digitaLiberties https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19013/all cached version 20/02/2018 16:54:31 en In the Philippines, political trolling is an industry – this is how it works https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jonathan-corpus-ong-jason-cabanes/in-philippines-political-trolling-is-industry-this <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new study uncovers elite ad and PR strategists as chief architects of disinformation. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34537165.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34537165.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>January 19, 2018 - Philippines - Media practitioners and university press organizations held a Black Friday protest against the curtailment of the freedom of the press by the Duterte administration. J Gerard Seguia/Zuma Press/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Georgina* is a transgender digital marketer for a boutique public relations agency in the heart of Manila's business district. A resourceful SEO specialist, 28 year-old Georgina spends her office hours driving traffic to her clients’ pages, even skilfully hiding fake ad links to lure clicks. </p> <p>But Georgina’s 9-to-5 job shows only a fraction of her real value in the digital arena. Georgina is an online influencer – except, unlike the photogenic jetsetters who flood Instagram and YouTube with glossy fantasies of an aspirational lifestyle, she is carefully, completely anonymous. </p> <p>Georgina maintains half a dozen Twitter and Facebook accounts with over a million organic followers in total. Each page boasts a particular brand of content, from lovesick romantic quotes to “inspiring” platitudes to viciously snarky memes. Her legions of followers are quick to like, repost, and retweet her entertaining posts. </p> <p>Once in a while, Georgina slips in a hashtag promoting a new movie release or soft drink brand, which her followers retweet. Before they know it, they’ve helped her make an entire commercial campaign go viral and top Twitter trending rankings globally. </p> <p>Georgina is an anonymous digital influencer who carries out undisclosed paid campaigns for clients that can pay for her reach and influence. She started out working for PR agencies handling household brands and telcos – until the 2016 Philippine elections, when she took on her first campaign for a high-profile politician running for national office. </p> <h2><strong>Highly professional, hierarchical organization</strong></h2> <p>In the Philippines, influential online personalities and “troll armies” are credited with winning Rodrigo Duterte the presidency in 2016. Even after carrying Duterte to victory, “trolls”, or “Dutertards” as his fanatic supporters have been derogatorily dubbed, continue to vociferously share fake news and silence dissenters. </p> <p>But who are they? Who exactly is responsible for creating fake news? What kind of people sign up to become “trolls”, and why? What kind of skills do they have, what motivates them, and what shapes the content they create?</p> <p>As co-authors of a new report published by the British Newton Tech4Dev Network, we found that while the moral panics of the Philippine public are focused on celebrity influencers, the problem of political trolling and disinformation is actually more insidious, systemic, and deeply rooted than any single hero or villain.</p> <p>Undetected and unseen, attention hackers like Georgina form part of a highly professionalized industry of digital political disinformation in the Philippines, a country of 67 million active social media users. </p> <p>We met Georgina, and others like her, while conducting 20 in-depth interviews with people we came to call “architects of networked disinformation.”&nbsp; </p><p>Our informants supplied us with the passwords to their anonymous influencer pages, as well as fake accounts used for political campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.&nbsp; With this unprecedented access, we were able to unearth a shadow industry that is professionalized and hierarchical in its organization, strategic in its outlook, and questionable in its ethics.</p> <h2><strong>Anonymous digital influencers amplify political messages</strong></h2> <p>We also met Felix, a digital advertising specialist who, like Georgina, moonlights as an anonymous digital influencer. When he hit 100,000 followers, he was offered his first commercial contract. Now he runs a "quote page" with 2 million organic followers. </p> <p>Hired for his first political campaign via Twitter direct message, Felix joined a team of anonymous influencers tasked with building their politician client’s image and brand on social media. Felix’s followers amplify his messages until mainstream news outlets pick them up. Other times, he reposts pieces of mainstream coverage&nbsp;– news reports, opinion pieces – that speak well of their client. </p> <p>“You need to go slowly. You can’t post branded content right away; you’ll lose followers. Sometimes they call us <em>bayaran</em> (sellout, paid hack) because branded content comes first,” says Felix. “When something trends organically, only then can we slip in branded content,” he adds. </p> <p>Artificially trending hashtags is only the tip of the iceberg. Other tasks might involve digital black ops – for example, seeding revisionist history narratives or sowing divisiveness in online communities.</p> <p>Anonymous influencers like Georgina and Felix are ranked and paid according to the engagement they generate – likes, favorites, shares, retweets, or video views – and they receive bonuses for outstanding engagement in a campaign. It could be cash, or the latest smartphone model.</p> <h2><strong>Chief architects of disinformation dictate the strategy</strong></h2> <p>Georgina is the right-hand woman of Dex, a seasoned public relations strategist with a select portfolio of elite political clients. Prior to her career in online management, Dex was an advertising executive. Having achieved financial and professional success, she was on the hunt for her next challenge – and found it in political PR.</p> <p>If people like Georgina and Felix are combatants in the political PR battlefield, ad and PR industry leaders like Dex are their generals – the chief architects of disinformation. </p> <p>“I've overcome a lot of competition in other&nbsp;industries, like telecoms for example. Every time I enter a war, I find a way to win. To&nbsp;me,&nbsp;everything is war,” she said in our interview.&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;“What attracted me to politics is because I felt that they were all ignorant about social media. These are old-timers. How can you win a digital war with someone born in 1940 or 1929 for that matter? You cannot. It's impossible. So let’s go to war.”</p> <p>While trolling is attributed to the likes of Mocha Uson and other notorious bloggers, the real chief architects of disinformation hide in plain sight. Holding respectable day jobs as top executives in boutique ad and PR agencies, their political hustles on the side – undisclosed and unregulated – are an open industry secret. </p> <p>Motivated by the challenge of winning in a new arena, chief disinformation architects interface directly with politicians and use professional tricks of the trade – brand bibles, campaign strategies, media valuation reports – to fulfil their clients’ needs. “Whether you're a movie, softdrink, restaurant, or politician, it's all the same to me,” says Dex. “Just give me the brief, I know what to do.”</p> <p>With their track record for launching Facebook business pages, trending hashtag campaigns worldwide, and building engaged communities for household brands, telcos or celebrities, tried-and-tested industry techniques of spin and reputation-building acquire new power and momentum in their hands. </p> <p>“I dictate everything from hashtag, to copy, direction, strategy, black ops,” asserts Dex. “The influencers cannot do it on their own. If they do, it's going to be a disaster.” </p> <p>“Online numbers are useless if there's no core message, something to champion.&nbsp;That’s the strategy I can offer – the messaging, the attack.” </p> <p>Chief architects are skilled not only at messaging and strategy, but at coming up with ways to deflect moral responsibility and professional accountability. They speak of “saving” clients’ careers, giving online personas “refreshing honesty” and “soul”, connecting with “real people behind the screen” who are looking for “empathy and understanding,” and even “helping the country.” </p> <p>Strategy in hand, the chief architects of disinformation staff the teams of anonymous digital influencers to take campaign messages to smartphones and screens. They create the pay structures and come up with the incentives that motivate the influencers. But the work doesn’t stop there. </p> <h2><strong>Fake accounts create illusions of engagement</strong></h2> <p>At the bottom of the hierarchy, community-level fake account operators do what we call script-based disinformation work – i.e., the grunt work. Fake accounts post pre-made content on schedule and actively like and share posts to meet a daily quota. Dex calls them “social nobodies.”</p> <p>“What they do is shallow,” she says. “In my eyes they don't exist because whatever they do has no effect without strategy.”</p> <p>However, they are necessary to generate illusions of engagement. Fake account operators create a bandwagon effect that affirms the key messages of a political campaign, and encourages real, unpaid grassroots supporters and political fans to openly express their support for a particular politician. </p> <h2><strong>The weaponization of a digital workforce</strong></h2> <p>The aim of our research was never to name and shame “trolls,” but to understand their identities and motivations, how they operate, and how they morally justify their work. </p> <p>Beyond the Philippines, global democratic players in the west would do well to pay closer attention to how a highly skilled digital workforce for hire might be weaponized for digital disinformation in other democratic countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.</p> <p>Understanding is the key to finding solutions at every level of disinformation production, which we propose in our report. More importantly, understanding is the key to taking a stand against the way disinformation is influencing free political discourse, rewriting narratives, and shaping the democratic project, both in the Philippines and far beyond. </p> <p>*not their real names</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.newtontechfordev.com">Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines</a></em> is<strong> </strong>published by the Newton Tech4Dev Network and funded by a British Council Newton Fund grant. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em><a href="http://www.newtontechfordev.com">Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines</a></em> is<strong> </strong>published by the Newton Tech4Dev Network and funded by a British Council Newton Fund grant.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/miguel-syjuco/is-populism-problem-story-for-world-forum-for-democracy-2017">“Is Populism a Problem”? – a story for the World Forum for Democracy 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/beyond-fact-checking-media-populism-and-post-truth-politics">Beyond fact-checking: the media, populism and post-truth politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/natalie-fenton-des-freedman/media-and-twenty-first-century-fake-democracy">Media and twenty first century fake democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Philippines </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Philippines Jason Cabanes Jonathan Corpus Ong Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:41:06 +0000 Jonathan Corpus Ong and Jason Cabanes 116244 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/enrico-de-angelis-yazan-badran/crowds-and-individual-why-we-should-rethink-ho <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.-Television-trash-874x492_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.-Television-trash-874x492_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture by Zoé Carle, with permission. </span></span></span>Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.</p><p>The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.</p><p>The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.</p><p>At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.</p><p>Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we hope that there is still a chance that what appears now as a poisoned, divisive, and polarized battleground will be translated at some point into a discussion in which different positions can be articulated and some common ground over the issue of women in Syria and specifically in opposition circles can be found.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake</p><p>This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes. In the hope, perhaps, that in the future similar problems can be contained or partially avoided. Indeed, this is only the latest of many cases on Syrian social media spheres that followed a largely similar pattern.</p><p>Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake. However, we believe that how, where, and by whom these discussions are conducted can have a huge impact on the outcomes and, therefore, on the creation of a larger consensus or, as in this case, the recognition of what Syrian women have to struggle with on a daily basis.</p><p>This last case, among many others, highlights a significant paradox in how we use social media networks and the effect it has on concrete social struggles. On the one hand, the episode highlights a monumental shift in the discursive power enjoyed by Syrian intellectuals before and after the 2011 uprising. This is, in no small part, due to the status that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter acquired as the main sites of discursive struggle in the sphere of Syrian revolutionaries and the site to express contentious politics. Social media networks equipped activists and intellectuals, like Ghazzawi and Haj Saleh, with unprecedented avenues to raise issues of importance for their primary constituencies and their connected networks. In a context of a brutal military conflict, fragmentation and exile of Syrian activists and intellectuals, these nascent spaces could arguably play a significant role in the shaping of new political blocs, opportunities and subjectivities.</p><p>On the other hand, engaging with these discussions on social media has a price and presents us with many issues:</p><p>One is the inherent individualism embedded in these forms of communication. Social media inevitably place the emphasis on personal authenticity and individuality, rather than collectives and groups. Thus, debates become very emotional and person-centered. Such a mode of communication foregrounds the actor above the issue, and erases the necessary distance between the person of a political actor and the (collective) ideas s/he represents. And thus, it quickly degenerates into the level of quarrel between single individuals, with the underlying political disagreement languishing in the background.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Engaging with these discussions on social media has a price</p><p>In the example above, this is translated into the activation of the relevant networks of both actors (respective circles of friends and like-minded people) into a defense based largely on personal loyalty and affinity. It is not relevant whether it is a conscious strategy or not as it is an almost automatic process. But it was clear that many people were not expressing solidarity or attacking on the basis of the ideas that were supposed to be at the core of the debate, but rather because of their personal relation with the two main actors of the discussion.</p><p>The brevity and the immediacy of a Facebook post or a tweet facilitate misinterpretations and misunderstandings, so that many people are pushed even further to take position on the basis of their sympathies rather than on their knowledge about the topic at discussion. When some longer and less emotional clarifications came, it was already too late, as the machine of comments and insults was already at its peak and the debate was framed only along a “with” or “against” dynamic.</p><p>This tendency towards a polarisation of the debate is further reinforced by the clustering dynamics of social networks creating echo-chambers of like-minded individuals largely isolated from other groups. Networks can give us the illusion that we can reach anyone, but we almost always end up reaching the same people with the same convictions. Networks almost never converge into a more heterogeneous movement, because the investment to articulate this process needs other forms of dialogue and organization. It is quite relevant, for example, that the debate around the specific case we are considering here was often divided into two different spheres: one in Arabic, and one in English.</p><p>In other words, pro-feminist networks on Facebook or Twitter will meet many difficulties in reaching (and convincing) people who think in a different way. Worse still, when one always frequents people who have the same cultural background, one forgets what is needed to communicate with people who do not share crucial elements of that background.</p><p>Another problem is the evasiveness and immediacy of the responses and tools at the disposal of such networks: likes, comments, shares, expressions of solidarity etc. can only sustain attacks on opponents or express solidarity but for a brief moment. After which the actor at the center of the storm is left isolated to deal with the aftermath of what could only be a traumatic episode. The brevity and immediacy with which these tools are used privilege again the emotional short-term response and leaves no room for reflection or organising. It solidifies the in-group but without the mechanisms to produce viable alternative discourses, and cross sectional collaborations and solidarities; it thus leaves both groups even more vulnerable to future challenges.</p><p>The political scientist Jodi Dean in her book “Crowds and Party” makes this point very clearly: being part of a collective (like a party or any other structured organization) is also an affective matter. Having a collective around provides one with a shield when crowds (virtual or not) dissipate and disappear. Expressions of solidarity (likes, tweets, etc.) on social media do not provide this shield and leave the individual activist alone to fight the consequences (accusations, insults, acts of “betrayal”). In this context, the psychological pressure and feeling of isolation may be very difficult to bear. Solidarity on social media can alleviate it, but not resolve it.</p><p>All these factors should be considered when we engage in complex and relevant debates relying on social media as a privileged medium. To be aware of such consequences is particularly relevant for Syrians, given the prominence that these platforms acquired to discuss and connect people geographically dispersed and often still lacking stronger forms of collective organizations.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson</p><p>Alternatives are always available, but they require another, often less visible, collective labour: collective statements and organized media campaigns; engaging of existing actors to negotiate with them before going public; more centralized and stable networks; and, of course, the establishment of more structured organization. In all these cases, the use of social media comes after a patient collective organizing, and should not be the first step.</p><p>Changing the ways we communicate with each other is of utmost importance if we consider the weak and fragmented character of Syrian secular opposition circles nowadays. Such a reflection inevitably involves the leading voices articulating these important issues (gender, class, among others) to take their responsibility in elaborating their positions and points of difference and to seek viable alliances and wider solidarity networks.</p><p>These issues, if debated and articulated collectively, offer invaluable opportunities to articulate new subjectivities and political blocs. The patriarchal culture, often hidden and denied, among many Syrian opposition circles is a reality. In order to change that reality, among many others, other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zaina-erhaim/battle-between-syrian-secular-activists-and-feminists-we-all-los">The battle between Syrian secular activists and feminists: we all lose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Enrico-de-angelis-yazan-badran/syria-social-media-communication">الجماهير والفرد: إعادة النظر في كيفية مناقشة القضايا المعقدة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia digitaLiberties North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Democracy and government Internet social media communication Yazan Badran Enrico De Angelis Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:52:23 +0000 Enrico De Angelis and Yazan Badran 115674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future https://www.opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins>"Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emma Aviles, second from left, in Team Syntegrity discussion, Barcelona, June 2017. Cameron Thibos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (R.): Hi Emma, we are hoping to talk to you about a combination of themes discussed at the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> last June in Barcelona; on media and communications and on reinventing politics. I think for you, these two go pretty well hand in hand?</em></p> <p><strong>Emma Aviles (E)</strong>: Since June, I have been in contact with Ash and Richard, and also with Cecilia Milesi, your independent evaluator, but not with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">the others</a> most closely involved in those two discussions. We all have quite crazy agendas, I think, and it was good work just to get us all together there! </p> <p><em>R: I don’t know if you remember how I first encountered your work – but it was via a video interview that you did on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical Municipalism</a> with Sunny Hundal at ‘Fearless Cities’ when you were describing the people-to-people communications that had taken place during the EU crisis over Greece. You talked a lot about ‘We’ in describing that act of solidarity and I wanted to find out more about what exactly that category is for you?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> I come from the Spanish 15M movement. I am a new generation activist who feels deeply embedded into what Manuel Castells called ‘the networked society’. When I speak about a ‘we’ it is a much wider ‘we’ that I identify with, it is a ‘we’ in society that shares some common practices and exchanges ideas knowledge, and ways of mobilising.</p> <p>To be more specific this ‘we’ during the crisis would have been the 15M movement in Spain, which I lived through in Barcelona, and more specifically the <a href="http://auditoriaciudadana.net/">Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD)</a> which was set up as a citizen-led platform that actually extended throughout the whole country from 2012. The communication-solidarity moment you are talking about was a video we made to send a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPOUGIYzoj8">message</a> to the Greek people to show them how well we understood the situation they found themselves in, and that we knew that what was happening was not because they were ‘lazy Greeks’, but rather a scam imposed upon them by political and economic powers. We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’. <span class="mag-quote-center">We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’.</span></p> <p>Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we just decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits in those years of struggle. The video was made using our communications knowledge, strategy and dynamics, and it actually went hugely viral in Greece and all over the place, with newspapers calling us up and so forth!&nbsp; </p> <p>It really worked very well at the international level. We understood only too well that Europe is a terrain on which it is necessary to interact, but at the same time it is not easy to communicate across different languages and cultures. Emotional empowerment, we were right to think, is one of the better ways of doing this.</p> <p>But with regard to our home turf and the Spanish state, the whole of 15M was a big communications success, which of course in turn didn’t come out of the blue, but was rooted in past struggles. It was a very unique techno-political experience that has definitely changed how Spanish politics work – and its actors – and how people here understand the possibilities of a renewed democratic intervention.</p> <p><em>R: Was the rather sophisticated communication strategy around the independence referendum in Catalonia part of this newfound democratic literacy?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong>&nbsp; Yes. Definitely all these experiences are cumulative. Though what was different about the Catalan referendum process was that it also included strongly rural areas, and here we have a particular mixture of experiences that come from a long Catalan history of struggle and grass roots organising, and the tools used by 15M which you could see appearing in similar patterns of coordination and communication.&nbsp; The Catalan grassroots movements (CDRs) are just another example, if you like, of a distributed movement, which people who belong to an empowered and networked society have the ability to organise.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I don’t know how much detail got through on this internationally, but we had many different political actors mobilising their people in different ways. We had the big civil society groupings like Òmnium Cultural and La Asamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) which organised their people as well. But then you also had the CDR’s – the committees in defence of the republic – which were self-organising groups of people in different locations who weren’t at all ‘commandeered’ by the political parties or the civil society groups. This was a big success, and the CDR’s in particular pushed the others on to do more than they otherwise would have done. Some people believe that Puigdemont left for Brussels because he realised that people were going to do whatever it took to defend their institutions and that this was completely out of their control. No-one could actually say don’t do this or that, because it was self-organised with people deciding themselves what they wanted to do. When the Catalan leadership realised this – they feared violence, and not wanting blood on their hands, they exited the stage. </p><p>This distributed organising we describe as ‘a beehive’ movement, when emerging systems and collective intelligence decide what happens without an actual top down or centralised coordination node. The Queen Bee doesn’t decide what happens: it is the bees who decide how many eggs she lays…</p> <p><em>R: Your emphasis on emotional literacy is very intriguing, since I know that you know a great deal about the facts around both debt, for example, and technopolitics.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> There are lots of organisations of course around the world working on debt. In Europe, the emphasis was traditionally on the Global South. But since the economic crisis, there has been a shift to studying debt in the Global North – and especially the European periphery – and how we are living through phases similar in many ways to what Latin America suffered in the 1980’s. The International Citizens Audit Network (<a href="http://www.citizen-audit.net/">ICAN</a>) wanted to bring all these groups across Europe and campaign together. But the situations in each country are very specific and different, and after some years, and the pretence of ‘back to normality’, this collaboration has dropped in intensity.</p> <p>I used to be more of an environmental activist until I participated in the 15M movement, where I ended up learning all about the internet. 15M was a space where we learned a lot about everything. And that is also when I became very interested in debt. Our citizen movement against this scam they called a ‘crisis’ thought we must do something to intervene in the debtocracy mechanism, at a time when the big Bankia private bank (which used to be a public bank) collapsed due to the <a href="https://15mparato.wordpress.com/citizens-against-corruption/">criminal interventions of our politicians</a>, while we received in exchange a European bail-out accompanied by austerity measures, losing our universal healthcare, cuts in education and so on. &nbsp;This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental, to push us further forward than what is achieved just by resistance or with advocacy. <span class="mag-quote-center">This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental.</span> </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>So the result of that thinking was the launch of an initiative around a citizens’ debt audit. We had to demand a transparency of public data so that we could figure out for ourselves what they had done with our money, and collectively decide what part of the debt, while being legal, was nevertheless illegitimate. How we define ‘illegitimate debt’ is at the end of the day to be decided by us, the people, in a sovereign act of deliberation and consultation, as it is our money! </p> <p>Some of our people from this big, ongoing, collective process of the ‘citizens’ debt audit’ platform have gone into the key institutions and municipalities. One colleague is Deputy in the Spanish Parliament. In Madrid, the number two, Carlos Sanchez Mato, is a member of the platform and they are already starting up citizens’ audits in the various districts of Madrid: they are also auditing big private-public partnership construction initiatives like the ringroad around Madrid. Here in Barcelona there are lots of people in the city council from the platform as well, and they are going to publish all the economic data even though the city council of Barcelona is not indebted in the same way. Making this information transparent to the people is a very important step.</p> <p>All this was done in parallel with a strong communications strategy. We believe that is at the core for building many of these citizen tools, like <a href="https://twitter.com/15MpaRato">@15MpaRato</a> which I’m sure you and Alex know about, led by Xnet.</p> <p>These are all examples of how it is in our hands to make change happen, and that there are so many things we can do which can so empower people. The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.” <span class="mag-quote-center">The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.”</span></p> <p>As for techno-politics, my path was via Xnet’s project 15MpaRato. I got involved from the moment it launched and that was when I really got to know how it all worked in a much more detailed, in-depth way. For many years now I have been participating in Xnet, who are hard to beat in Spain and probably across Europe for their understanding of techno-politics, and how to communicate to build citizen power and collective action.</p> <p><em>R: So given your experience in this field, and all your points of comparison, what was your personal experience of the Team Syntegrity three-and-a-half-day event in Barcelona? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It was quite unique. Yes, we are used to events with facilitation, although the participative methodology we use in Spain is closer to those evolved in Latin America and those work well for us.</p> <p><em>R. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/cecilia-milesi/lessons-observations-team-syntegrity-barcelona-2017">Cecilia Milesi</a>, our independent evaluator, also recommended the Latin American approach, saying that she felt the need for a more focused, shared context, situating a specific change process within a sharply-defined socio-political or organisational ecosystem. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a>, by contrast begins with a ludicrously open, blue skies question, and a deliberate range of people …</em></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><strong>E.</strong> The part where we decided what themes we would spend our time on was interesting. They were of course gathered from our own concerns, but I felt more guidance could have been helpful in ensuring that we chose subjects more relevant for more of the people there. It was an interesting decision-making process though, how we arrived at those 12 themes. </p><p>At the time, the algorithm used to allocate which themes people were responsible for as discussants or critics seemed to me totally arbitrary, although of course it was working with our top preferences. And that was a real novelty. You really are leaving people to use their collective intelligence and figure things out for themselves. But some of the discussion-tables had such different points of view that they had to try and reconcile – I suppose the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-stefanoski-felix-weth-joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-levi-ana-segovia/internet">internet discussion’</a> was one of those! Maybe a preparatory exchange could have paved the way for a more efficient encounter between those people. </p> <p>Having said that, for me one of the most interesting aspects of the Team Syntegrity dynamic was the way that ideas were transferred from person to person and group to group. We got to hear about things and participate in discussions that are not the usual focus in our lives, and that is a very enriching experience, not least because it helps you shape ideas about your own line of work in a different way. </p> <p>In many cases I believe this opened us up to creativity. When I saw how feminist issues travelled from one table to another and ended up creating this amazing experience in the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-weatherhead-richard-bartlett-ashish-ghadiali-david-mallery-rui-tavares/parenting-planet">parenting the planet</a>’ all-male discussion group, that seemed hugely valuable. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All-male discussion group on feminism/anti-patriarchy, Team Syntegrity, Barcelona 2017. </span></span></span>The 15M itself was an amazing experience in just this way – bringing many non-experts together, and many non-politicised people out of the blue, who then learned so much from others much more knowledgeable. If we don’t allow this kind of listening to happen, things are not going to move forward. When I participated in the <a href="https://nuitdebout.fr/">Nuit Debout</a> movement in France, one of the reasons why it collapsed was because the traditional ‘expert’ activists just didn’t have the patience to slow down and walk at the same pace as the less experienced participants. I have been in many situations where I know much more about one thing, but much less than them about many other scenarios. </p><p><em>R: It is asking a lot I know. But for the experts too, it is important, isn’t it, to learn how to convey your message effectively to people who think very differently from you… and to have some curiosity about the result.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We all have to find a balance between giving and taking! But there are situations where you just have to get up and leave if you feel you can’t afford the time, and one of the tensions that I saw in the internet group was a familiar clash of cultures that has become too time-consuming, between the new internet activists as I have been describing them, and traditional activists who are moving into the digital world, but without fully understanding it. </p> <p>By contrast, our discussion on media and communications was efficient and very comfortable and there was a real flow to the discussion between the other colleagues and myself. The work <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/phil-england/rebuilding-democracy-in-iceland-interview-with-birgitta-jonsdottir">Birgitta</a> has done of course, has been very much connected to the sort of work we have done in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/xnet">Xnet</a> and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Party">X-Party</a>. I didn’t know her personally, but we have been following her work and I know she knows other people in my team. So that was an easy one because we knew we were on the same wavelength. With Agnieszka, who is more of a journalist, it was really interesting to hear her points of view and discover the many synergies between us despite our different backgrounds. But we were ready to listen to each other and suck up each others’ proposals, so it was quite a collaborative table, rather than a confrontational one. </p> <p>One of the reasons it was so easy for us for example to put together our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s-agnieszka-wi-niewska-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir-kate-farrell-wiebke-hansen/team-syntegrity-comm">slideshow of best practise</a> in media and communications at the Team Syntegrity, was because this was part of the existing knowledge arising from practises that everyone in our networked society generation is familiar with. For us it is something similar to the revolutionary technology of the era of the printing press. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way.</span></p> <p>And I do feel that there is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way. My experience in France in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/geoffrey-pleyers/nuit-debout-citizens-are-back-in-squares-in-paris">Nuit Debout</a> movement was that the traditional left regarded the internet as menacing or at best something of a liability. The new generation shares so many practises because we have been developing our struggles and communicate on this terrain and even if we don’t know each other when we come together to try and do something, it doesn’t take long for results to pop up! </p> <p><em>R: Is this because the traditional left assumes that the main direction of communication is going to remain, for example, one-to-many?</em></p> <p>E: Yes, the unidirectional way of communicating is part of this. But it is also the use of language and the fear of sharing our emotions because we might be mistaken for populists! – you know? So it goes much further than this. The preoccupation with unity of message and ‘staying on brand’ is also an issue. We have seen this with a lot of NGO’s. There is a study that has been recently published that has looked at movements and social organisations in the United States, and it seemed to me that they put their finger on the problem. Here it is, ‘<a href="https://sustainabilitynetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NetChange-NetworkedChange-2016-1.pdf">Networked change: how progressive campaigns are won in the 21st century</a>.’</p> <p>But I’ll give you an example. #15MpaRato was a project launched by Xnet. But Xnet didn’t have their brand on it, because they wanted this device to be anonymous so that the people could appropriate it much more easily.&nbsp; If you want to mobilise, to make the best of the collective intelligence you can bring together, and encourage self-organising in a facilitated down-up environment, having your brand on it will probably be a barrier to success. </p> <p>Yet this is what we see both in political parties and traditional NGO’s: both cling to their branding. That makes it much more difficult to have a broader and more varied user-base than your immediate circle of supporters. You will always be setting up systems that say, ”this is me: that is you”. But if you create an environment that is not branded, it is much easier to unleash the dynamics where people actually step up to the plate, and make use of what is on offer for themselves, that is – appropriate it in some way. </p> <p><em>R: You mentioned meeting up with Richard Bartlett, one of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bartlett/more-mouthy-male-feminists-please">key participants</a> in that ‘Parenting the planet’ group – how did that happen?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We were invited to a meeting in Canada of about eighty activists from around North America, including coloured people, white people and natives. An Irish colleague working in techno-politics was organising an event, the ‘Web of Change’ and called me up to ask if I could recommend a list of international participants. I thought it would be interesting for him to invite Richard. It was, of course, fantastic to catch up with him again. And at that event, we did have the feeling that we continued working on the feminist/anti-patriarchal challenges we had begun to explore at the Team Syntegrity last June. What was generated around that discussion-table is part of a wider process that I know from Spanish social movements, but that Richard is also involved in, and one that made us accomplices in the Canadian event, where we managed to inject it once again into the proceedings! So this was a transformative experience.</p> <p>Ash Ghadiali, meanwhile, has been interested in the new communications strategies arising out of the 15M movement. I had told him about how important psychologists, sociologists, communicators and other experts were in helping us build our strategies, and he wanted to understand how this was orchestrated in more detail. Unfortunately, then the Catalan situation blew up, and I was sucked into that furore, so I couldn’t continue that exchange as I would have liked. </p> <p>It has been an absolute tsunami here!</p> <p><em>R: Well let’s talk about how communications for change work under such tsunami conditions. You spoke a lot in the Team Syntegrity about being able to talk to people from your heart and your guts, if you want to involve and engage them. This seems so different from the way that psychometric messaging, algorithms and filter bubbles work – all those tools that billionaires deploy who want to manipulate us via social media. So what is the alternative direction we need to go in? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It is really amazing, for those of us who were active in 15M, just to observe how the mega-rich and powerful are deploying the same practises and tools &nbsp;– the bubbles and the messaging – that we have been evolving since 2011. But of course the message they want to convey is completely different. Moreover they have been buying with a lot of money clickfarms and bots to do this work for them, whereas our bots are real people, and lots of them! </p> <p>It’s really interesting though, because there are some strong parallels in the way they are working. In particular, they also are communicating from their guts!&nbsp; That is why it works so well for them! Why then, aren’t the left using the same successful techniques? Take memes: we use these as the doors or windows with which to enter people’s consciousness, in order then to be able to develop a more complex and differentiated message. But we need those entry points, to touch down on people’s culture and their emotions. So we must ask ourselves, how can we use our language and build our messages in order to reach people, as well as of course mastering the tools and practises, and at the same time acquire the numbers of people it will take to viralise, or to break down algorithms.</p> <p>Of course the digital world is just another layer of reality. The physical world also exists and what those who really want to bring about transformative change can add to the memes and the messaging, which are the sparks that light the touch paper, is all the different ways in which collective intelligence can apply itself to doing things together: everything from meeting up for a collective social catharsis which celebrates not being alone, to formulating proposals for action. These things must work hand in hand.</p> <p>For example, in France some fellow activists called us up and invited us to come and help them build a communication device, for many of us could sense that something was about to happen. So we arrived in Paris three weeks before March 31, to help them prepare. The original call came from the coalition ‘Convergence des Luttes’ – the coming together of struggles! And the slogan to accompany this was, “We will frighten the powers that be!”, supposedly with this “convergence”… We had to say that this wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t appeal to citizens who weren’t already politically involved, and it was a priority to build a stronger movement around the small number of people involved at that stage.</p> <p>So we built the communication around one of their slogans: ’Nuit Debout’ – “night standing” – which had no recognisable political connotation at all, and its narrative was built from hope, from the emotions, not from confrontation, telling people simply to come out on the streets, so that they could find themselves and realise that they were not alone. And that worked. Because the analysis was spot on. Here we had a society which was going through the shock-doctrine having lived through the state of emergency, all the state repression and arrests during Cop21, and everything else they had been through. People were feeling isolated and not at all connected with each other. So the objective, through our strategy, <em>was</em> to bring them physically together in a space where they could start seeing each other, talking with each other and learning from each other and start building together from there. </p> <p><em>R: I take your point. And how important was it to the effectiveness of what was achieved, that it was rather different kinds of people who were brought together…?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> The big problem was that once all those people had answered that call and were ‘there’, the traditional activists who had initiated the action started to get very impatient with what they referred to as “these politically immature people”! They were finding the assemblies that gathered for discussion boring, and they started wanting to take control over them. There were people out there on the square from many different worlds. But the <a href="https://paris-luttes.info/reponse-du-mouvement-du-15m-a-la-6197?lang=fr">sad thing</a> was that when <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">the collision came</a>, it was between all those worlds and the traditional left ‘leaders’. </p> <p><em>R: Having come out under their own steam and for their own reasons, they didn’t like being pushed around. That's important isn’t it?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> Yes, that was it. And it was a very sad moment, because if an exchange of knowledge had been allowed to take its course in all that diversity, maybe something quite different would have emerged. I had learned that lesson not so long ago here in <em>Plaça</em><em> </em><em>Catalunya</em> in Barcelona!</p> <p><em>R: You mean in 15M – tell me more. &nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> One of the things that happened was that it took just two people, people who are known to the existing anarchist liberatarian movements, to convince the others that they should be there in the square with all the new people who were suddenly involved. The first knee-jerk reaction of the seasoned activists in Barcelona was, “Don’t go there. Let’s not get involved. We don’t know who these people are. There could be all sorts of infiltrations, given how immature these people are…” and so on. But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!” And many did it in a way which was not top-down and not manipulative, so it really produced results. <span class="mag-quote-center">But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!”</span></p> <p>A similar process which really worked well for the whole country, was that there was this network of facilitators who were already online sharing their practises and work issues. When the squares filled up, one of the girls who belonged sent an e-mail to the entire network all over the country, saying, “ It’s our duty to be out there helping in the facilitation of the people in the squares.” So we had hundreds of people disembarking into these squares packed with people from all over, trying to deal with assemblies of thousands of people, and actually achieving this! So you see what can happen if you have close coordination between these two layers, the digital and the physical space. We were able to connect up what was going on in the different squares, and that was how we were able to arrive at the experience of being the 15M. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M in Plaza Catalunya.</span></span></span><em>R: Now we have yet another stand-off between the Catalan independentists and the Spanish state, with seemingly no opportunity to talk across the divides, and no help at all from the supra-national level of the European Union – do you think citizens can use any of these communication processes to break down this polarisation?</em></p> <p>E: First of all, it is very important to say that there are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia. There is the conservative élite. There are the organised associations of civil society – ANC and <em>Òmnium</em> Cultural – which will have nothing to do with anyone linked to the CUP, for example. Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other. <a href="http://cup.cat/">La CUP</a> [the Popular Unity Candidacy (<a title="Catalan language" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_language">Catalan</a>: <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Unity_Candidacy">Candidatura d'Unitat Popular</a>, CUP</em>), for example, is confronted by many political parties who also stand for independence. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia…&nbsp; Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other.</span></p> <p>Then you find many who feel in the middle between people who don’t want independence and those who do. These people want neither black nor white, neither yes nor no. The palette of colours here is wide and completely invisibilised! </p> <p>For example, the independentists I am closest to are not committed to independence as a neat solution to all our problems, per se. No, but they see it as an important point of rupture with the political status quo. The truth is that the old Spain who won the civil war is still there in this Spanish Government. And we, the ones who lost, are still under their rule 40 years later. So how will we break free from this? It is probably not through the kind of negotiations that happened throughout the transition period. This just extended the problem for all those decades. But, for them, this is where rupture comes in: this could be one of the things that jolts us into revising our entire political system and democratic processes, enabling people to rewrite our constitution, and to rethink and rebuild whatever it is we want to design together. We would have a chance to decide what that should be. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the political experience of the invisibilised middle ground is completely unfair. For them, there is no political representation and no media coverage. It is true that Catalunya en Comu does try to represent this middle position, but the path of ‘equidistance’ doesn’t offer a political rupture point either. So a lot of people in the middle ground find themselves moving towards the independence position, since they too are searching for a way of exposing the nature of the Spanish state as they have experienced it to wider public scrutiny, and they are also seeking change.</p> <p>October 1 was amazing. I participated in a project instigated by various movements in the city, under the heading of <a href="https://agenciauo.org/">AgencyUO</a>. One hundred communications activists who work in various collectives came together to create a media centre that could cover the events of October 1 by our own means and using our own narratives.</p> <p>I was doing the morning shift and my job was to monitor what was happening on twitter, to pick out important developments to focus on and send our people there, because we were broadcasting on various channels: we had radio, tv, a web, social networks, streamers and Telegram groups. </p> <p>October 1 was organised in such a way that older people and young people were encouraged to go and vote in the morning, because if violence occurred, it was expected later on in the day. But the police decided to crack down at 10.30 in the morning, when the old people were voting, and when we saw this, this actually launched many of the people who were caught in the middle out to vote ‘yes’ in the afternoon.</p> <p>So here we have it: this complex situation in which as citizens we find ourselves in the middle of battles between polarised political interests. I did vote ‘yes’ but I am not an independentist. At the same time I have no trouble interacting with them. We have different ideas, but I have no problem with that. We belong to the same community. At the same time of course you have the nationalists and fascists who want independence, and we keep our distance from them, for sure. But the majority of the people who are in the middle and are voting ‘yes’ went into those schools to vote, voting different ways and thinking different things, but happy to be in this together and to be making this possible. </p> <p>Because, October 1 was only made possible by the people.&nbsp; There was a very precise moment when the government lost control over what was happening once the violence started, and it was the people who throughout that whole day, held the electoral process and the gathering of votes together. After finishing my shift in the media centre, I went to vote in a working class area nearby, and when I walked into the school what did I see? Older people, young people, people looking after the ballot boxes but also playing dominoes, providing food or childcare and play activities for the kids, a policeman who had been given flowers – it was civil society that was holding the ring. We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is as a way forward. <span class="mag-quote-center">We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is a way forward.</span></p> <p>Then at night, I went back to my village about 40 kilometres outside Barcelona, when the counting of the votes was happening at the end of the day. I found farmers with their trucks and other vehicles out blocking the roads, because the police were expected to arrive and take the ballot boxes away from us. The people were guarding the city council where the counting was going on. This was a transformative experience for many millions of people in Catalonia, 2.2 million of whom voted on that day.</p> <p>Now people are feeling a little blue about things, because with Article 155 imposing direct rule on Catalonia, it seems as if the Spanish Government has ‘won’ yet again. But we are in a standby situation in these days running up to the elections of December 21, and we will see what the outcome is. The citizens’ assemblies are still going on, and people keep organising. We have no idea. But people do know that they can believe in each other, and that they have each other, and they have seen the power of what we can do together, and the synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…? <span class="mag-quote-center">The synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…?</span></p> <p><em>R: This must also impact on your sense of priorities as a media activist?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It’s interesting. We have been helping activist groups in the city and around Spain to improve their knowhow, especially in creating a decent security environment for them to work in, because we know that there has been surveillance and also interference at different levels. We expect, following the December 21 elections, that there will be a legal crackdown on people who were active on October 1. They are using legality as their execution block.</p> <p>I know Barcelona en Comu are preparing tools for ‘citizen participation’, and that they are working on different ways of opening up governance for the people, so that people can be the ones who put forward their proposals and demand new laws. Of course, this is what we wanted them to go into parliamentary politics for – to open the institutions up to the people, so that their processes became transparent and the politicians themselves were seen not as rulers, but as public workers. But I understand the constraints and contradictions. Walking into that machinery of power must be difficult, and making real deep change quite a considerable challenge. </p> <p>Many of my activist colleagues are feeling quite let down by all the things that haven’t been happening, and we aren't very happy with the latest coalition with the left and the greens here in Catalonia, because they act as a big power bloc internally and coopt “Los Comunes” in an ‘old politics’ sort of way. There is a lot of internal tension. They know how to play the political game, top down, using the old techniques, so the new proposals for ‘Catalonia en Comu’ evoke a certain weariness. </p> <p>As an activist with experience in working in different countries, I think it is very important to have this wider debate and information around municipalism and its networks in different countries across Europe and beyond. But one thing that is missing from this debate so far, is an understanding of why radical municipalism and people power has caught on here in Spain in a way which has been so powerful. For me, what we need to understand is the movement-building and what active citizens were able to create – in short, what came before. It was the creation of a mass of politicised citizens that was the essential phase, previous to launching a set of municipal initiatives. And this should be one of the first aspects of this new politics that we should discuss in depth. And then build.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M network.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fearless cities: how municipal governments are challenging right-wing governments, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjOFgTbvXXs">15 min.video</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical municipalism: demanding the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/repression-and-digital-resistance-in-catalanreferendum">Repression and digital resistance in the #CATALANREFERENDUM</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/how-to-preserve-fundamental-rights-on-internet-guide">How to preserve fundamental rights on the internet: a guide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/catalonian-lessons-civil-society-has-something-to-offer-on-gaming-tab">Catalonian lessons: civil society has something to offer on the gaming tables of governance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">An open letter to #NuitDebout from the Indignados’ districts of the internet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emeka-forbes/how-technology-powered-catalan-referendum">How technology powered the Catalan referendum </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kate-shea-baird/new-international-municipalist-movement-is-on-rise-from-small-vic">A new international municipalist movement is on the rise – from small victories to global alternatives</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/kate-shea-baird/how-to-build-movement-party-lessons-from-rosario-s-future-city">How to build a movement-party: lessons from Rosario’s Future City</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ada-colau/first-we-take-barcelona">First we take Barcelona...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill">Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Emma Avilés Sat, 13 Jan 2018 14:17:29 +0000 Emma Avilés and Rosemary Bechler 115632 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Milo Yiannopoulos, product of the crisis of post-modern politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/bal-zs-b-cskei-bal-zs-bark-czi/milo-yiannopoulos-product-of-crisis-of-post-modern-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A troll who might as well be the new prototype of the 21st-century politician, what Milo does to us is what we have done to the world. Therein lies the challenge.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012210.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012210.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters clash during a demonstration outside Milo Yiannopoulos' sold out show at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Monday, December 4, 2017. Erik Anderson/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Can a non-ideological right exist? Is there such a thing as rebellious conservativism? Can being a member of a sexual minority be used as a shield to hold in front of you when you attack the forts of (supposedly) traditional left/liberal political correctness? These are the questions we should ask in relation to the quasi-invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos, a celebrated star of the Trump (online) subculture and a figure almost completely unknown in Hungary, to a <a href="https://index.hu/kulfold/2017/12/31/nem_a_kormany_schmidt_mariaek_hivtak_meg_milot/">conference organized by the Hungarian government</a>. </p> <p>Typically, in the current reality of Hungarian politics however, we tend to respond to such crisis identities and crisis-political products of (post-)modernism as those of Milo by hysterically stigmatizing the phenomenon as far-rightism. <a href="http://nadas.irolap.hu/hu/nadas-peter-richard-swartz-parbeszed">To quote the dialogue of Péter Nádas and Richard Swartz</a>: "Verdicts appearing in the clothing of finality are valid for one day only (...). They are final verdicts based on the prejudices derived from contemporary taste."</p> <p>Let us examine why Milo should be considered more than just a "far right" provocateur, and why he may instead be a product of the crisis of postmodern politics. </p> <p>Starting his career as a tech journalist and gaining dubious fame for his extreme acts and statements, and actually becoming a real opinion shaper as communication between such individuals and the public became increasingly privatized, Milo reduced public political discourse to the language of social media, thus becoming the face of an "alt-right" that concurrently denies the validity of ideologies, is anti-elite and xenophobic as well as heavily reliant on the fear of postmodern identity-driven politics. He is the face of a right the political essence of which may perhaps be most validly described as ‘troll politics’.</p> <h2><strong>Systematic upsetting</strong></h2> <p>Earlier on, a significant part of Milo's activities was that he went to anti-Trump rallies with his camera during the presidential election campaign, and while the participants of these events were demonstrating for peace, solidarity, and compassion under the flag of a tolerant America, they often reacted arrogantly and violently in Milo's videos. This was the way the Trumpist online network was able to "deconstruct" the self-image of Democrat supporters. Shared at an exponential rate within minutes, these videos, albeit aired with less significant viewership compared to the total American population, managed to reach where they needed to (and even farther), via the new online marketing tools. </p> <p>So the point of these actions was to quickly and widely "deconstruct" or undermine the image that the democrats attempted to convey about themselves. Recording the scene with his mobile phone, Milo accosted democratic protesters who gradually lost their "political temper" to the point when one particular demonstrator began to pound Yiannopoulos with a "Peace" sign, while Milo was broadcasting the whole thing live on Facebook, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. </p> <h2><strong>Bubbles</strong></h2> <p>This kind of "systematic upsetting" could not have worked so well in the time of the slow-response print media. The camera crews of major networks were sometimes unable to cover demonstrations in the era before online media dominance but the appearance and widespread use of (smart) phones has even rendered them unnecessary. Due to the new technology, opinion narration is privatized and the impact of the New York Times opinion column is less significant in the era of visual images (used as [counter-]evidence). We are stepping from one media bubble to another, finding ourselves in the narrative quarantines of meta-realities of whose real or supposed impact we don't really have any idea. </p> <p>The context of the above is described by Péter Csigó as follows: "Collective speculation in financial markets has not been the sole case to manifest the systemic crisis of feedback (or “responsivity”) mechanisms in late modern society. Similarly to financial investors, today’s political actors are also immersed in a self-referential speculative game, a “bubble” that retreats from reality and follows its self-justifying inner logic. While finance actors speculate collectively on financial asset prices and on to what extent these prices faithfully represent underlying “fundamental” processes, the system of “mediatized populist democracy” nurtures a collective speculation about “the people” and “the popular.” </p> <p>Politicians, experts, and observers commonly speculate on how to win the “popularity contest” of politics, how to win the hearts and minds of their popular media-using constituencies. However, this speculative process has detached itself from the real trends of public opinion formation – and it has betrayed the “fundamentals” of the political field just as has been the case with financial bubbles and the real economy." </p> <p>So mediatized democracy struggles with structural feedback and responsivity defects, which then exaggerate the perception of events, individuals and scandals, and the "impact" of which is further intensified by the reactions of a critical public. </p> <p>This is how Milo, who is not simply a troll but the product of the crisis of mediatized politics and the consequence of the disintegration of self-evidence, becomes well-known, popular and even a point of reference. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012457.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012457.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos clash with left-wing protesters in Lilyfield, Sydney, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Danny Casey. Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Soft-censorship</strong></h2> <p>On the other hand, if you really look into it, the aura of this product of political crisis is not very far-removed from the political technology of contemporary leaders considered as right-wing populists. The primary goal of this political activity is not to promote the common good but to maintain a grip on power by occupying and monopolizing certain sectors (media, entertainment, etc.) and transferring them into the hands of the business elite collaborating with the holders of power, so that the thus "captured" state can manipulate the public through soft censorship. </p> <p>Despite the many differences (that are equally important but not emphasized here), the above political technology seems to work in such countries as Russia, Hungary, Turkey and the United States. The intensity and grade of organized resistance to it depends on the individual features of the given region. </p> <p>However, this is not the only area where the radical innovation of an alternative and populist right manifests itself. It is also demonstrated in understanding the negative effects of postmodern politics. Liberalized by the new leftist movements of the 1960s, the left lulled itself into the illusion that the working class and their attendant social groups had disappeared. The postmodernism of the 1990s basked in the un-narratibility of the world (including the <em>ego</em>) and the diffusion of values (and the <em>ego</em>). </p> <p>At the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the (neo)liberals of the post-bipolar world were celebrating the onset of the eternal peace so desired and the multi-coloured democracy of identities as well as the conforming triumph of the market. In the meantime, the contemporary right attempted to modernize, while also preserving their original meaning, the ideas (nation, family, community) that formed the natural foundation of their political efforts. </p> <p>These values were typically met with irony from progressives, who were using forms of&nbsp; political expression that were coming into line with the principles of marketing (i.e. politicians are to be advertised the same way as detergents) and making tabloidism a key device of political communication. At the time, they were right in thinking that they would be able to dominate the language of political postmodernism. However, that political thought relied on the indomitable nature of political correctness, that is, its applicability to all situations. But this failed to integrate the impulses and the sometimes extreme self-expressions of those at the bottom of the pile, who were thus ashamed of them and therefore suppressed them.</p> <p>These suppressions were liberated by the populist (pop-political) right. In its communication, it preserves the traditional ideas of political conservativism and blends them with the expressions of live speech imitating the language of social media, including its slang components. </p> <p>Power-oriented in its rhetoric, this passionate language is rooted in the sentiments of the oppressed. It is no longer just tabloidism: not only does it open its bedroom doors wide; it also exposes bedroom activities completely unveiled for the political consumer.</p> <p>In the context of "official politics", the Milos of the world are trolls. However, they don't care whether their statements correspond to the reality or the experience they identify reality with. Ignoring debates, they cause scandal and create chaos to force their way into the political discourse, click by click. They no longer want to defeat or surpass postmodern intellectual narratives. Instead, they want to make them their own, turn them upside down so that they could eventually hold them up to the progressive elite as a mocking glass. Ultimately, this ideology-deprived politics aims to sell itself as the natural addiction of the "people" and the amplifier of the voice of those at the bottom – which also sounds all too familiar in Hungary. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34007938_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34007938_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during an event at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Lukas Coch/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Seriously?</strong></h2> <p>Does Milo Yiannopoulos take himself seriously? He doesn't need to. Do Orbán's people take him seriously? They may, but probably just as much as they have realized that postmodern liberalism must be defeated using postmodernism as the "means", by creating chaos, upsetting or even ridiculing values and throwing around ideological inconsistencies. </p> <p>Milo Yiannopoulos heralds the era of a new politics. He is consciously spontaneous, innovatively conservative, a trend-setting extremist. A troll who might as well be the new prototype of the 21st-century politician. </p> <p>What Milo does to us is what we have done to the world.</p> <p>Therein lies the challenge.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/hyper-political-anti-politics">Hyper-political anti-politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people-debate_36/article_328.jsp">Neither Jews nor Germans: where is liberalism taking us?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openindia/n-jayaram/india-at-70-bigotry-rules">India at 70: bigotry rules</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Australia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Australia EU United States Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Balázs Barkóczi Balázs Böcskei Wed, 10 Jan 2018 13:28:27 +0000 Balázs Böcskei and Balázs Barkóczi 115592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s set the record straight on fake news, Mr President https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/let-s-set-record-straight-on-fake-news-mr-president <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter and new year's message to President Emmanuel Macron from Paola Pietrandrea, member of the DiEM25 coordinating collective.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34315016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34315016.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>French President Emmanuel Macron presents his New Year wishes to the press at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on January 3, 2018. Blondet Eliot/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mr. President,</p> <p>On January 4, you used your annual New Year’s speech to the press to express great concern about the circulation of fake news on the Internet.</p> <p>As a specialist in the field and a committed citizen, I can only thank you for having opened this crucial debate for the preservation of modern democracy.</p> <p>I must, however, ask you to clarify certain elements of your speech, to dispel some misunderstandings that it may have created and especially invite you to take into account in your reflection, some elements of the global context that promote the nuisance power of tendentious speech, propaganda and fake news.</p> <p>In your speech, you attribute the recent eruption of fake news in the media field to the following:</p> <blockquote><p>“By a fascination for an absolute horizontality, we considered that all words could indeed be equal and that their regulation was inevitably suspect as mere choice”.</p></blockquote> <p>adding:</p> <blockquote><p>“This is not the case, not all words are equal.”