31 January, 2011

Egypt and the rest of the world outside of AU

Warning: personal & political opinion below. Don't read if you don't like politics ;-)

While writing this, I'm in a plane somewhere above Iran, catching up to what happened in the rest of the world while I was at LCA 2011. And I am reading some weird stuff about Egypt. Their government took the Internet completely off line there. Funny, some USA senators wanted a kill-switch for the web. They've been taking cues from Iran and China lately when it comes to Freedom of Speech and how to deal with it, looks like they got another shining example of how to limit communication. Meanwhile, they are cracking down on Internet action group Anonymous. Interestingly enough, it's perfectly fine to demonstrate in front of the white house or block access to nuclear plants when they try to remove waste. If you do the same on the web, trying to defend freedom of speech (Wikileaks) they break in your house and take you, your family and any silicon-based device they can find. And they get away with it - as someone on osnews said: "[US citizens] wouldn't know it if aliens invaded and then simply took over. That would involve lifting their nose out of their kindle or iPad."

Unfortunately, it ain't just the usual suspects China, USA, Korea & most of the middle east countries. I understand Australia (where I just came from) has also seen several arrests of Anonymous members. And to think that we just listened to a keynote by Mark Pesce talking about how we're way to much under control of governments and large companies like Facebook and we need to start working on Mesh Networking and things like that so nobody can take away our communication... I hope the keynote video goes live asap on blip.tv. Warning, some profanity in there! Further at the conference, some experiments were done with a mobile phone (yes, just a normal android phone) attached to a balloon, providing mesh networking over several kilometers (!!!). Seems like we have the tech - now the incentive has arrived too!

I do see some bad sides of the little-too-extreme kind of transparency wikileaks promotes. And when I hear some people speak, I sometimes wonder if freedom of speech should be limited. But on the other hand - most of the things wikileaks has brought to light SHOULD have been brought to light. Their cables have already resulted in political fall-out in pretty much every country in the world (including my own Netherlands). And in a revolution which seems to be leading to more democracy in Tunesia, maybe in other countries too.

I know, I know. Politics doesn't belong on planet KDE, planet Suuuus or any other planet where I'm aggregated. But seriously. I'm pretty sure none of the regular readers hates to read this. Freedom of speech is something we all work on and care about, isn't it a central value behind Free Software? You, know, the "in a world where speech depends on software, Free Speech depends on Free Software". Looks like we need Free Networks too, now...

And those who didn't know about these events are most likely either interested or will continue sticking their nose in their shiny new iPad. I'm not fond of self-censorship so I speak up.


  1. Sorry, but protesting outside the White House is NOT the same thing as launching DDoS attacks. One is freedom of speech, the other is criminal activity, and also a very bad idea. Amazon aren't likely to change their minds because they got DDoSed, they're just going to get cross with the people who caused it. So are all the customers who couldn't use Amazon. Jolt somebody out of their rut with truth, not by putting a brick wall in front of their car.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. @Matt Walton +1 was going to say the same thing.

  4. Freedom of speech is a very different concept between different countries. Often times the media (Lame Stream Media) in the US seems to think that "Freedom of Speech" means that they can say/broadcast whatever they want. The truth is that is only half of the proclaimed "freedom". Freedom NEVER comes without responsibility! Thus, yes, you can say whatever you want, that is "Freedom of Speech", but you are still and to the full extend of the law responsible for what you say.

    In the US the reason for the First Amendment to the Constitution:
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
    Is to LIMIT the government in power. Yes, unfortunately the US government has overstepped their Constitutional limits for years and an "Internet Kill Switch" would be yet an other government infringement on personal liberties and freedom. I personally think that the Internet could be seen as a "digital" press. Once again the founders of the US were smart enough to state "press", not "printing press".

    However, if somebody is abusing this freedom to (anonymously) dispatch false information, lies, half truths, etc, who's responsibility is it to do justice to those harmed because of this?

    Free Software means different things to different entities too. Free Software as concept sounds nice, but what does it mean? To most it means that they can use the software without having to pay for it. But is it not the plain and simple truth that when someone engineers a piece of software in their own time that individual effectively pays for that one way or an other? Effectively in time they NEVER can spend again on something else? So something that comes presumed "free" to many people often times comes at a great price.

    "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

  5. @Matt Walton:

    I doubt that you have been involved in serious demonstrations, it is intimidating and you are always represented as making chaos, being unrealistical or simply ignored by media, although massive police forces contain you. We don't talk about "raise this is issue a bit in the public sphere (advertising for a certain movement)"-demonstrations, but about demonstrations that want to seriously show that they oppose a practice and won't accept it and won't wait to oppose. And you can't wait on freedom of speech really, it would be absurd. Sit-ins (like 68) or even general strikes(1905, 68, ...) are often not symbolic and block important parts of the infrastrructure peacefully. They have formed all of our revolutions from french to soviet to 68 and have formed the history of modernity.
    DDos is nothing else, in fact if you have a close look, everybody involved in the DDos only does a legal action, accessing a public web service. This is anonymous argumentation and I can't see a flaw there. They have not hacked the attacked sites (although they could) and they have not harmed the political oponent in any illegal way. If you would have been to one of their chats once, you would have learned that they are only about opening the web for freedom of speech and against censorship. They don't only talk about human rights, but they try to help people by ensuring that they get all information, including Wikileaks documents, which they have even faxed to egypt once the net was down. What would you say if you would learn that your government betrays you and accepts to let you starve in pain? Write a letter? lol
    They refused to take action against mass media propaganda networks (like in egypt or fox news), although they have spread lies and denied the egyptian people their democratic rights to protest and they have decided for openness and correct agenda. And anonymous is only losely organized.

