“This year is going to be a very crucial year for the fate of digital rights and freedoms on the internet. We strongly support the campaign against both the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. For that reason our websites will be down from 05.00 GMT for 24 hours in support of the campaign.
It's been really sickening to see our usual critics (some of whom are admitted lobbyists in favor of the bills) insist that anyone against the bills is "in favor of piracy." Clearly, many people from all over the place -- including those who make their living in the "entertainment business" are against the bills. Or are we going to hear that Peter Gabriel just wants free stuff, too?
Following the news that Reddit, Wikipedia, and a bunch of other sites will be going dark to protest PIPA (and, to a lesser extent, SOPA) tomorrow, Google has now announced that it will use its home page to express its dislike of the bill. Google has not made clear exactly how it will protest. It won't "go dark" like those other sites, but it appears that it will post some sort of link, and will highlight ways for people to contact their elected officials in protest over the bill. With both Google and Wikipedia pushing people to call Congress... you might want to assume that Congress is going to get a few phone calls tomorrow.
from the and-don't-forget-the--militarization-of-the-police dept
By now, I expect that many of you have heard or seen the reports of police in riot gear pepper spraying students at UC Davis late last week. If you haven't seen one of the many, many videos of the incident out there, this one is particularly popular and has a pretty good view of the police officer walking up and down the line of peaceful protesters with their arms locked, spraying them heavily with pepper spray:
However, there appear to be dozens of other videos capturing the same thing from a variety of different angles. I just watched about a half dozen of them, and each one provides a little more insight or perspective into what happened. None of them make the police look good. This and other recent incidents of police pepper spraying protesters raise a few different issues (regardless of what you think of what people are protesting for). Let's discuss two of them quickly.
First, it's fascinating to see how protest is changing in the age of YouTube. In the past, photographs often captured iconic moments in similar situations. Or, in some cases, merely the stories of what happened. And while there can be something powerful and moving about a still photograph, the video of these latest incidents really lets you see the details, and I find such videos to be much more powerful in showing the full extent of what's happening. It makes it that much harder to cover things up or try to explain away the actions of the police. We've talked about why the right to record police is an important right for Americans, but in situations like this, it also shows not just the value of recording what the police are doing, but also the power of bringing millions of people around the world right into the situation of what happened.
Related to that is the fact that such a large percentage of people these days now carry handheld video cameras, often in their mobile phones. That we don't just get one angle on these stories, but coverage from pretty much every perspective, is really quite an incredible experience.
The other issue worth discussing is the long term unintended consequences of regulatory and legal battles against vague bogeymen without a thought to what happens. If you want to read a really fascinating opinion piece on what happened at Davis, you should read what Bob Ostertag had to say. Ostertag, among other things, is a professor of Technocultural Studies and Music at UC Davis, and his discussion is really fascinating -- directly calling out the administration for its bogus defense of the pepper spraying (and comparing it to a similar situation that was handled quite peacefully at Columbia). He goes on to highlight other ridiculous overreactions first within the UC system (at nearby Berkeley) and then elsewhere in the country, such as the pepper spraying of an 84-year-old woman in Seattle.
One of the key points he uses to summarize all this is the following:
Last week, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper published an essay arguing that the current epidemic of police brutality is a reflection of the militarization (his word, not mine) of our urban police forces, the result of years of the "war on drugs" and the "war on terror." Stamper was chief of police during the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, and is not a voice that can be easily dismissed.
Stamper's article is also a fascinating, yet disturbing read. He points to his own failings in 1999, but also how much worse things have become. He also points to some ideas for turning things around -- creating radically different police forces, with civilian involvement.
Part of me wonders if these two issues converge. The ability of people to so widely document the abuses -- and horrify the watching public -- will hopefully lead people to seek out the sorts of "radical" solutions Stamper suggests (and, yes, I do recognize the ridiculousness of suggesting that police work closely with civilians is considered "radical"). But part of me wonders about the likelihood that things just get worse. We see this elsewhere, where "law enforcement" or the government through declaration or regulation declares "war" on something, rather than trying to understand and deal with the underlying issues. It never helps solve the problem, and oftentimes serves to make it that much worse. But oftentimes it seems like once the moral panics and the "war on..." announcements have been made, politicians and law enforcement become totally committed, unable to back down, even as their "solution" makes things worse.
It's stories like these that should make us wary of jumping on any sort of moral panic that doesn't involve a true look at the underlying causes, and how to fix them, but rather seeks solely a stricter "enforcement" solution. What we see, over and over again, is that that level of "enforcement" becomes a weapon that is used more and more regularly and more and more indiscriminately. Even as some amount of transparency hopefully counteracts some of it, people get so committed that the situation moves far away from solving problems, and just creates more and more new ones.
iamtheky sends in the story of a UC San Diego Professor, Ricardo Dominguez, whose focus of research is "electronic civil disobedience," (for which he received tenure and a fellowship from his university), but who is now potentially facing discipline or even criminal charges from the university for staging a "virtual sit-in" to protest budget cuts. It certainly raises questions about the line between telling people to visit a website and a hack attack to take down a website. It's difficult to see how just telling people to go to a website should ever qualify as any kind of attack, but the University is said to be contemplating criminal charges.
We've already seen that plenty of content creators use The Pirate Bay for legitimate distribution and promotion purposes, and now Dan writes in to alert us that a best-selling author in Sweden, Unni Drougge, is so annoyed by The Pirate Bay verdict, that she made an audiobook version of her best-selling recent novel and put up a torrent via The Pirate Bay, along with a "manifesto" in support of free file sharing. Apparently, this is getting her plenty of attention, as her book has jumped to the top of the audiobooks list (what were people saying, that the top downloaded lists never include authorized content?).
We were surprised and disappointed when Amazon gave in to the Authors Guild's baseless claim that the TTS somehow violated its copyrights. It looks like a lot of others are disappointed as well. A group is now organizing a protest against the Authors Guild for trying to determine whether or not Amazon was allowed to innovate. As the EFF notes, "The publishing industry shouldn't have veto power over new technology." If you're in New York City, you should look into the details of the protest on Tuesday.
from the it's-a-bird,-it's-a-plane,-it's-a...-Facebook-protest? dept
Using social networking tools to organize political protests is nothing new or surprising, but online protests have been growing increasingly efficient, especially on Facebook. In Canada, for example, a group protesting copyright legislation caught the attention of federal parliament last summer, and another opposing strict restrictions on young drivers had the Ontario Premier considering Facebook consultations in the fall.
The latest story comes from the UK where, in a mere 48 hours, a campaign run through Facebook and TheyWorkForYou.com by mysociety.org helped stop legislation that would have exempted MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act (via the Search Engine). Thousands of emails were sent in the two day period, reaching 90% of MPs, before the opposition parties turned and the government backed down. It's not so much the scale that's worth noting, but the sheer speed at which the campaign was successful. The legislation was scrapped before most snail mail would have had time to arrive. Now, the online protest likely wasn't the only factor, but it played an important role in spreading the message. It seems to be getting a lot harder to sneak stuff through the legislature (though that doesn't stop people from trying) when it only takes a couple days to build an opposition.
The main thing that kicked off all the negative attention over EA's use of SecuROM DRM in Spore was the avalanche of negative reviews on Amazon. It seems consumers are beginning to recognize that such a rush of negative reviews is an effective way to protest and garner attention. The latest product getting the same treatment appears to be TurboTax from Intuit, where people are protesting a big price increase from last year. Any bets on whether or not a "glitch" will cause Amazon to delete the reviews, as has happened with previous waves of negative comments?
Recently, Tim wrote about how aspects of Twitter could represent the future of news, and it appears that may be happening faster than some people expected. In a story that must absolutely thrill any PR person working for Twitter, a UC Berkeley grad student who was filming protests in Egypt was able to alert his friends to the fact he was arrested by Egyptian police through a message on Twitter. This resulted in a coordinated effort to get him released, which eventually involved the US State Department. You get the feeling that this story will move into PR legend like the story of the guy who self-diagnosed a heart attack using Google.
Still, it is a rather remarkable example of how Twitter can be quite useful. While there are plenty of people (myself included at one point) who wrote off the service as being rather useless, it's been evolving in very interesting ways. For those who embrace it, it can become a rather useful quick and easy public messaging and conversation tool. While, James Karl Buck could have sent a text message to a friend, the simplicity and public nature of Twitter allowed him to alert a lot of people nearly instantly to the situation he was in -- and they responded. Not only did they reach out to get help, they also quickly responded to James on Twitter, providing advice on how to deal with the fact that he was arrested. Still, what's not entirely clear in this whole story is how he was able to continue to use his mobile phone while under arrest. While the lesson some may learn from this is that arresting officers will quickly take people's mobile phones away, that doesn't lessen the impact of a service like Twitter and its ability to spread a message to a lot of friends and acquaintances extremely quickly.
Jay: Hmmm... Gonna have to hack my PSP... silverscarcat: I need a new battery for my PSP. :( It keeps shutting off if it's unplugged for more than 2-3 minutes, even on a full charge. Mike Masnick: green bars are back, and hopefully functioning better than before. :) silverscarcat: Oh look, AJ's having a cow and the internet tough guy is trying to be a stereotypical high school bully. *Rolls eyes* Hey, Mike, I know it's not in your nature to ban someone, but, damn, something needs to be done about this sometimes I think. Rikuo: unfortunately, nothing can be done. IP address block? Useless since either AJ is on a dynamic IP or he's on a static but using someone else's equipment. Username block? That would only add fuel to the "CENSORSHP" fire silverscarcat: Well, I think I'm going to leave for the day. That troll that plays the internet tough guy really should get laid, I think. It might help him think straight. Rikuo: holy fucking shit...I want to be this man http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/05/fios-customer-discovers-the-limits-of-unlimited-data-77-tb-in-month/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arstechnica%2Findex+%28Ars+Technica+-+All+content%29 Warning - Home Server pornz on that link BentFranklin: in that article, where it describes his rack, what does 1u, 2u, 4u etc mean? Jeff: @Bent - 1U, 2U, 4U are units of measurement for server racks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rack_unit Dark Helmet: Hell, I"m just a silly tech services sales guy and I knew that... yaga: DH you should have just stopped at silly. dennis deems: Holy Cow http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/05/doctors-save-babys-life-with-3d-printed-tracheal-implant/ http://www.fairphone.com/ -- I wonder why they don't use kickstarter. does this make sense to anyone? is kickstarter not available in europe? Rikuo: There is for UK. You have to be a UK resident http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creator+questions#GettStar of course that's just for the one company, called Kickstarter. There are other crowd-sourcing companies