by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 27th 2014 2:51pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 27th 2014 11:51am
Rooting For The Laundry: The Absolute Insanity Of Decisions About The NSA Being Made Based On 'Liberal' Or 'Conservative' Ideology
from the up-is-down,-left-is-right dept
“And instead of our report being truly understood as a middle ground, based upon taking into account all of those perspectives on both sides of the spectrum, I think the White House got moved by thinking of our report as a liberal report,” Stone said.God forbid a supposedly "liberal" President actually do something he considers "liberal." And, indeed, it seemed that his non-proposal in which he pretends to reform NSA surveillance was predicated on not pissing off the hawkish conservatives who tend to support the surveillance state.
So... what happens now that the supposedly conservative, hawkish, surveillance state-loving Republican Party has agreed that the program is unconstitutional and should be shut down?
To some extent, it really does seem to go back to the corruption of power. Those in power always seem to trust themselves not to abuse that power -- and unthinking automaton partisan hacks seem to flip their position based on whether their guy or the other guy is power.
There's been an insanely stupid debate over the past few weeks as to whether or not folks like Ed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange were somehow "ideologically pure" enough to be supported by liberals -- which highlights the monumentally asinine level of political discourse in the country these days, further highlighted by President Obama rejecting the task force's opinions as being "too liberal."
As can be seen by the flip-flopping of "liberals" and "conservatives" over the surveillance state, the entire concept of those labels is really no different than if you're rooting for the orange team or the yellow team. It's like the old joke about how if you root for a sports team, you're really rooting for the laundry. People focused on whether something is "liberal enough" or "conservative enough" are wasting everyone's time. These issues are not about being "liberal" or "conservative." They're about doing what's right. It's not about partisan politics or which team you play for or root for. It should be about what is best for the country and the wider world in which we live.
It's incredibly disheartening that we seem to live in a world where that aspect is barely considered but what color your team is matters the most.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 17th 2014 1:00pm
from the shockingly-unshocking dept
So how does one get onto ITAC 15? It's not easy. Lawyer Andrew Bridges (whose name you might recognize) sought to get onto ITAC 15 as one of the country's foremost experts on copyright law and its impact on innovation and startups. He was nominated... but denied. But who does get on there? According to MapLight's analysis, it helps to be a major corporate donor to political campaigns:
- The 18 organizations represented by ITAC-15 gave nearly $24 million to current members of Congress from Jan. 1, 2003 - Dec. 31, 2012.
- AT&T has given more than $8 million to current members of Congress, more than any other organization represented by ITAC-15.
- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has received $433,350 from organizations represented by ITAC-15, more than any other member of Congress.
- Democrats in Congress have received $11.4 million from organizations represented by ITAC-15, while Republicans in Congress have received $12.6 million.
- The members of Congress sponsoring fast-track legislation, which would allow the President to block Congress from submitting amendments to the TPP, have received a combined $758,295 from organizations represented by ITAC-15. They include Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus ($140,601), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Members Orrin Hatch ($178,850), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp ($216,250), House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes ($86,000), and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions ($136,594).
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jan 9th 2014 7:54am
from the government-crushes-idealists,-film-at-11 dept
The We the People site set up by the Obama administration gave American citizens a more direct way to petition their government. The ideal propelling it was noble, but it has failed spectacularly in execution. As we've noted before, various petitions have gone unanswered for months after hitting the signature threshold.
The threshold itself has been raised a handful of times as well (from 5,000 to 25,000 to 100,000 as the site increased in popularity), ostensibly to weed out petitions that weren't truly representative of the population. This should have made the administration's job easier. A higher threshold means fewer petitions requiring an answer, and those that surpass the threshold should (although it's not always the case) be of higher quality.
