Wow. Telecom giants and repressive regimes are teaming up to use a little-known UN agency to make the Internet more expensive,1 surveilled,2 and censored.3
Internet freedom means connection with loved ones, open innovation, and free expression without interference by Big Telecom or repressive governments. All this is under threat right now, but you can make a difference in just a few seconds.
You are part of what’s shaping up to be the largest movement in history, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
We’re already working together globally to stop new Internet restrictions from being imposed through trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),4 and we’ve taken massive strides in Canada to push back against Big Telecom’s price-gouging activities.5 This kind of success is unique and inspiring, and it’s something you should be proud of.
Thank you so much for being a part of this,
Steve, on behalf of your OpenMedia Team
P.S. Whether it’s stopping Big Telecom price-gouging and online surveillance in Canada, or opening the secret negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to citizen comments, we’re bringing the pro-Internet community together to amplify your voice. Our community can only continue to be successful with stable support; you can help by becoming an Ally.
 See our blog, ITU proposals threaten Internet freedom and access, or the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Two Page Memo on Telecom Operators Proposal for New Internet Charging Scheme [PDF]
 See our blog, UN proposals threaten the Internet as we know it, or the Wired magazine article, The Kremlin’s New Internet Surveillance Plan Goes Live Today
 See GigaOM: Is the UN the next big threat to Internet freedom?
 See the successes with the StopTheTrap.net campaign so far listed in this recent letter to supporters: It’s time to amplify our voice against the TPP’s Internet trap
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Many people think that it is a reasonable limitation on the freedom of free speech to prohibit someone from yelling ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre – provided, that is, that there is no fire.
That little caveat – provided that there is no fire – is often forgotten by those who wold consider this to be a reasonable limitation of free speech. This, indeed, is not surprising – failure to recognize real warnings of danger and simply treating unpopular statements equally, whether they are true or not, is symptomatic of the individuals who most loudly profess that this limitation on the freedom of speech is somehow ‘reasonable’.
According to these people, giving a warning of a real ad present peril (like, say, a fire in a crowded theatre) is worse than letting everyone sit complacently until they burn to death.
I must admit, there was a time when I was persuaded that if there indeed were no fire, then shouting a warning of it ought not happen. OK, I still think that it ought not happen – but not because there are laws against it.
To explain my change of mind, I have to digress a little bit to some examples on utilitarian morality from philosophy. Not that I am particularly versed in philosophy – my ideas are mostly self-reasoned, but a little education has made me widen the scope of my reasoning.
There is that classical moral dilema question: if you see an uncontrollable train going down some tracks where it will hit six people, but there is a lever you can pull that will divert that train onto another set of tracks, where it will only kill one person, should you pull the lever?
Most ‘utilitarians’ will say that yes, you should, because one death is less tragic than 6 deaths.
I don’t think this is anywhere near as clear cut.
If the train stays on its original track, you (presuming the uncontrollable-ness of the train is not your fault to start off with) are not responsible for the deaths of those 6 people.
If, however, you do pull the lever, you will be the direct cause of the death of that 1 person.
People are not cogs, interchangeable for each other. We are individuals. And, if you pull that lever, you will indeed be guilty of causing the death of that individual. What is more, since you have had time to consider it, that constitutes premeditation. You would therefore be commiting murder.
This means that the question itself is improperly formulated.
Rather, it ought to ask if you could pull that lever and save the 6 people – but in the process murder 1 person, with all the legal consequences this carries, should you still pull that lever?
Because that is the real question: is saving the lives of 6 people worth murdering someone – and, perhaps, spending the rest of your life in prison as a result! After all, real actions have real consequences…
Similarly, the person who shouts ‘FIRE!” in a crowded theatre has not actually killed anyone.
It is the people who act before checking whether their actions are based on fact or not, and those who put their lives above others by trampling them to death to save themselves, who are guilty of, well, the trampling. Not the person who – rightly or wrongly – shouts ‘Fire!’
It is always the tramplers who are the ones guilty of the trampling.
But, because there are many of them, and our moral compass has for too long been corrupted by the profoundly immoral Judeo-Christian doctrine of ‘scapegoating’, of ‘vicarious redemption’, that we are willing to put the blame of the many ‘tramplers’ onto the one who may not, indeed, have done any ‘trampling’ at all!
