by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 3rd 2013 12:53pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 25th 2013 3:37am
from the shameful dept
The latest is using Schedule 7 to detain and intimidate a human rights and democracy activist from Yemen. Let me repeat it: this is someone advocating for democracy, and they're being detained and harassed under an anti-terrorism law. Something is seriously screwed up here.
Baraa Shiban, a respected human rights activist who works in Yemen as a project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve and was travelling to London to speak at an event, said he was held for an hour on Monday night and questioned about his work and political views.Shiban was going to the UK to give a speech on, of all things, "security, diplomacy and aid." He may want to edit the planned remarks slightly. Shiban further pointed out that the detention was focused on his human rights activities. Remember this is under a law that is supposed to only be used to stop terrorists.
He was detained under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act, the same legislation used last month at Heathrow to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has written about mass internet surveillance by the US National Security Agency and Britain's GCHQ.
Shiban is a member of Yemen's National Dialogue – the body tasked with mapping out the country's democratic future
Shiban said: "I was stunned when the border agent said I was being held simply because I came from Yemen. It was even more shocking when he spent the entire time asking me about my human rights work and about Reprieve, the charity I work for.The excuse given by Sussex police is especially pathetic:
"Is the UK the kind of place that human rights activists are fair game for detention, intimidation and interrogation?"
A spokesman said: "He was referred to Sussex police by Border Force officials. He spoke with officers for around half an hour and was then free to continue his journey. We are satisfied that our actions were legitimate, justified and proportionate and were carried out in accordance with the act."Remember, the act is supposed to only be used in investigating possible terrorist activity. These are the kinds of activities that we used to associate with authoritarian non-democratic countries. And now we're regularly seeing such abuse in the US and the UK.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Sep 18th 2013 4:06pm
Lavabit's Levison Now Avoids Email Altogether, Has Turned Into A 'Political Activist' Thanks To The NSA
from the unintended-effects dept
Reporting on comments he made recently at the Privacy Identity Innovation conference in Seattle, AllThingsD has a useful update on what he's doing currently. He says that he is still hopeful that the courts will allow him to re-start Lavabit; but until then, he is taking some rather extreme precautionary measures, avoiding email altogether:
Levison is making use of "the electronic equivalent of a methadone clinic" by messaging people through Facebook, LinkedIn, text and the new encrypted communication service Silent Circle. "I haven't needed a real and valid email address to register for something yet," he said.
It's a little hard to reconcile that understandable concern that the NSA may be eavesdropping with his use of relative insecure services like Facebook, but presumably he knows what he is doing here. Maybe he only conducts relatively trivial conversations using them, saving more serious stuff for Silent Circle, and the really serious stuff for face-to-face meetings.
"Anything that I consider sensitive, I try to talk about it to people in person, with my cellphone off, in an area where I know that nobody’s pointing a parabolic mic at me," Levison said. "If you're fighting the government that's what you need to do."
Levison's thoughts on communications and security are obviously of interest, but the key news that we learn from the AllThingsD piece is the following:
"I've had to switch from becoming a small business owner worrying about making payroll, to overnight becoming a political activist," Levison said.
The following hint of something big to come is intriguing:
Though he had suggested when he shut down Lavabit that he was at imminent risk of arrest, Levison said today he is "less worried" about that now. "What I'm more worried about is what I have planned for the future," he added ominously, then declined to elaborate.
What's significant is that the NSA's attempts to bully Levison into secret obedience have backfired badly, producing the opposite effect: in his own words, he's become a "political activist" -- one, moreover, who is technically savvy and has experience of dealing with the snoops. That makes him a hugely valuable ally for those wishing to bring some transparency and accountability to the US government's surveillance activities -- and an obvious problem for the NSA. No wonder he's worried about being spied upon.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 26th 2013 3:50pm
Reporter Toobin Lashes Out At Reporters Who Use 'Stolen' Documents; Leaves Out His Own History Of Doing The Same
from the it's-just-not-civilized-to-do-real-reporting dept
The unavoidable sense one gets — not just from Carr's piece, but from all the other responses by Gregory and others to the NSA story and to WikiLeaks, and even to events like Reddit's attempt to contribute to the reporting around the Boston bombings — is of an "us vs. them" mentality, in which bloggers like Greenwald or more extreme personalities like Julian Assange are treated like invaders storming the barricades of the journalism establishment. As Carr puts it:Carr also has this interesting exchange with Toobin, who has been among the angriest haters against Snowden, Greenwald and the rest:“The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste — that they aren’t what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us.”
Mr. Toobin agrees that an important debate has been joined, but says no story, no matter how big, justifies journalists’ abetting illegal acts, saying, “Journalists are not above the law.”That seems especially ironic, given that just last week it came out that Toobin himself has been accused of taking a ton of classified documents for a book he was writing:
“The Jane Mayers, Sy Hershes and Walter Pincuses have all done superb work for decades without the rampant lawlessness that was behind these stories,” he said, adding later, “I’ve never heard any of those journalists endorsing the wholesale theft of thousands of classified government records.”
In journalist Michael Isikoff’s book, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, he described how Toobin was caught “having absconded with large loads of classified and grand-jury related documents from the office of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh” in 1991:Read that again, then go back and read Toobin's whining to David Carr. And try not to choke back the laughter. Toobin isn't upset that documents were taken as a part of journalism, since it appears that he, himself, had no problem with that. He's upset that it's used in a way that he doesn't like.
Toobin, it turned out, had been using his tenure in Walsh’s office to secretly prepare a tell-all book about the Iran-contra case; the privileged documents, along with a meticulously kept private diary (in which the young Toobin, a sort of proto-Linda Tripp, had been documenting private conversations with his unsuspecting colleagues) were to become his prime bait to snare a book deal. Toobin’s conduct enraged his fellow lawyers in Walsh’s office, many of whom viewed his actions as an indefensible betrayal of the public trust. Walsh at one point even considered pressing for Toobin’s indictment.
Toobin was “petrified” that he would have to face criminal charges for stealing information for a rather dubious book deal. According to Isikoff, he either “feared dismissal and disgrace, or simply wanted to move on.” Toobin “resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn (where he had gone to work after Walsh) and abandoned the practice of law.”
It is true that there are differences between many of those old school journalists and the new school who are breaking all of this news. The old school tried to buddy up with government sources to get their story. The new school would rather get the story. Apparently that upsets the old school, because it makes their
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 12:51pm
from the building-a-martyr dept
Image source: CC BY 2.0
It's the fact that the point behind the mask was solidarity against oppression that made Dubai's move to outlaw the masks so misguided. But they are no longer the only nation to do so. Bahrain has now banned the import of the masks, trying desperately to stave off a 2-years running protest movement. The ban came from the country's commerce department, because apparently they don't think that masks can be made by their citizens. As The Independent noted:
Sadly, though, it is but a mask. And the thing about a masks is, you can print them, paint them or draw them yourself. Unless the minister plans to ban all such activity it seems an action as futile as the real Guy Fawkes's.Not so much futile, in my opinion, as mega-back-firing. Bahrain has now perfectly exemplified an oppressive government by taking action against the symbol of resistance to that oppression. If they thought the masks bred solidarity, I'm guessing they haven't seen anything yet.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 10:46am
from the so-now-what dept
The White House has quickly sided with the petitioners:
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.The White House's response also points to the initial filing done by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which had actually filed in support of keeping the exemption for mobile phone unlocking during the triennial review process. Unfortunately, the Librarian of Congress decided not to follow that recommendation.
This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs -- even if it isn't the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.
So, now what? The White House seems open to having Congress fix the problem, but also seems to think that the FCC may be able to fix it as well, which is probably why the FCC started claiming it would investigate the situation last week.
The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.This is definitely a victory for those of us who are against the overreach on copyright, though there is still a ways to go. We haven't actually seen the problem get fixed yet, just that the White House is supporting fixing the issue.
We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.
Finally, we would encourage mobile providers to consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices.