    I find this peaceful form of protest impressive and educating. Freedom of speech is not guaranteed by governments or laws, it is only protectable by a permanent fight for it as history proves everyday. Wikileaks is not really surprising if you have a critical mind, but it is a never-ending series of scandals which blame governments for betraying their peoples right in every way they can.

    Please also educate yourself correctly about Wikileaks, they have contacted the Pentagon before releasing the Afghan war papers (the Pentagon admitted that they knew it), to let them point out critical information which should not be opposed. They refused. Yet they admitted that no CIA or US-military structures or strategies have been endangered by this low-class information and there is no single person which has proven to have died through Wikileaks yet. Still the US military illegally (against UN charta) fights two (or more) wars in the middle-east and kills million of people, so stop bitching with your nationalist ego and imagine what it means to be an unemployed iraqee or afghan boy/girl. The US occupation of Afghanistan together with the neoliberal agenda of the IMF has brought the economy of Afghanistan down to its knees, 50-70% unemployment and 47% youth unemployment. Even the US military knows that only 10% of the rebellions are religiously motivated the rest is grass-roots rebellions coming out of poverty and military oppression. Yet Afghanistan is one of the most friendly countries for capital investing, rated top in the region, and still since the flat tax and neoliberal policy where implemented it has got tremendous deficit spending (over 6 billion a year, which is a lot for Afghanistan). Next they try to train police troups for a police state + dictatorship controlled by the west, which would also hide the enormous number of victims in this conflict. This war is no joke and as are the other exposed facts by Wikileaks.

  6. "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

    G.B. Shaw

    This whole talk could (imho) be shortened to : "legitimacy vs. legality".

    I'm from those who think that legitimacy matters first. And the reasonable man never questions the law.

    So big +1 to my fellow Anonymous.

  7. The 'powers' are facing a new problem... Up till a couple of years ago, there were few opinion makers and the contents to the mobs were sourced in institutions they controlled (the media).

    Nowadays, there are far more opinion makers (40 years ago the vocabulary of a Superior Education student was around 3000 words, nowadays it's over 25.000 words, this is an interesting index to watch), and everyone is producing contents through the internet.

    So yes... Internet is shaking a lot and it's a menace for those who wield power... Just look into Wikileaks cases.

    It's about time someone can shake this world... and yes, I would also expecting an increase of black hatting alongside with censorship. This is a war that they lost already!

    For the rest, I don't care... All of this was predicted in the 60's in a book called "The third wave" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave), which I strongly recommend for everyone who likes conspiracy theories.


  8. I apologize, wrong link on the previous comment:


    That's the one I meant.

  9. Thank you all for the comments. Matt, you have a point there, things aren't black and white. Treehuggers who chain themselves to trees about to be cut down are taken away by the police and anyone who really obstructs the road used for nuclear transport will face the consequences too. But a strike, also surely limiting and blocking economic activity, is legal. I think DDOS is a grey area. The activities by Anonymous should imho be legal - they rightfully protested the actions by Paypal and others in a relatively reasonable way - DDOSsing websites for a limited time to make a political statement should be at least in some situations be allowed imho. I wouldn't want to be the legislator who has to figure out when it's legal and when not, surely - but the actions by the dutch, US, AU and other governments in cracking down on the anon people was imho way overdone. They aren't terrorists for sure. And the responses by Jan and the anon following his comments were pretty much spot on, imho, as was what Nelson wrote.

    I'm not exactly a conspiracy theory dude, nor do I fully support the actions by wikileaks - but I do care deeply about Freedom and what's going on in Egypt and the USA as well as my own country worries me a lot.

  10. @ jospoortvliet

    I don't think reality is a conspiray. Seriously the facts are out there, just have a look what is going on and who profits. This is not some marxist hocuspocus, looking at the machinery of profit gives a very solid and reasonable judgement of where the borderlines are in this global conflict. Very interesting that from the Iranian elite over the Chinese nomenclatura up to the american political elite, all have a canon on restricting the internet and using the same measures to hold their people down and stupid. They even share the same techniques from Nokia (this has some political dynamite for KDE imo, if they deploy the strictest firewall on the net), Siemens ...

    As you have already pointed out in your article, this is related to KDE as I see it as global community which strongly depends on the freedom and wealth of its members. I don't want any KDE user or contributer to get bombed and in Iran and Iraque are many FOSS users. Afghanistan could enormously profit from things like OLPC, yet they bomb them into barbary. Take Choqok or Blogilo for example. Interestingly two of the most communicative applications (and very outstanding ones) are developed by Iranians! Maybe we as FOSS users can make human rights and especially freedom of speach more our self-understanding and also say that from time to time. It doesn't mean you have to notify about every issue, but from time to time history breaks in KDE/FOSS developments as well and this should not go unnoticed.

    Why have you removed the "you are a nigger"-comment btw.? I know you don't want flame wars, but I have found it very interesting. It shows exactly the form of completely dumb chauvisism (here racism) and aggression which is involved to mobilize pro human rights infringements. A lot of people, esp. when privileged to some degree, have a big problem to live in this world and therefore they become weak and decide to push the pressure further down instead back to the ones from above who are pushing them. You then can enjoy your privilege and tell yourself that you have earned, because the others have to be trilled by you. Associating egyptians, tunisians, iraqis and even afghans with the term nigger is very common when you look at the mass media coverage in the west. At least for Germany/US-Media I can say that the situation with Egypt is completely being associated with chaos, anarchy and violent pictures. You don't see people being shot standing a hundred meters away from police or then thousands standing on one square singing and calling for democracy and freedom. Arabs are chaots and a terroristic danger for the West. Now you tell me that has no racist drive in it.

    To get an idea what is really going on down there, have a look at a perspective from the other side for example:


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