Counterintuitively, as the threshold has increased, so has the response time. (h/t to Techdirt reader Neppe)
Of the 30 unanswered petitions currently posted to We the People, 11 were posted after the threshold was raised to 100,000 signatures and 19 were posted before the threshold was raised to that level.What the site was supposed to be (responsive) and what it's turned out to be (a mostly empty gesture) tracks with the administration's continual failure to uphold its own stated ideals. The "most transparent administration in history" has advanced and expanded Bush-era policies that added layers of opacity to the government's inner workings in order to further subvert the notion that a government should be accountable to its constituents. The administration has also prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined, further widening the gap between those who govern and those that are governed.
Unanswered petitions posted after the threshold hike have been waiting 103 days for a response on average.
Unanswered petitions posted before and after the threshold hike have been waiting 298 days, on average, for a response.
It appears that any petition not deemed a "softball" or that can't be handled by a canned policy statement is backburnered. One of the first petitions to gather enough signatures (requiring labeling of genetically modified foods) has been waiting since September 2011 for an answer. More recent petitions appear to headed down that same road.
The unanswered petitions include one asking the president to fire the U.S. Attorney who led the prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz and one to pardon the National Security Agency documents leaker Edward Snowden.The Swartz petition will hit a year of being ignored within a month. The Snowden petition is headed into its seventh month without an answer.
It's not as though it's impossible for the administration to answer these in a timely fashion. While the answers given to each of these petitions would probably be unpopular, the point of the site is not for the administration to "look good" but rather to increase its direct communication with the public. The administration also needs to keep in mind that canned policy statements that ignore or only very indirectly address the petitions' subject matter is not "communication."
When petitioners are waiting nearly a year to have their issues addressed, the "offer" of a direct line to the government is effectively empty.
Mon, Dec 30th 2013 11:33pm
Irony: Local Patriot Group Fear-Mongers 'Foreign Hordes' By Using Bioshock Graphic Satirizing Racist Assholes
from the right-on-the-nose dept
But if that example wasn't enough to sate your appetite for the absurdly ironic, let me present you with The National Liberty Federation out of Florida. The NLF is sort of a caricature of what all your really liberal friends think when you say the phrase Tea Party to them. Now, they're probably no less insane than the fringe groups on the opposite end of the political spectrum, but they are of note for posting this image on their Facebook page as a warning that all us good 'Mericans must be vigilant against the threat of the "Foreign Hordes."
Look familiar? If not, you should be able to tell by some of the Facebook comments that the NLF didn't produce this image themselves. It's from the game Bioshock Infinite and it is an image meant to satirize groups like...well...the NLF.
It is an anti-immigrant cartoon—it's just from the video game BioShock Infinite, where it's used as propaganda for the Founders, a jingoistic, xenophobic group that runs the floating city of Columbia. They're the video game equivalent of the Tea Party, and they're portrayed as a nasty group of racist white men.Now, I'll stipulate that I don't believe that the so-called Tea Party is universally racist, anti-immigrant, evil, or even white, but you have to be a special kind of stupid to simply take an image that's meant to caricature you and then adopt it as a promotional tool for your political thought. It'd be like a group backing Barack Obama using the following image to respond to Obamacare detractors on their social media page:
It isn't that the image doesn't accurately reflect your political ideology, it's just not good practice. So, hey, Tea Party people: next time, know the story behind the images you're appropriating from other people. Or not. I need a couple of standby jokes for holiday family gatherings anyway.
Thu, Dec 19th 2013 11:56pm
from the how-might-it-work dept
True democracy is not just about casting a vote every five years. It means citizens being fully involved in the proposal, development and creation of laws. The Commission on Digital Democracy currently being established will consider what part technology can play in helping people to take an active part in the way the country is run.
The commission is setting its sights on "Parliament 2.0", a vision of the future in which citizens participate in online elections, electronic referendums and richer relationships with their political representatives.
In recent years, we've seen technology help people become more involved in debate about all aspects of society. So it is clear that it can play a much greater role in political participation too. As the Commission gets started, it's a good time to think about what we want our digital democracy to look like. There is inspiration to be found all over the web.