It is precisely this predisposition we have of shifting the blame for the actions of the individuals who actually carry them out onto a scapegoat who is said to have ’caused’ their bad or immoral behaviour that is going to be the downfall of our society!
It is precisely this scapegoating which is at the heart of political correctness and the erosion of the freedoms which we ought to be able to exercise unfettered.
How have we improved our lot if we have liberated ourselves from Christian religious dogmas, if we permit its worst shackles to still imprison our morality, albeit under the new name of ‘political correctnes’?
So, now, I agree with Christopher Hitchens on this point:
I have said this often – and in many ways.
I have lamented the disconnect that exists between the people who fight for civil liberties in general and freedom of speech in particular and those who are battling the copyright trolls and those hardly audible voices that are trying to raise alarm about the abuse of patent laws.
Part of the problem – in my never-humble-opinion is that each of these groups comes from a completely different sphere of interest/infuence and, for all practical purposes, from different cultures.
They do not dress alike.
They do not follow the same trends in popular culture.
They do not agree on what ‘societal norms’ are today.
They do not read the same news sources.
And – perhaps most importantly – they do not use language the same way: not only do they not use the same words to express themselves, when they do use ‘common’ words, they do not use them in the same sense.
Example: when Canadian Free Speech acvocate Ezra Levant was being sued for defamation by an HRC troll by the name of Vigna, one of the ‘defamatory’ statements was that Mr. Levant accused Mr. Vigna of ‘hacking’. The judge then started a bit of a lengthy discussion about what does the term ‘hacking’ really mean: the consensus – undisputed by Mr. Levant’s sounsel – was that ‘hacking’ implies an illegal act!
Sitting in the audience, I came close to screaming out: it does no such thing!!!
‘Hacking’ simply means ‘an innovative use of existing code/coding’!
I can easily say that I ‘hacked together’ a new app from bits of code I had from before: no illegal activiy implied! Sure, many people can use hacking for illegal purposes, but ‘cracking a problem’ is not the same as ‘cracking a safe’ – so the word ‘cracking’ does not, in itself, have illegal connotations.
Same with ‘hacking’.
BTW: Mr. Levant was found to have defamed Mr. Vigna for saying he had ‘hacked’ something…
No wonder that the first two groups (civil libertarians/free speachers and anti-copyright-people) as ureasonable and weird… (The last group is perhaps less distasteful to each of the first two, but, being mostly scientists, they are just not that great at communicating just how dire the situation really is….they are trained to overcome problems – not bitch about them: so, that is what they do. Which does not mean the problem is not there and is not desctroying our way of life!)
So, why is the message not resonating?
‘At this point in the discussion, the copyright industry will complain that they only take action for the illegal bitpatterns found, and that there is no infraction on the right to legal communications. And in doing so, they put themselves in the exact same spot as the old East German Stasi, which also steamed open all letters sent in the mail – but only took action on those with illegal content, just like the copyright industry describes as their preferred scenario. Stasi, too, sorted legal from illegal, and left the legal alone.’
And that is exactly what the copyright industry is demanding: decrypt and check all the communication, permit the legal bits through and hand the rest over to law-enforcement agencies!
Please, consider the following court ruling in the UK: All UK ISPs are now compelled to block access to Pirate Bay.
onsider what is necessary to accomplish this: each and every bit of communication has to be decrypted, analyzed and then either permitted to pass through or not.
That means that a private company not only has the right – it is compelled to – read each and every single email everyone sends.
What do they do with the information they receive in this manner? The ruling does not bother itself with such mundane details….
Sorry – please, insert the worst invectives of your choice here….
Because in a very real sense, this does indeed mean the end of private speech on the internet and the end of anonymous speech on the internet.
And let’s not forget our not-so-distant history: anonymous speach is the cornerstone of liberty!
Without anonymous speach, there would be no Federalist Papers.
Without anonymous speach, there would be no way to overthrow tyrants.
No wonder those who want to hold power will use any pretext that presents itself in order to eliminate private communication and anonymous speech!!!
The mainstream media is not really shouting loudly about the horrible tyranny in Belarus – which does not mean that we should simply sweep what is going on there under the rug. We must stand up for human rights of all people – even far away in a forgotten corner of Europe…
Like Mr. Hannan, I think we should stand up and condemn what is going on there and lend moral – if not more – support to those who are actively working to improve civil liberties in Belarus.
First step, of course, is education.
