News and Comments 6 Feb 2012

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Activists protest outside #Syria’s embassy in #Mauritania

A young female activists addresses the crowd, voicing their demands for an end to the killing in Syria and that Assad and his brutal regime should step down.

A cultural festival in Mauritania was marred by sandstorms

Aziz lack of fashion flair spoiled it for me. What a mess he looks in his robe

Emil Boc resigns after austerity protests, had no idea why Romania signed ACTA

Emil Boc said his government had not taken part in a popularity contest

Romania’s Prime Minister Emil Boc has stepped down to “defuse political and social tension” after a series of protests against austerity measures. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said he had given up the government’s mandate as “it is the moment for important political decisions”.
Although Romania’s economy grew last year, the government has been hit by three weeks of demonstrations.
Mr Boc has imposed a 25% cut in public sector wages and a freeze on pensions. Sales tax was also increased to 24%, in a country seen as Europe’s second poorest. Romania said it needed to implement the measures to qualify for the next instalment of a 20bn-euro ($25bn; £17bn) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Poland put ACTA ratification on hold, and Slovenia apparently regrets its signature, and Emil Boc admitted that he doesn’t understand why the country signed ACTA. It appears that opposing politicians are criticizing the government and promising that they will suspend enforcement under ACTA until there are actual public hearings held on the matter. It really is quite amazing that the folks in the entertainment industry, who thought they could ram this through are now discovering how much they’ve awakened internet users across the globe ever since they shot for the moon with SOPA. ACTA has been on the table for years, and only a few of us “copyright geeks” were paying attention to it. But SOPA really made it clear to huge populations of people just how the entertainment industry seeks to restrict the internet through copyright law… and they’re simply not going to take that any more.

BBC News & TechDirt

Iran arrests several on alleged links to BBC Farsi-language service

Iranian authorities have arrested several people over alleged links to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Farsi-language service, Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency reported. The report said they produced content and reported to the BBC. It said they facilitated training and hiring of some Iranian journalists and arranged trips abroad for them. It quoted an unnamed official as saying they were active since 2009. It did not name them or say how many were arrested.

In London, the BBC said in a statement that the report “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.” The British broadcaster said it has “no BBC Persian staff members or stringers working inside Iran.”

In October, Iran released two filmmakers who were in jail on similar charges. Tehran has accused the BBC of operating as a cover for British intelligence and of hosting Iranian dissidents. Last week the BBC accused Iran of intimidating staff members of its Persian service by slandering them and arresting relatives.

via AP in The Washington Post

Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike

The Federal government has sent troops and special forces to cope with the wave of criminal actions

The murder rate in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia has soared during a state police strike that on Saturday entered its fourth day. The state’s Public Safety Department says on its website that 51 people have been murdered in and near the capital city of Salvador since the strike began on Wednesday.

The government news service Agencia Brasil says that the murder rate has ballooned 117% increase over the same period last year.

Some 2,000 Brazilian army soldiers and a contingent of 650 elite federal police troops are patrolling the nation’s third-largest city while officials and strike leaders negotiate an end to the strike.

State officials have said that about 10,000 of the state’s 30,000 police are on strike. They are demanding better pay and bonuses.

The city of Salvador registered a total of 29 homicides over a 30-hour span, amid a crime wave caused by a police strike and despite the reinforcements provided by the federal government.

The city has been plunged in a wave of violent crime since late Tuesday, when the 30.000 members of the Bahia state police force went on strike demanding a 50% pay raise.

Though on Thursday a court declared the walkout “illegal” and ordered police to resume their work immediately, the strike continued until Saturday with spokespersons for the police union announcing that it would not be called off until their demands were met.

The Brazilian government after ordering 2.600 soldiers from Army barracks in Salvador sent to other cities of Bahia, announced it was preparing another 4,000 if the situation gets worse.

The troops went on patrol this Friday in the chief tourism centres of Salvador, a city set to welcome thousands of tourists to celebrate Carnival, one of the most spectacular, massively attended in all Brazil.

Brasilia said that Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo will travel to Salvador this weekend to personally appraise the situation and decide whether a greater military presence is needed.

Speaking Friday night on regional television, Bahia Gov. Jacques Wagner attributed the crime wave to groups with ties to the police on strike.

via Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike — MercoPress.

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Do you understand by country censorship on Twitter; does it change anything for you?

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Aha!
Just wondering what would happen, if I posted my comments on Twitter like this, embedded in an image. If my message was in contravention of some complaint that would cause my tweet to be censored under normal circumstances (if it was a text tweet). Would my image be censored; would it buy me some time before the message was spotted, for an objection to be raised or a rule applied, and the tweet filtered? An interesting idea to play with.

I’m really interested in your thoughts on this change. If you answered “No” or “Not really” please see the links below to learn more. I hope you’ll post in the comments or send a reply to @lissnup about this. For example:

  • will this make any difference to you as a Twitter user?
  • will users stick it out and find inventive work-arounds?
  • will you change any of your user habits?
  • would you look for an alternative micro-blogging platform to share status updates?
  • are free services more susceptible to unwelcome changes or restrictions?
  • would you “pay for a say” in how a social network is designed and managed?
  • are you “locked-in” to Twitter by your existing habits, network, reputation, etc?
  • Google’s announced combining all privacy policies etc – do you see a connection?
  • Internet users and ISPs are facing increasing legislative challenges (ie ACTA, SOPA/PIPA) – do you see a connection?

Kim Dotcom’s arrest & Anon’s attack. Just so.. Hollywood Capitalist

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Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

What I find truly scary is confusing “free” or “open” internet with making money out of sharing illegal content by breaking copyright rules, then launching attacks to defend that profit centre. Megaupload is a profit-based operation, same as a TV company, record label or film studio. Anonymous dashing to the rescue is just one type of enforcement battling against another, but with the same goals – to protect a capitalistic business model. They aren’t fighting over content or the right to access  and share it, they are fighting over making money out of content.

That the United States chose a time when major internet players and users were up in arms against the SOPA/PIPA legislation is an obvious ploy. They are showing the world that they don’t need more legislation than they already have. Why then are we all being riled up and distracted by the SOPA shenanigans? Probably so we don’t notice how incredibly awful the US presidential candidates are. Too late, we already looked, and are universally traumatized.

The organizations that are able to harness the power of international law enforcement to protect their profitability – New Zealand and Great Britain are only two recent examples – are the same ones who own and control the majority of international broadcast media – still the most popular and widely-used source of news and information in the world. Where they choose to shine their spotlight is where we all inevitably end up focusing our attention – regardless of the “power” of social media – we are being spoon-fed flavour-of-the-day of their favorite brand of manure, and lapping it up like day-old pups.

Quite often I feel suspicious when a new event strikes a chord in my memory of some other news item, which takes on a different meaning in the light of the event. In this case, it is the statement I read on Wired.com on 12 Jan by General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, that the US defense network is currently “not defensible”. I thought at the time that was a rather strange admission from a senior member of the US Military. Why would anyone advertise your vulnerability to the world like that, much less the head of the NSA? Now I see it as one way to explain the apparent ease of “Anonymous” being able to DDOS the FBI website, in addition to other, as-yet unreported events, potentially of greater magnitude.

I think we should also ask ourselves, with the benefit of hindsight, and the recent experience of how much time and effort it took to enact a major online event like the internet blackout – is the speed of the revenge attack on US government and media industry websites really feasible? I know I was half-expecting that Anonymous would step into action on January 18 and implement an “enforced blackout” on sites that didn’t join in, by using DDOS or defacements. That didn’t happen. I am still puzzled by the apparent lack of interest in the blackout operation from the blackout masters of the interwebs; the very group who should feel most at risk from internet censorship and be first in line to defend it were as inconspicuous on the big day as they were super-evident around the Kim Dotcom arrest. Perhaps they had been planning a major DDOS attack for 18 Jan and couldn’t get it together in time, but were able to nimbly harness those reserves on 19 Jan so their efforts were put to some use. No one is ever going to know, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who pretended that they did know.

For some time, since the advent of groups claiming to be part of Anonymous started posting names, addresses, emails, and credit card information, I have considered that Anonymous as an entity or a concept can be so easily infiltrated, misrepresented, subverted or abused, it has long past the point of usefulness or validity within the original framework of “internet defenders for the greater good” and has inexorably devolved into “internet vigilantes for the lulz”. The whole central pillar of Anonymous is anonymity: there can be no identifiable individuals representing Anonymous. Ever. Once that happened, Anonymous was polluted as far as I am concerned.

Here’s that Hollywood-style arrest story:

New Zealand police on Friday seized a pink Cadillac and a sawn-off shotgun, and froze millions of dollars in cash, after a raid on the fortified mansion of an Internet guru accused of online piracy.

Armed officers swooped on an Auckland property occupied by “Kim Dotcom”, whose website Megaupload.com is alleged by US authorities to be involved in one of the largest cases of copyright theft ever.

Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, a 37-year-old German [some say Dutch] citizen with New Zealand and Hong Kong residency, was denied bail with three other men on Friday when they appeared in an Auckland district court, police said.

According to New Zealand reports, Dotcom’s lawyer initially objected to media requests to take photographs and video inside the courtroom. But the accused said he did not mind “because we have nothing to hide”.

In a statement, police said they raided 10 Auckland premises, including the Megaupload founder’s property known as Dotcom Mansion, after liaising with US authorities.

In addition, police said NZ$11 million in cash held in New Zealand financial accounts was frozen pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

Detective Inspector Grant Wormald said the Megaupload founder tried to retreat to a fortified safe room when police arrived.