Technology can enable direct participation in the democratic process, without relying on representatives and without the citizen even needing to leave the comfort of their home.
One particularly useful tool in the quest for a digitally engaged electorate will be online forums. These can be built to manage discussions about proposed legislation in a structured way, making it easy for citizens to participate meaningfully.
Politicians and policymakers can use online forums to crowd-source expertise and the views of citizens on their plans – and to refine their proposals based on what they get back. This "direct democracy" would allow for laws to be based on genuine citizen deliberation rather than merely aggregating the preferences of citizens into a single vote at the beginning of each electoral cycle.
Wikipedia is an example of how this system might work, but it also shows some of the problems that can arise when technology and democracy mix.
Wikipedia has relatively little mechanism for coordinating edits, instead allowing editors to work on their own. Despite this decentralized approach, the quality of articles is generally very high. On the down side, edit wars and sock puppetry – when individuals use multiple user identities to create the impression that their views are shared by others – are an enduring concern.
To help make Wikipedia a trustworthy source, editors can build their reputation by establishing a track record of constructive behavior. Wikipedia has a hierarchy of users for administrative purposes, based on community approval, but all users are considered to have equally valid opinions regarding Wikipedia content. The emphasis is on building consensus; an arbitration committee deals with disputes that remain unresolved.
Reddit, rate it, vote it
More formal mechanisms are to be found elsewhere online that could help provide the kind of format and structure that might be needed to produce good legislation. In Yahoo! Answers, for example, readers can vote up and vote down contributions made by others. Writers who are voted up gain points that indicate their good reputation. Other question-and-answer forums, such as Reddit and Stack Overflow, use similar mechanisms. This kind of collaboration can be further improved using the kind of real-time, simultaneous editing provided by Google docs.
But again, there are perils. Time wasters, product pushers and disruptive trolls are bad news in online forums and can disrupt the way they operate. In the context of digital democracy, the potential for damage is even higher.
We will need to develop mechanisms that would make it possible for everyone to get involved in Parliament 2.0 in a fair and transparent way. This includes preventing abuse by lobbyists, special-interest groups, and extremists, who may try to thwart the mechanisms for non-democratic purposes. Unlike in traditional voting, which provides each person with one vote, we can't assume that everyone will participate in digital democracy equally. That makes it quite difficult to define fairness. It is also difficult to balance accountability (needed to prevent trolling) and privacy (needed to allow free expression).
Computer scientists have made great progress in figuring out how online elections could be made secure. One important idea is to design systems that enable outcome verifiability. This would allow citizens to check that the outcome of an election really does match the votes cast.
To ensure free and fair elections, we also need a property called incoercibility. This means voters cannot sell their vote, or be forced to vote in a particular way. Online voting systems with these features are being developed by researchers around the world and this will soon change the way we participate in elections.
The hope is that, if well-designed and implemented, mechanisms for digital democracy could be built that would greatly increase societal inclusiveness and cohesion, as well as lowering the costs of making democracy work.
Mark Ryan is a Professor of Computer Security at University of Birmingham. Gurchetan Grewal is a PhD student in Computer Security at the University of Birmingham. Both receive funding from EPSRC for computer security research, including the security of online voting mechanisms. Grewal works on the project "Trustworthy voting systems" funded by EPSRC.
Mon, Dec 16th 2013 5:35am
from the selling-democracy dept
That said, I'm quite confused as to how this online ad for Democracy 3, a game produced by Positech Games, somehow tripped whatever alarms were in place with whoever was tasked with placing the advertisement.
This was apparently enough for the ad company to tell the developer that they couldn't place the ad because they "can not promote any politics as this is a sensitive subject." Now, if one were to copy the URL for that image from the link provided, you'll notice that it's labeled as "Gamestop_rect.jpg". That doesn't mean for sure that Gamestop, or the people in charge of their online ads, is refusing this, but it seems somewhat likely.
Likely, yet irrelevant, because what the hell is in that advertisement that could possibly be construed as a political statement? The folks at Positech Games seem equally confused.
WTF? I bet ads for games like hitman, or GTA, or games where you get slow-mo closeups of people’s skulls being blasted apart by high-caliber bullets are just fine. But discuss income tax? OH NOES THE WORLD WILL END! I saw a clip of mortal kombat on that charlie brooker doumenatry that made me feel sick, but apparently we as an industry are just FINE with that… It’s stuff like this that sometimes makes me ashamed to be in this industry. Half of the industry wants to be grown up and accepted as art, the other half have the mentality of seven year olds. I’m pretty cynical, but I never expected my ads for a game about government-simulation to be too controversial to be shown (for money no less…).Even if it was the content of the game itself that tripped off the warning bells, we're really living in a country where a game about politics can no longer be sold through online ads because too many of our fellow countrymen are mouth-breathing fanatics? No, that's stupid. That kind of pussyfooting needs to be exposed, highlighted, and summarily done away with, because if we can't have that kind of speech due to corporate cowardice, we're all in for a world of dumb when it comes to political thought in this country.
My next game will be gratuitous homicide battles. I bet everyone will let me promote that one eh?
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Dec 9th 2013 3:36am
South Korean Spy Agency Allegedly Tried To Influence Presidential Vote - By Posting 1.2 Million Tweets
from the vote-vote-vote dept
Twitter is still a young medium, and it's interesting to see yet more uses being found for it. Here's a rather dubious one from South Korea:
Agents from the National Intelligence Service of South Korea posted more than 1.2 million Twitter messages last year to try to sway public opinion in favor of Park Geun-hye, then a presidential candidate, and her party ahead of elections in 2012, state prosecutors said on Thursday.
As the New York Times post quoted above goes on to explain, the whole story is rather murky and complicated. One of the curious claims being made by the Korean spy agency accused of interfering with the election process is the following:
The intelligence service said its online messages were posted as part of normal psychological warfare operations against North Korea, which it said used the Internet to criticize South Korean government policies, forcing its agents to defend them online. In a statement on Thursday, it also accused the prosecutors of citing as their evidence online postings that had nothing to do with its agents.
Even if that's true, other departments may have gone beyond simply defending the government of South Korea to attack its political rivals:
In a separate inquiry, military investigators are looking into South Korea's Cyberwarfare Command after it was revealed last month in Parliament that some of its officials had conducted a similar online campaign against opposition candidates. The Cyberwarfare Command was created in 2010 to guard South Korea against hacking threats from North Korea.
That raises a very real problem with these kinds of online operations: they can easily be misused for purely political purposes, and oversight is easy to evade, since it's all about moving bits around. Of course, exactly the same could be said about the blanket surveillance being carried out by the NSA and GCHQ....
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Dec 4th 2013 12:33pm
from the every-cyber-bill-a-Frankenstein's-monster dept
The drawn-out process in which a bill becomes a law lends itself to harmful things, like mission creep and bloating. Canada's new cyberbullying legislation, problematic in its "purest" form, is now becoming even worse as legislators have begun hanging language aimed at other issues (child porn, terrorism, cable theft [?]) on the bill's framework.
As was noted earlier, language aimed at punishing revenge porn had already been attached to the bill. But the urge to target as much as possible with a broadly written bill is too much for Canada's politicians to resist. Michael Geist notes that Bob Dechert (Secretary to the Minister of Justice) took a moment during the debate to speculate about the "dangers" of "stolen" cable.
With respect to the cable, I would like the member to consider if his cable were being tapped into by someone who was transmitting child pornography over the Internet, or if his home Wi-Fi was being tapped into by someone who was using it to cyberbully another child, he would want to know about that and he would want that to stop. The modernization of those provisions is simply to bring them up to date.The code Dechert refers to deals with theft of services. What Dechert is hoping to do is turn a targeted law into something that can be used to pursue vagaries. By throwing cyberbullying, child porn and terrorism into the mix, Dechert is hoping to limit opposition to this "update" of the language.
The amendments proposed on those long-standing offences of stealing cable are already in the Criminal Code in section 327. They simply update the telecommunication language to expand the conduct, to make it consistent with other offences…
However, I would like him to think about the potential for someone who is doing cyberbullying, transmitting child sexual images, or perhaps planning a terrorist act, doing it by tapping into some law-abiding citizen's cable or Wi-Fi Internet access.
Geist doesn't think much of Dechert's statement.
In other words, Dechert is suggesting that accessing a neighbour's cable or wireless Internet access might somehow be linked to planning a terrorist attack, sending child pornography, or engaging in cyberbullying. I would happy to think about the potential for cable theft to play a role in terrorist plots. In fact, I think most would agree that there is no likelihood whatsoever and that the government should stop trying link provisions in their "cyberbullying bill" that have nothing to do with cyberbullying.The odds, as Geist points out, are almost nonexistent. But very slim odds are a legislator's best friend. No one wants to be caught out by the unexpected, especially when they had a chance to head it off back when the bill was being written. So, a lot of "just in case" rhetoric is deployed, accompanied by fearful projections.
If this line of reasoning is allowed to proceed, Canadians could be looking at the possibility of legal penalties for running unsecured WiFi connections. It seems implausible, but this has been witnessed before. Back in 2010, a German court stated that those running open WiFi connections could be fined for not securing their networks (thus "enabling" illegal activity). Copyright maximalists have made the argument several times that an open WiFi connection is "negligent." When the realization sinks in that it's easier to target the listed subscriber rather than find out who exactly was performing criminal activities on an open WiFi connection, you can be sure that the solution will be routed along the path of least resistance: holding the subscriber responsible for the actions of others.
And, as Geist points out, the mission creep in this bill is astounding. What was meant to target cyberbullies has instead become a playground for legislators. A nearly non-existent threat is being used to beef up the penalties for cable theft, as though that part of the equation were the greatest deterrent to illegal activities. It's also concerning that the additional powers being granted to law enforcement outside of the cyberbullying scope were omitted from the government's official "introduction" to the bill (posted without the bill's text). This omission seems to indicate that the crowd-pleasing "cyberbullying" angle will allow legislators to copy-and-paste whole sections from a previously unsuccessful "lawful access" bill, itself defended with cries of "child pornography."
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 8th 2013 7:39pm
Candidate For Colorado Legislature Proudly Abuses YouTube's Copyright Complaint System To Kill Account Of Activists Who Mocked Him
from the probably-best-not-to-celebrate-your-abuse-of-the-process dept
In part, he argues that the videos are infringing (actually, he argues "plagiarism" which is different than copyright infringing, and the videos are actually neither), but he also focuses on the YouTube comments on those videos. Klingenschmitt claimed that the YouTube comments amounted to "death threats" from RWW's followers -- though, they're pretty standard crazy YouTube comments, not serious death threats. Also, since the comments are not made by RWW, but viewers on YouTube, RWW is not liable for them. However, he kept sending takedowns, and eventually YouTube terminated RWW's account, arguing that it was their third strike.
In response to this abuse of YouTube's takedown policy, Klingenschmitt released a press release congratulating himself, saying "David takes down Goliath." Tim Murphy, from Mother Jones, asked Klingenschmitt if he felt he should be held similarly responsible for the YouTube comments on his own videos, and Klingenschmitt said that if the user is alerted to comments and don't take action, they become responsible, which is actually not what the law says.
Either way, this appears to be another case where copyright claims are being used to censor content that someone doesn't like. And, given that it's in the context of a political campaign for office, that's especially concerning. Stifling criticism of a political candidate by abusing the law should be seen as a huge problem. Hopefully YouTube acts quickly to restore RWW's account. Whether you agree with RWW or not, hopefully you can agree that (1) they should be allowed to post fair use video and criticize politicians they disagree with and (2) they should not be held accountable for comments made by YouTube viewers.