If you live in Ottawa or its environs, you will soon have an excellent opportunity for educating yourself about the situation in Belarus. On th 25th of April, 2012, at 7 pm, the Freethinking Film Society is going to host an information evening about Belarus at the National Archives Library in Ottawa, where they will be screening ‘Europe’s Last Tyrant’:
For those on the other side of the pond, it will also be screened at the London Film Festival on April 15, 2012 in Shortwave (10 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN). For ticket info, see here. (Sorry about the late notice – just found this out myself).
For the rest: keep your eyes open for a screening in your area. This is not something we should remain ignorant about!
Of course, CISPA does not replace SOPA, it is a separate thing altogether. The backroom negotiations to re-introduce SOPA are already underway…
From an email from OpenMedia:
Instead of listening to you and the other 117,000 Canadians who demanded an end to the Online Spying bill, the government is going on the PR offensive with a one-two punch.
You won’t believe this: With one side of their mouth, they’ve leaked stories1 falsely suggesting that they are standing down. With the other, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has shot back with op-eds2, misleading mass emails3, and speeches in Parliament that aggressively defend the bill4.
There’s only a small window of opportunity for MPs to put a stop to warrantless online spying.
Over 117,000 Canadians from across the political spectrum have signed the Stop Online Spying petition, and many of you took to Twitter to raise your voices. Because of your efforts, the opposition parties and several Conservative MPs5 have come out against the costly online spying plan.
Yet Vic Toews has still not apologized for misleading Canadians; he’s even continued to use our children as political cover for this poorly thought-out legislation.
We know from experience that MPs get the message when contacted by local constituents. It makes sense: they’re acutely aware that elections are won riding by riding. This means that together, as a wide-reaching grassroots community, we have power.
Our efforts together have so far forced the government to delay their online spying plan. Let’s take the next step.
For the Internet,
Shea and Lindsey, on behalf of your OpenMedia.ca team
P.S. Thanks to all of you who contributed when we asked for help in scaling up our campaign. The tools and actions we’re offering now are only possible because of your generous support. We’ll send all of you contributors a special report back soon to show what you made possible. If you haven’t chipped in yet, you can still do so here.
 See our press release, Government to Stall the Online Spying Bill
 Find one of Toews’ more recent op-eds, which he submitted to Postmedia News, here.
 See Mythbusting the mythbusting: Our response to Vic Toews’ email to Canadians
 Watch Vic Toews’ February 28th speech in the House of Commons here, and our video mash-up debunking his points here.
 Source: National Post. Conservative MPs who have expressed concerns with the online spying bill include New Brunswick MP John Williamson, Calgary MP Rob Anders, and Ontario MP David Tilson.
Here is another example of the Western governments’ war on its citizens.
This creates precisely the type of environment where hacker-vigilaties will be not just tolerated, but positively embraced by a population that feels increasingly under attack by the very institutions created to ensure their individual rights.
Let’s not make any mistakes about it: it is not Twitter and Google who are increasingly censoring us, the members of online communities. Even though they facilitate access to the virtual world of the web, they are themselves physical corporations which exist in the real world, very much subject to the whims of real-world governments.
As such, they are subject to the arbitrary rules which various governments impose on corporations operating within their physical boundaries.
It is unreasonable for us to expect that these corporations will put the freedom on the internet above their ability to physically survive…
So, you may blame them for buckling – but don’t blame them for imposing the censorship itself: the blame lies directly with our governments, our regulating bodies, and us, the citizens, who permit this encroachment!
We must all fight to prevent all governments from usurping jurisdiction over the internet, the way they have been doing!
I don’t know. Yes, I have been thinking about this for a long time, but there simply is no clear answer.
The easiest solution I suspect would be to continue the efforts to create alternatives to the ‘pipelines’ that ISPs use to deliver internet connections, but the more people try to solve this, the more actual attempts there are to make the web truly uncontrollable and impossible to be regulated by anyone or anything anywhere, the better chance there is of success.
So – keep your elective representatives responsible – and keep hacking!
Two related stories from TorrentFreak update us on what has been happening in Sweden in the Pirate Bay saga.
First, the founders have not been permitted to appeal their case, so their conviction stands. (This should put fear into all of us, because what they were doing was legal under Swedish law – they were only charged and prosecuted because of pressure from the US movie industry.)
Second, now that their court case is concluded, they have changed their domain from .org to .se in order to prevent seisure.
If you don’t know the back story, perhaps you should ‘Steal This Film’: