Archive for the 'internet' Category

The answer to Australian govt e-snooping? *We* must use privacy tech, not ask govt to play by the rules

Hands off my Lolcat!
Protesters against Australian Government plans to censor the Internet in 2008.
Photo by flickrsquared, licenced under Creative Commons.

The Australian government is trying to get more powers to snoop on Internet users. Mark Newton, a network engineer at a large Australian ISP, has attacked, angrily, these plans at New Matilda. He points out the dishonest way law enforcement keeps demanding new powers, the threats to civil liberties, the cost to telcos (and thus their customers), of keeping 2 years’ worth of messages for *every single subscriber*, and the dangerous temptation to steal or leak such valuable information on a large scale.

He’s of course correct on every one of these points. But there’s something missing – it’s rarely mentioned when people talk online about how to deal with these dangerous planned powers. Newton’s final paragraph says:

Before data retention proposals are taken seriously, the law enforcement community should be required to explain, in detail and in public, why the existing measures they’ve demanded every other year since 2001 are insufficient.

which means he’s demanding greater oversight. And that’s where we get to a problem. For a start, we probably won’t get much more oversight except for what Greens Senator Scott Ludlam can extract from public servants in Senate committees. Ludlam does good work on this issue, but he’s not going to have the resources to carry out a wide-ranging investigation of the entire proposal. But even if he had those resources, there’s still a deeper problem: Relying on the government to play by the rules is a terrible idea, and one that leaves us complacent.

There’s a better approach – using the tools that exist, right now, to defend our privacy. There’s a very useful interview with a man who had his Twitter account information seized by the US government at n+1 magazine. The details of the legal procedures used to snoop only apply to the US, but there’s also an explanation of some of the ways we can protect ourselves – sometimes as simple as not taking a mobile phone with you to a highly confidential meeting, because cellphones are “tracking devices that make phone calls”.

We’re almost at the stage where we can use easily-available, simple-to-explain technology to defend our privacy. Small computers the size of a large power plug are already available – they plug into a wall socket and cost a few dollars a year to run. FreedomBox is a project to develop and sell such “plug servers” pre-configured to protect users privacy. Because of the low power cost they can remain on all the time, meaning that instead of keeping all our personal information on Stalkbook’s computers, we’ll use a new type of social network where WE control our private info on OUR computers, and people we give permission to will be able to see it, “like” it, comment on it and so on. Diaspora has been an attempt to do this, but it is difficult to install and does not work very well yet.

We need to swing the Australian debate around to “How can we protect our privacy and take control of our personal information?”, instead of “How can we get the government to respect civil liberties?”. One simple way is to tell people about the n+1 article – it’s good at explaining some of the risks and trade-offs of different types of communication. Surveillance Self-Defence is a great wrap up of the risks and our defence options in some detail at the US Electronic Frontier Foundation website. I hope to write some articles later in the year about my experience minimising my contact with Google – I stopped using my Gmail account and set up my own email server, taking personal control of my email and stretching my computer knowledge while I did it.

Of course, if the government REALLY wants to snoop they’ll be able to. But we have the power to make it much harder for them to do it. Let’s start talking about this and get Australians realising the answer to snooping by our over-reaching, busy-body government is to take power into our own hands.

Thanks to the Australian technology blog Delimiter for pointing me to Newton’s article.

Kindle 3 is a good little research tool

I am finding that the Kindle 3 is a great little learning or research tool. I’ve had mine for a couple of months now.

It keeps your place, so you can have numerous books on the go at the same time. And as you are reading you can highlight areas of text and add notes. These are then assigned to a file called “My Clippings.txt”. Every clipping or note has a header giving the title of the book, the location in the book and the time and date. Continue reading ‘Kindle 3 is a good little research tool’

Chavez regime to censor the internet

(Chavez with one of his more needy clients)

Venezuela’s outgoing parliament has passed laws that will punish ISPs that allow anything that Hugo Chavez does not like.

Under the new rules, providers of online contents and internet portals could be fined if images or messages appearing on their sites “disrespect public authorities, incite or promote hatred or create anxiety in the citizenry or alter public order”.

The measure was passed just days after parliament voted to give President Chavez special powers to pass laws by decree for 18 months.

BTW Chavez’s more green-minded sympathizers might like to read about his plans to build a nuclear power plant with Russian help.

It looks like the opposition is starting to get its act together. It received half the popular vote in the recent parliamentary elections although the Chavistas still have a majority of seats.

Using Twitter for politics, not posturing in @goforthmag

I’ve just had an article published at a new Irish political website, forth. The publisher, Jason Walsh, is a contributor to Spiked and has branched out on his own. The politics are broadly similar to Spiked, including the anti-nanny-statism and the belief that we live in an age where politicians offer not politics, but bland managerialism.

My article is about how Twitter and other social media could have been used more effectively by Westerners supporting the Iranian protesters in July this year. I emailed a comment replying to another article, “Politics for Twats“, which had very little good to say about Western use of Twitter, saying it was mostly just posturing.

I agreed that that is what had happened, but it didn’t have to be that way. Despite missing out on a big opportunity to show solidarity with the Iranian protesters in the streets, that failure wasn’t caused because people were on Twitter, but because people weren’t using it correctly:

Despite [the Western supporters’] failings there was one very heartening sign among people using Twitter: an enormous amount of Westerners instinctively supported the protesters. Of course, good feelings and undirected sympathy aren’t enough, but without that support agitators have nothing to work with. Twitterers who supported the Iranians protesting against their regime may not have done enough to support them but that is not the fault of social media. Instead, it’s the fault of poor understanding and preparation and lack of willingness to take action.