</p></blockquote> <p>Now, in the country which you represent, it is established since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 that:</p> <blockquote><p>“The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen can therefore speak, write, print freely, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law…”</p></blockquote> <p>Let us dispel misunderstandings, Mr President, since, unfortunately, your speech lends itself to misinterpretation, and clarification seems necessary. Can you confirm that in speaking of the “fascination for absolute horizontality,” you are not referring to the principles that inspired the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen: and that by saying that all words are not equal, you do not mean to say, in the exercise of your functions, that all speakers do not have the same rights of free speech?</p> <p>As a democrat, I am obliged to teach my students that all words are equal, that all speakers have the same right to speak. However, I agree with you on one point: it is true that not all speeches are equal. Our democratic life is defined in its very essence by the exercise of a continuous discursive practice that allows citizens to collectively construct epistemic, moral and deontic judgments. It is, indeed, through speech, or rather through ‘speech acts’, that we manage to decide together what is true, what is right and what it is necessary to do. However, for the democratic process to be honest, correct and useful, the discourses that animate it must have an unavoidable characteristic: they must be falsifiable. A falsifiable discourse is a precise discourse, where referents are identifiable, where all the predications are openly supported by the speaker or attributed to clear sources, where all the argumentative relations are explicit. These characteristics, which relate public discourse to scientific discourse, allow discourses to be contradicted through argumentation – rather than authority – and to be overtaken, if need be. These two properties allow public debate to remain both healthy and lively.</p> <p>In this perspective, your opposition between the authority of the journalist and the unreliability of “any blogger” can sound simplistic.</p> <p>The authority of a speaker, Mr. President, does not derive from his social status, but from his effort to be honest.</p> <p>There are unofficial discourses constructed with all the responsibility demanded and official speeches that do not fulfil the conditions of acceptable speech in public debate; the evidence, Mr. President – I’m sorry to say – is in your very address to the press. Although official, your speech is not exempt from the typical vices of toxic discourse: you refer, for example, to “a strategy and a strategy financed” by “powers” in “certain illiberal democracies” as the source of the spread of fake news. By saying that, Mr President, you create alarm without taking responsibility. The object of your accusations being unclear, no one will ever falsify your speech, but you will achieve the effect of making us feel threatened.</p> <p>Another example from your speech: you say that the rise of fake news:</p> <blockquote><p>“Is very often used by powers that somehow take advantage of the weaknesses of democracy, its extreme openness, its inability to sort, to prioritize, to basically recognize a form of authority. ”</p></blockquote> <p>In saying that the extreme openness of democracy is a weakness, Mr President, you allow us to infer your intention to limit this openness, without however taking responsibility for what you said. The Democrats will not be able to accuse you of having made liberticidal remarks, but the pathway to liberticidal speech acts will have been opened.</p> <p>I do not take a position, Mr President, on the nature of the measures you have announced: others have done so by showing that <a href="http://www.liberation.fr/france/2018/01/04/fake-news-la-fausse-piste-de-macron_1620423"><strong>they add nothing to the existing legislation</strong></a>, that the very notion of ‘fake news’ is vague, ambiguous, and lacking in precise reference; and that therefore any prohibition on the dissemination of information based on the idea of fake news is <a href="https://www.codingrights.org/open-letter-from-latin-american-and-caribbean-civil-society-representatives-on-the-concerns-around-the-discourse-about-fake-news-and-elections/"><strong>incompatible with international standards</strong></a> defining the restriction of freedom of expression.</p> <p>However, I will allow myself a few general considerations: you open, by tackling this subject, a fundamental debate of our time, the debate on the government – or governance, as we have been saying for some time – of the digital revolution. This is a broad and complex debate about a radical change affecting our entire civilization, not just the manipulation of the electoral game that you have placed at the centre of your speech.</p> <p>As a citizen, I wonder if we can tackle this issue by continuing to ignore the fact that we have let the industry manage the digital revolution, that we have allowed the giants of the web to gain monopoly positions by feeding them citizens’ data that politics did not want to protect; that we do nothing against the filter bubbles that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth"><strong>manipulate and pervert public debate</strong></a> even more than the spread of fake news; that we allow digital businesses to dictate the selection, format, design, framework, and timing of information dissemination (whether false or true); that we have not been able to create the right conditions to rethink the education of young people and continuing education in the light of this revolution, leaving citizens bereft of any critical thinking or critical tools to meet the impact that this radical change has on their personal lives as on their public life.</p> <p>DiEM25, the movement to which I have the honour and the pleasure of belonging, confronts all these themes within the general framework of a reflection on the democratization of the economic, ecological, cultural and strategic foundations of our society. And we do it by adopting a participative democracy approach. We consider that in the effort to democratize the foundations of our society, an effort that you seem to support, all citizens must be involved in the public debate, not only because, as our fathers taught us, all words are equal, but because all the words, or better still, all the responsible words, are necessary to this end.</p> <p>DiEM25 is committed to marshal these words, Mr. President: I very much hope that you will be able to listen to us.</p> <p>In asking you to accept my New Year message, allow me to close by wishing you the opportunity our motto recalls, to “pick the moment” that makes you a true defender of democracy: Carpe DiEM, Mr. President.</p> <p>Paola Pietrandrea<br /> Linguist<br /> Member of <a href="https://diem25.org/cc/">DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/natalie-fenton-des-freedman/media-and-twenty-first-century-fake-democracy">Media and twenty first century fake democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/beyond-fact-checking-media-populism-and-post-truth-politics">Beyond fact-checking: the media, populism and post-truth politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitalliberties/truth-about-algorithms">The truth about algorithms</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Paola Pietrandrea DiEM25 Tue, 09 Jan 2018 14:03:29 +0000 Paola Pietrandrea 115574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/frank-pasquale/from-territorial-to-functional-sovereignty-case-of-amazon <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As digital firms move to displace more government roles over time, from room-letting to transportation to commerce, citizens will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF7HFQSpDQE">expanding</a>&nbsp;or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=pVyxCwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA184&amp;lpg=PA184&amp;dq=%E2%80%9CThere+is+government+whenever+one+person+or+group+can+tell+others+what+they+must+do+and+when+those+others+have+to+obey+or+suffer+a+penalty.%E2%80%9D&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=lju7lKxAjZ&amp;sig=ZzZgKcuyYWU7nPY0B1LNZIIhIeY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi4mNqE4OvXAhWGSN8KHTg3At8Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&amp;q=%E2%80%9CThere%20is%20government%20whenever%20one%20person%20or%20group%20can%20tell%20others%20what%20they%20must%20do%20and%20when%20those%20others%20have%20to%20obey%20or%20suffer%20a%20penalty.%E2%80%9D&amp;f=false">stated</a>, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”</p><p>We are familiar with that power in&nbsp;<a href="http://iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2017_Fall_Pasquale.php">employer-employee relationships</a>, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise&nbsp;<em>juridical&nbsp;</em>power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as&nbsp;<a href="http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/frank-pasquale-will-amazon-take-over-world">massive digital platforms</a>&nbsp;exercise more power over our commercial lives.</p><p>A few weeks ago, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fesdc.org/about/friedrich-ebert-stiftung/">Friedrich Ebert Stiftung</a>&nbsp;(a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in Germany) invited me to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzOTuQ1sJbc">speak</a>&nbsp;at their&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fes.de/de/digitalcapitalism/">Conference on Digital Capitalism</a>. As European authorities develop long-term plans to address the rise of&nbsp;<a href="http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/frank-pasquale-will-amazon-take-over-world">powerful platforms</a>, they want to know: What is new, or particularly challenging, in digital capitalism?</p><p> <iframe allow="encrypted-media" gesture="media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/GzOTuQ1sJbc?rel=0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>My answer focused on the identity and aspirations of major digital firms. They are no longer market participants. Rather, in their fields, they are market makers, able to exert regulatory control over the terms on which others can sell goods and services. Moreover, they aspire to displace more government roles over time, replacing the logic of territorial sovereignty with functional sovereignty. In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.</p><p>For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fastcodesign.com/3062246/an-exclusive-look-at-airbnbs-first-foray-into-urban-planning">urban planning</a>&nbsp;generally? Why not let Amazon have its own&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/19/georgia-mayor-wants-amazons-second-headquarters-in-town-named-amazon.html">jurisdiction</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://concurringopinions.com/archives/2010/07/in-the-venal-colony.html">charter city</a>, or establish&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-foxconn-wisconsin-law-20170920-story.html">special judicial procedures for Foxconn</a>? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2881732">occupational licensure</a>—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them.</p><p>In this and later posts, I want to explain how this shift from territorial to functional sovereignty is creating a new digital political economy. Amazon’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/opinion/amazon-whole-foods-jeff-bezos.html">rise</a>&nbsp;is instructive. As Lina Khan&nbsp;<a href="https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-paradox">explains</a>, “the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it.” The “everything store” may seem like just another service in the economy—a virtual mall. But when a firm combines tens of millions of customers with a “marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house…a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space,” as Khan observes, it’s not just another shopping option.</p><p>Digital political economy helps us understand how platforms accumulate power. With online platforms, it’s not a&nbsp;<a href="http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1716&amp;context=ylpr">simple narrative</a>&nbsp;of “best service wins.” Network effects have been on the cyberlaw (and digital economics) agenda for over twenty years. Amazon’s dominance has exhibited how network effects can be self-reinforcing. The more merchants there are selling on (or to) Amazon, the better shoppers can be assured that they are searching all possible vendors. The more shoppers there are, the more vendors consider Amazon a “must-have” venue. As crowds build on either side of the platform, the middleman becomes ever more indispensable. Oh, sure, a new platform can enter the market—but until it gets access to the 480 million items Amazon sells (often at deep discounts), why should the median consumer defect to it? If I want garbage bags, do I really want to go over to Target.com to re-enter all my credit card details, create a new log-in, read the small print about shipping, and hope that this retailer can negotiate a better deal with Glad? Or do I, ala Sunstein, want a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/21/opinion/shopping-made-psychic.html">predictive shopping</a>&nbsp;purveyor that intimately knows my past purchase habits, with satisfaction just a click away?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/15733221648_0701343c03_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/15733221648_0701343c03_o.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amazon warehouses provide more goods than ever to consumers worldwide. Image: Scott Lewis, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p>As artificial intelligence improves, the tracking of shopping into the Amazon groove will tend to become ever more rational for both buyers and sellers. Like a path through a&nbsp;forest trod ever clearer of debris, it becomes the natural default. To examine just one of many centripetal forces sucking money, data, and commerce into online behemoths, play out game theoretically how the possibility of online conflict redounds in Amazon’s favor. If you have a problem with a merchant online, do you want to pursue it as a one-off buyer? Or as someone whose reputation has been established over dozens or hundreds of transactions—and someone who can credibly threaten to deny Amazon hundreds or thousands of dollars of revenue each year? The same goes for merchants: The more tribute they can pay to Amazon, the more likely they are to achieve visibility in search results and attention (and perhaps even favor) when disputes come up. What&nbsp;<a href="https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/12/feudal_sec.html">Bruce Schneier</a>&nbsp;said about security is increasingly true of commerce online: You want to be in the good graces of one of the neo-feudal giants who bring order to a lawless realm. Yet few hesitate to think about exactly how the digital lords might use their data advantages&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2828117">against</a>&nbsp;those they ostensibly protect.</p><p>Forward-thinking legal thinkers are helping us grasp these dynamics. For example, Rory van Loo has described the status of the “<a href="http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1491&amp;context=yjreg">corporation as courthouse</a>”—that is, when platforms like Amazon run dispute resolution schemes to settle conflicts between buyers and sellers. Van Loo describes both the efficiency gains that an Amazon settlement process might have over small claims court, and the potential pitfalls for consumers (such as opaque standards for deciding cases). I believe that, on top of such economic considerations, we may want to consider the political economic origins of e-commerce feudalism. For example, as consumer rights shrivel, it’s rational for buyers to turn to Amazon (rather than overwhelmed small claims courts) to press their case. The evisceration of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/the-death-of-the-class-action-lawsuit/">class actions</a>, the rise of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/business/dealbook/arbitration-everywhere-stacking-the-deck-of-justice.html">arbitration</a>, boilerplate&nbsp;<a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/9837.html">contracts</a>—all these make the judicial system an increasingly vestigial organ in consumer disputes. Individuals rationally turn to online giants for powers to impose order that libertarian legal doctrine&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/books/review/democracy-in-chains-nancy-maclean.html">stripped from the state</a>. And in so doing, they reinforce the very dynamics that led to the state’s etiolation in the first place.</p><p>This weakness has become something of a joke with Amazon’s recent decision to incite a bidding war for its second headquarters. Mayors have abjectly begged Amazon to locate jobs in their jurisdictions. As readers of Richard Thaler’s “<a href="https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/richard.thaler/research/pdf/the%20winner%27s%20curse.pdf">The Winner’s Curse</a>” might have predicted, the competitive dynamics have tempted far too many to offer far too much in the way of incentives. As journalist Danny Westneat recently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/this-city-hall-brought-to-you-by-amazon/">confirmed</a>,</p><p>Chicago has offered to let Amazon pocket $1.32 billion in income taxes paid by its own workers.</p><p>Fresno has a novel plan to give Amazon special authority over how the company’s taxes are spent.</p><p>Boston has offered to set up an “Amazon Task Force” of city employees working on the company’s behalf.</p><p>Stonecrest, Georgia even offered to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-stonecrest-georgia-rename-amazon-20171003-story.html">cannibalize itself</a>, to give Bezos the chance to become mayor of a 345 acre annex that would be known as “Amazon, Georgia.”</p><p>Note that these maneuvers–what Tracey Kaye calls “<a href="https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/20106/03-Kaye_Final.pdf;sequence=1">corporate seduction</a>” via tax and other incentives–are not new. But as they accelerate, they mark a faster&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Power-Inc-Business-Government-Reckoning/dp/0374533679">transfer of power</a>&nbsp;from state to corporate actors. The mayors are in a weakened position because their tax revenues are not high enough to support high quality municipal services, and now they’re succoring a corporate actor with a long history of&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=i_jyKcVbCw0C&amp;pg=PA87&amp;lpg=PA87&amp;dq=amazon+tax+holiday+1990s&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=LT8vz0eBod&amp;sig=W0dOjWP4jxI1tfYO7ZP0Z0cN0qM&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjEnuj2i9vXAhVGct8KHefaBRo4ChDoAQhCMAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=amazon%20tax%20holiday%201990s&amp;f=false">fighting</a>&nbsp;to push taxation&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/04/amazon-eu-tax-bill-luxembourg-deal.html">even lower</a>. Similarly, the more online buyers and sellers are relying on Amazon to do their bidding or settle their disputes, the less power they have relative to Amazon itself. They are less like arms-length transactors with the company, than they are like subjects of a despot, whose many roles include consumer and anti-fraud protection.</p><p>Even the federal government may soon&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674737730">privatize</a>&nbsp;critical procurement functions,&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/11/02/amazon-amendment-online-marketplaces/">relying</a>&nbsp;on Amazon’s giantism to extract deals that the Defense Department is itself unable to demand. Procurement premised on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/big-green-buy/">public purpose</a>&nbsp;could contribute to a&nbsp;<a href="https://b.3cdn.net/nefoundation/8f737ea195fe56db2f_xbm6ihwb1.pdf">Green New Deal</a>. When it is, instead, premised merely on the cheapest cost, it’s an open invitation to continue the same&nbsp;<a href="http://www.govexec.com/excellence/management-matters/2017/10/how-government-supported-forced-labor-undercutting-american-manufacturers/141739/">unethical sourcing</a>&nbsp;that has plagued so much government purchasing.</p><p>Solutions to Amazon’s power will, no doubt, be hard to advance as a political matter—consumers like 2-day deliveries. But understanding the bigger picture here is a first step. Political economy clarifies the stakes of Amazon’s increasing&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/@Michael_Spencer/wtf-is-amazon-future-of-tech-34802913dc9e">power</a>&nbsp;over commerce. We are not simply addressing dyadic transactions of individual consumers and merchants. Data access&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2612562">asymmetries</a>&nbsp;will disadvantage each of them (and advantage Amazon as the middleman) for years to come. Nor can we consider that power imbalance in isolation from the way Amazon pits cities against one another. Mastery of political dynamics is just as important to the firm’s success as any technical or business acumen. And only&nbsp;<a href="https://ilsr.org/amazon-stranglehold/">political organization</a>&nbsp;can stop its functional sovereignties from further undermining the territorial governance at the heart of democracy.</p><p><i><strong>"From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon"</strong> was originally published by <a href="https://lpeblog.org/2017/12/06/from-territorial-to-functional-sovereignty-the-case-of-amazon/">Law &amp; Political Economy</a>.</i></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Frank Pasquale Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:07:53 +0000 Frank Pasquale 115515 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The bigger battle to defend democracy online https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/will-wright/bigger-battle-to-defend-democracy-online <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With the big tech companies masters of the world’s new public square, it is vital they work to address anti-democratic manipulation of their platforms everywhere, not just in the United States.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14964588967_efb6e9af83_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14964588967_efb6e9af83_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="403" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mark Zuckerberg with Mexican President Peña Nieto in 2014. Flickr/Presidencia de la República Mexicana. CC-BY-2.0.</span></span></span>The recent focus on Russia-linked hacking and information operations aimed at the US presidential election has overshadowed another related and important story: governments around the globe are increasingly using these same new digital tactics domestically, often to great effect.</p><p dir="ltr">For the big technology companies to truly champion the “don’t be evil” values they strive to embody, it is vital that they also address the manipulation of their platforms by nondemocratic actors aiming to manage public opinion and repress political opposition in their own countries. The companies can best do this by listening to targeted activists, independent journalists, and other in-region experts who understand how platforms are being used (and abused) in different countries, and then harnessing their tremendous internal technical capacities and creativity to implement solutions.</p><p dir="ltr">A 2017 <a href="http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/89/2017/07/Troops-Trolls-and-Troublemakers.pdf">paper</a> by Oxford Internet Institute researchers concluded that cyber troops are now a “pervasive and global phenomenon,” citing organized social media manipulation in at least 28 countries. Across these countries, they found that every authoritarian regime has run campaigns targeting their own populations, while only a few have also targeted foreign publics.</p><p dir="ltr">Freedom House researchers, in their 2017 Freedom on the Net <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2017">report</a>, identified 30 countries where “governments are employing armies of ‘opinion shapers’ to spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media.” For example, members of a special unit within the Sudanese state security service <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2017/sudan">created</a> fake accounts on Facebook and WhatsApp in order to promote government views and denounce critics within popular groups. In Mexico, an estimated 75,000 automated Twitter accounts known as “<a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/z4maww/how-mexican-twitter-bots-shut-down-dissent">Peñabots</a>” have worked to drown out criticism of President Enrique Peña Nieto by flooding popular antigovernment hashtags with spam and by artificially promoting alternative hashtags ahead of trending antigovernment ones on Twitter’s top-10 list.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">In Mexico, an estimated 75,000 automated Twitter accounts known as “Peñabots” have worked to drown out criticism of President Enrique Peña Nieto.</p><p dir="ltr">In most cases, the private companies that control today’s digital space can take meaningful steps to responsibly maintain their platforms as enablers of free expression and civic organization. When social-media fueled protests erupted in Syria in early 2011, bots run by a Bahraini company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/21/syria-twitter-spambots-pro-revolution">sprang to life</a> on Twitter to flood the #Syria hashtag with pro-regime messages as well as apolitical spam. In response to numerous complaints, Twitter simply restricted the spam to these accounts’ followers, effectively removing it from the feeds of the many citizens sharing news and organizing around the #Syria hashtag. However, despite the recent attention to the problem of automated and fake accounts working in an organized manner to manipulate public debate and opinion, this sprawling problem is still far from solved. An increased commitment to improving detection systems, and to actively removing accounts despite the effect this may have on a company’s all-important user metrics, is part of the answer.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Bad actors are also constantly evolving their techniques. A private firm in Poland <a href="https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/blog/computational-propaganda-in-poland-false-amplifiers-and-the-digital-public-sphere/">told</a> Oxford researcher Robert Gorwa that it has created more than 40,000 unique online identities with accounts across social media platforms. Clients can hire the firm to target Polish opinion leaders with messages in order to influence their understanding of the public’s position on key issues. Due to the difficulty of detecting such sophisticated tactics, companies would be wise to regularly offer independent journalists and researchers meaningful opportunities to raise concerns about how platforms are being used in their region. They are often aware of such activity and more than willing to flag it, when given the chance.</p><p dir="ltr">In Belarus, the Facebook account of an opposition leader organizing a “Freedom Day” demonstration last March was <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2017/belarus">hacked</a> and used to send out fake messages discouraging people from attending the demonstration. Google’s recently launched <a href="https://www.blog.google/topics/safety-security/googles-strongest-security-those-who-need-it-most/">Advanced Protection Program</a>, which offers several extra security protections for especially at-risk users like journalists or activists, is one example of how companies can help defend their services from politically-motivated exploitation.</p><p dir="ltr">Returning to the case of Russia, investigative journalists with RBC recently <a href="https://www.rbc.ru/magazine/2017/11/59e0c17d9a79470e05a9e6c1">published</a> new details on how the “USA desk” of the now infamous <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/the-agency.html">Internet Research Agency</a> swelled threefold in the summer of 2016 at the height of its activities around the US presidential election, reaching 80 to 90 salaried employees. Nonetheless, this still represented only about one-tenth of its entire staff. On the whole, the troll factory’s primary work has been posting comments under Russian news articles and across the Russian-language space of popular social media networks to support Kremlin policies and undermine its critics. For example, after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot in Moscow in February 2015, employees were ordered to leave comments on news stories suggesting that the opposition itself had arranged the murder.</p><p dir="ltr">Pro-government forces in Russia, of which the Internet Research Agency is just one part, have launched a wide-ranging digital assault in recent years to undermine political expression and debate online at home, including by manipulating social platforms. In one example, the accounts of various popular Russian journalists on YouTube and Facebook have been <a href="https://www.change.org/p/facebook-stop-political-blocking-on-facebook">repeatedly suspended</a> after community violations were reported en masse to trick these platforms’ partially automated content moderation systems. Companies could address this issue by hiring more staff with relevant language skills and political and cultural knowledge to oversee automated moderation systems or by using a “whitelisting” strategy, in which users likely to be targeted for political reasons can apply to have their accounts marked for manual review before suspension.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Domestic online manipulation operations in Russia are almost certainly more impactful, and harmful to democracy there, than were&nbsp;clumsy Russia-linked efforts&nbsp;aimed at US voters.</p><p dir="ltr">While it is difficult to measure the ultimate political impact of online manipulation campaigns, many domestic operations in Russia are almost certainly more impactful, and harmful to democracy there, than were&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-recruited-youtubers-to-bash-racist-btch-hillary-clinton-over-rap-beats">clumsy Russia-linked efforts</a>&nbsp;aimed at US voters, such as the YouTube video bloggers claiming to be from Atlanta who ranted against Hillary Clinton but spoke in thick African accents and referred to LeBron James as the best “basket” player of the year. In general, it makes sense that trolls would operate more effectively on their home turf. This of course means that many of the most successful efforts by nondemocratic actors to manage public opinion and repress political opposition by manipulating digital platforms are taking place in far-flung corners of the world with which US companies are not as familiar.</p><p dir="ltr">The global reach and massive user base of key technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter can certainly make monitoring and countering abuse and exploitation of their online platforms and services a challenging and complicated task. With great power comes great responsibility, however, and now that the big tech companies have found themselves masters of the world’s new public square, it is vital that they continually work to address anti-democratic manipulation of their platforms everywhere, not just in the United States.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/will-wright/quiet-battle-for-control-of-internet">The quiet battle for control of the internet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant&#039;s bench</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/what-china-can-teach-west-about-digital-democracy">What China can teach the west about digital democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Will Wright Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:27:11 +0000 Will Wright 115199 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From #Resistance to #Reimagining governance: 6 shifts that can improve the way we solve public problems https://www.opendemocracy.net/stefaan-g-verhulst/from-resistance-to-reimagining-governance-6-shifts-that-can-improve-way-we-solve- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For change to be meaningful and positive, the question arises: What kind of government do we really want? One that moves us beyond <em>resistance,</em> to begin <em>rebuilding.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3@台大E論壇.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3@台大E論壇.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>v-Taiwan in action.</span></span></span>We live in turbulent times. Around the world, old certainties are in flux, being jettisoned by voters and protestors for new, often radically different ideas and institutions. This upheaval is evident in specific political events – the Arab Spring, the election of Trump, Brexit – but also in a more general distrust of conventional wisdom, élite authority, and technocratic control. </em></p> <p><em>At the same time, trust in government worldwide is at an all-time low. According to a recent <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2017/05/03/public-trust-in-government-1958-2017/">Pew survey</a>, only 20% of Americans say they trust the government always or most of the time. Other surveys indicate that faith in democracy as a form of government has fallen to recent lows in many western nations, including in the United States and Europe. </em></p> <p><em>These are just some of the many indications of a general lack of faith and confidence in established institutions, including government, the media, science, and the financial sector. We are living, as an article in the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-era-of-disbelief/2017/02/26/e4fa3786-faac-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.be209e2f7404">Washington Post</a> put it, in an “era of disbelief.”</em></p> <p><em>The upheaval generated by this disbelief seems to feed on itself. Action leads to reaction, and changes to political, economic or cultural sources of authority often lead to pushback and new forms of resistance. The growing meme of Resistance (#Resistance, to borrow the terminology of its adherents) has been particularly evident in the United States since the election of Donald Trump. But the sentiment is also evident in other parts of the world, notably Europe, where street protests and extremists often push past political norms and ideological boundaries – notably in Brexit and the rise of far-right parties across the continent (though Emmanuel Macron’s election in France suggests the continuing potential of counter-movements). Similarly, the Arab Spring emerged largely as a resistance movement, seeking to overthrow long-established rulers and systems of authority. </em></p> <p><em>There is no doubt that #Resistance (and its associated movements) holds genuine transformative potential. But for the change it brings to be meaningful (and positive), we need to ask the question: What kind of government do we really want? </em></p> <p><em>Working to maintain the status quo or simply returning to, for instance, a pre-Trump reality cannot provide for the change we need to counter the decline in trust, the rise of populism and the complex social, economic and cultural problems we face. We need a clear articulation of alternatives.&nbsp; Without such an articulation, there is a danger of a certain hollowness and dispersion of energies. The call for #Resistance requires a more concrete –and ultimately more productive – program that is concerned not just with rejecting or tearing down, but with building up new institutions and governance processes. What’s needed, in short, is not simply #Resistance.</em></p> <p><em>Below, I suggest six shifts that can help us reimagine governance for the twenty-first century. Several of these shifts are enabled by recent technological changes (e.g., the advent of big data, blockchain and collective intelligence) as well as other emerging methods such as design thinking, behavioral economics, and agile development. </em></p> <p><em>Some of the shifts I suggest have been experimented with, but they have often been developed in an ad hoc manner without a full understanding of how they could make a more systemic impact. Part of the purpose of this paper is to begin the process of a more systematic enquiry; the following amounts to a preliminary outline or blueprint for reimagined governance for the twenty-first century.</em></p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 18.15.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 18.15.44.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em></p><h2><strong>Shift 1: from gatekeeper to platform</strong></h2> <p>To begin assembling this blueprint, we first need to consider how the old model of government as a centralized gatekeeper of information and resources can be replaced by a more open model in which government serves as a platform to match distributed resources (supply) to distributed needs (demand). </p> <p>Our society faces increasingly complex and inter-dependent challenges – climate change, social inequality, terrorism, rapid and unplanned urbanization. This is the demand side of the equation. At the same time, on the supply side, technological advances have given us two new resources to address the challenges: data and an increasingly connected global population, which in turn leads to a more collective and distributed expertise. The opportunity is thus to unlock both the data that is being collected and tap into and connect the distributed expertise to provide innovative, inter-disciplinary, and cross-border or cross-agency solutions. <span class="mag-quote-center">On the supply side, technological advances have given us two new resources to address the challenges: data and an increasingly connected global population, which in turn leads to a more collective and distributed expertise.</span></p> <p>If we are to seize this opportunity, then we need to begin by moving beyond existing approaches to governance and information-sharing, where a centralized agency determines who (or what institution) should have access to what specific (often sector-specific) data. What’s required instead is a far more flexible, distributed platform that can match the supply and the demand of data. Such a system is far better equipped to efficiently channel information to those who can best use it. It is also more strategically placed to gather and collect expertise and insight from disparate and dispersed sources, for example using crowdsourced information and the collective intelligence of both data creators and users.</p> <p class="Normal1">Some examples of such “people centric platforms” do exist. They include, for instance, <a href="http://www.sermo.com/media/press-releases-view/94">SERMO</a>, a global social network that allows physicians to share expertise, evaluate patient prescriptions, and communicate with peers. Similarly, <a href="https://www.goodsamapp.org/">GoodSAM</a> in the UK or <a href="http://www.pulsepoint.org/">Pulsepoint</a> in the US are mobile applications that allow users to self-identify as CPR-trained in order to respond to cardiac emergencies in their area; both platforms demonstrating the potential for citizens to supplement government services, particularly emergency services. </p> <p>More than 100 examples are collected and analyzed in the GovLabs’ “<a href="http://datacollaboratives.org/">data collaboratives</a>” project, which seeks to identify innovative uses of private (often corporate) data to meet public challenges. For example, one notable data collaborative is a partnership between telecommunications company Safaricom and the Harvard School of Public Health, where Safaricom provides de-identified mobile phone data to researchers; they, in turn, map the incidence of malaria and the movement of people. All these examples point to the emergence of new models of public-private partnerships that, considered together, represent an important shift in governance practices and processes.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 2: from inward to user-and-problem orientation</strong></h2> <p>Too much government is currently focused on government itself: inwardly directed, aimed more at bureaucratic expediency than the needs of citizens. Government processes and institutions should be re-designed to focus on outcomes – to solve real problems faced by the public, and to address the needs of citizens rather than government officials. </p> <p>One way to facilitate this shift is to introduce more design thinking and other user-centric methods into government. Several government innovation labs (e.g., <a href="http://mind-lab.dk/en/">MindLab</a> in Denmark or <a href="https://www.marsdd.com/systems-change/mars-solutions-lab/">MaRS Solutions Lab</a> in Canada) have already begun this process. Early results are encouraging, but one key challenge they face is finding ways to scale practices so that there is a government-wide adoption of a user-centric mindset. <span class="mag-quote-center">One key challenge they face is finding ways to scale practices so that there is a government-wide adoption of a user-centric mindset. </span></p> <p>Moving to more user-centric forms of government also means striving for less complexity. Some examples of such initiatives include Portugal’s <a href="http://historico.simplex.gov.pt/downloads/whatissimplex.pdf">Simplex program</a>, which seeks to address the need for simplifying the Portuguese public sector and its service delivery; or the US’s “<a href="https://plainlanguage.gov/">plainlanguage</a>” initiative, which seeks to support the use of <a href="http://thegovlab.org/simplexity/">clear communication</a> in government writing. </p> <p>What’s essential in such approaches is to stop the steady and apparently inexorable creep toward more bureaucracy (attempted, for example, in Slovakia, with its <a href="http://www.stopbirokraciji.si/en/home/">Stop Bureaucracy</a> initiative). It is also important to become more sensitive to context, and to adopt design principles that focus on constant iteration and improvements so as to improve the responsiveness and accountability of government and its participants.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 3: from closed to open</strong></h2> <p>Openness should become a core principle of effective twenty-first century governance. The traditional closed, top-down model of government is not only anachronistic, but also increasingly ineffective in an era of open sourcing and crowdsourced innovation. Indeed, it is precisely this closed characteristic of governance – embodied in hierarchical, authoritative patterns and bureaucratic control&nbsp;– that the dispersed #Resistance movement is directed against. </p> <p>Opening-up government will not only make government more effective; it will also go a considerable way to overcoming the growing deficit of trust that today characterizes the relationship between citizens and the state. <span class="mag-quote-center">Opening-up government will not only make government more effective; it will also go a considerable way to overcoming the growing deficit of trust.</span></p> <p>In practice, becoming more open means, at a minimum, opening up government data, and using open innovation methods to solicit input and ideas from a broader base. The Obama administration’s move to increase access to government data (in particular its launch of the data.gov site) has played a large part in increasing the global visibility and the legitimacy of the concept of open governance. &nbsp;</p> <p>Around the world, in both developed and developing countries, governments have created or are considering creating open data programs and portals. As evidenced by <a href="http://odimpact.org/">research</a> conducted by the GovLab (supported by Omidyar Network), open data projects are playing an increasingly important role in economic and social development, spurring progress in areas as varied as healthcare, education, banking, agriculture, climate change and innovation. </p> <p>Similarly, several governments have started to experiment with open mechanisms, including prizes and challenges, to encourage and incentivize innovation in governance. Such efforts include the White House’s <a href="https://www.challenge.gov/about/">Challenge.gov</a> platform, where more than 740 challenges from more than 100 agencies across federal government have been launched since its creation in 2010. These efforts remain fledgling – though promising – and <a href="https://medium.com/@sverhulst/governing-through-prizes-and-challenges-677f3ef861d1">more research</a> is required to increase our understanding of whether, and under what conditions, they can really lead to lasting, sustainable shifts in governance paradigms. &nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Shift 4: from deliberation to collaboration and co-creation</strong></h2> <p>Traditionally, citizen engagement has been focused on deliberation or enabling citizens to “air their voice.” Yet people don’t just possess voices; they also possess expertise that can be used to co-create solutions. Citizen expertise comes in a range of flavors – from interests and experiences to skills and credentialed knowledge. All of these are potentially valuable for governments to engage with and harness when attempting to solve problems. <span class="mag-quote-center">People don’t just possess voices; they also possess expertise that can be used to co-create solutions.</span></p> <p>Expertise in the twenty-first century has several distinctive characteristics. For one thing, it is fundamentally dispersed and fragmented – spread across disciplines, geographies and other boundaries. This fragmentation is a result both of new technologies, which spread insights more widely, and the increasing complexity of public problems, which calls for a great mix of disciplines and perspectives. </p> <p>Given these characteristics, it naturally follows that effective solutions can only result from greater inter-connectivity – i.e., bringing together people’s dispersed expertise to create more collaborative forms of governance. Crowdsourcing is one powerful example: it allows disparate actors, many of whom have traditionally been excluded from the processes of governance, to share knowledge and collaboratively generate solutions. <a href="https://civichall.org/civicist/vtaiwan-democracy-frontier/">vTaiwan</a> is an interesting example of a collaborative platform that can lead to collaborative solutions. It is an AI-driven discussion platform that collects questions, suggestions and comments from citizens. Once collected, these questions are addressed in public meetings, broadcast online, whose goal is to build consensus around priority problem areas and important considerations in solving those problems. The final goal of the platform is to lead to crowdsourced legislation drafting – often called <a href="https://crowd.law/">crowdlaw</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>In addition to their role in drawing on dispersed expertise, such crowdsourced approaches may have other advantages. At its core, collective intelligence is fundamentally concerned with bringing in outliers’ expertise. As such, it may also go some distance toward addressing perceptions of inequality and marginalization that have contributed to the current crisis of governance and the birth of #Resistance movements and ideologies.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 5: from ideology to evidence-based</strong></h2> <p>Today’s government is in many ways a relic of the past. Institutions and processes are based on what worked (or was perceived to work) decades or even centuries ago; in many cases, they are the result of archaic beliefs or ideologies about the role of the state and its relationship to citizens. Today, however, governments can leverage the vast troves of data and analytical capacity, often available in real time, to move toward a more evidence-based governance model. </p> <p>Boosting analytical capacity is central to this shift. This means new hiring and training practices, as well as a willingness to invest in and build the technical tools required to sift through vast piles of often unstructured data. Institutions must also commit to acting on the insights and lessons gleaned from data. Most fundamentally, government (its institutions and processes) must be re-conceptualized as a constantly evolving, iterative project – one that is far more nimble and agile than its current incarnation. <span class="mag-quote-center">Government (its institutions and processes) must be re-conceptualized as a constantly evolving, iterative project – one that is far more nimble and agile than its current incarnation.</span></p> <p>Some countries have taken steps in this direction. The UK, for instance, has pioneered the What Works Network, a collaborative of 7 independent <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-works-network#more-about-the-what-works-centres">What Works Centres</a> and 2 affiliate members that collate evidence to evaluate how effective policy programs and practices are. The <a href="https://www.cep.gov/about.html">Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP)</a> was established&nbsp;by the US Congress in 2016 to “develop a strategy for increasing the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality”. In its <a href="https://www.cep.gov/cep-final-report.html">final report</a> among other steps, the Commission has<strong> </strong>recommended establishing a National Secure Data Service “to facilitate access to data for evidence building while ensuring privacy and transparency in how those data are used.” The goal of this new service is to link existing government data on a temporary basis (without creating a permanent data warehouse) in order to help institutions, policymakers and other actors better analyze the effectiveness of government programs and processes. </p> <h2><strong>Shift 6: from centralized to distributed</strong></h2> <p>The final shift that needs to take place is a move from the current centralized, top-down model of government to one that is decentralized and distributed. Much as knowledge in the twenty-first century is dispersed, so are lines of authority, communication and even personal identities (citizens’ allegiances and sense of self are rarely as cohesive and unitary as in the past). </p> <p>In response, every stage of the policy cycle should be re-designed in a more decentralized and <a href="https://www.gp-digital.org/news/gpd-publishes-new-paper-on-distributed-internet-governance/">distributed manner</a> – from agenda-setting to response identification, to implementation, enforcement and review. </p> <p>A good example of distributed agenda setting can be found in Madrid’s open government platform, <a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proposals">DecideMadrid</a>, developed by <a href="http://medialab-prado.es/">Medialab-Prado</a>, which encourages citizens to submit proposals to improve the city. If at least 1% of site visitors (currently 27,064 people over the age of 16 visit the site<strong> </strong>on a regular basis) are interested in a submitted idea, then the idea moves to a voting phase. In February 2017, after a preliminary vote, two submitted ideas were actually enacted by the city council. Other successful examples of distributed governance include the Constituent Assembly used to draft Egypt’s constitution, and the Democracy in Action incentive that encourages citizen engagement and participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward. </p> <p>It is worth noting that the emergence and application of <a href="https://blockchan.ge/">blockchain technologies (BCT)</a> can accelerate distributed approaches to governance. BCTs deploy a shared, synchronized, distributed ledger of transactions, guaranteeing privacy and security; this leads to greater integrity of data and increased trust by providing a permanent record of who accessed ledgers and what they did. <span class="mag-quote-center">By providing transparency and accountability in new and distributed ways, BCTs have the potential to positively empower populations to become part of the governance process using trusted identities.</span></p> <p>By providing transparency and accountability in new and distributed ways, BCTs have the potential to positively empower populations to become part of the governance process using trusted identities. One interesting example can be found in the <a href="https://voatz.com/">Voatz</a> platform, which seeks to provide a mobile election platform using blockchain technology. The platform seeks to allow for more direct citizen engagement on a wider variety of topics, and has been used, at the local level like the <a href="https://tuftsdaily.com/opinion/editorial/2017/09/28/editorial-use-voatz-step-right-direction/">Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate election</a> or during events like the <a href="https://blog.voatz.com/?p=256">Massachusetts Democratic Party State Convention</a>.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; * * *</strong>&nbsp; </p><p>In combination, the six shifts outlined above suggest a radically new approach to governance – one focused more on flexibility and responsiveness, and better attuned to the inherent need for meaningful relationships between citizen and the state. Old barriers and old hierarchies that limit growth and change must be replaced by the more collaborative approach described above. Citizens are no longer simply governed; they are, in fact, essential components of governance. <span class="mag-quote-center">Citizens are no longer simply governed; they are, in fact, essential components of governance.</span></p> <p>Of course these six shifts represent only an outline, the scaffolding of a #Reimagined governance for the twenty-first century. While we have provided some specific examples, the precise manifestation of these principles will vary from context to context, geography to geography. </p><p> What matters is the effort to move beyond mere <em>resistance</em> and onto a more substantive engagement with <em>rebuilding</em> – to ask what comes next, and to harness the current disenchantment and loss of faith in a more productive manner. It is said that moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity. There is little doubt that we face a crisis of governance at the moment; this is also a chance to design a new and improved government</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy was at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/home">WFD2017 website</a> for details).</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/patrick-chalmers/tapping-will-of-people-route-to-radically-better-democracy">Tapping the will of the people – a route to radically better democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Stefaan G. Verhulst Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:50:55 +0000 Stefaan G. Verhulst 115273 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internet equality in question again: perspectives on Net Neutrality https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/internet-equality-in-question-again-perspectives-on-net-neutrality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the US regulator seeks to erase Net Neutrality, we ask a number of commentators to share their views on this momentous decision.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISP) should not decide what content web users get when they connect to the internet – if I pay for internet bandwidth then decide to visit YouTube or a personal blog or openDemocracy, then I get to see whichever of those sites I request, so long as I haven’t run out of my agreed bandwidth allowance.</p> <p class="p1">Its proponents say that it is what allows web users to see all web sites at the same speed – no site gets to pay an ISP to load preferentially on the web, which would be a major advantage. It’s what makes any site, big or small, rich or poor, accessible to all – it’s what lets good sites and good ideas rise up no matter who runs them, they say.</p> <p class="p1">The US regulator in charge of enforcing Net Neutrality regulations is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/fcc-repeal-net-neutrality.html">pushing to dismantle legal protections</a> for it with a vote this Thursday 14th of December. Civil society organisations are <a href="http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/167731589148/net-neutrality-protests-to-hit-verizon-stores">fiercely opposing it</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If the US makes this change, a serious precedent will be set to reverse Net Neutrality globally and the open web could change for good. We sought a few perspectives, for and against, on this critical issue.</p><p class="p1"></p><hr /><p></p><hr /><p><span>“Net Neutrality is once again under attack. Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, has announced his plan to “restore internet freedom” which is, as it turns out is not your freedom as a consumer to use the bandwidth you have purchased as you see fit, but rather the freedom of your ISP to charge you for whatever it wants to.</span></p> <p class="p1">“So if you don’t want to wind up with the Portugal situation from above, go ahead and call Congress.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.battleforthenet.com/">Thankfully the website Battle for the Net makes this super easy. Do it</a>!”</p> <p class="p1"><strong><a href="http://continuations.com/post/167766173495/uncertainty-wednesday-pay-extra-to-read-or-fight">Albert Wenger</a>, Technology writer and investor</strong></p><p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/NetNeutrality.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/NetNeutrality.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="419" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This infographic shows how commercial providers might break down internet packages without Net Neutrality protections to stop them.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span><span>“</span>Net neutrality was attractive in the early web because we knew back then the damage to creativity that market power could confer. We had seen Microsoft stifle the PC market through its operating system stranglehold, some of us had experience of the supplier barriers to entry on the otherwise brilliant and pioneering Minitel. We hated Compuserve and its walled garden. The open, free internet, with the ethos that is so brilliantly captured by Jonathan Zittrain in "The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It", was a delicate flower trying to burst forth. We could see that the telecoms companies - slow, statist, unimaginative, captured by securocrats, hooked on fixed rates of return - would trample that flower bed.</span></p><p><span><span>“</span>So Net Neutrality was the nitrogen fix that our efflorescence needed. And it worked. The Internet - not just the Web ... Usenet, Email, Gopher were all part of it - before the first dotcom boom was an ecosystem that produced a wonder of diversity and invention, and no doubt network operators would have nipped every promising plant in the bud. When Web2.0 started to emerge out of the dot com boom,&nbsp; enthusiasts tended to think that this would be the same wondrous jungle, but with better graphics and smoother load-times. </span></p><p><span><span>“</span>But the snake had entered the garden in the form of the advertising based revenue model and the hoovering of all data for ad-targeting. We had protected the early web from monopolists who could control data only to hand it over to data-controllers who thereby became monopolists. The efflorescence has now gone, replaced by the monotony of AI-grown knot-weed whose fertiliser is attention. So Net Neutrality was an important and liberating anti-monopoly tool in the growth of the web; but it allowed us to take our eye off its purpose - to limit control by any large corporate interests - and to focus on what was merely a historically contingent means to it.</span></p><p><span>“The problem today is not packet-discrimination by network operators; it is granular attention-discrimination by out-of-control advertising fuelled behemoths. And in fact, we can regulate network operators much more readily than the now all-too-powerful data monopolists ... so it could be that we should think about a policy combination which involves an abandonment of net neutrality; public control over the networks; and packet-discrimination policy operated for the public good.”</span></p><p><span><strong>Anton Kurz is a London-based policy wonk</strong></span></p><hr /><p><span><span>“</span></span><span>Net neutrality echoes engineering arguments about network design that took place in the 1980s. Most engineers came to realize that modern networks need flexibility to support diverse applications, so the losing side turned to the legal/policy community to force its preferences on ISPs.</span></p> <p class="p1">“The public, largely oblivious to the technical costs neutrality imposes on innovation, incorrectly sees Title II as a protector of free speech. Our experience of the Internet shows that its major problems come from advertising-supported platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that censor speech and reward trolls. Net neutrality doesn’t solve any real problems.”</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Richard Bennett,&nbsp;<span>Engineer and publisher,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://hightechforum.org/" target="_blank">High Tech Forum</a></strong></p><p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/PA-33932191.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/PA-33932191.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of net neutrality protest outside a Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on November 28, 2017. The activists gathered in protest of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai’s, plan to repeal the Obama era net neutrality regulations. Ronen Tivony/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span>“There’s roughly 6,000 internet and telecommunications providers in Ukraine. But national legislation does not in any way directly regulate net neutrality, and domestic providers of internet services operate as they see fit. Several of them directly violate the principle of net neutrality: for instance, for several years in a row Ukrainian mobile operators have offered tariff plans whereby users do not have to pay for social network traffic or streaming services (or if they do, then at a reduced rate).</span></p> <p class="p1">This gives the advantage to the big services — Facebook, Twitter, Youtube. One important detail: until recently, Russian internet companies were also part of this group, but in May 2017 the authorities blocked the Russian social networks VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, the Yandex search engine and email service Mail.ru. Access to these online resources is now blocked at the provider level. So now we can say that Facebook has strengthened its monopoly, having become the main social media provider for Ukrainian internet providers.”</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Vitalii Atanasov, Ukrainian journalist and administrator of <a href="https://t.me/digitshadow">a Telegram channel</a> on digital capitalism.</strong></p><hr /><p><span>“The Internet was born neutral and therefore open, non-discriminatory, diverse and free. Net neutrality is essential to guarantee that everyone has the freedom to choose what information seeks, receives and imparts on the Internet and that everyone has access to the same opportunities. The neutral digital ecosystem, where everyone is able to innovate without asking for permission, has grown to become what it is today thanks to that fundamental principle. Every lose of that basic openness to the interest of a few Internet service providers will always cause essential harms to our freedoms, democracy and society.”</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong><a href="https://xnet-x.net">XNet</a>, Internet and democracy activist’s network</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-belli/scramble-for-data-and-need-for-network-self-determination">The scramble for data and the need for network self-determination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/luca-belli/scrapping-fcc-net-neutrality-rules-would-be-mistake">Scrapping FCC net neutrality rules would be a mistake</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-belli-christopher-t-marsden/european-net-neutrality-at-last">European net neutrality, at last?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anita-gurumurthy/net-neutrality-crossroads-heres-why-india-s-policy-process-has-important-lessons-fo">Net neutrality at a crossroads: why India’s policy process has important lessons for the US</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/michael-j-oghia/future-of-us-net-neutrality-under-trump">The future of US net neutrality under Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/samir-dayal/billionaire-big-data-and-net-neutrality-facebook-and-democracy-in-india">The billionaire, big data and net neutrality: Facebook and democracy in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/des-freedman/big-media-and-big-money-in-2017-from-disneymurdoch-to-net-neutrality">Big media and big money in 2017 - from Disney/Murdoch to Net Neutrality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/matthew-linares/internet-equality-is-about-to-get-trumped-let-s-build-wall-to-defend-it">Internet equality is about to get Trumped – let’s build a wall to defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/sara-bundtzen/why-you-should-know-about-germanys-new-surveillance-law">Why you should know about Germany&#039;s new surveillance law </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/timothy-karr/breaking-ideological-gridlock-from-bottom-up">Breaking ideological gridlock from the bottom up </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Net Neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Net Neutrality Matthew Linares Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:22:33 +0000 Matthew Linares 115127 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trading away our Privacy; the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/burcu-kilic-renata-avila/wto-in-buenos-aires-or-how-digital-giants-are-trading-our <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the overwhelming control of Big Tech. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/burcu-kilic-renata-avila/la-omc-en-buenos-aires-o-c-mo-los-gigantes-digitales-comp">Español</a></strong></em><strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><strong><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/MC11_image03_560x458_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/MC11_image03_560x458_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="376" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: UNCTAD.ORG, Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The reality check for Argentina</em></strong></p><p class="Default">This week (10-13 December 2017),&nbsp;trade ministers from 164 countries gather together in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of <a href="https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/trump-hits-wto-sovereignty-grounds-says-us-will-not-continue-opening-its-markets">unfair treatment toward the US by WTO members</a>, making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.</p> <p class="Default">To avoid a ‘failure ministerial,” some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the “digital ministerial. Argentina’s MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to “bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots”.</p> <p class="Default">It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn’t the “connectivity gap” or “digital divide” that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.</p> <p class="Default">Dangerously, the “South Vision” of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called Friends of E-Commerce for Development (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries. However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED’s position is Costa Rica. The country’s economy is based on the <a href="https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/cri/">export</a> of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline. Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.</p> <p class="Default">U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A dominate by far the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments. &nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations <a href="https://www.ip-watch.org/2017/09/29/ecommerce-developing-countries-push-back-idea-new-wto-rules/">issued a statement</a> opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a “digital” mandate.</p> <p class="Default"><strong><em>Lessons from the past and repeating the same mistakes</em></strong></p> <p class="Default">The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues—in that case, access to medicines—were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.</p> <p class="Default">The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.</p> <p class="Default">Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords—under their rules, their mandate, and their will—with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the <em>Economist</em> claimed on May 6, 2017: “Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation.”</p> <p class="Default">If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over—how we communicate, shop, and learn the news—, again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech’s power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta digitaLiberties Democracy and government Economics International politics Internet Renata Avila Burcu Kilic Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:39:57 +0000 Burcu Kilic and Renata Avila 115257 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant's bench https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Seeking to unravel what is behind a change in public sentiment towards the internet, this series begins with intersecting dimensions in what is lazily often presented as ‘The Internet’s problem’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33814381.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33814381.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Facebook logo on an iPhone, November 20, 2017. Jaap Arriens/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The spirit of openness and collaboration that characterized the web's inception and growth are at risk. The feeling that the web is a catalyst of much needed social change seems demodé, at least in Europe and the US. Why were the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the Spanish 15M movement hailed as the internet delivering on its promise, and the recent US election and Brexit seen as the internet delivering nightmares? What, if anything, has changed?</p> <p>This three-parts piece strives to provide a rough compass for those seeking to understand the underlying causes of much of what is problematic with the internet and the web today. I propose a framework to help us understand how best to tackle current issues often understood as unrelated (eg. net neutrality and fake news), as well as to anticipate issues yet to emerge. This piece calls for policy-makers, journalists and users to care and pay attention to the architecture of the internet and the web, and suggests this lens may offer a good way to understand many of the troubles public opinion seems to be concerned about today.</p> <p>When the inter-net (network of networks) was designed, its decentralized architecture meant it didn’t have a single point of failure. If in 1969 the Stanford node collapsed, UCLA could still send a message to the University of California at Santa Barbara. None of the nodes was central. The bigger the internet grew, the more robust the network, and the greater the chances of getting a message successfully from one point to another. There was no central operating room, as with the telephone, with dozens of people connecting cables to enable a conversation. On the internet, each node helped route the pieces of the message to its destination. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fig. 1. Network architecture (adapted from Baran, 1962) </strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 19.09.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 19.09.26.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong>These architectural principles inspired and were upheld by Tim Berners-Lee when he designed the web, the content layer that sits on top of the internet. This decision meant that everyone on the network had an equal chance to speak, and that any and all websites could link to any and all websites.</p> <p>Under the assumption that information is power, the decentralized architecture triggered great expectations regarding the web's potential for social change and justice. When systematically excluded groups came online they suddenly could voice the thoughts that had previously been silenced or ignored by traditional brokers of communication, be they government or traditional mass media. These groups started telling each other their personal stories. It became evident that what many had privately thought were individual problems were actually systemic problems. These groups were able to discuss their past and present, and as they refined these conversations into a common identity they were also able to think collectively about the common future they envisioned for themselves as a group. The web reduced the costs for these individuals to find each other and coordinate activities to make this common future materialize. And thus, over the last decade, dozens if not hundreds of grassroots movements have sprung up. It was internet spring. Everything and anything seemed possible. </p> <p><strong>Today that feeling seems to have faded. Why? </strong></p> <p>Pointing the finger to a single cause is a reductionist approach that works well for clickbait news but leads us astray. Some concerns require digital policy, many others require social policy changes. Below are some initial thoughts on the dimensions that intersect in what is <em>lazily</em> often presented as <em>The Internet’s problem. </em>Isolating the effect of each is a difficult if not impossible task. Yet understanding them as separate variables helps us understand the need to tackle each of the issues separately, and more effectively.</p> <p><strong>--&gt;Societal problems become visible because of the web</strong>: The web often mirrors societal problems such as exclusion and inequality. As internet penetration grows and more people on the margins of society get online, certain tensions and contradictions that are silenced or ignored in physical space (e.g. through gentrification, corporate control of media, etc.) become more visible, given the internet’s power to collapse the space that separates people. Therefore there is a set of social problems that are not <em>created</em> by the internet and the web, but made <em>visible </em>by them. These require a broad policy approach that supersedes what can be tackled by those of us working on digital policies. </p> <p><strong>--&gt;Societal issues become quantifiable because of the web: </strong>The internet has enabled the creation of large and easily accessible structured data about our societies. These data, in turn, enabled an explosion of quantitative research that often sheds light on problems, and shows statistical associations that are compelling, yet often poorly explained. Given the lack of comparable data from pre-internet era, some of these studies are actually incapable of providing a baseline or counter-factual that can show the extent to which the identified problems (eg. <em>fake news</em>, [online] violence) were in any way <em>caused </em>or<em> made worse </em>by the internet, and not merely imported to the internet. In many cases it seems like we are killing the messenger by blaming the internet for helping us see our problems, often causing digital platforms to limit the amount of information they make accessible to independent researchers as a result.</p> <p><strong>--&gt;Societal issues are caused by internet platforms: </strong>These include design fails that might generate harm to users at large; design fails that specifically affect certain minority or otherwise excluded groups; the embedding of a bad incentive structure that triggers negative consequences both directly or as a result of unforeseen and emergent properties of the ecosystem it enabled (eg. click-based revenue models spurring click-bait and fake news). Most public attention has been focused on this area. The narrow focus has meant that issues that overlap and underlie these are not discussed. It is important to stress that online platforms have often underplayed their impact, responsibility, and their capacity to deal with the harm they generate. Nevertheless, because each issue requires context specific solutions, this set of articles will not strive to deal with all of them at once, but focus on an underlying cause which explains why these platforms have become so problematic: centralization.&nbsp; </p><p><strong>--&gt;Internet platform issues are magnified due to centralization:</strong> The internet was designed as a decentralized system. There were no central brokers deciding who could say what, and what information could or should travel through. Things could go wrong on both layers (internet and web), and given the open architecture, they often did and still do. Releasing a product or service quickly, identifying problems based on user experience, and iterating, became a mantra amongst programmers and entrepreneurs. In a decentralized architecture the problems have a local impact which can quickly be neutralized. Therefore – overall – we were happy with the risk-taking ethos of internet entrepreneurs. It enabled experimentation and innovation. </p> <p>The context has changed. Over the past 5 years Google and Facebook alone have crept from managing less than 50% of the traffic to top web publishers, <a href="https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html">to 75% today</a>. &nbsp;As the ongoing centralization process redesigns the architecture of our most important medium of communication, we are increasingly seeing that design fails, the gaming of a platform’s rules, or even unforeseeable glitches, can lead to widespread and catastrophic consequences. </p> <p>Many today express their concerns about the impact the internet and the web have on political systems given the ease with which fake news can spread. These issues have always existed, but what is becoming evident is that with centralization these problems are becoming bigger. As a handful of companies take over the role of information brokers, we are slowly building the single-point of failure the decentralized architecture sought to avoid. The next two pieces will narrow in on how the centralization process takes place, and how we should work towards re-decentralizing the web.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties International politics Internet Juan Ortiz Freuler Wed, 06 Dec 2017 19:14:10 +0000 Juan Ortiz Freuler 115130 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The web began dying in 2014 – here's how https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/andr-staltz/web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It may seem as though nothing has changed on the web – but since 2014, Google and Facebook hace acquired direct influence over more than 70% of internet traffic. They're not stopping there.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/5078533167_35ae844425_o.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/5078533167_35ae844425_o.gif" alt="lead " title="" width="330" height="125" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Marcos Castellano. CC-BY-2.0.</span></span></span>Before the year 2014, there were many people using Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Today, there are still many people using services from those three tech giants (respectively, Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN)). Not much has changed, and quite literally the user interface and features on those sites has remained mostly untouched. However, the underlying dynamics of power on the web have drastically changed, and those three companies are at the center of a fundamental transformation of the web.</p><blockquote><p><em>It looks like nothing changed since 2014, but GOOG and FB now have direct influence over 70%+ of internet traffic.</em></p></blockquote><p>Internet activity itself hasn’t slowed down. It maintains a steady growth, both in the&nbsp;amount of users and amount of websites:</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/chart-sites-and-users.png"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chart-sites-and-users.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chart-sites-and-users.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="178" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Sources:&nbsp;<a href="https://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey">https://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/">http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/</a>)</p><p>What has changed over the last 4 years is market share of traffic on the web. It looks like nothing has changed, but GOOG and FB now have direct influence over 70%+ of internet traffic. Mobile internet traffic is now the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/306528/share-of-mobile-internet-traffic-in-global-regions/">majority of traffic worldwide</a>&nbsp;and, in Latin America alone, GOOG and FB services had 60% of mobile traffic in 2015, growing to 70% by the end of 2016. The remaining 30% of traffic is shared among all other mobile apps and websites. Mobile devices are primarily used for accessing GOOG and FB networks.</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/internet-latin-america-2016.png"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/internet-latin-america-2016.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/internet-latin-america-2016.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Source:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sandvine.com/resources/global-internet-phenomena/2016/north-america-and-latin-america.html">https://www.sandvine.com/resources/global-internet-phenomena/2016/north-america-and-latin-america.html</a>)</p><blockquote><p><em>The press, unlike before, depends on GOOG-FB to stay in business.</em></p></blockquote><p>Another demonstration of GOOG and FB dominance can be seen among media websites. The most popular web properties that don’t belong to GOOG nor FB are usually from the press. For instance, in the USA there are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/271412/most-visited-us-web-properties-based-on-number-of-visitors/">6 media sites in the top 10 websites</a>; in Brazil there are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/254727/most-visited-web-properties-in-brazil/">6 media sites in the top 10</a>; in UK it is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/272871/leading-internet-properties-in-the-uk-by-unique-visitors/">5 out 10</a>.</p><p>From where do media sites get their traffic? Prior to 2014, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was a common practice among web developers to improve their site for Google searches, since it accounted for approximately 35% of traffic, while more than 50% of traffic came from various other places on the Web. SEO was important, while Facebook presence was nice-to-have. Over the next 3 years, traffic from Facebook grew to be approximately&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-internet-socialmedia/two-thirds-of-american-adults-get-news-from-social-media-survey-idUSKCN1BJ2A8">45%</a>, surpassing the status that search traffic had. In 2017, the media depends on both Google and Facebook for page views, since it’s the majority of their traffic.</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/referral-to-top-publishers.png"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/referral-to-top-publishers.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/referral-to-top-publishers.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Source:&nbsp;<a href="https://blog.parse.ly/post/2855/facebook-continues-to-beat-google-in-sending-traffic-to-top-publishers/">https://blog.parse.ly/post/2855/facebook-continues-to-beat-google-in-sending-traffic-to-top-publishers/</a>)</p><p>The relationship between media sites and the two tech giants is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/10/15948196">difficult</a>. In 2014, FB built Facebook Paper as an attempt to have a larger control over news consumption. Their tactic failed, but their strategy persisted through different means such as Facebook Instant Articles. The media, being dependent on social traffic and threatened by the social behemoth, reacted. They&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/16/15314210">pulled out support for Instant Articles</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile, GOOG notices how its search traffic hadn’t improved, while Facebook had picked up steam, so GOOG launches their Instant Articles alternative called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and proactively starts serving articles from GOOG servers instead of directing traffic to media sites. The press reacts similarly to how they did for FB: reported bold stories about the search behemoth’s thirst for control over news consumption.</p><blockquote><p><em>GOOG and FB ceased competing directly, focusing on what they do best instead.</em></p></blockquote><p>Data shows FB has dramatically improved its dominance on the web, while Google search hasn’t significantly changed. How exactly did FB achieve that, and what events were key to that development? Prior to 2014, both companies had a portfolio of multiple web services. GOOG hadn’t yet become Alphabet, so its focus was diffused. GOOG was trying to enter the social market, first with Google Wave, then Google Buzz, Orkut, and Google+. In total,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.geckoboard.com/tech-acquisitions/">GOOG has acquired 18 companies from the social media category</a>, of which only 1 acquisition happened post-2014, while 5 of those happened in 2010 alone. FB was competing in the search market, through Bing, in partnership with Microsoft (MSFT).</p><p>During 2014, FB apparently reorganized itself to focus on social only. In February, it bought WhatsApp, for 11 times the price GOOG bought YouTube. In December, it canceled its Bing partnership with MSFT. User retention on Facebook.com grew steadily (see chart below). Through its four simple products, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, FB had become the social superpower.</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/facebook-retention.png"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/facebook-retention.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/facebook-retention.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Sources:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/346167/facebook-global-dau/">https://www.statista.com/statistics/346167/facebook-global-dau/</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/">https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/</a>)</p><p>Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shut down Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg_KxXhhsGg">own words</a>) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Og2BnpBhkM">own words</a>). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the longrun its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.</p><p>These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is no longer an internet company, it’s&nbsp;<em>the knowledge internet company</em>. FB is not an internet company, it’s&nbsp;<em>the social internet company</em>. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.</p><p>AMZN does not focus on making profit.</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/amazon-profits.png"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/amazon-profits.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/amazon-profits.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Source:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/chart/4298/amazons-long-term-growth/">https://www.statista.com/chart/4298/amazons-long-term-growth/</a>)</p><p>Instead, its mission is to seek market leadership, crushing competitors in the USA.</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/amazon-outgrown-competitors.jpg"></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/amazon-outgrown-competitors.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/amazon-outgrown-competitors.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I could elaborate on how AMZN is&nbsp;<em>the e-commerce company</em>, but I would be just repeating&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWBjUsmO-Lw">Scott Galloway’s exposure of this topic</a>. It’s worth watching his talks.</p><h2>What the web was and what it became</h2><p>The events and data above describe how three internet companies have acquired massive influence on the web, but why does that imply the beginning of the web’s death? To answer that, we need to reflect on what the web is.</p><p>The original vision for the web according to its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, was a space with multilateral publishing and consumption of information. It was a peer-to-peer vision with no dependency on a single party. Tim himself claims&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/11/tim-berners-lee-web-inventor-save-internet">the web is dying</a>: the web he wanted and the web he got are no longer the same.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Doesn’t GOOG defend in the open web?</strong></p><p><strong><br /></strong></p><p>GOOG, as a company born from the web, has helped take it forward both technologically and in adoption. That is undeniable. They still lead efforts to improve the open web, such as&nbsp;<a href="https://developers.google.com/web/progressive-web-apps/">advocacy of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)</a>&nbsp;over native mobile apps.</p><p>Isn’t GOOG trying to guarantee the open web stays alive? Not necessarily. GOOG’s goal is to gather as much rich data as possible, and build AI. Their mission is to have an AI provide timely and personalized information to us, not specifically to have websites provide information. Any GOOG concerted efforts are aligned to the AI mission.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Mobile usage is on the rise – having already crossed desktop as the primary channel for internet usage – and native mobile apps are so far the best way of providing good user experience on mobile. GOOG collects little or no data from native mobile apps, to some extent on Android, but specially on iOS. PWAs happen to live in the neutral and open web, and are better suited for data collection while providing great user experience on mobile.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/desktop-vs-mobile-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/desktop-vs-mobile-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="https://staltz.com/img/desktop-vs-mobile-2.jpg"></a></p><p>GOOG promotes lock-in and proprietary technologies such as Firebase and Google-dependent AMP installations as much as it advocates open PWAs. GOOG does not consistently defend the open web. They&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/05/google-abandons-open-standards-instant-messaging">dropped XMPP in Gtalk</a>, and Gtalk itself was deprecated, favoring Google Hangouts with a proprietary protocol. Chrome Web Store is a walled garden like App Store. They&nbsp;<a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/14/tech/web/google-reader-discontinued/index.html">shutdown Google Reader</a>&nbsp;based on RSS, an open standard.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/moorinsights/2017/05/22/google-cloud-tpu-strategic-implications-for-google-nvidia-and-the-machine-learning-industry/3/#60053cf7513d">Google Cloud TPU</a>&nbsp;is proprietary hardware that only exists in their datacenters, supporting their open source framework TensorFlow. Google Inbox suffers “proprietary creep”: non-standard, closed algorithms that promise to organize your life, an essential component of a lock-in based business model.</p><p>GOOG is a huge company where employees have autonomy and multiple projects and efforts are occurring. Big efforts, though, are coherent, concerted, and well aligned with its mission: to be an AI-first company, an AI that is closed and lives in their cloud.</p></blockquote><p>From the 90s until the 2010s, the web we have experienced has been, albeit somewhat imperfectly, faithful to its original purpose. The web’s diversity has granted space for multiple businesses to innovate and thrive, independent hobbyist communities to grow, and personal sites to be hosted on whatever physical servers can host them. The internet’s infrastructural diversity is directly tied to the success of diverse Web businesses and communities. The web’s openness is vital for its security, accessibility, innovation and competitiveness.</p><p>After 2014, we started losing the benefits of the internet’s infrastructural and economical diversity. It is difficult to compete with AMZN’s and GOOG’s cloud services, which host a massive amount of sites for other businesses. Any website aspiring towards significant traffic depends on search and social traffic.</p><h2>What the web will become under GOOG-FB-AMZN</h2><p>The following analysis is an extrapolation for the future, based on the current state of the web and strategies made public by executives at GOOG-FB-AMZN.</p><p>The War for Net Neutrality in the USA won a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2014/2/25/5431382">battle in 2014</a>, but in 2017 we are seeing a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/12/15715030">second battle</a>&nbsp;which is more likely to be lost. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are probably soon going to dictate what traffic can or cannot arrive at people’s end devices. GOOG-FB-AMZN traffic would be the most common, due to their popularity among internet users. Because of this market demand, ISPs will likely provide cheap plans with access to GOOG-FB-AMZN, while offering more expensive plans with full internet access.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/79770i/in_portugal_with_no_net_neutrality_internet/">It is already a reality in Portugal</a>. This would grow even more the dominance the three tech giants already enjoy. There would be no more economic incentive for smaller businesses to have independent websites, and a gradual migration towards Facebook Pages would make more sense. Smaller e-commerce sites would be bought by AMZN or go bankrupt. Because most internet users couldn’t open all the sites, GOOG would have little incentive to be a mere bridge between people and sites.</p><p>GOOG’s shift away from search is a sign how they are growing their strategy beyond the web. For many years, Google was just a tool that played the important role of assisting the web, by indexing it. Lately, however, it is not attractive for Google to be a mere search engine of the web. For the purposes expressed in their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/03/larry-page-google-dont-be-evil-sergey-brin">mission statement</a>, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, the search engine approach has been exhausted. The multi-second path from search query, to search results, to webpage, to information, is too long to provide an ideal user experience. Their goal is to cut the middlemen in that path. They have tried to cut out the results page with their “I’m feeling lucky” button, but without intelligent analysis they cannot reliably take shortcuts in that path. With AI, they believe they can shorten the path to just one step, “get information”, even without searching for it in the first place. That’s the purpose of Suggest.</p><p>As an index, people have different expectations on search result neutrality. Some want Google Search to be entirely neutral, some demand immediate action to remove some results. The European Union has both&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/google-must-delete-search-results-rules-european-court/">demanded GOOG to comply with removal requests</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-27/google-gets-record-2-7-billion-eu-fine-for-skewing-searches">fined GOOG for not being neutral in shopping queries</a>. It is not beneficial for GOOG to assume the role of an impartial arbiter of content, since it’s not supporting their business model. Quite the contrary, they are under public scrutiny from multiple governments, potentially risking their reputation.</p><p>The Suggest strategy is being currently deployed through Google Now, Google Assistant, Android notifications, and Google Home. None of these mentioned technologies are part of web, in other words, not part of “browser-land” made of websites. The internet is just the underlying transport layer for data from their cloud to end-user devices, but the web itself is being bypassed.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/google-chairman-eric-schmidt-internet-765989">Schmidt’s vision for the future</a>&nbsp;is one where internet services are ubiquitous and personalized, as opposed to an experience contained in web browsers in desktop machines.</p><p>Similarly, while AMZN’s business still relies on traffic to their desktop web portal (accounting for 33% of sales), a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/690366/amazon-purchase-channels-usa/">large portion</a>&nbsp;(25%) of their sales happen through mobile apps, not to mention Amazon Echo. Like Google Home, Amazon Echo bypasses the web and uses the internet just for communication between cloud and end user. In these new non-web contexts, tech giants have more authority over data traffic. They can even directly block each other, like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-google/amazon-says-google-has-pulled-youtube-from-echo-show-device-in-tech-face-off-idUSKCN1C20A8">GOOG recently cut support for YouTube traffic in Amazon Echo devices</a>.</p><h2>The Appleification of tech giants</h2><p>GOOG, MSFT, FB, and AMZN are mimicking (Apple) AAPL’s strategy of building brand loyalty around high-end devices. Through a process I call “Appleification”, they are (1) setting up walled gardens, (2) becoming hardware companies, and (3) marketing the design while designing for the market. It is a threat to AAPL itself, because they are behind the other giants when it comes to big data collection and its uses. While AAPL’s early and bold introduction of an App Store shook the web as the dominant software distribution platform, it wasn’t enough to replace it. The next wave of walled gardens might look different: less noticeable, but nonetheless disruptive to the web.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/goog-devices.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/goog-devices.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>There is a tendency at GOOG-FB-AMZN to bypass the web, which is motivated by user experience and efficient communication, not by an agenda to avoid browsers. In the knowledge internet and the commerce internet, being efficient to provide what users want is the goal. In the social internet, the goal is to provide an efficient channel for communication between people. This explains FB’s 10-year strategy with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as the next medium for social interactions through the internet. This strategy would also bypass the Web, proving how more natural social AR would be than social real-time texting in browsers. Already today, most people on the internet communicate with other people via a mobile app, not via a browser.</p><p>The common pattern among these three internet giants is to grow beyond browsers, creating new virtual contexts where data is created and shared. The web may die like most other technologies do: simply by becoming less attractive than newer technologies. And like most obsolete technologies, they don’t suddenly disappear, neither do they disappear completely. You can still buy a Walkman and listen to a tape with it, but the technology has nevertheless lost its collective relevance. The web’s death will come as a gradual decay of its necessity, not as a dramatic loss.</p><h2>The Trinet</h2><p>The internet will survive longer than the web will. GOOG-FB-AMZN will still depend on submarine internet cables (the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_backbone">Backbone</a>”), because it is a technical success. That said, many aspects of the internet will lose their relevance, and the underlying infrastructure could be optimized only for GOOG traffic, FB traffic, and AMZN traffic. It wouldn’t conceptually be anymore a “network of networks”, but just a “network of three networks”, the&nbsp;<em>Trinet</em>, if you will. The concept of a workplace network which gave birth to the internet infrastructure would migrate to a more abstract level: Facebook Groups, Google Hangouts, G Suite, and other competing services which can be acquired by a tech giant.</p><p>Workplace networks are already today emulated in software as a service, not as traditional Local Area Networks. To improve user experience, the Trinet would be a technical evolution of the internet. These efforts are already happening today,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nextplatform.com/2017/07/17/google-wants-rewire-internet/">at GOOG</a>. In the long-term, supporting routing for the old internet and the old web would be an overhead, so it could be beneficial to cut support for the diverse internet on the protocol and hardware level. Access to the old internet could be emulated on GOOG’s cloud accessed through the Trinet, much like how&nbsp;<a href="https://win95.ajf.me/">Windows 95 can be today emulated in your browser</a>. ISPs would recognize the obsolescence of the internet and support the Trinet only, driven by market demand for optimal user experience from GOOG-FB-AMZN.</p><p>Perhaps a future with great user experience in AR, VR, hands-free commerce and knowledge sharing could evoke an optimistic perspective for what these tech giants are building. But 25 years of the Web has gotten us used to foundational freedoms that we take for granted. We forget how useful it has been to remain anonymous and control what we share, or how easy it was to start an internet startup with its own independent servers operating with the same rights GOOG servers have. On the Trinet, if you are permanently banned from GOOG or FB, you would have no alternative. You could even be restricted from creating a new account. As private businesses, GOOG, FB, and AMZN don’t need to guarantee you access to their networks. You do not have a legal right to an account in their servers, and as societies we aren’t demanding for these rights as vehemently as we could, to counter the strategies that tech giants are putting forward.</p><p>The web and the internet have represented freedom: efficient and unsupervised exchange of information between people of all nations. In the Trinet, we will have even more vivid exchange of information between people, but we will sacrifice freedom. Many of us will wake up to the tragedy of this tradeoff only once it is reality.</p><p><em>This piece has been republished from <a href="https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html">staltz.com</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/leighton-andrews/we-need-european-regulation-of-facebook-and-google">We need European regulation of Facebook and Google</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/why-trade-unions-need-to-get-serious-about-new-media-in-2017">Why trade unions need to get serious about new media in 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/will-wright/quiet-battle-for-control-of-internet">The quiet battle for control of the internet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/cory-doctorow/web-standards-body-enforces-drm-standard-against-members-wishes">Web standards body constrains digital rights against members&#039; wishes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties André Staltz Mon, 27 Nov 2017 11:59:35 +0000 André Staltz 114927 at https://www.opendemocracy.net There is only life and power – not digital and non-digital life and power https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-eleanor-saitta/there-is-only-life-and-power-not-digital-and-non-di <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The inseparability between our on and offline lives is the single most important thing to understand about the impact of the internet on political life – which is why we need systems literacy, now.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14227743241_e159605dc7_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14227743241_e159605dc7_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"All of this is an argument for systems literacy." Flickr/Gergely Schmidt. CC-BY-2.0.</span></span></span>On its opening day, the <a href="http://www.berlinergazette.de/frienldy-firewww.berlinergazette.de/frienldy-fire">Friendly Fire</a> conference asked: are digital non-/citizens the status quo? Two prolific speakers were looking for answers: the artist James Bridle, whose visionary project, <a href="http://citizen-ex.com/">Citizen Ex</a>, reflects digital citizenship; and the coder/thinker Eleanor Saitta, whose work explores the potential of radical democracy and consistently challenges the blindspots of digital avant-gardes. Here Saitta reflects the politics of citizenship with regards to the rampant digitalisation of people's lives – be they citizens or not.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Krystian Woznicki (KW): Our offline and online lives have become inseparable, hence citizenship nowadays is inseparable from digital citizenship. Following the Snowden disclosures, there has been a growing awareness of the workings of the governmental-corporate power nexus – the backend of citizenship, so to speak. From your point of view, what are the most important implications of this trend when it comes to conceptualizing the neoliberal state in the "post-Snowden world" (as you have once termed the states of affairs)?</strong></p> <p class="Standard">Eleanor Saitta (ES): The inseparability you point at is the single most important thing to understand about the impact of the internet on political life – that the internet does not exist as a separate entity from a political perspective. There is only life and power, not digital and non-digital life and power.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Much of the current&nbsp;furore&nbsp; around the use of targeted advertising for political manipulation is happening in the absence of understanding of existing targeted advertising practices.</p><p class="Standard"><strong><em></em></strong>All of the actors to whom we might wish to entrust the reproduction and management of society operate under a set of perverse incentives that direct them to ends other than that which society more broadly might wish for. For instance, many of the organizations building large-scale social (and real) infrastructure now operated under the logic of venture capital, expecting a 20x return in three to five years while accepting a 95% failure rate. Likewise, the various terrains that form the basis of those actors' operations have affordances and preferences that shape and constrain their options. Some of these are themselves designed affordances; some of them are inherent in the channel (e.g. the digital channel) via which a given terrain operates. Digital data, for instance, can be easily reproduced, regardless of the system that the data are embedded in.</p> <p class="Standard">Engagement with the specificity of systems is necessary for even informed comment on systems, let alone change (unless one is already acting from a position of significant embedded authority). For instance, much of the current furore around the use of targeted advertising for political manipulation is happening in the absence of understanding of existing targeted advertising practices. This occurs in all directions – lawyers failing to understand intelligence practices that occur outside the edges of law, engineers refusing to admit the possibility of regulation, theorists failing to look at the lived experience of organizers who have attempted change in practice, etc.</p> <p class="Standard">All of this is an argument for systems literacy. It feels odd to be making an argument for basic literacy in the midst of what feels like an emergent crisis, but the alternative is professionalization or vanguardism, neither of which has been fit for purpose.</p> <p class="Standard">I realize that you're interested in an answer framed in the situation of the world, and I'm giving you a response of the work we must do to see that situation, but I think that is the point. Process, not product. I'd love to have a set of theoretical answers, but the last few years have been an excellent test-bed for theory, and there is nothing that destroys theory faster.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: The production of "kill lists" and "no fly lists" is symptomatic not only of emerging database rationalities but also of something that one could call algorithmic states of exception – formations of power that turn "false positives" into the collateral damage of information societies: that practically anyone could be find her or himself on such a list that – before the fact – destabilizes citizenship as we know it and – after the fact – literally renders people's lives worthless. Is it actually possible to preserve "capacities" of citizenship under these conditions?</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">ES: I don’t think these lists are as symptomatic of our state of affairs. Rather the fact that every decision, every touch point with any structure of authority, becomes completely tracked and completely contingent. The state of exception becomes total and permanent, and as such ceases to exist.&nbsp; Database rationality is a way of seeing people rooted in the information processing capabilities of the 1970s. In engineering, we say that every time you increase the scale of a system by three orders of magnitude, it becomes a completely different system along the way. Lists do not scale above a few hundred thousand people.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">The actual rules of society shift and multiply and become purely embedded in and inextricable from their implementation. In more rights-preserving societies, citizens are permitted to view those implementations in detail, to appeal their decisions and petition to change the general function of such implementations. In less free societies, implementations become more opaque, designed to preserve deniability and caprice.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong><span class="mag-quote-left">Every decision, every touch point with any structure of authority, becomes completely tracked and completely contingent. The state of exception becomes total and permanent, and as such ceases to exist.</span></strong></p> <p class="Standard">All sociotechnical infrastructural systems serve multiple ends. Intent and design of modern, developed systems present only a subset of intents and interactions to the user in their messaging and emphasize different things to different users in different contexts. With sufficiently complex systems, this is inevitable and necessary – it's how we manage the complexity of society, even in contexts where the users (citizens or not) are sufficiently educated to understand the full complexity given time.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">The notion of invariant rights that is provided to balance out any violations within the system post facto becomes unworkable under this logic. This is the same transition we've seen when looking at the reliability of complex systems. Our existing governance models are similar to the initial rounds of product liability brought in to compel manufacturers to test their systems for safety and to build to adequate tolerances. With the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the military industrial complex realized that this was inadequate to produce reliable outcomes, and holistic system dynamic safety engineering was created as a discipline (an initial intellectual effort significantly greater than the Manhattan project itself).</p> <p class="Standard">Software introduces combinatorial complexity into even system systems reliability problems, and partially-soft systems can only be effectively managed in flow and by processes that understand and integrate the system dynamics of their entire context. Increasingly, high-reliability systems have to contend with scenarios where they cannot wait for the system to fail and then fix individual failure modes ("for every rule, a body"), and are learning how to build systems that manage negative outcomes that cannot happen even once. None of this has been translated to governance, but the task of managing and even of defining rights in the context of a society with significant social automation will require such a translation.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: In your work, you have been repeatedly concerned with ways of creating counter-power – insurgent forms of citizenship, if you wish. One of your suggestions that you have brought&nbsp; forth with Smári McCarthy at the 29th&nbsp;Chaos Communication Congress is to overwrite the protocols of the governmental-corporate power nexus. Could you explain the concept of the "protocoletariat" and could you explain how to collectively embark upon this venture?</strong></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">It's telling – for instance&nbsp;– that the public bitcoin and&nbsp;etherium&nbsp; communities have come to be largely populated by folks who do not believe they have a duty to correct the social externalities their work imposes on the world.</p> <p class="Standard">ES: The notion of the protocoletariat comes from the observation that both governance and the functioning of social infrastructure are a set of processes, performed by some set of actors embedded in society.</p> <p class="Standard">Typically, those actors are institutions, but this isn't necessarily entirely required. A decentralized network can execute a protocol that collectively performs a process. Memory of events over time is an institutional function, not a network function, but there is no reason why the archive must perform the protocol.</p> <p class="Standard">It's a lovely idea, and one I'm still fond of. That said, as I mentioned above, the governance of decentralized systems in a manner that can rigorously preserve invariants is not yet well understood.</p> <p class="Standard">It's telling– for instance&nbsp;– the public bitcoin and etherium communities have come to be largely populated by folks who do not believe they have a duty to correct the social externalities their work imposes on the world. This problem will recur until we understand decentralized governance. I welcome experiments taken in good faith and with the understanding that things like social benefit and human rights are not abstract or ignorable. Until those experiments happen (or until we start to understand how to manage rights in a post-database society) we will not have the precise knowledge required to effectively carry out the governance of decentralized systems.</p> <p class="Standard"><em>The documentation of the Berliner Gazette’s Friendly Fire conference is available <a href="http://www.berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire">here</a>.</em></p> <p class="Standard"><em>The German version of this interview is available on <a href="https://berlinergazette.de/politik-macht-und-widerstand-in-der-post-snowden-welt/">Berliner Gazette</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/james-bridle/algorithmic-citizenship-and-digital-statelessness-are-digital-non-citizens-status-quo">How online citizenship is unsettling rights and identities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-deborah-cowen/acts-of-disruption">The special power of disruption in an age of logistical warfare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-felicity-scott/outlaw-spaces-strategic-reversals-of-power-at-margi">Outlaw spaces: strategic reversals of power at the margins</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Krystian Woznicki Eleanor Saitta Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:33:44 +0000 Eleanor Saitta and Krystian Woznicki 114829 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Beyond the babble: social broadcasting and digital citizenship https://www.opendemocracy.net/giota-alevizou-lucia-scazzocchio/beyond-babble-social-broadcasting-and-digital-citizenship <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The expression of emotion is key to the spread of declarations online. But can online identities really address the difficult political realities of migration?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/movingworld"><img width="460" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u558532/Who%20are%20we%20banner_0.jpg" height="68" alt="Who are we banner_0.jpg" /> </a> </p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/movingworld"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.10.22 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.10.22 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Sound Installation as a digital archive from: www.beyondthebabble.co.uk.</span></span></span>The recent </a><a href="https://www.oecd.org/migration/Is-this-refugee-crisis-different.pdf">influx of refugees and migrants into Europe</a> has resulted in a rising tide of nationalism and a populist backlash throughout the west. Tensions over how citizens of the west view border politics are also visible in the ways in which they project their identities or share their stories on social and digital media.</p> <p>Several reports have highlighted the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/rafal-zaborowski-myria-georgiou/refugee-crisis-try-crisis-in-european-press">increasingly influential role mainstream and social media play</a>&nbsp;in shaping both the perceptions and outcomes of population movements into western democracies. Mainstream media discourses rely on: broad portrayals which stereotype; the use of aggregated statistics, and, often, the de-personalizing of complex issues. This results in overt generalisations, reductionism, a lack of depth, and more recently, a global populist political backlash.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The expression of emotion is key for the spread of moral and political declarations in online social networks.</p><p>Following the European Referendum in Britain, for example, the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos undertook research on <a href="https://www.demos.co.uk/project/hate-speech-after-brexit/">the rise of xenophobia and racism on Twitter</a>. Looking at the ways in which this rise may have been related to campaigning tactics and the referendum result, the study also gives an indication of the ways in which Twitter was used to both <em>report hate speech</em> <em>incidents</em> and to <em>express solidarity with migrants</em>. Expressions and stories of migrant solidarity, primarily through the widespread online campaign of the <a href="https://twitter.com/1daywithoutus?lang=en">#1DayWithoutUs</a> activist group, sought to counterbalance xenophobic sentiments, often by offering a multiplicity of migrant voices and experiences in Britain today.&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking at this campaign on Twitter, digital culture researcher and author here,&nbsp;<a href="http://fass.open.ac.uk/people/pa2859">Giota Alevizou</a>, together with <a href="https://twitter.com/iPhotini">Photini Vrikki</a>, a digital humanities scholar at Brunel University, used digital methods to investigate different kinds of affective and factual narratives about digital citizenship, identity and contentious spheres of belonging. Insights from this study, <a href="http://www.salzburgglobal.org/topics/article/report-now-online-digital-crossroads-civic-media-and-migration.html">like in others</a>, point not only to the role digital and social media may have had in promoting engagement between and among migrants and host communities, but also to the need to examine how the diffusion of emotional or moralised content in social media relates to other modalities that mediate narratives of identity and belonging at a crossroads.</p> <p>Certainly, the expression of emotion is key for the spread of moral and political declarations in online social networks. But what depth and impact do our projected selves and voices have if they are out of context, trapped in the babble of noise social and mainstream media often create when addressing the politics and realities of migration?&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">But what depth do our projected selves and voices have if they are out of context, trapped in the babble of noise? </p><p>Inspired by this question Giota Alevizou and artist Lucia Scazzocchio worked together to animate the ‘art of listening’. ‘<a href="https://www.whoareweproject.com/lucia-scazzocchio-beyond-the-babble-1">Beyond The Babble</a>’ was an interactive and participatory audio-focused installation, part of the ‘Who Are We?’ Tate Exchange Programme every day from the 14th-19th March. It explored questions of identity, belonging and the more limited impact that more nuanced voices may have. We argue that these voices go beyond the noise of social media, but that they can also be amplified by those same social media.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a ‘<a href="http://www.socialbroadcasts.co.uk/">social broadcaster</a>’, Lucia<strong> </strong>uses digital audio and radio techniques to explore how individual storytelling and voiced ‘declarations’ not only empower the narrator as they are articulated, but can create shared empathy and deeper understanding for the listener when heard in the right context, often providing insight into wider stories and current debates. The installation aimed to stimulate three types of experience designed in three separate formats:</p> <ol> <li> The first was the ‘audio booth’ inviting participants to self-reflect through the act of conversation.</li> <li> The second was an onsite sound installation that would encourage audiences and publics to tune into each narrative through the ‘babble’ of noise coming from the surrounding exhibition space.&nbsp;</li> <li> The third format took the audio out of the exhibition space into the public realm through the sending of ‘audio postcards’ (audio tweets).&nbsp;</li> </ol> <h2> The art of listening&nbsp;</h2> <p>In discussing the ‘art of listening’ <em>vis-a-vis</em> ‘the art of voicing’ in a previously <a href="https://www.whoareweproject.com/a-conversation-about-the-art-of-listening-between-lucia-scazzocchio-giota-alevizou">published dialogue</a>, we thought about how to get participants to reflect more deeply about home, belonging, citizenship and activism. Lucia used a radio interview recording technique to move away from the ‘superfluous ephemerality’ of declarations in spaces such as Twitter. In a sense, it was an opportunity for individuals to express confessional and autobiographical narratives in a different format, without having to worry about the issues of exposure, breaches of privacy and surveillance that have become more prevalent.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">What is the capacity of sonic art and social broadcasting to animate the politics of identity?</p><p>In what follows, we discuss what the installation meant for us and for the participants, drawing on some themes and quotes that were common in their stories.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li> Who are we, then, in terms of understanding our projections, identities, our stories and contributions in a socially mediated world?</li> <li>What is the capacity of sonic art and social broadcasting to animate the politics of identity and belonging as well as debates about digital citizenship?</li> </ul> <p>Using a transparent plastic bubblewrap to evoke the physical manifestation of ‘social noise’, Lucia aimed to communicate how we strive to manifest our individuality and be heard whilst at the same time adding to social and media noise from the outside world, the recording booth structure plays with notions of public and private space, self-reflection and self-representation, and the juxtaposition of the desire for exposure <i>vis-a-vis</i> privacy.</p> <p>The audio recording booth was created as an enclosed, semi/private space, inviting participants to enter it as a safe space. And yet once inside its transparent structure, they were completely visible to passers-by, representing the false sense of security often created by online and social media platforms.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.22.09 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.22.09 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="611" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Audio Booth; Photo Credit: Lucia Scazzocchio. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Once inside the structure, each participant was asked to sit on one side of a box divided into two sections, facing a mirror with their reflection. They would be aware of the space around them, but at the same time it would feel like a private, intimate space. They are asked to wear a pair of headphones and speak into a microphone just as like as if they were calling into a mini radio studio where you can’t see the host. The participant is lulled into a private, self-reflective conversation where they can hear their own voice via the headphones and see their reflection in the mirror. This creates an uncomfortable, yet on the whole revelatory, experience for the participant as many enter into a guided stream-of-conscious style monologue, invited also to discover something about themselves as well as reveal their thoughts and opinions.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/35317444142_64ea701d6f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/35317444142_64ea701d6f_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inside the Beyond the Babble Booth; Photo Credit: Giota Alevizou. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As participants were lulled into a private conversation – and what would appear like a private space – passers-by were able to glance at them. Again, although the conversations remained private at the moment of recording, snippets from the product or recording would become available through broadcasting on Twitter – known by the speaker.</p> <p>Designed to represent a way to hear individual stories through ‘the babble of social noise’, the sound installation located above a selection of window seats around the exhibition space. Through the speakers that listeners could ‘tune in’ to each participants edited self-reflective monologue and therefore tune out of the noise around them. 24-second audio postcards or ‘audio tweets’ edited from the booth conversations were posted throughout the week as a ‘live’ representation and synthesis of the piece.&nbsp;</p> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Who am I? <a href="https://twitter.com/WhoAreWe_2017?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WhoAreWe_2017</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/giotita?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@giotita</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TateExchange?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@tateexchange</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/identity?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#identity</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/beyondbabble?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#beyondbabble</a><a href="https://t.co/4jSreSEPDS">https://t.co/4jSreSEPDS</a> <a href="https://t.co/RmCvjNourM">pic.twitter.com/RmCvjNourM</a></p>— cultivaters (@SOCIALBRDCSTS) <a href="https://twitter.com/SOCIALBRDCSTS/status/841989664563204096?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p><a href="http://www.transnationalradio.org/">Radio scholars</a> have argued that as receiving technology, radio has layered the spaces of everyday life and given both voices and listening ears to a range of trans-border communities on both local and global scales. Certainly the audio booth and the sound installation, both in the exhibition space at Tate Modern and on Twitter, used radio aesthetics to help participants formulate or resurrect memories about transnational experiences of identity, belonging and ‘civic-ness’. Through the reposting of selected, short audio declarations on Twitter, we aimed to expose hybrid and subversive notions of <a href="http://oro.open.ac.uk/42465/">being digital citizens</a>: by emphasising the depth and emotionality of ‘critical voices’ while striving to cut through the platform’s ‘<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10606-016-9255-8">datafication</a>’ effect and the impact this may have in promoting a datafied public sphere.</p><h2>Sonic art and digital citizenship</h2> <p>Can sonic art and social broadcasting help animate ideas about the politics of identity, belonging and (digital) citizenship? As radio scholar Siobhan McHugh argues, the podcasting revolution of recent times has revived interest in the <a href="http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3366&amp;context=lhapapers"><em>crafted audio storytelling form</em></a>. Through 'Beyond the babble', we used radio aesthetics to develop and share auditory experiences of home, belonging, collective identities and activism that challenge stereotypes and give depth to aspirations for solidarity and conviviality. There are many aspects to this and elaborating would be beyond the scope of this short paper, yet we can highlight some aspects drawing on 25 of the recorded interviews.&nbsp;</p> <p>How did the participants reflect upon their own positions within the very immersive politics of identity and digital activism? As they listened to the echo of their voices, mirroring their image, many referred to echo chambers that social media potentially create. Others referred to the expression of moral emotion as key to the spread of both honourable and vitriolic ideas pertaining to the circulation of political, and often activist, ideas in online social networks, a process that some call “<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317947723_Emotion_shapes_the_diffusion_of_moralized_content_in_social_networks">moral contagion</a>.” Many participants emphasised that the very same social media platforms that are used to mobilize citizens and celebrated as means for civic emancipation are also platforms for executing control and spreading hate. As such they could easily stifle meaningful political action. Most notably, as two participants voiced, particularly referring to post-referendum online behaviours in the UK:&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Hate is a very easy thing to sell and people are always easy to jump on the bandwagon of patriotism... on the other scale, people can become more easily together and more connected and gain a view… In online spaces [you] can gain more knowledge of the world around you or you can look for an echo-chamber or a soundboard where people agree with and you become vindicated in your personal beliefs.</p> <p><span class="blockquote-new">What I find problematic in the nature of social media is that it often lacks context;&nbsp; that’s the challenge in social media to provide context and information for people, so that when they gather together there’s a proper depth about a purpose so that they can act appropriately and effectively… So, I think it’s possible that it needs to be done with depth…</span></p> <p>Where’s then the depth and the context on the expressions of lived identities and spheres of belonging? Last year, Theresa May infamously stated that “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/05/theresa-mays-conference-speech-in-full">if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere</a>”, to insist, as Sara de Jong and Alena Pfoser discuss in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/alena-pfoser-sara-de-jong/we-are-all-displaced">another contribution</a> to this special feature, on national ties and obligations. Conversely, reflecting on home and belonging most participants stressed a sense of fluidity and <em>cultural syncretism</em>, that is evocative of the much-celebrated, London-based elements of multicultural conviviality. Certainly one would expect it from visitors to an event such as Who Are We? in London’s Tate modern. It evokes to an extent, what Abdelmalek Sayad’s sociology of migration refers to as the&nbsp; ‘double absence’, which is often, we would argue, juxtaposed with an aspiration to voice recognition. As one participant who has been seen as particularly critical of the mixed-transient of May’s statement of fixed ties and obligations, puts it:&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new">What is Home for me? It’s that you are always at home and always homesick&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new">I belong to multiple nationalities and multiple citizenships and national citizenships and belonging to one doesn’t make it exclusive to the other...</p><p class="blockquote-new">It’s not easy growing up figuring out where you belong; You have to learn the skill to be able to identify how you are going to take the various different bits from your various different cultures and turn them into an identity; but I think recognizing different bits that belong to different influences doesn’t mean you don’t mean you are not a complete person or that you are less of a group that you are another.</p> <p>Turning to the idea of citizenship, there were two mainly distinctive camps: many participants referred to it in spatial, legal and administrative terms that may create more exclusion and classificatory boundaries. Others referred to it in terms of values (of solidarity and contribution) as well as rights and responsibilities to act, that involves small big battles and small acts of kindness.</p> <p><em>Is it a duty or a right? I see a good citizen as being respectful to other people; unfortunately it’s been wrapped up in a piece of paper and erases any humanity from it. We should be bringing the humanity to it… and what politicians and the media have done, during and after the Referendum, is creating a sense of whether you either belong or you don’t. That becomes divisive, and you’ve lost the essence of it.</em></p> <p>And, as another participant who’s recently ‘secured’ refugee status and has applied for citizenship after 10 years of living in Britain, states:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">We want to focus on ‘humanship’ because citizenship represents too much struggle to get it… &nbsp;</p> <p>Lucia and Giota discussed the sound installation (of the interviews) with a frame of civic media in mind, mixing the technologies (in this case, digital audio and social media) and practices that can produce and reproduce the sense of our being in the world with others.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/34643561704_098d1e04ba_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/34643561704_098d1e04ba_z_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants listening to sound installation: Photo Credits: Giota Alevizou. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Designed to represent a way to hear individual stories through ‘the babble of social noise’, the speakers were located above a selection of window seats around the exhibition space so that listeners could ‘tune in’ to each participant's edited, self-reflective monologue and therefore tune out of the noise around them.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/34643534394_214ede5a04_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/34643534394_214ede5a04_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants listening to sound installation: Photo Credits: Giota Alevizou. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Audio-scaping also took the form of 24-second audio postcards or ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/SOCIALBRDCSTS/status/841989664563204096">audio tweets</a>’ edited from the booth conversations were posted throughout the week as a ‘live’ representation and synthesis of the piece.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p> <iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vAcUOVcyIzA" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p> <p><strong>The Sound Installation as a digital archive</strong>: access <a href="http://www.beyondthebabble.co.uk">www.beyondthebabble.co.uk</a></p> <p>The final manifestation of ‘Beyond The Babble’ was the re-creation of the <a href="http://www.beyondthebabble.co.uk">sound installation in digital form</a>, a digital audio-visual archive( see above), emulating the act of being able to tune in and out of the noise and listen to edited version of each participant’s reflections as a synthesis of what had been revealed in the ‘booth’ by each participant reflecting and sounding like who we are.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the <a href="http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/tate-exchange">Tate Exchange project</a> in which academics and artists together ask&nbsp;who – during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly – 'we' are, and who gets to decide.</span></div></div><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Who are we in a moving world? Lucia Scazzocchio Giota Alevizou Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:10:15 +0000 Giota Alevizou and Lucia Scazzocchio 114114 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reimagining government data through the digital arts https://www.opendemocracy.net/evelyn-ruppert-dawid-g-rny/how-do-we-know-who-we-are-reimagining-government-data-through-digital-art <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Citizens have a right to actively participate in making knowledge about the societies of which they are a part and opening them to democratic contestation, intervention and reinvention.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/movingworld"> <img alt="Who are we banner_0.jpg" height="68" width="460" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u558532/Who%20are%20we%20banner_0.jpg" /></a> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 1: How do we know who we are? Early Prototype. Dawid Górny. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>The 'Who Are We?' programme provoked us to intervene in fundamental questions about who decides, classifies and ascribes who are ‘we’ as Europeans. Our contribution approached these questions in relation to digital technologies and data, which are increasingly part of making up who we are and how we are known by governments, corporations and software and app developers. Our contribution brought together our different interests and approaches to this issue. </em></p><p><em>For Evelyn, a sociologist, how European Union member states are mobilising new digital technologies and data to innovate statistical practices in order to know the 'European population' is a focus of her current research project, <a href="http://www.arithmus.eu/">ARITHMUS</a>. </em></p><p><em>For Dawid, a digital designer, how digital interaction and design enable people to participate in the making of data and visualisations is a concern of his various <a href="http://dawidgorny.com/">projects</a>. We brought our interests together by imagining a digital installation that could respond to a question provoked by the programme: how do we know who we are?</em></p> <h3>Some initial premises</h3> <p class="mag-quote-left">Europe is imagined and visualised as a series of containers of national populations rather than as a space of flows, exchanges and mixing of different peoples that dynamically compose it.</p><p>To move from this question to a design we first formulated two premises. One concerns the relation between the European project in our ‘moving times’: that the freedom of movement in the EU – one of the pillars of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty – provides the promise of not only free movement and settlement and the making of a single European economy but also the possibility of forging a people as a polity. Yet, the promise of a common space of citizen movement has been countered by increasingly complex and restrictive legal regimes of member states that constrain the movement of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. These two legal orders are part of making Europe a morally and politically differentiated space of movements, mixes, and flows of people within and beyond its borders. These conflicting legal orders and tensions between freedom and constraint have arguably articulated a question of ‘Who has a right to Europe?’ as a defining question of our times.</p> <p>Of course, Europe has always been a space of movement, as is evident in the massive migrations of people in and out and within Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And such movements have also been matters of politics and governing as evident in moral panics reinforcing border regimes and calls for better measuring and counting bodies in our moving times. The ongoing struggle in the UK about the counting and inclusion of international students in migration statistics is a telling example. Moral panics about non-EU students overstaying their entitlement&nbsp;continue despite there being no evidence of this as an issue, as reported in a <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/articles/whatshappeningwithinternationalstudentmigration/2017-08-24">recent study</a> by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). This controversy has revealed how the method of measurement –large-scale exit checks or the International Passenger Survey (IPS) – makes a difference in population numbers reported.</p> <p>That there are different ways to define, measure, collect, interpret and disseminate population data is also evident in often incommensurate methods that member states use to capture the movement of people in and out of their territories. Debates about these methods typically focus on how they differently address practical problems of counting movement. However, a fundamental source of this practical problem is that settlement and residency constitute the pillars of population statistics and in turn who are the people of nation-states. The movement of people is thus a ‘problem’ for methods that understand populations as ‘stocks’ of people and statistics as fixed ‘snapshots’ of volumes of people contained in and exchanged between the borders of states. This conception is materialised in the dissemination of population statistics in familiar visual forms of tables and histograms (Figure 2). In these ways, Europe is imagined and then visualised as a series of containers of national populations rather than as a space of flows, exchanges and mixing of different peoples that dynamically compose it.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig2a.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig2a.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="362" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig2b.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig2b.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 2: Eurostat Migration Statistics. Source: http://bit.ly/2vTV2KS.</span></span></span></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The state held a near monopoly&nbsp;over knowledge of populations for almost two centuries, now being challenged by corporate innovations.</p><p>A second premise is that ‘how we know who we are’ is increasingly mediated by the availability of large volumes of digital data (or Big Data) accumulated through the internet by governments, corporations, and software and app developers. While numerical and textual analyses and representations have been dominant, digital visualisation is increasingly deployed for making sense of Big Data. Both developments are disrupting traditional practices of government data collection (e.g., censuses), statistics (e.g., counts), and modes of representation (charts). Arguably, the state held a near-monopoly over population knowledge for almost two centuries, which is now being challenged by corporate innovations in the digital tracing and visualising of the movements and activities of people. In a time of alternative facts, what constitutes legitimate knowledge and expertise about populations are thus evermore sites of political contention.</p> <p>Governments tend to approach this as a competition that they can win through claims about accuracy and quality or by adopting the latest methods of data analysis and visualisation. However, for us, the challenge of alternative facts is not simply about technique. It concerns the normative and political choices about how to collect, sort, organise, categorise, represent and interpret data. That is, practices that generate statistics are not simple reflections of a who we are as Europeans. Rather, through decisions and choices about what and who counts as European to various techniques of making and analysing data, practices are part of defining Europe. As such, ‘how do we know who we are?’ is not only a practical but also political question. It also concerns relations to people through which knowledge of societies is generated and legitimated: as unknowing subjects of data collection or as active participants in its making? Indeed, and more fundamentally, what is at stake is the right of citizens to actively participate in making knowledge about societies of which they are a part and opening statistics to democratic contestation, intervention and reinvention.</p> <h3>Translating premises into designs</h3> <p>We translated these two premises into reflexive questions about the relation between the design of our installation and the politics of how we know who we are:&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <ol> <li>How might we explore visualisations as not simple reflections but actively participating in generating political imaginaries of Europe and Europeans?</li> <li>How do visualisations imagine people as passive or active participants in the making and interpretation of how we know who we are?</li> <li>How might visualisations participate in imagining not the movements of ‘others’ – refugees or asylum seekers - but imagining ‘us’ or ‘Europeans’ as already ‘moving peoples’?</li> <li>How might visualisations trouble static concepts of Europe as a collection of nations by capturing patterns of movement where borders are not the organising frame?</li><li>How might visualisations engage people and make explicit that data is a collective accomplishment and imagine another ‘we’, another Europe?</li> <li>How might the relation between data and visualisations be demonstrated and the ways they perform how we know who we are?</li> </ol> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/FIg3.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/FIg3.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 3: At the Tate Installation. Photo Credit: Evelyn Ruppert. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Reflecting on our premises and these questions, we designed the installation to reimagine Eurostat migration data from 2008-14 on the country of birth and residence of people included in the European population (see Figure 2). We first visualised the data not as numbers but as different sized and coloured shapes. We referred to these as ‘data traces’ where the number of shapes reflects volumes and the colours – derived from selfies posted on Instagram – reflect how Europe is made up of a multi-coloured collection of spaces composed by the in-movement of people from different countries.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Movement is visualised as appearing and disappearing trajectories.</p><p>In these ways movement is visualised as appearing and disappearing trajectories of lines connecting countries of birth and residence and their multiplication is proportional to the volume of movement from within and beyond Europe. ‘Recomposing’ Europe is thus visualised as a series of dynamic multi-coloured spaces and lines that traverse national borders. We then invited visitors to interact with and recompose the visualisation by donating their data traces on country of birth and residence (Figure 3). To ‘populate’ the anonymous shapes of Europe we invited them to also add their ‘data faces.’&nbsp; This involved interacting with an algorithm that generated the outlines of their faces based on a mixture of lines from the topographical borders of their countries of birth and residence. To these the algorithm added coloured shapes based on the mix of their country of birth and residence. In these ways, the data traces and data faces of visitors to the Tate Exchange contributed to reimagining and recomposing Europe.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is but a summary of how our premises and reflexive questions came to shape our final installation (Figure 4), which involved many iterations. As part of our reflexive practice, we have documented these iterations on a storyboard that specifies in greater detail how the installation was designed and the final version generated. What we want to emphasise here is that to answer to the question ‘who are we?’ requires simultaneously answering ‘how do we know who we are?’&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Fig4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Figure 4: Image from the Final Installation. Dawid Górny. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the <a href="http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/tate-exchange">Tate Exchange project</a> in which academics and artists together ask&nbsp;who – during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly – 'we' are, and who gets to decide.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/chrissie-tiller/who-are-we-tat-exchange-review">Making things visible at Tate Exchange</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/giota-alevizou-sara-de-jong/who-are-we-in-moving-world">Arts, participation, exchange: who are &#039;we&#039; in a moving world?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/giota-alevizou/mashing-up-union-jack">Mashing up the Union Jack</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/umut-erel-sara-de-jong-alia-syed/stealing-stories-for-art-migration-voyeurism-and-appropriation-of-i">Stealing stories for art: migration, voyeurism and the appropriation of injustice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/agnes-czajka-alexander-goller-nele-vos/unequal-journeys-exploring-contradictions-of-citizenship-and-">Unequal journeys: exploring the contradictions of citizenship and asylum regimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/giota-alevizou-lucia-scazzocchio/beyond-babble-social-broadcasting-and-digital-citizenship">Beyond the babble: social broadcasting and digital citizenship</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Who are we in a moving world? Dawid Górny Evelyn Ruppert Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:08:48 +0000 Evelyn Ruppert and Dawid Górny 114155 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why progressives should support wikileaks https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaLiberties/geoffroy-de-lagasnerie/why-progressives-should-support-wikileaks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is a fundamental political error to casually associate Wikileaks with neoconservatism or reactionary populism. No affinity between these two worlds is possible.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5595356969_a1936a25d3_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5595356969_a1936a25d3_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wikileaks Julian Assange. Flickr/ Surian Soosay. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>History is replete with disquieting figures, it is often difficult to know whether they deserve our support or mistrust. Julian Assange seems increasingly to be one of these figures. When I started writing about whistleblowers a few years ago, there was genuine sympathy for whistleblowers across international public opinion, and one sensed a common feeling of indignation at the repression whistleblowers suffered. But during the last few months, something seems to have changed. There now seems to be a real mistrust &nbsp;– if not outright hostility – with regard to Assange. The same cannot be said for Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning: they each continue to receive widespread support from journalists, academics, and various advocates for human rights and freedom of the press. But what little support remains for Assange is now much more distanced and qualified. </p> <p>Indeed, I get the impression that a kind of “WikiLeaks bashing” has taken hold: journalists, academics, and intellectuals have not only begun to distance themselves from Assange; they now question, attack, and discredit him on the slightest pretext. </p> <p>This shift in Assange’s reputation has been punctuated by several important moments. But nothing seems to have been more damaging for his reputation than the 2016 US presidential election campaign. Assange’s well-known dislike of Hillary Clinton, combined with Wikileaks’ publication of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has lead to the perception that Assange is becoming increasingly neoconservative, that he is moving away from progressive politics and democratic struggles, and moving closer to the political circles around Donald Trump and even authoritarian regimes <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/28/trump-assange-bannon-farage-bound-together-in-unholy-alliance">such as Russia</a>. <span class="mag-quote-center">Wikileaks is an institution based on generalizable principles...&nbsp; it is precisely these principles that we need in politics today.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>One can, of course, disagree with one or many of Assange’s actions or choices. But what we mustn’t overlook is the fact that important historical figures, like Assange, always embody or represent certain principles or values that transcend the particular actions of the historical figure itself. Wikileaks is an institution based on generalizable principles. And I argue it is precisely these principles that we need in politics today. It would be a major strategic error for progressives to distance themselves from Wikileaks.</p> <p>This is because Wikileak’s principles are in direct opposition to the reactionary sentiments and impulses fueling today’s populist backlash and the entire political system that made Donald Trump’s electoral victory possible. </p> <p>In other words, it’s a fundamental political error to casually associate Wikileaks with neoconservatism or reactionary populism. No affinity between these two worlds is possible; the political ideals brought to life by Wikileaks are a crucial form of resistance to Trumpism and the larger political culture in which Trumpism thrives. </p><blockquote><p>1. Wikileaks is based on the value of knowledge. The organization functions almost like a group of historians of the present. Its institutional mission is to reveal the secret activities of political leaders and, in the process, show the public how states actually function and what they actually do. From this point of view, Assange inaugurated a new culture of truth, a politics of the archive and of knowledge, that is diametrically opposed to the logic of opinion, fake news, and the echo-chamber ideology of contemporary populism.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>2. Wikileaks is anti-authoritarian. Its struggle for transparency is dedicated to opening the black box of government so that the public may no longer live in ignorance of the logics that guide the governments they routinely elect or live under. This opposition to all forms of authoritarianism places Wikileaks in a long and vigilant democratic tradition that opposes the centralized powers of the strong state. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>3. Wikileaks is firmly committed to fighting censorship and the feelings of alienation a culture of censorship produces. And it is precisely this kind of culture of alienation that gives rise to reactionary populism in the first place. Today’s reactionary populism is largely anchored in a not unreasonable mistrust of the media, and the disproportionate power the media exerts over the selection and circulation of information. Wikileaks has consistently attacked the power that traditional media gate-keepers exert over the kinds of information or stories journalists are allowed to pursue and publish<span>. </span>Assange’s statements about the publication of the Panama Papers are <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2016/04/qa-julian-assange-panama-papers-160409121010398.html">a perfect example</a> of this. Wikileaks is an advocate of <em>total transparency</em>. Wikileaks’ standard practice is to publish everything: they prefer to release the raw information they receive and let the public conduct their own analyses and come up with their own interpretations. Their opposition to media censorship and their refusal to see the public as merely passive spectators aligns with their belief in a vibrant public space, and this conviction has given rise to practices that concretely combat the widespread feeling of alienation that is too often channeled in populist directions.&nbsp; </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>4. Wikileaks nurtures an ethic of <em>unconditionality</em>. &nbsp;Julian Assange has been relentlessly criticized for publishing leaked DNC emails during the 2016 US presidential election, and then for weakening Hillary Clinton’s chances of electoral success. But shouldn’t we turn this criticism around? Our democracy is in decline today precisely because of our repeated tendency to suspend and defer democratic principles in the interest of achieving short-term practical objectives (such as in the “War on Terror”). Doesn’t this suspension of democratic principles ultimately damage democracy by undermining its basic unconditional character? And isn’t this tendency to play fast and loose with democratic principles eroding our faith in the rule of law? Assange and Wikileaks publish the documents they receive when they receive them – no matter where they come from or what the short-term political fallout may be. This ethic of unconditionality is especially important today for reviving our faith in the democratic ideal. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>5. Wikileaks believes in a non-submissive culture. The culture of leaking and anonymous denunciation encourages people to distance themselves from the institutions to which they belong, to question their institutional identification, and to maintain an attitude of perpetual institutional skepticism so that they may denounce any potential wrongdoings or crimes. This culture of non-submissiveness, of non-allegiance, is in radical opposition to authoritarian forms of government and forms of nationalistic identification. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>6. Lastly, Wikileaks amounts to a practical critique of all of forms of nationalism, insofar as its concrete practice actively promotes an international conception of politics and belonging. Wikileaks assembles people from all over the world who are fighting for a shared ideal that extends beyond national boundaries and affiliations. Wikileaks, in other words, is a project that transcends the idea of nations, and it works to dissolves the nationalistic basis at the root of all conservatisms. </p></blockquote><p>But more importantly, Assange is one of those rare contemporary political figures to adopt a truly global perception of the world. In all my public discussions with Assange, I was always struck by his ability to take a global perspective on the world, and his consistent capacity to think that whatever is happening in Great Britain is no more important than events in South Africa, Ecuador, Yemen, or Russia. Someone once told me that if Snowden enjoys greater sympathy than Assange in Western Europe or the United States, it’s because Snowden’s leaks involved predominantly white Westerners, while much of the information WikiLeaks publishes involves Yemenites, Afghans, or Iraqis. I think there is much truth to this. <span class="mag-quote-center">These systems of power and ideologies can only be fought by new practices and new subjectivities created within new political systems. </span></p> <p>Populism, nationalism, conservatism, and authoritarianism can’t be fought with ready-made speeches. These systems of power and ideologies can only be fought by new practices and new subjectivities created within new political systems. The rise of contemporary reactionary populism isn’t an accident or an aberration, nor is it simply a case of manipulated public opinion: it is the product of our dominant political and media systems. Yet we are somehow expected to critique Trump, and the culture of populism that produced Trump, from within the confines of the very system that made him possible. This is the singular impasse facing progressive politics today, and this is precisely why we should be cautious about our critiques of Wikileaks. </p><p>We need to defend and support Wikileaks’ project today more than ever. The principles upon which Wikileaks is based are the very same principles that are needed today to create a new political culture: principles of transparency, anti-authoritarianism, internationalism, non-submission, and unconditionality. </p> <p>Of course, the lives of political actors, much like our own lives, are always complicated. But the principles through which Wikileaks acts inscribe the organization in a long history of struggle committed to enlarging the democratic horizon. At a moment in history when the CIA has <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/20/cia-working-take-down-wikileaks-threat-agency-chie/">explicit plans</a> to terminate Wikileaks, both Julian Assange and Wikileaks deserve support from progressives. If progressives want to defeat populism, they should stand with WikiLeaks.<strong>&nbsp;</strong> </p> <p><em>Thanks for the translation go to Matthew MacLellan.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy was at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/home">WFD2017 website</a> for details). </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/geoffroy-de-lagasnerie/beyond-powerlessness">Beyond powerlessness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk World Forum for Democracy 2017 Geoffroy de Lagasnerie Sat, 18 Nov 2017 12:08:53 +0000 Geoffroy de Lagasnerie 114742 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The quiet battle for control of the internet https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/will-wright/quiet-battle-for-control-of-internet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recent and intensifying push by governments to promote a&nbsp;concept of “digital sovereignty” represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31417941.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31417941.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wuzhen, May 23, 2017: Chinese Go player Ke Jie and other guests attend the opening ceremony of the Future of Go Summit before a match between him and Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang province, May 23, 2017. Xu Yu/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Earlier this fall, on the morning of the 20th&nbsp;of September, Spanish police raided the offices of the organization in charge of managing the domain name commonly used by Catalonian websites, '.cat'. The ensuing seizure of the registry’s computers, arrest of its director for sedition, and deletion of domains promoting the October 1st&nbsp;independence referendum sound like a scene from some dystopian cyberpunk future.</p> <p>This heavy-handed instance of online censorship by Spanish police is part of a growing focus by governments on controlling the twenty-first century’s public square, the internet.</p> <p>Most internet users today take for granted their ability to instantly retrieve information and communicate across an open and secure, globalized web. However, the internet’s structure is continually evolving and regularly contested. Just because the internet has so far operated in line with principles inherited from its original creators, emphasizing interoperability and free expression, does not mean it always must or will.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-right">Increased control of the internet’s global infrastructure by authoritarian state actors would, of course, lead to more fragmentation and more censorship.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span>In fact, the recent and intensifying push by governments to promote the concept of “digital sovereignty” represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good.&nbsp;</p> <p>China, the world’s most sophisticated online censor, will host the fourth iteration of its Wuzhen Summit this December. The Wuzhen Summit is China’s attempt to create an alternative to the Internet Governance Forum (an annual multi-stakeholder forum for global policy dialogue on internet governance issues) that reflects its state-led vision for the future of the internet.</p><p>In his keynote <a href="http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1327570.shtml">speech</a> opening the 2015 <a href="http://www.wuzhenwic.org/">Wuzhen summit</a>, Chinese President Xi Jinping said “we should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber development, model of cyber regulation and internet public policies, and participate in international cyberspace governance on an equal footing.” Increased control of the internet’s global infrastructure by authoritarian state actors would, of course, lead to more fragmentation and more censorship.&nbsp;</p> <p>Proponents of cyber sovereignty are moving to expand the influence of bodies more amenable to their concept of internet governance, such as the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency originally founded to coordinate global telegraph and telephone transmission protocols. Through a range of proposals on cybersecurity and other topics at an ITU conference this October, Brazil, Mexico, the Arab States, and a regional bloc formed by Russia and many former Soviet republics, all suggested that the ITU should expand its mandate into privacy-related issues.</p><p>The digital rights groups Article 19, Public Knowledge, and Access Now raised concerns about this development, <a href="https://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/38922/en/privacy:-yes!-but-not-at-the-itu">stating</a> that “any discussion of the regulatory or policy aspects of privacy must be driven by the public interest, which should be determined through a human rights framework. These discussions must be conducted in open and transparent forums. The ITU, however, is neither an open forum, nor one that is specialized to address privacy.” While the technicalities of internet governance may seem remote, boring, or trivial, its potential impact on key values like freedom of speech in today’s online world should not be underestimated.&nbsp;</p> <p>As part of its <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton">#KeepItOn campaign</a>, Access Now has documented 55 intentional disruptions of the internet or mobile apps to control what people say or do in 2016, in most cases by governments, and 61 disruptions over the first three quarters of 2017. Often, such as with the Egyptian internet outages in 2011 or Russia’s internet blacklist since 2012, states pressure their internet service providers in order to control citizens’ internet access and censor content. However, numerous infrastructure concentration points provide opportunities for the disruption of digital networks, and the further that governments’ tentacles reach into internet governance processes, the greater the likelihood they will pursue political goals by leveraging technical architecture in various ways.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the very design of the internet’s structure is not neutral, but rather a reflection of values held by its creators emphasizing interoperability and free expression. This, of course, may be at risk to the extent that standards bodies are captured by actors promoting other values as the internet continues to evolve.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The further that governments’ tentacles reach into internet governance processes, the greater the likelihood they will pursue political goals by leveraging technical architecture in various ways.</p><p>Recent controversy surrounded the transfer in October 2016 of ultimate control over management of the domain name system, the internet’s “phone book,” from the US government to an international multistakeholder community made up of commercial actors, technical experts, academics, civil society, and governments. Dire warnings around the possibility of ICANN, the internet governance body in question, immediately falling under Chinese or Russian control have predictably not come true. However, ICANN’s assurance that it “is a technical organization and does not have the remit or ability to regulate content on the internet” also betrays a failure of imagination, assuming the young organization will always necessarily continue to operate as it has over its first nineteen years.</p> <p>Domain name seizures are routinely carried out to enforce copyright laws for example, and the September raid by Spanish police of a domain registry in order to censor access to websites promoting Catalonian independence show that governments increasingly understand how technical architecture like the domain name system can also be utilized for political ends.&nbsp;</p> <p>The key to sustaining healthy governance of the internet is promoting robust democratic voices within the multistakeholder communities shaping the internet’s evolving structure, in contrast to state-led visions of cyber sovereignty. These communities can protect internet governance bodies and processes from capture by actors with agendas inimical to the internet’s core values of interoperability and free expression. Another important step is formally integrating human rights impact assessments into the processes for reviewing new protocols and policies at internet governance bodies, such as Article 19 recently <a href="https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc8280">introduced</a> for engineers working in Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and as ICANN moved towards in its <a href="https://www.article19.org/join-the-debate.php/244/view/">adoption</a> of a human rights bylaw in 2016.&nbsp;</p> <p>Otherwise, it is possible a very different vision of the internet could become tomorrow’s reality.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emeka-forbes/how-technology-powered-catalan-referendum">How technology powered the Catalan referendum </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/repression-and-digital-resistance-in-catalanreferendum">Repression and digital resistance in the #CATALANREFERENDUM</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/jezerca-tigani/spain-how-democratic-country-can-silence-its-citizens">Spain: how a democratic country can silence its citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/thomas-seibert/catalonia-democracy-and-secession">Catalonia: democracy and secession </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nick-rider/catalonia-spain-referendum-there-is-more-than-one-nationalism-in-iberian-peninsula">There is more than one nationalism in the Iberian peninsula</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/what-china-can-teach-west-about-digital-democracy">What China can teach the west about digital democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Will Wright Wed, 15 Nov 2017 15:18:45 +0000 Will Wright 114592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The special power of disruption in an age of logistical warfare https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-deborah-cowen/acts-of-disruption <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's easier to imagine spectacular violence than the banal, logistical governmentalities that constitute warfare. Yet it is often the same corporations delivering weapons to the frontlines as welfare checks on the home front.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-30228433.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-30228433.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Defiant Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors faced-off with various law enforcement agencies on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, the day the camp was slated to be raided. Michael Nigro/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="blockquote-new">On Saturday the 4th November, the Berliner Gazette‘s Friendly Fire (https://berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire/) conference asked: how is citizenship changing in war times? Two prolific speakers looked for answers: the geographer Deborah Cowen, whose books "War, Citizenship, Territory" and "The Deadly Life of Logistics" explore the politics of violence in the global age, and the historian Felicity Scott, whose Silicon Valley research sheds new light on the emergence of the military-entertainment complex. Closing the three-day conference, their talks reflected the crises of citizenship in the context of states of exception. In the following interview Deborah Cowen reflects on the role of logistics for emergent forms power and counter-power.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Krystian Woznicki (KW): The post-'89-logic of war still prevails today, characterized by ever-shifting and gradually increasing states of exception. Could you briefly explain this logic of war and elucidate what it means to introduce critical geography into the analysis of the ubiquity and normality of war?</strong></p> <p class="Standard">Deborah Cowen (DC): We have certainly seen significant reorganization of warfare since 1989, but I would not locate a new experience of permanent war, or the growing ubiquity of states of exception, in that specific moment or in the geographies it centers.</p> <p class="Standard">Growing up in a settler colony like Canada made it impossible to ignore a kind of permanent war against indigenous peoples. Likewise, if we take a more global perspective that accounts for the histories of colonial and imperial violence, I think we would have to see the ‘state of exception’ as a perpetual feature of liberal rule.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">War doesn’t stop at the national border; rather, it sculpts domestic space.</p><p class="Standard">Against this backdrop, the newness of contemporary warfare is not its ubiquity. The newness rather is how it is organized across national territories – in the course of this even recalibrating sectorial boundaries (e.g. corporate and governmental). And the newness is how it thereby creates new forms of power that undermine, last but not least, the "capacities" of citizenship.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">That is why my larger project, including but not limited to my work on logistics, has in fact been concerned with the intimate life of war in the ostensibly civilian spaces of the modern settler nation-state. This work insists that war doesn’t stop at the national border; rather, it sculpts domestic space. The historical separation between police and military institutions that accompanied nation-state formation in much of the world did not actually mean that war became something only outward facing. We can see this in domestic deployments of military force, but also in the <em>continuities </em>with police force. And we can also trace the entire organization of the war machine domestically – in how war-making shapes economic policy, in military recruitment and retention, for example.</p> <p class="Standard">In uneven and historically and geographically specific ways, war in its most contemporary manifestation traverses national territory.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: To add another crucial layer into reflections about the contemporary logic of war: which role does the military art of logistics play in this context? Or, more specifically, how does the invention and 'institutionalization' of the supply chain inform the contemporary geography of war?</strong></p> <p class="Standard">DC: My recent book 'The Deadly Life of Logistics' suggests that logistics has come to shape war and trade, in their profoundly entangled contemporary existence. Logistics has gone from being a minor art of war – the seemingly banal and innocuous work of supply – to the leading management science around which corporate and military strategy and tactics are organized. I trace two important historical transformations through which this took place – first in the world of national militaries where over the early decades of the last century, the battlefield became increasingly mechanized and dependent on fuel supply lines. This propelled logistics to a defining rather than residual role in sculpting warfare.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">The second transformation took place largely in the postwar period when the US state invested in bringing military and corporate leaders together to port the experience and insight of logistics from the latter to the former sector. This marked the birth of logistics as a corporate management science – although it remains powerfully tethered to martial institutions, actors and expertise. Imperial history insists that the close collaboration of public and private actors in warfare is not exactly new – but it has taken on new forms.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">The national border is increasingly seen as a problem for national security, not a solution, and a host of new security policy work to protect corridors of circulation regardless of whether they traverse ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ space. We can also see the outright militarization of logistics spaces – and perhaps the best example comes from the Gulf of Aden, where a special zone of multinational naval security has been established to protect the crucial transit zone leading to the Suez Canal.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Logistics has gone from being a minor art of war – the seemingly banal and innocuous work of supply – to the leading management science around which corporate and military strategy and tactics are organized.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: The logic of war that you have discussed so far constitutes a blind spot in a lot of academic analysis, media reporting and collective consciousness in general: what does it mean to introduce this logic into reflections about state sovereignty and citizenship?</strong></p> <p class="Standard">DC: Popular imaginaries of warfare continue to promote visions of national states and citizens fighting for a&nbsp;common purpose under a united flag. I am not sure this ever existed as such, but it is far from how I see warfare operating today. I think it is easier to imagine more dramatic and spectacular forms of national violence than to apprehend the banal, routine, logistical governmentalities that constitute this violent moment.</p> <p class="Standard">Our empires work through the ubiquitous beeping of the RFID scan at the grocery store, munitions depot, airport, distribution centre, maritime port, amusement park, or prison. Tanks and ships and planes may come in targeted ‘surgical strikes’ if something disrupts the literal or metaphorical pipelines – but a focus on logistics reminds us that it is often the same corporations contracted to deliver weapons to the frontlines as welfare checks on the home front.</p> <p class="Standard">Corporations are wrapped up so deeply in warfare that the largest (state) powers could not feed or fuel their troops without them. In turn, military forces are essential to clearing the ground for logistics companies, precisely because ‘global trade’ is today understood as a pillar of ‘national security’.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: To move the discussion of citizenship on even further: the "rise of supply chain security", while reconfiguring state sovereignty and border management, challenges and contributes to transforming citizenship. Could you explain how it does so?</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">DC: The rise of a new form of security that aims to protect trade circulation and the critical infrastructures upon which it has relied over the last decade and a half, has profound implications for citizenship. Old imagined geographies of state territoriality are directly transgressed as supply chains cut across national borders and incite new forms of securitization.</p> <p class="Standard">Supply chain security has emerged as a legal and regulatory architecture which aims to protect trade flows, and the networks of logistics infrastructure that underpin them, from disruption. As it follows logistics infrastructures over land and sea, supply chain security collides with the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, transport workers, and so-called ‘pirates’, to name a few. Supply chain security sanctions new forms of risk management that are underpinned by intensive surveillance of targeted groups, or direct military force.</p> <p class="Standard">It aims to bridge the seemingly conflicting demands of rapid and reliable transnational commodity circulation, and strong national borders. While these practices are new and the effects still emerging, we can already see that old assumptions about domestic and foreign space as anchors for the rights of citizenship are being fractured. For instance, port spaces are increasingly governed as special security zones that are subject to both military and police force, and where normal rights of citizenship are suspended.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">This paradigm of security has quickly been adopted into national and supranational government as well as corporate practice over the last few years – it also has deeper roots in the forms and geographies of security crafted to protect colonial trade routes in a much earlier era.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">It is easier to imagine more dramatic and spectacular forms of national violence than to apprehend the banal, routine, logistical govern-mentalities that constitute this violent moment.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>KW: How do these insights – especially with regard to citizenship – expand general notions of political agency, be it at the individual or the collective level? What does it mean to be political today, as a citizen or non-citizen?</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">DC: Conflict and struggle are fertile ground for the making of political subjectivities and the practices and infrastructures that uphold them. It is often in and through struggle that relations of power and solidarity are recast. Supply chains are rife with contestation as states and corporations aggressively expand logistics infrastructures, and experiment with often pre-emptive forms of securitization over those who might resist.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Standard">The emphasis on circulation in logistics systems gives a special power to the act of disruption, and this has become one particularly potent act of citizenship today. It is perhaps on the blockade or at the occupation where some of the most powerful forms of citizenship are emerging. This is not only because of the immediate effect of disruption, but also because of the space of the convergence itself, and how alternative relations of care and provision – alternative logistics – anchored in relations of reciprocity and solidarity can emerge through acts of disruption.</p> <p class="Standard">I’m thinking especially of Standing Rock and the lasting and transformatory work of the protection camps in building movements and political subjects as they worked to block the completion of oil logistics infrastructure – the DAPL, but there countless struggles of this kind underway that may never enter such a global spotlight. If logistics extends its tentacles throughout the spaces of everyday life, it also opens up the possibility for alternative political futures at every turn.&nbsp;</p><p><em>The documentation of the Berliner Gazette‘s Friendly Fire conference will be available soon on <a href="https://berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire">this website</a>. The photos from the three day event are already available in this <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/berlinergazette/sets/">flickr album</a>.&nbsp;<br /> <br />The German version of this interview is available on <a href="https://berlinergazette.de/politik-der-logistik-deborah-cowen/">Berliner Gazette</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/james-bridle/algorithmic-citizenship-and-digital-statelessness-are-digital-non-citizens-status-quo">How online citizenship is unsettling rights and identities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ingo-g-nther/world-comes-closer-together-as-it-falls-apart">The world comes closer together as it falls apart </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-felicity-scott/outlaw-spaces-strategic-reversals-of-power-at-margi">Outlaw spaces: strategic reversals of power at the margins</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Krystian Woznicki Deborah Cowen Mon, 06 Nov 2017 14:15:59 +0000 Deborah Cowen and Krystian Woznicki 114478 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why you should know about Germany's new surveillance law https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/sara-bundtzen/why-you-should-know-about-germanys-new-surveillance-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The controversial law allows government authorities to install a malware, the so-called ‘state trojan’, on smartphones, tablets and computers during a criminal investigation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15041056055_238d0fc403_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15041056055_238d0fc403_z.