“Mr Dotcom retreated into the house and activated a number of electronic locking mechanisms,” he said.

“While police neutralised these locks he then further barricaded himself into a safe room within the house which officers had to cut their way into.

“Once they gained entry into this room they found Mr Dotcom near a firearm which had the appearance of a shortened shotgun — it was definitely not as simple as knocking at the front door.”

Dotcom and the three other arrested men — Dutchman Bram van der Kolk and Germans Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann — were denied bail and are scheduled to reappear in court on Monday.

US authorities are seeking their extradition to the United States.

They accuse the Megaupload website, which allows downloading of large files, of generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing “more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners”.

Its closure sparked retaliatory cyber-attacks from the “Anonymous” hacktivist group on the FBI and Justice Department websites, as well as music and recording industry websites seen as supporting the clampdown.

AFP

No mention of the many gigabytes of user-created content that has now been taken offline, or whether it will be released to the owners. All premium users of MegaUpload who used it to store their own content have effectively now had that material stolen by the FBI acting on behalf of the anti-piracy lobby.

In the wake of all this, don’t you sometimes feel like you are just being entertained in a rather patronizing – yet equally dramatic and titillating – way? Do take a look at the first link below, which surely offers a reasonably simple explanation for why MegaUpload was really shut down.

Regaining consciousness post #blackout

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StopSOPA Internet blackout Wed 18 Jan 2012Along with the most caring and committed members of the internet community, I blacked out on Wednesday 18 Jan 2012 to protest the threat of internet censorship represented by America’s proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation. The first time I took part in an internet freedom campaign was two years ago, in The Great Australian Internet Blackout of 24-29 Jan 2010, followed by the StopACTA campaign at the end of August the same year. There’s been a steady stream of other activities targeting censorship or actions that threaten internet neutrality in between, with some wins, some losses.

It’s because I value having access to the internet and believe it is a powerful tool for change – though not a human right – that I try to play my small part by signing petitions or sharing news. I also took part in SIDA’s #net4change conference in Stockholm last October where, in addressing Internet and Democratic Change, internet freedom was plainly evident as the strongest pillar of support.

SOPA blackout overToday, as the lights are being turned back on across the web, others are waking up from oblivion. Information about the impact of yesterday’s protest offers reassuring proof that people are really beginning to catch on in large numbers. In the first 4 hours of the blackout, from 12am-4pm ET, there were 2.4+ million SOPA-related Tweets; Google says 4.5 million people signed the anti-SOPA petition; and according to WikiPedia, the SOPA protest led 8 million to look up their representatives in Congress. The role of social networking – and I especially congratulate the reddit community here – in lending a viral aspect to news sharing is undeniably powerful.

Many commentators have produced articulate and strong arguments to illustrate the reasons why SOPA and PIPA are wrong. The Pirate Bay published a succint press release that is worth reading in full. Here’s an extract:

The Pirate Bay is truly an international community. The team is spread all over the globe – but we’ve stayed out of the USA. We have Swedish roots and a swedish friend said this:
The word SOPA means “trash” in Swedish. The word PIPA means “a pipe” in Swedish. This is of course not a coincidence. They want to make the internet into a one way pipe, with them at the top, shoving trash through the pipe down to the rest of us obedient consumers.
The public opinion on this matter is clear. Ask anyone on the street and you’ll learn that no one wants to be fed with trash. Why the US government want the american people to be fed with trash is beyond our imagination but we hope that you will stop them, before we all drown.

Wed 18 Jan 2012: Internet #blackout

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If a significant proportion of the web is on strike tomorrow in a black out, January 18th is going to be amazing! See SOPAStrike.com for masses of info on how to join, promote, agitate and a huge list of participating sites.

Jimmy Wales Wikipedia blackout SOPA PIPA TweetWikipedia

Wikipedia will blackout all 3,847,673 of its English-language articles in protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA), according to co-founder Jimmy Wales.

Wikipedia is going black on Wednesday, January 18, to help fight the contentious Protect IP Act (PIPA), which is set to go for a vote before the Senate on January 24. The move, first reported by Neal Mann, digital news editor at Sky News, was announced by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the far-reaching online encyclopedia, on Twitter. Wales says the blackout was a “community decision.”

The blackout will only apply to English-language articles on Wikipedia — all 3,847,673 of them. It will run from 12am ET on Wednesday, through 11:59pm, says Wales, who estimates that as many as 100 million people will view the blocked protest pages.

Here are some of the bigger sites that will officially go dark on the 18th:

While now focused on PIPA, these planned blackouts were also originally intended to voice opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This past weekend, however, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told SOPA opponents in Congress that SOPA would not come up for a vote until consensus on the bill could be met. This follows a declaration from the White House that it would oppose any “legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet” — all of which SOPA and PIPA would do, according to critics of these bills.