I suggest you have a look around forth, its focus on Irish politics is interesting as that rarely gets reported in Australia, despite our huge Irish-descended population. They accept comments by email at the moment, and they hope to have a proper commenting system in place soon, which is good – I think one of Spiked’s biggest disappointments is not having comments.

Internet Censorship: $11 000 fine for linking to banned sites

Catallaxy reports on the recent threat to fine the hosting service of broadband discussion site Whirlpool. Catallaxy’s report follows on from a report by the Public Polity site.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority threatened the host after a discussion thread on Whirlpool linked to an anti-abortion site banned by ACMA.

This makes a mockery of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s claims that his proposals to censor the internet are not about wanting to censor political speech:

Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.

Freeview Australia gets spoof ad pulled from YouTube

Freeview” (Wikipedia) is a campaign by Australian free-to-air channels to convince you that free-to-air TV is not mostly boring rubbish. The campaign boasts about the fact that Australians will have fifteen digital channels to choose from on free-to-air TV, instead of the six free-to-air channels that Australians have (at least the ones who live in a major city).

What the campaign doesn’t mention is that most of the new channels are just exact rebroadcasts of the already-existing free-to-air channels (exceptions include ABC2 and SBS World News, which broadcasts foreign-language news reports). So some Melbourne comedians doing a show about TV today decided to parody the Freeview TV commercial.

The parody was posted on the Internet’s most popular video-sharing site, YouTube, but yesterday it disappeared, due to a “terms of use violation”.

However the video is available on several other video-sharing sites, including this copy from

Freeview: More of the same sh#t – Watch more

Continue reading ‘Freeview Australia gets spoof ad pulled from YouTube’

Stopping Australian Internet Censorship: Strategy Discussion #nocensorship #nocleanfeed

On Saturday January 10th, I went to a meeting of the Brisbane branch of the Digital Liberty Coalition, and came away with the job of drafting a leaflet for the next small public protest, planned for Australia Day.

The leaflet needs to reflect the strategy of the anti-censorship campaign. After the December 13th 2008 rallies in six capital cities, plus the one in Hobart a week later, some very useful debate about strategy and tactics cropped up. I want this article to bring that debate to as wide an audience as possible, and I want to use that debate to draft the leaflet. There are several different possible strategies, and we need to know what people think is the most effective one.

Using the terms “Clean Feed” and “filtering” instead of “censorship”

I brought up this topic at the meeting last night, after this comment about the December 13th 2008 rally in Melbourne:

Several speakers and posters referred to internet “filtering”.

That, like the “no cleanfeed” campaign name, reflects success of the enemy’s slick marketing strategy which has involved spending millions to spread the concept of “internet safety” – and similar doublespeak.

Other speakers did not mention filtering and spoke only of “censorship”. I suspect the organizers understand the point, and are trying to make the shift, but have not yet grasped the fact that making the shift itself requires open discussion/debate of the difference at rallies – ie take the opportunity of those speakers or posters referring to filtering to explain the purpose of a policy of never referring to filters, but only to censorship.

Also, such policies need to be debated at organizing meetings and formally adopted, so people fully understand (and can change) the tactics.

The Government’s tactics are based on getting people to assume that the Internet is dangerous and dirty, and that people need to Government to clean it up for them. I agree with the argument that using words like “clean feed” and “filter” put us on the back foot. I think that use of those words should be discouraged by people campaigning against the Government’s censorship plans.

Continue reading ‘Stopping Australian Internet Censorship: Strategy Discussion #nocensorship #nocleanfeed’

Round-ups of Saturday December 13th’s Anti-Censorship rallies #nocleanfeed

I’ve done a round-up of the Brisbane anti-Internet-censorship rally, which you can read if you click here. This week I’m going to trawl through the Internet and publish similar round-ups for each city’s rally. I’ll edit this post with links to each round-up. If anyone has any pictures, videos, articles etc they think need to be in the round-ups, please leave a comment here.

I’m putting links in each round-up to some of the comments already on this site, and to keza’s article on putting the blame for sexualising children squarely on Rudd, Hamilton etc, to spark some debate among anti-censorship people.


If anyone is interested in planning the Brisbane rally against the Government’s plan to censor the Internet, there is a meeting on Sunday November 30 at 3.30pm at Post Office Square in town.

The rally itself is on Saturday December 13 at Brisbane Square, George St, at 11am. Brisbane Square is right opposite the end of the Queen Street Mall, just across George St.

For more info on rally planning go to the forums at

Mobile post sent by djackmanson using Utterlireply-count Replies.

Winning the war against Internet censorship

Below is an article by David Jackmanson (youngmarxist) which was published at OnLine Opinion last week.  If you go to the original article you can read the discussion which followed.

Continue reading ‘Winning the war against Internet censorship’

It was Clive Hamilton who launched the current attempt to censor the internet

Guess who really kick started the current push for mandatory ISP level filtering?  No, it wasn’t those wretched Christian fundamentalists, it was Clive Hamilton and the Australia Institute (of which Hamilton was executive director, until recently).

Continue reading ‘It was Clive Hamilton who launched the current attempt to censor the internet’

Defeating Australia’s Internet Censorship Plans

NO Censorship!!

Last December, in the middle of the political dead season, Australia’s Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, announced that the then-newly-elected Rudd Labor Government would start up a compulsory filter of the Internet. Back then, Senator Conroy laid down the line that we will hear again and again from the Government:

“Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of
the internet is like going down the Chinese road,” he said.

“If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree.”

Continue reading ‘Defeating Australia’s Internet Censorship Plans’