by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 11:33pm
from the iceland-becomes-an-enemy-combatant? dept
by Glyn Moody
Fri, Apr 5th 2013 6:40pm
from the we-know-what-happens-next dept
Techdirt has been following the fascinating saga of Iceland's crowdsourced constitution for nearly two years. Back in October 2012, we noted that Icelandic citizens gave it a pretty big thumbs up. Reflecting that, it really looked like Iceland's parliament might pass the associated bill, and go down in the history books for this bold re-invention of itself.
But the politicians have just put a stop to that, as Thorvaldur Gylfason explains on his blog:
32 out of 63 members of parliament were induced by an e-mail campaign organized by ordinary citizens to declare that they supported the bill and wanted to adopt it now. Despite these public declarations, however, the bill was not brought to a vote in the parliament, a heinous betrayal -- and probably also an illegal act committed with impunity by the president of the parliament. Rather, the parliament decided to disrespect its own publicly declared will as well as the popular will as expressed in the national referendum by putting the bill on ice and, to add insult to injury, hastily requiring 2/3 of parliament plus 40% of the popular vote to approve any change in the constitution in the next parliament, meaning that at least 80% voter turnout would be required for a constitutional reform to be accepted in the next session of parliament.
In other words, not content with simply ignoring the will of the people to adopt this crowdsourced constitution, the Icelandic politicians have now made it even harder to bring in something in the future.
By a happy coincidence, a new Pirate Party has been formed in Iceland, and is already doing quite well given its recent formation, as Rick Falkvinge explains:
The poll gives the Icelandic Píratar 5.6% of the votes, translating to four seats in the Icelandic Parliament. This growth is nothing short of phenomenal, even within the Pirate Party movement, and it would seem that the Icelandic pirates will be the first to put people in a regular, proportional, national-level parliament. (Sweden was first with the European Parliament, Germany was first with state-level parliament, and the Czech pirates were first with a senator.)
As we've seen elsewhere, there's nothing like a little outrageous behavior from mainstream politicians to drive voters into the arms of the Pirates, so Falkvinge's understandably optimistic predictions may well turn out to be true. Let's hope so, if only as a punishment for the contempt shown by the Icelandic parliament for its people.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 15th 2013 7:31am
from the quite-a-shift dept
"At the moment, we are looking at the best technical ways to achieve this," an advisor to Jonasson told the Mail. "But surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the internet."Last I checked, Iceland did not send a man to the moon. But, even ignoring that, this whole idea is silly. Any attempt to ban porn (or really access to porn) will fail in two important ways. First, it will not actually block access to porn. People can and will always find a way around the filters and will continue to access porn. Second, it will, undoubtedly, lead to non-porn information being falsely classified as being porn and blocked. Both of these are problematic.
But, more problematic is even opening the door to a government mandated censorship regime. Even if you believe that pornography is horrible and damaging and needs to be stopped, this is not the way to do this. You are only guaranteeing further censorship. It is inevitable. Providing tools for censorship always results in eventual mission creep, as someone who doesn't like some other kind of information points out that "if you can do it for porn, why not for..." It's a very dangerous slippery slope.
Furthermore, plans like this completely undermine all of the efforts that people in Iceland have put into promoting a free and open internet. Those claims of building an Iceland built around principles of a free and open internet look somewhat laughable when the government's interior minister is looking to craft a blatant internet censorship bill.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 7th 2013 12:44pm
from the so-much-for-that-plan dept
From the moment the contract was signed, everything went silent. There was no contact between SMAIS and us, unfortunately. We tried to contact them, but it didn't work.This, as you might imagine, caused a bit of an uproar in Iceland, with people speaking out against SMAIS. In response, someone there (apparently without very much internet experience) decided the right thing to do would be to set up a Facebook account for SMAIS. Now, if they could actually discuss the various issues, that might not be a bad idea. But... that's not what happened. After being bombarded with critical comments from others, SMAIS shut down the Facebook account with a snarky note about how they needed to hire someone to run the account, and also about how they have "lots to learn." Though, they also claimed that "some freedom fighters think that only some voices have a place on Facebook." Probably not the right spot for a bit of snarkiness, but perhaps it's not so surprising.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 22nd 2012 8:02pm
from the good-for-them dept
Fri, Oct 12th 2012 12:08am
from the island-watch dept
Fixing the regulation of information and online services has been overdue for many, many years in Europe. Developers of both complex and simple cloud services are often being frustrated by current laws, which were enacted many years ago without much (or any) foresight into how information would be used today. For example, the consent of the user to allow a cloud service to handle his or her personal data often does not reflect the technical reality of how the data is handled by a service operating in a cloud. Even if the cloud system is technically secure and privacy measures are taken seriously, obligations or prohibitions in data protection laws inhibit efficient handling of personal data by modern services if the service provider wishes to fully adhere to the law.
Other policy areas that will likely be updated include consumer rights, security, competition and intellectual property. Officials also see this as a chance to address issues such as jurisdiction (applicable law, but also tax issues), liability of intermediaries, standards and interoperability. Techdirt has been reporting on the flaws of current legal systems and the frequently absurd consequences for many years now. Postponing the much needed regulatory update on these issues is like shooting yourself in the foot, over and over again.
The figures presented in the report above may be overstated, but significant investments can be expected as a result of increased legal security in cloud computing. The question is, then: Who will reap the benefit from this? There are many other countries and regions, which have been preparing themselves for the highly interconnected world and now see a chance to profit from new investments in cloud computing and related infrastructure.
For example, Iceland recently stepped forward and presented itself as a strong contender and ideal host for new server farms, which are needed for cloud computing. The Iceland Modern Media Institute (IMMI) presented a rather useful model to analyze a region's potential for becoming a modern information hub based on a few primary indicators. The report was requested by the European Greens party and models a region's suitability for information services based on energy (e.g. sources and natural cooling), connectivity (e.g. international network and security) and jurisdiction (e.g. local legal provisions and legal security).
Iceland was used as a case study to showcase the model, presenting the natural and societal advantages of the island over other countries in an impressive and convincing way. Iceland is ideally located between the US and the EU, has abundant natural cooling sources and, above all, has developed an impressive and progressive portfolio of policies related to the free and open internet.
Not all is lost for Europe, though. The Financial Times has spotted the necessary political frame for the cloud computing strategy to become a serious topic among European officials:
For Ms. Kroes and her colleagues, the cloud is the embodiment of the European Economic Community, eliminating obstacles, stimulating competition and opening up the market to new possibilities.This 'European Dream' argument for cloud computing could entice some non-tech savvy politicians to take the issue seriously by enabling them to score media attention with their involvement in the new futuristic project which helps rebuild the economy. At least this enables a public, broad and open discussion on all types of internet regulation, where there is plenty of room for expertise and evidence-gathering about the internet to enter the debate.
Recent announcements pave the way for an increased "connectivity" score for the EU in the IMMI model. However, unless the European legislators seize this opportunity in policy making to update its "jurisdiction" score in the model and learn from Iceland's recent policy innovations for the free and open internet, investors may be enticed to build their infrastructure on the island nation, or elsewhere, instead of mainland Europe. The message is simple: Fail to make use of this chance to update the regulation of the internet intelligently, and countries like Iceland will profit most from Europe's cloud computing strategy.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jul 12th 2012 9:10am
from the economic-censorship dept
It's been about a year since Wikileaks filed its complaint against Visa, Mastercard and Paypal for cutting off all payments to the site following the infamous leak of the State Department cables. Wikileaks saw this is a clear attempt to censor the site using an economic workaround, and a violation of their contract—and now at least one court has agreed. Today Wikileaks announced a significant victory in the case against Visa, with the court giving them two weeks to start processing payments again:
In a case against Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, Reykjavík District Court just ruled the company had violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks. After WikiLeaks' publications revealing U.S. war crimes and statecraft in 2010, U.S. financial institutions, including VISA, MasterCard, Bank of America, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks wholly outside of any judicial or administrative process. The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of USD 20M.
The court ruled that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be penalized with a fine of 800 000 ISK daily. WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.
This is a big win for Wikileaks and a bad sign for the other companies complicit in the payment blockade. Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, cutting off their access to donations at the payment-processing level is a highly questionable shortcut—and hopefully the courts recognize this in the cases against other payment providers.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 15th 2011 9:28am
from the the-system-at-work dept
However, what I didn't know was that on a much smaller scale this sort of scenario actually played out... in Reykjavik, Iceland, where "absurdist" comedian Jon Gnarr entered the 2010 mayoral race as a joke... and then won, after an absurdist campaign.
He's now been mayor for a year, and while he still does absurdist things (wearing a gorilla mask at the office, giving a speech while wearing lipstick) he's actually balanced the budget... and seen his ratings drop significantly. He also says that he has a lot more respect for politicians:
Whenever anyone else made a political promise, Gnarr made a bigger one. Gnarr proposed attracting tourists by leveraging the fame of Iceland's most famous citizen: The pop singer Bjork.
We should have this huge statue of Bjork at the harbor like the statue of liberty and instead of a torch she would be having a microphone and she would shout out some information about Reykjavik in three different languages and she would be revolving, you know? And also there would be lights. Her eyes would shoot lights on interesting tourist spots in Reykjavik.
When a candidate proposed building an entire amusement park, Gnarr went small.
"I promised to have a life size Mickey Mouse," he says. "We would be the only Disney World that had a life size Mickey Mouse."