Separately, it's a bit disappointing that the White House focused on narrowly targeting just this particular problem, rather than recognizing that this is just a symptom of the broken DMCA anti-circumvention setup. A truly bold statement would have been to go even further and recognize that the law itself is broken. Passing a "narrow legislative fix in the telecommunications space" just duct tapes on a way to attack this particular symptom of the broken system, but does nothing to attack the disease at the root of it.
Derek Khanna, who helped lead the charge on this petition and has rallied support behind this issue, says that this is a success that should be celebrated. In a statement to Techdirt, he noted:
This is terrific news. It shows the power of the people to affirmatively act to fix policy rather than just stop bad policy. We the people have this power when we come together to fight for positive, common-sense solutions. This is a major affirmative victory for the digital generation that stood up against censorship of the internet through SOPA a year ago. The work of this movement is not done, now Congress must follow through -- and it will require continued activism and engagement from average people who made this possible.I agree that this is a "narrow" victory, but again I worry about the White House just looking to duct tape up a solution to this one issue, rather than looking at what caused this problem in the first place.
A free society should not require its citizens to petition their government every three years to allow access to technologies that are ordinary and commonplace. Innovation cannot depend upon a permission-based rulemakings requiring approval every three years from an unelected bureaucrat. A free society should not ban technologies unless there is a truly overwhelming and compelling governmental interest
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 22nd 2013 7:39pm
Court Forces Activist Objecting To Questionable Class Action Settlement To Shut Up And Promote The Settlement
from the wow dept
So, when Majed Moughni in Dearborn Michigan heard about such a class action settlement concerning McDonald's having sold non-halal Chicken McNuggets that were advertised as halal, he decided to protest the settlement and try to get others to do so. The settlement was what is known as a cy pres settlement, in which the lawyers get paid and the defendant agrees to give a chunk of money to charity, rather than to the class (about $700,000 in this case). There are, at times, good reasons for doing a cy pres award, but it can also be open to abuse. Settlement agreements, by law, have a period of time in which people are free to object to a settlement before it is approved, and Moughni was doing exactly that, if at times crudely, with a Facebook page that may have gone a bit far in its claims. Moughni was upset with the cy pres nature of the award, but also with the fact that there was no injunction that would block McDonald's from doing the same thing again.
However, as Paul Levy, who is now representing Moughni, makes clear in a blog post about the motion he filed in the case, the court deciding to issue a broad injunction against Moughni, barring him from talking about the case, while also forcing him to post the lawyers' view of the case, would appear to be a pretty blatant First Amendment violation:
The lawyers for the plaintiff class threatened Moughni with both a defamation suit and disciplinary charges (Moughni is a lawyer, although not by any means a specialist in class actions). Moughni would not back down, so the plaintiff’s lawyers asked the judge to shut down the page — or, more precisely, they asked that Moughni be required to take everything he had said about the case down, and to post on his Facebook page instead what they said (and what the Court had said) (That is why I am not linking to my client’s Facebook page – it isn’t really HIS page any more. Let the parties do their own publicity.) And, they asked that Moughni be forbidden to make any statements that class members might see or hear, such as by talking about the litigation to the press which, in turn, might print stories from which class members might learn Moughni’s views.As Levy notes, with class action settlements there is strong incentive for the lawyers from both sides and the judge to get the settlement approved. It gets a case off the docket and gets the lawyers paid. So this is a situation where all three of those parties have the incentive to team up against anyone who dares to raise questions about the settlement. In fact, Levy noted that when he contacted the lawyers, noting his own intention to represent Moughni, they threatened him with sanction too. Levy notes that Moughni's original Facebook post may not have been as carefully worded as one would hope, but in no way should that ever lead to a broad injunction, along with compelling speech one disagrees with, in response. From the filing:
The lawyers continued their claim that they had been defamed, but really, they said, this isn’t about us, this is about protecting the poor class members against having their confidence in the lawyers undermined, protecting public confidence in the court system, and preventing class members from being confused about whether they should object to having their claims for damages extinguished so that settlement funds could go to the charities (and the lawyers). The judge held a hearing a few days later; plaintiff’s counsel spoke his piece, McDonald’s lawyers chimed in with their agreement, but Moughni’s attempt to speak was rebuffed with a peremptory “Don’t you even” from the judge. And the judge ruled, granting the injunction almost exactly as requested.
