2010/12/30

Tech Without Borders

The without-borders meme goes to Tech Without Borders

1. We are people of tech.

2. We live and work everywhere.

3. We value our own freedom, the freedom of people who use our technology and freedom in general.

4. We think there is no meaningful distinction between WikiLeaks and the news organizations covering the stories in cooperation with WikiLeaks.

5. We urge all governments to respect freedom of the press, whether the news originates online or offline.

6. We apply these principles in our work and they are embodied in our technology.

2010/12/29

A spreadsheet of aha!

I think it'd be interesting to make a graph of how the realization of how important Wikileaks/Cablegate is occurred across the world, and to see who realized it early and how that spread. As a start, I made a public spreadsheet on Google Docs:

Who realized the revolutionary implications of Wikileaks/Cablegate and when they published

Throwing it out there for people to edit and build on. And critique.

2010/12/26

WikiLeaks: The Third Revolt

This is not my own work and I disagree with certain points of view, but I find the analysis insightful. This is by Jean-Christophe Rufin. Translated with the help of Google Translate from the original "WikiLeaks ou la troisième revolte" at Le Monde. Original date: (20.12.10 | 14h18  •  Mis à jour le 23.12.10 | 15h24)


Doctors Without Borders / WikiLeaks: same methods, same fight? The idea of a link between the two movements may be shocking. The first is a recognized and respectable association, hailed as useful to humanity; the other is a quasi-clandestine website considered, following its recent revelations, irresponsible.

2010/12/23

Wikileaks and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is considered to be a key element in that country's mostly non-violent change from an apartheid regime to a more just (though still extremely challenged) society. One thing the TRC is credited with is breaking down the denial of white citizens about the realities of apartheid. By keeping the crimes of apartheid in the news day after day for months if not years, whites could not simply ignore inconvenient information but had to confront the ugly truths about apartheid. That helped solidify the new system and disarm reactionary opponents.

In a similar way, this slow leaking of documents by the Guardian and other news organizations is having a great effect on the legitimacy of the present political order. The first rule of PR is to get out in front of the scandal, accept blame, and end the story. Preferably on a busy news day or just before a weekend or other "dead" time. Surprisingly, this works. (For example, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had an affair with the alcoholic wife of his best friend (both were employees of his). He admitted it, the story died, and he was re-elected as mayor and then later elected to lieutenant governor of California. WTF?)

Cablegate is not ending. It's barely even started. Even if they started with the juicy stuff, there's much to come. Only about 0.5% of the cables have been released to the general public. Each new story reinforces the narrative of US arrogance, hypocrisy, and unaccountable power. Each new twist pisses off some new sector of society - whether it's environmentalists learning that the US wanted to retaliate against GMO-opposing European nations, geeks finding out about secret negotiations around intellectual property law, or nationalists having their fears confirmed of US interference into the internal affairs of India, Yemen, Italy, and Germany, among others.

Opponents have tried for years to peacefully change US foreign policy, but it's extremely hard to get the domestic (or even foreign) press to do the subject justice. These cables gave us all an initial shock, but it's the long, slow corrosion of the US's unearned image of legitimacy in the eyes of people both inside and outside its borders that will have the largest effect.

2010/12/20

The Cowardice of Intermediation

Examining my reaction to the corporate censorship and financial strangulation of Wikileaks, I am struck now by the unconsciousness of my ideas about how corporations and other large institutions should communicate. As I said in fairly impromptu remarks:

One thing I want to point out is that Mastercard and Visa, who basically blocked people like you and me from donating money to support Wikileaks, and Amazon who kicked Wikileaks off [their service], none of them have issued even a press release. I contacted them and Mastercard had some lame thing like "well, there's quotes in news articles". No, it's the modern age - it's the internet - you're supposed to talk to the people and tell them directly. You can't even have a press release explaining what you did and why?
(I see now that there is at least one blog post by Amazon about its decision to drop Wikileaks. That post is not very convincing, but at least it's there. On the other hand, Bank of America has now joined the blockade of Wikileaks, again through a quote shared with some newspapers, but not posted on the web.)

I believe these ideas are widely shared - note, for example, the laughter accompanying my mention of "quotes in news articles". At some point we just unconsciously absorbed the new ethos - that since intermediation by traditional news organizations is not necessary, it is suspect. A press release, a corporate form of obfuscation and media manipulation if there ever was one, is still held to be better than no publicly shared statement at all. Having only "quotes in news articles" means you talked to those who you defined as "the press". You hid behind the corporate press as intermediaries rather than giving us a good chunk of text to critique directly.

It is this perception of hiding that is so galling. We expect you, power, to speak with us, The People Formerly Known as the Audience, and barring that, at least to speak to us. Choosing to speak only to or with the traditional news organizations is perceived as appalling cowardice. And in this case, with good reason - the actions of these corporate giants are considered illegitimate by many people. The last thing these organizations want is a wide-ranging and in-depth discussion of the problems of unaccountable corporate power and, in particular, the tri-opoly of internet payment mechanisms.

2010/12/18

My remarks at the recent SF protest against the repression of Wikileaks

Well edited by and posted on Indymedia.

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Directly as an mp4 movie.

Transcript:

Basically what happened was Monday night I was like, ok, this is bullshit! This is San Francisco. San Jose had a protest, San Francisco can't take this shit lying down, right? So I was like, ok, well I'll look and see if there's something online, and then if there isn't, I'll just do it, on Friday, let's say, cause that'll give us lots of time to prepare - four days, right?

2010/12/17

DDoS protests - right or wrong? Legitimate or illegitimate? My quick take.

1970s Armed Revolutionary Groups in the West (didn't know we had them, did you?)

There has been some controversy over whether the distributed denial of service attacks by Anonymous against Mastercard, Visa, and others are right or wrong.

2010/12/16

More Constructive Direct Action

The EFF suggests constructive direct action against censorship. Here's some other things you can think about, even if you're not a technical person.

Right now we are witnessing a monumental shift in the balance of power between states and citizens. One reason we've held on to powerful states is that we have needed them to organize masses of people - the only way we knew to organize was with large, hierarchical organizations. The internet provides us with new possibilities. Wikipedia, for example, is organized with very little in the way of traditional management.

Because the internet allows people to organize themselves in a far more democratic fashion, our need for the state is diminishing (not zero, not even small yet, but less than it used to be). Stateless organizations like Wikileaks that show no respect for any particular government or government at all, but rather consider their allegiance to the "public" at large, really anger governments.

I believe the US government's reaction to Wikileaks results from the shock of realizing this change in its power, and is a desperate attempt to regain it. If it were to succeed, all of our liberties would be endangered.

Be a political entrepreneur

One way to protect our liberties is to actively exercise them. Be a political entrepreneur like Wikileaks - think boldly about how we might use the internet to reshape the way democracy works just as so many companies have reshaped commerce. We don't know what the possibilities are for organizing large numbers of people in a radically democratic way until we try. So try!

2010/12/13

The Wikileaks Katamari

The Multiple Meanings of "Wikileaks"

We are living in a profound historical moment. Julian Assange often seems megalomaniacal and millennial, and by now an utterance like "I believe geopolitics will be divided between pre- and post-Cablegate" is easily overlooked. But it is increasingly clear that he is right. The word and the concept Wikileaks have now become overloaded with layers of meaning. "Wikileaks" as a word and a concept can refer to any of the following:

1. the Wikileaks organization itself
2. a release of information from Wikileaks, directly or indirectly
3. the general idea of whistle-blowing through an intermediary like Wikileaks