When political events turned boring, Gnarr would walk out.
"I have realized that the politicians, or most of them, are not evil, stupid people like I thought they were."
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jun 14th 2011 11:35am
from the totally-throwing-off-the-transparency-curve dept
We talk a lot about government transparency here at Techdirt. (We honestly do. Admittedly, the conversation tends to revolve around the lack thereof, but that's hardly our fault. We weren't the ones promising the most transparent government ever and then spending most of our time boarding up the windows and chanting "State Secret" over each piece of paper that crossed our collective desks. But I digress...)
Back to the point at hand: a transparent government. Ours may be struggling mightily with the ideal, but Iceland has one-upped every government in the world by crowdsourcing the writing of its new Constitution. Not only that, but it's embracing the crowd at all the popular hangouts, incuding Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, and it's streaming all of its meetings live.
Of course, opening up yourself to the "wisdom of the crowd" has its drawbacks, most them directly related to the "wisdom" of said crowd. Some bizarre advice has turned up on its Facebook page, but to its credit, the moderators are handling it with the tireless patience that Iceland will soon become famous for, if there's any justice in the world. Here's a sampling of some of the best/worst from their Facebook page.
Here's Joshua E.'s three-pronged platform:
Just read the full current draft, and had some thoughts: 1. I would suggest that under Education, a clause be instituted to allow children and their families to seek restitution from individual teachers upon improper teaching of personal views, 2. the amount of parliment needed for impeachment of the president be reduced to 2/3rds as to avoid blocking by a member of the president's own party, and 3. that a process be created by which the collected MPs may create amendments to the constitutionSilja Bára Ómarsdóttir (Iceland Facebook page admin):
the president in Iceland is not affiliated with any party so that's moot. The idea of amendments is not something we normally use here, we would rather have the whole document revisited, for example through constitutional assemblies every few decades. And for the first point, I would be hesitant to support such a document as I think it would support the development of a "sue the bastards" mentality we have not had so far. But thanks for your critical reading of the document and interest in the process.
Justin E. lays out some common sense:
Okay, here is a no-brainer. To keep special interests out of the government, you pay politicians at a flat rate, and do not allow them to accept monetary sponsorship from corporations.
Katrín Oddsdóttir (another admin):
Exactly what we're doing Justin ;)
Joe C. takes a swing at the "welfare state" and ends with a baffling plea to edit the Consitution and Bill of Rights:
If you write "rights" to the fruit of other peoples' labor into the Constitution, you will have set up this state for failure before it even started. Please copy the US constitution + bill of rights, remove the bad parts and clarify the liberty-damaging clauses.
If there is any place in the world where the constitution can promise social welfare to all, that would be Iceland which is very rich in resources and has only 320.000 people. So we have to go for the full force social and economic rights, in my opinion. We also have a very different legal system to the US so it's hard to compare how such constitution traditions would act out, on the Ice. Thanks for the comment Joe.
Justin L. is concerned with an inseparable church and state:
Having an Established Church as well as Religious Freedom seems a little counterintuitive.
This is a huge issue and no wonder you mention it. Iceland has had a national church for decades and very many people want a separation between the Church and the State. However, the current constitution demands a referendum should the state church be abolished and that is why our current draft has two options on the church. This essentially means that when (and if!) our new constitution goes to referendum, the people of Iceland can choose whether they want to mention the Established State Church in the future constitution or not.
And finally, Phil C. reminds us why we love/hate the internet -- semi-coherent, punctuation-less rants:
You people are crazy nuts You are abdicating your responsibility to your nation's people. guarantee all the "rights" you want to includingno-one needs to work the government will take care of everything cradle to grave a country of welfare is a country that cannot survive. You are ruining your country and setting the worst possible example
People will have no desire to contribute sweat equiity if the government pays all the bills. Have you thought of where you will get the money needed to support all of your welfare recipients once you guarantee they won't need to pay for any of there own needs?
Now now Philip. We are blessed with ample natural resources like hydro electricity, clean water, agriculture and sustainable fishing. Our healthcare and education system is the foundation of our future.
I would not go as far as to say that we are crazy nuts, but as a nation of viking seafarers we do like to go out on a limb sometimes.
It's true. Vikings are iconclastic ass-kickers and somewhat prone to rash action, hence Iceland's sudden drive to rebuild its constitution. (The still-in-progress full text is online both in English and in the original Icelandic.) All the push Iceland needed was a catastrophic collapse of the financial system. To say that this effort has struck a chord with people worldwide is an understatement. And while there's probably a million reasons this won't work, it might turn out to be a perfect fit for a country with the population of St. Louis, MO (approx. 319,000). If nothing else, it may inspire a bit more transparency worldwide, and that can't possibly be a bad thing.