Giving Moughni only a few days’ notice, the Court convened an emergency hearing; then, without hearing from Moughni, issued a prior restraint of unparallelled breadth, barring Moughni from making any public statements about an entire subject matter, even statements that were entirely truthful and not at all misleading. It further compelled him to place speech with which he fervently disagreed on his own web page; and it forbade him from dissemination, circulation or publication of any opt-out form or objection during the crucial ten-day period before the deadline for members of the class to decide whether to opt out or object. On a literal reading of the injunction, Moughni was barred even from speaking to his own wife and children about the settlement, and even from submitting an objection to the settlement on his own behalf.Even if you agree that Moughni may have gone too far with some of his Facebook postings, completely denying his right to talk about and object to the settlement, while then forcing him to post information he disagreed with, seems like an egregious violation of his rights. As Levy notes back in his blog post, whether or not the actual settlement is a good one is somewhat besides the point:
While he was pro se, Moughni acknowledged that he is not an expert in class action procedure; as his counsel, we readily concede that some of his statements could have been worded more felicitously. But Moughni was not counsel for a named party; he spoke only as a member of the affected community, and the Court’s order holding him to standards that would have been inappropriate even for a lawyer in the case violated black-letter law against prior restraints of speech. The injunction should, therefore, be vacated immediately. In addition, during the crucial ten-day period before the opt-out or objection deadline, the order deprived the class of the opportunity to hear dissenting views about whether to go along with a settlement that potentially deprives them of valuable rights. The Court should, therefore, reopen the period for the class to respond to the notice, and should defer any decision about approval of the settlement until that time has expired.
Moughni has his own view, but our motion takes no position on the merits of the settlement: our only point is that Moughni ought to have the right to say what he thinks about the settlement, and that the remedy for speech claimed to be false is not less speech but more speech. In my own mind, I have come to no conclusion about the merits of the proposed settlement.Hopefully the court is willing to recognize its mistake and vacate the injunction quickly.
But that just leaves me wondering, if the settlement is so wonderful, why the lawyers felt they had to resort to suppressing critical speech instead of just putting their own replies into the marketplace of ideas. At the hearing for an injunction, they had reminded the Court of how attentive the national media press had been to their publicity about the settlement (115 national media outlets, and a hundred million viewers, they claimed); surely the media would continue to give them a platform.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 14th 2013 4:20am
from the it's-what-he-would-have-wanted dept
The family had said:
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”In response, MIT's statement, by president L. Rafael Reif, was actually somewhat self-reflective, admitting that the university needed to look closely at its own role in the situation, and appointing professor Hal Abelson -- someone quite knowledgeable and active in many of the same causes as Aaron -- to lead the investigation.
To the members of the MIT community:I am sure that many will continue to criticize MIT for its actions in this mess -- and some criticism may be well deserved. That said, MIT's response here is a step forward -- and hopefully it creates real change in how MIT handles such things in the future. I think that there are many, many, many reasons to be furious about the Justice Department's actions in the Swartz case (and I felt that long before Swartz's death). However, a DDoS attack on MIT or the DOJ or anyone else is exactly the wrong message to send concerning Aaron. Yes, I was just defending the use of DDoS as a form of expression and protest, but this is not the kind of protest that serves Aaron's memory well.
Yesterday we received the shocking and terrible news that on Friday in New York, Aaron Swartz, a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community, took his own life. With this tragedy, his family and his friends suffered an inexpressible loss, and we offer our most profound condolences. Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism.
Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.
I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.
I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.
I hope we will all reach out to those members of our community we know who may have been affected by Aaron's death. As always, MIT Medical is available to provide expert counseling, but there is no substitute for personal understanding and support. With sorrow and deep sympathy,
L. Rafael Reif
Aaron -- more than almost anyone else -- did stuff. He built stuff and he created change. Not by taking things down, but by building them up. Not by attacking, but by sharing and informing and educating.
Aaron's memory needs to be preserved, and his death will hopefully be a catalyst for many changes -- to the way the government prosecutes people, to the way computer hacking laws are used today, to the way copyright laws are used and much, much more. But the way to do that is to do something proactive and positive. The organization Aaron founded is called Demand Progress, and that's what we should be doing now.
We should be looking for ways to continue Aaron's work, to build, to share, to create and to create change through sheer will of knowing what's right.
So, don't participate in attacks or takedowns. Look for ways to build something up. Create efforts to change problematic laws like the CFAA or copyright law. Look for ways to share knowledge and expand our ability to learn and to educate each other. Create ways for people to speak out and to enable everyone to do more.
That is the legacy that I believe Aaron would have wanted. It will always be impossible to fill the void that Aaron's death has left in its wake -- but if it inspires each of us to do a little more, to create some positive change, to truly demand progress in the face of ridiculous odds, then that will be the testament to all that Aaron did for the world.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 8th 2013 9:56am
from the bet-that'll-stop-terror dept
YouTube sent the Observatory an email on Sunday that said its channels "syrianhro" and "almrsd" had "violated the policy of the site by publishing shocking and offensive videos," the Britain-based watchdog said.Of course, if we're to take Lieberman's theory to its logical conclusion, so long as no one can see the atrocities in Syria, we can all pretend they haven't happened, right?
The Observatory, which disseminates graphic videos on YouTube of atrocities from the bloody civil war the UN says has killed more than 60,000 people, condemned the closure.
"This is the second time in two months that the site administration has closed the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights channel," it said in a statement, in reference specifically to almrsd.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Dec 11th 2012 3:05am
from the must-be-important dept
The Web lets us speak out, share, and connect around the things that matter. It creates new opportunities, holds governments to account, breaks through barriers, and makes cats famous. This isn't a coincidence. It's because the Web belongs to all of us: We all get a say in how it's built.As you can see, the Mozilla Foundation isn't just moaning about WCIT, it's giving people tools to help them engage with it -- despite the best efforts of the ITU to shut out the public. As a blog post about Mozilla's position on WCIT explains:
Mozilla has made it our mission to keep the power of the web in people's hands. But all this could change on December 3.
Our governments are going to meet in Dubai to decide whether an old treaty, the International Telecommunication Union, can be expanded to regulate -- to control -- the Internet.
The issue isn't whether our governments, the UN, or even the ITU should play a role in shaping the Web. The problem is that they are trying to do it behind closed doors, in secret, without us.
We believe everyone should have a voice. And this site is to help you be heard in Dubai.
The resources we are making available today will give you everything you need to learn about the upcoming meeting and why it matters, craft an effective message to get your government to listen, and engage in the global conversation about how decisions about the future of the Web should be made.Aside from this very practical help, Mozilla's move is important for another reason. In the past, Mozilla has tended to avoid getting involved with issues that are as much political as technical. The big exception was SOPA, when it took part in the January 18 Blackout, with impressive results:
Approximately 30 million people in the US who use the default start page in Firefox received the blacked out page with our call to actionThe action that it is taking over WCIT isn't quite so drastic, and so is unlikely to have such a big impact. But the fact that Mozilla has once again cast aside it usual apolitical position to voice its concerns shows how great they are.
We sent messages out to almost 9 million people via Facebook, Twitter and our Firefox + You newsletter
Our messages were retweeted, shared and liked by over 20,000 people (not counting MC Hammer’s tweet to his 2.4 million followers!)
1.8 million people came to mozilla.org/sopa to learn more and take action on the issue
600,000 went on to visit the Strike Against Censorship page, hosted by the EFF
Ultimately, 360,000 emails were sent by Mozillians to members of Congress, contributing a third of all the emails generated by EFF’s campaign site.