted by Susan Crawford in her book Captive Audience, Common Sense Media was "a pet charity of [then-] FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski…whose board he had helped form years earlier."

  • Twitter says the Venezuelan government is blocking the posting of images from the opposition protests surging across the country.

  • Matthew Ingram reports that "for those inside and outside of Ukraine and Venezuela, social media is the only media that matters."

  • The Times' Jen Preston reports that a 22-year-old Venezuelan beauty queen, Genesis Carmona, who is one of five protesters killed in anti-government demonstrations there, is rapidly becoming an icon, thanks to social media.

  • The Open State Foundation has launched Diplotwoops, which tracks deleted tweets by diplomats and embassies. Here's their gleanings of what various diplomats have retracted related to the Ukraine crisis.

  • Ur-tech blogger Om Malik has announced that he's retiring from the news business to join the early stage VC firm True Ventures, though he will continue to occasionally contribute to Gigaom, the site he started. "Living a 24-hour news life has come at a personal cost," he notes, and "it is time for me to opt out." We'll miss your sage voice, Om!

  • "Citing the scandals embroiling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Republican Governors Association today ordered its members to discontinue the use of e-mail, 'effective immediately',” Andy Borowitz "reports" for The New Yorker.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

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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