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smartphone. Flickr/Christian Hornick. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the end of its eighteenth electoral term, the German Bundestag voted in favour of a controversial law that allows government authorities to install a malware, the so-called ‘state trojan’, on smartphones, tablets and computers during a criminal investigation. </p> <p>Failing to attract sufficient public debate so far, it is now important that we talk about how the new legislation facilitates extensive surveillance as a potential standard practice in law enforcement, in which way it compromises Germany’s national cybersecurity, and to what extent it complements EU legislation.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Mainly unnoticed in plenary debate </strong></p> <p>The new bill passed with support of the grand coalition of Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) on 22 June 2016. It was hidden in an amendment to an apparently uncontroversial law that advocates a more effective and practical criminal code. This is one reason why it remained widely unnoticed until its adoption. </p> <p>During the plenary debate,&nbsp;<a href="http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btp/18/18240.pdf#P.24594">Bettina Bähr-Losse (SPD) argued</a>, “Twenty years ago, terrorist or criminal acts were planned in flats, whereas today they are organised in chatrooms.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.csu-landesgruppe.de/themen/wirtschaft-und-energie-infrastruktur-bildung/zugriffsmoeglichkeit-auf-messenger-dienste-wie-whatsapp-beschlossen">Michael Frieser, member of the CSU declared</a>, “This is how we facilitate efficient, cutting-edge law enforcement that’s keeping us all safe.” Members of the Green Party and the far-left Die Linke opposed the law.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gruene-bundestag.de/presse/pressestatements/2017/juni/konstantin-von-notz-und-hans-christian-stroebele-zur-online-durchsuchung-der-quellen-tkue-und-dem-zugriff-auf-messengerdienste-22-06-2017.html">Konstantin von Notz, deputy faction leader of the Greens, criticised</a>&nbsp;the law as “a radical and disproportionate violation of civil rights.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.linksfraktion.de/parlament/namentliche-abstimmungen/detail/joern-wunderlich-der-ueberwachungsstaat-laesst-gruessen/">Left party whip, Jörn Wunderlich, deemed</a>&nbsp;it to be one of the “most invasive surveillance laws of recent years.”</p> <p><strong>What is a state trojan and when is it used?</strong></p> <p>The state-owned malware, officially referred to as Remote Communication Interception Software (RCIS), is still running through various test phases.&nbsp;<a href="https://netzpolitik.org/2017/geheimes-dokument-das-bka-will-schon-dieses-jahr-messenger-apps-wie-whatsapp-hacken/#Bericht">According to a leaked document published on netzpolitik.org</a>, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) considers it should be fully operational by the end of this year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Simply put, once the malware is installed on a suspect’s device, it will allow investigators to monitor messages before they are encrypted and thus, read communications on messenger services such WhatsApp. Whereas previous surveillance measures were limited to a few serious crimes, the new bill allows the use of malware in various other cases such as subsidy fraud, tax evasion, sports betting fraud or falsification of documents. The government claims that investigators are only supposed to read ongoing conversations similar to conventional phone-tapping, not gain access to stored messages. In this way,&nbsp;the government believes&nbsp;fundamental data protection rights to be&nbsp;guaranteed. </p> <p>However, their argument&nbsp;is probably not technically feasible, as the malware would be required to&nbsp;capture a particular set&nbsp;of&nbsp;sent or received messages, while simultaneously&nbsp;excluding all other keystrokes, drafts or messages from previous chats. In either case,&nbsp;it must&nbsp;be argued that data protection&nbsp;rights are applicable to the entire communication.</p> <p>So, while this position most probably challenges fundamental data protection rights, its technical implementation is highly disputed. The legislation further permits remote online searches in more severe cases, i.e. investigations of murder and treason but also corruption, money laundering, extortion, or drug offences. Hence, federal authorities may exploit this access to read and process the entire data stored on the computer memory and hardware. If necessary for the investigation, even third parties’ devices may be hacked.</p> <p><strong>What are the controversies?</strong></p> <p>The new bill constitutes a serious expansion of the surveillance measures that can be deployed by the German government. Unsurprisingly, the law is most probably in violation of the constitution.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bverfg.de/e/rs20080227_1bvr037007.html">A ruling by the German Constitutional Court in 2008</a>&nbsp;recognised the confidentiality and integrity of IT systems as a basic right. Hence, remote access to a citizen’s computer is permissible only if there is a concrete threat to an exceedingly important and legally protected good that is the people’s life and freedom, or critical public goods whose hazard affects the existence of the state.&nbsp;</p> <p>On top, there is a dangerous catch. To install the malware, German authorities must make use of existing security holes and weaknesses in operating systems. A logical consequence of using the tool is the uncalculated risk of deliberately maintaining identified vulnerable points in national IT systems. Moreover, the government’s own interest in gaining access to devices effectively assists potential unauthorized access such as foreign cyber-attacks.</p> <p><strong>European cyberspace as a digital battlefield</strong></p> <p>In view of the increased use of hybrid warfare including state and nonstate cyberespionage and sabotage activities such as the global ransomware attacks on critical infrastructures and businesses (i.e.&nbsp;<em>WannaCry </em>and&nbsp;<em>ExPetya</em>) or Kremlin-funded disinformation campaigns on various social media or news media such as&nbsp;<em>RT Deutsch</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Sputnik</em>, cybersecurity has risen to the top priority on European agendas.&nbsp;<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-3165_en.htm">In his 2017 State of the Union address at the European Parliament</a>, Jean-Claude Juncker declared, “Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks … [which] can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks.” Ironically, the interception or theft of personal data using tools such as the state trojan is clearly understood as cybercrime.</p> <p>Despite the emerging focus on cybersecurity, the effectively destructive German state trojan is compliant with recently adopted EU law. In April 2016, the European Parliament adopted&nbsp;<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32016R0679">a regulation covering the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data</a>, and the free movement of such data; however, it excludes the processing of data “by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public security.” Hence, the regulation does not deter Germany’s expansion of surveillance by means of malware during criminal investigations.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Incoherent approaches</strong></p> <p>The current political debate on internal and external security threats is ambiguous. The EU and its member states propose to counter emerging cyber-threats posed by state and nonstate actors. However, the use of malware as a national approach to advance surveillance will foster inverse effects on national cybersecurity capacities, whilst jeopardising citizens’ basic rights. To conclude, it is highly uncertain whether the German state trojan or the EU’s gap in legalisation that tolerates such an extension will provide any added value to our security environment.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/9873781113_8278d0766a_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/9873781113_8278d0766a_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>iOS7 Homescreen blurred (DSC_0719). Flickr, Jan Persiel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Net Neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? EU Germany Net Neutrality Sara Bundtzen Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:14:49 +0000 Sara Bundtzen 114354 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Outlaw spaces: strategic reversals of power at the margins https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-felicity-scott/outlaw-spaces-strategic-reversals-of-power-at-margi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Countercultures are often ambivalent – taken to be radical, yet only rarely engaging with politics. Can this ambivalence be put to work differently, those in outlaw spaces redefining democracy in unexpected ways? <a href="http://berlinergazette.de/hippies-outlaws-illegale-interview-felicity-scott/"><strong><em>Deutsch</em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-32011157.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-32011157.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A refugee boy puts a flower on the fence as he waits with others on the Greek side of the border to enter Macedonia, near Gevgelija, Macedonia. Tomislav Georgiev/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On Saturday 4th November, the Berliner Gazette‘s <a href="https://berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire/">Friendly Fire</a> conference asks: How is citizenship changing in times of war? Two speakers will be looking for answers: the geographer Deborah Cowen, whose books War, Citizenship, Territory and The Deadly Life of Logistics explore the politics of violence in the global age; and the historian Felicity Scott, whose Silicon Valley research sheds light on the emergence of the military-entertainment complex. Closing the three-day conference, this public talk will reflect the crises of citizenship in the context of states of exception. Here, Felicity Scott reflects on strategic reversals of power that may occur in moments of crisis.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Krystian Woznicki (KW): Today, computer culture is celebrated as counterculture and vice versa – a legacy from the Hippie days. What grounded their philosophy back then was a cunning understanding of the relationship between the government and police, on one hand, and outlaws on the other, as in Stewart Brand's supplement to the 1970s' <a href="http://www.wholeearth.com/history-whole-earth-catalog.php">Whole Earth Catalogue</a> entitled "The Outlaw Area". Could you say more about their thinking with regard to that relationship and reflect what kind of ground this has laid for notions of citizenship?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Felicity Scott (FS): There are so many important facets to your question. I particularly appreciate your recognition of the complex and at times quite problematic interplay between emergent claims to non-normative citizenship and the nexus of computerization, forms of governance, and the police that was at work within the late 1960s and early 1970s American counter-culture. We need to think all of these facets together to recognize what was at stake and at play in the libertarianism fostered by a media-savvy figure like Stewart Brand at that moment—to understand how he could possibly have had such an impact upon the cultural imaginary of the period but also to understand the persistence of his “whole earth” and “outlaw” ideology today, especially within computer culture, with its apparently “alternative,” free-wheeling valence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">We need to pay attention to how&nbsp;ideals&nbsp;to do with computers, alternative cultures, and critiques of police can be hijacked by powerful players, how they at times take on the semblance of radicalism without necessarily being so.</p><p dir="ltr">Brand’s “genius” lay in his ability to recognize the political ambivalence inhering within the indeterminate logics of emergent communication technologies, the science of ecology, and the idealism of new social movements in America, but even more so in his remarkable skills at mobilizing the ideals or sentiments at play, and even re-scripting countercultural appeals to liberty, transformation, and interconnectedness to particular ends. Hence the importance of his ability to bring together powerful figures from the military-industrial complex and institutions driving those transforming modes of governance with hippies and other new social subjects who radically dis-identified with the militarism and nationalism that underlay them.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">So, I wouldn’t want to collapse the many and quite variegated attempts to forge new modes of non-, or at least less-normative subjectivity (if not always of citizenship) that was at play within hippie culture with Brand’s rather cynical deployment of that culture to ultimately nationalist, or globalizing ends. Rather, I try to understand how they became so interrelated, and why hippie idealism so often tended towards, or switched to, a de-politicized subject position with respect to notions of citizenship, even while challenging conventional American understandings of what citizenship might look like.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">I am not suggesting that the nexus of computers, alternative cultures, and a critique of police and governing structures could not give rise to progressive notions of citizenship – I certainly recognize this is possible, and hope it continues to be – but rather trying to insist that we need to pay attention to how such ideals can be hijacked by powerful players, how they at times take on the semblance of radicalism without necessarily being so.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KW: To go into the politics of citizenship a little deeper: as in our non-transparent-corporate-government-complex contemporary digital culture, in the days of Brand’s counter-culture, the notion of innovation was closely tied to illegality. I wonder what implications this has had for constructing citizenship within –&nbsp;or outside of –&nbsp;a statehood protected by laws?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">FS: Innovation is one of these tricky words that we have to interrogate carefully, for it is too often affiliated with uncritical narratives of progress – social, political, economic, technological, artistic, etc. – and used by dominant institutions and players to claim change as such, without marking its affiliated political tendencies.</p><p dir="ltr">Innovation has a positive ring, it stands in for the language of the “good,” and we hear it all the time, yet its effects are not always socially and politically progressive. Donald Trump’s political campaign and his mode of governing are, if anything, innovative. Such uses of the term do not mean that one should simply eschew innovation, or even the language of innovation, but that we need to situate change within the larger economic and political apparatus within which it is operating, to recognize its rhetorical and political valences in each instance.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Innovation too might be put to work otherwise, to more socially progressive or equitable ends. So, in addition to the question of “how” to innovate, we need to ask the question “for whom and to what ends?” Hence, in part, my fascination with the seductive claims of Buckminster Fuller and, again, Brand, that innovation takes place in so-called Outlaw Areas, spaces not confined by regulations or laws, or so they claimed.</p><p dir="ltr">It is a dangerous fiction to believe that such outlaw spaces are somehow beyond politics, for they function within larger regimes of power and of sovereignty – we might call these imperialism in the case of Fuller or neo-imperialism in the case of Brand – but they also remain sites of struggles which retain the potential for reconfiguring some of these relationships. (Illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in this sense outlaw areas.) The innovations produced in outlaw areas touch down differently for different communities or different parts of the world.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But to come to your question: the ambivalent topology of legality and illegality that I am fascinated with is very much at the heart of how I hope my historical research might haunt the present, so I am glad that you have drawn this out and made the connection to citizenship, especially as it relates to the political function of the contemporary state. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Can this political ambivalence be put to work differently? Might the fluidity and instabilities serve as opportunities for strategic reversals of power?</p><p dir="ltr">Here I want to recall the forceful, repeated, and ongoing challenges to notions of state sovereignty emerging after World War II, and with them, we might say, the implicit challenges to notions of citizenship that function at the nexus of nativity, the state and territory. In other words, within the so-called New World Order driven in part by US-led forces of globalization, the effects of which mark our present, we have first to ask: “who” is constructing new notions of innovation, sovereignty, and citizenship, who is able to act in this zone of illegality, and to what ends?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Access to what Brand celebrated as Outlaw Areas is not symmetrical, nor was access to political communities in which claims to citizenship in the conventional sense are effective. At stake in my research, then, is to question whether this political ambivalence can be put to work differently, whether the fluidity and instabilities that we can trace might serve as opportunities for strategic reversals of power, whether the waning of fixed or foundational relations between citizens and states might not open onto other political opportunities.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This is not to underestimate the ongoing importance of the state as the domain of citizenship and rights claims. We can cite many examples from the civil rights struggles in the US wherein an illegality is transformed into its opposite through political struggle – such as where a person of color could sit or eat – the terrain shifting precisely through acts of citizenship. The state retains a key function in such transformation of the law, but we might also ask whether such acts can also take place within a post-national framework, or in other domains, and if so what that might look like.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KW: The military-industrial complex served as a playground for computer-savvy hippies, who seem to have been complicit in the normalization of certain forms of lawlessness that culminated in states of exception. The collective Ant Farm can serve as a source of inspiration when searching for alternatives to these often dominant tendencies. In your work, you suggest that Ant Farm “open[s] up a space for conceptualizing and testing a networked society”. Can you say more about this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">FS: It is true that Ant Farm remains a “good object” in my work, even if I spend a lot of time trying to trouble and complicate the status of the larger apparatus in which they work and intervene – particularly their intimate relation to the military-industrial complex as manifest in the Bay Area computer scene, and their connections to Brand. I think there is something quite important in the way Ant Farm understood architecture not only through the lens of its formal, aesthetic, and functional dimensions, as is proper to the discipline or profession – although they don’t entirely lose sight of those dimensions, and subject them to great irony – but also as at once social, subjective, media-technical, institutional, economic, political, geopolitical, etc.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In this sense, their work reveals some of the ways in which architecture is caught up with the coercive and discriminatory logics of a contemporary biopolitical apparatus, the ways it functions an environmental control mechanism with a normative bent, the ways in which it is endowed, quite literally, with the task of regulating the health, socialization, and productivity of the population. &nbsp;But, importantly, Ant Farm also situates architecture as a site of political protest and refusal, even of semantic inversion. They offer examples of how, precisely through being so intimate with and imbricated within contemporary forces, architecture can also work, at times, to interrupt or rearticulate the interconnections at work within dominant regimes of power.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">They offer figurations of how to relate otherwise to this dominant apparatus, how to creatively redirect it or make it function to other ends. They take irony seriously. To put it simply, I think we can trace in their work evidence of an artistic practice that remains not-quite-assimilated to the techno-social logics pursued by Brand, demonstrating something like an artistic remainder or excess that marks the limits of those systems as they impact subjects and environments.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KW: Today, criminalized migrants are often without rights. Being so, they destabilize the nation-state framework and the contracts a state sets up, thus potentially expanding the notion of political agency. In this way migration can be seen as a social movement. Despite – or perhaps because of – their extreme vulnerability, illegalized migrants are capable of revitalizing politics and expanding and redefining the space of democracy in unexpected ways. Against this backdrop, I wonder whether you also see this potential: who is/was opening up a politically emancipatory space for testing citizenship at its legal limits or beyond its legal limits? In what ways is this still important today?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">FS: One way to answer this question might be to speak more overtly to my recent book, Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency, which hopes to serve (in part) as a type of prehistory and even at times as an allegory of the contemporary expansion of techniques of securitization and forces of human unsettlement driving this contemporary phenomenon.</p><p dir="ltr">It does so by recovering case-studies or events from the 1960s and 70s in which architecture’s relation to such dispossessions and cynical alignments with the deterritorializing logics of neoliberal capitalism becomes legible, deploying examples wherein the heroic figure of an outlaw or frontier was articulated with emergency conditions (such as environmental crises, urban insurrections, or war) or with emergent, increasingly global techniques of power born of new institutional, techno-scientific, and geopolitical configurations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">It is a dangerous fiction to believe that such outlaw spaces are somehow beyond politics, for they function within larger regimes of power and of sovereignty.</p><p dir="ltr">A key stake lies, then, in understanding the relation (or lack thereof) between, on the one hand, forceful dispossessions (largely but not exclusively those taking place in the so-called developing world) and, on the other hand, willing retreats or exodus from a political community that we find at play within the counterculture. So, if my writing on the American counterculture always sought to render visible the razor’s edge between progressive and less progressive political tendencies, tendencies too often simply taken to be alternative, radical, or avant-garde and only rarely engaging with questions of democracy, Outlaw Territories takes questioning that ambivalence into new terrain, working to uncover a series of encounters between American figures, practices, and institutions and pressures impacting the so-called Global South.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The manuscript, I should point out, was completed prior to summer 2015, when Western media turned so much attention to refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, along with other places torn apart by war, conflict, occupation, and economic and environmental catastrophes, to name only part of a litany of disaster. With the refugee crisis no longer bracketed as a Third World “problem,” and with conventional distinctions like us/them, inside/outside, access/foreclosure becoming increasingly convoluted, such questions now remain (and are likely to continue to remain) at the forefront of discussions in Europe and the West, both popular and architectural. But they have a longer history, one very closely tied, as noted above, to the expansionist logic of capital, which gives rise simultaneously to a seemingly ever-increasing deracination and unsettlement, on the one hand, and to rising nationalisms, borders, and barriers on the other, an anachronistic backlash to such fluidity fueled by xenophobia now often taking the form of anti-Islamic sentiment.</p><p dir="ltr">Within this framework, there are indeed many ways in which illegalized migrants have a lot to teach us about what it means to be a citizen today, how to make political claims from a position of extreme precarity, from the position of the outlaw. My hope is that such historical scholarship offers certain clues, and the “heroic” figures who emerge in that book are almost invariably actors from the Global South (from Palestine, Nigeria, and the Philippines) whose interventions in some of the United Nations so-called “world conferences” during the 1970s, open up spaces that facilitate new types of political discussion, including about what democracy might look like. In this context, the antics of characters like Brand take on an even more haunting profile as actors who in fact seek to close down precisely such openings.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-catarina-frois/hyper-security-video-surveillance-and-borders-inter">Hyper-security, video-surveillance and borders: an interview with Catarina Frois</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/krystian-woznicki/violence-from-future-on-logics-of-g20-state-of-emergency">Violence from the future: on the logics of the G20 state of emergency </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lea-sitkin/borders-of-punishments-criminology-and-migration-control">Borders of punishments: criminology and migration control</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Krystian Woznicki Felicity Scott Fri, 27 Oct 2017 08:42:22 +0000 Felicity Scott and Krystian Woznicki 114300 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What China can teach the west about digital democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/what-china-can-teach-west-about-digital-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">China is a repressive country. It’s also a laboratory for democracy in the digital age.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-33449937.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-33449937.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Guests attend the 2017 China National Computer Congress in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province, Oct. 26, 2017. Lin Shanchuan/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2010, Google pulled out of China amid pressure from the Chinese government. In the West, the story was about a backward-looking authoritarian state rejecting innovation and strangling freedom of expression.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Did China get it right? You certainly don’t see many newspaper stories about China’s vindication.</p><p dir="ltr">Then Edward Snowden showed the world that vulnerabilities in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-infiltrates-links-to-yahoo-google-data-centers-worldwide-snowden-documents-say/2013/10/30/e51d661e-4166-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story.html?nid&amp;utm_term=.36043ca38c2c">Google’s internal systems were enabling the NSA’s mass surveillance</a>. Maybe China had a point about a US corporation collecting vast amounts of data about its citizens. Now we’ve seen Russia try to use a <a href="https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/topics/company/2017/Update-Russian-Interference-in-2016--Election-Bots-and-Misinformation.html">sock puppet army to manipulate elections</a> in Europe and the US, another very good reason why a country might want to regulate its own digital sphere. Did China get it right? You certainly don’t see many newspaper stories about China’s vindication.</p><p dir="ltr">It would be naive to think that the Chinese government was only motivated by a benign intent to protect its society: it’s also an authoritarian state strangling freedom of expression. But repression is not the only lesson to draw from the Google story. There are also lessons about pragmatic ways the state can deliver in civic digital technologies.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">China is a country where you can disappear for having the wrong opinion, but we have so few data points on how society should respond to digital technologies we need to take empirical evidence from wherever we can get it. Further, perhaps there’s a touch of hypocrisy in the way the west lectures the world about individual liberty while covertly monitoring social media and allowing our digital lives to be dominated by a handful of Silicon Valley monopolies.</p><p dir="ltr">Here are two ways China is doing something interesting with digital democracy – surely there are many more.</p><h2>1. Measuring non-monetary value<br class="kix-line-break" /></h2><p dir="ltr">How about a society that rewards people for the good they do, taking into account not only their labour in the office or factory, but their hard work as a mother; not just the day rate they can command as a consultant but also the emotional labour of supporting a friend with depression.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Sounds a bit authoritarian? Well, if you live in the west, you also have a score.</p><p dir="ltr">China’s system of scoring citizens is… kind of… this: combining educational achievements, traffic infractions, financial behaviour and social media activity into one number that it publicly assigns to every citizen. It’s not clear what other activities will influence the number, but, as a piece of infrastructure, it has the potential to nudge your rating up for helping an old lady across the road.</p><p dir="ltr">Sounds a bit authoritarian? Well, if you live in the west, you also have a score. The government secretly monitors your digital activity and assigns every citizen a number which indicates how likely you are to be a terrorist, or some equivalent process that has the same effect –&nbsp;obviously governments are not forthcoming about how these systems work. You also have a credit score, which is extremely analogous to the social scoring system. Except, rather than being delivered by a government, it’s run by big banks that are institutionally indifferent to ethics.</p><p dir="ltr">In China, the social score policy is public and transparent, one <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-34592186">idea is that your score might appear</a> on your dating site profile; though you can obviously make a strong case that the social scoring system is illegitimate because it’s implemented by an unelected government. In the west, you can make a roughly equivalent case that scoring is illegitimate because it’s undertaken by banks, which are incentivised to reduce transparency, or in secret by the government. You have a vote, but in practice, it’s unlikely to give you a say about government spying or credit ratings.</p><p dir="ltr">If China’s social scoring system goes ahead, it&nbsp;could provide valuable insights for similar ideas in the west, particularly on topics like alternative currencies and the need to value affective labour.</p><h2>2. Deliberative democracy</h2><p dir="ltr">If you are worried about an increasingly polarised society driven by filter bubble effects, again, China may have an answer. <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1057%2F9780312376154">Deliberative democracy</a>: where a group of citizens is invited to feedback to local officials on policy. Details vary, but normally a demographically representative group of people are selected to meet up and spend some time ‘deliberating’, discussing issues among themselves with access to impartial experts. At the end, a vote is taken and the results are either binding, or become recommendations.</p><p dir="ltr">The principle that everyone gets to vote is the core of western democracy. At the moment, though, it’s undeniable that the electoral cycle has become an alarmingly centrifugal force, chaotically cartwheeling opinions to the extremes and tribalising the electorate. Deliberative democracy has two benefits. Firstly, in deliberative democracy voters are selected to be truly demographically representative, rather than just those that turn up to the polling booth, which inevitably tends to be the better off.</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly, in deliberative democracy, participants have a chance to become informed and discuss issues in a structured way, bypassing the filter bubble. These are not features that are easy to ensure; if you insist that everyone must vote, it would simply be too resource intensive to give every single voter access to a deliberative process (<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberation_Day">though it has been suggested</a>). Deliberative democracy has been tested in the west too, leading, for example, to oil-obsessed&nbsp;Texas making a significant investment in <a href="https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/the-promise-of-deliberative-democracy/">wind farms for electricity</a>, after a deliberative process showed that consumers were less price-sensitive and more eco-conscious than expected.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">At the moment, the electoral cycle is become an alarmingly centrifugal force, cartwheeling opinions to extremes, tribalising&nbsp;<span>the electorate.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Deliberative democracy is usually applied to local issues, so rather than replacing existing democratic institutions, it can, in parallel with national democracy, improve the quality of local policy making.</p><p dir="ltr">Just as with social scoring, but to a lesser extent, there are arguments about legitimacy in both directions – obviously, China isn’t a democracy. On the other hand, if your public sphere is in the hands of a few newspaper barons, Russian trolls and social networks that algorithmically deepen polarisation, then citizens' ability to vote in their best interests will inevitably be undermined by the flow of manipulative information. Deliberative democracy is not itself digital, but instead represents a way to legitimise new technologies and to improve an increasingly dysfunctional public sphere.</p><p dir="ltr">So was China right to kick Google out? It’s unclear, but as digital technology becomes ever more embedded in society, these questions will become more and more urgent. We’ve seen it happen only recently: Transport for London (TfL), the institution responsible for regulating taxis in London, has questioned Uber’s fitness to operate a taxi company. A lot of civic tech people suggested that TfL should run its own Uber replacement. Those on the other side of the debate said that if London wasn’t open to Uber, it was against <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/evening-standard-comment-removing-uber-s-licence-is-shutting-out-the-future-a3642851.html">innovation, the free market and the future</a>&nbsp;– the polarising echo chamber working as effectively as ever.</p><p dir="ltr">When Uber tried to open in China, the government had no compunctions about setting up a local alternative, Didi Chuxing, which is doing very nicely. Unlike Uber, which mobilises its PR and legal teams to frustrate local democracy in the cities in which it operates, you can bet that Didi will act if the Chinese government tells it to sort out its safety record. China has, as a nation, gained control of its taxi infrastructure, but at the cost of unappealing centralisation.</p><p dir="ltr">In response to Uber problems in London, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, has <a href="https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/919159485461155842">suggested a cooperative model</a> as an alternative&nbsp;– perhaps finding a path between the Chinese quasi-state led model, and the hyper-market-oriented view where rejecting Uber is synonymous with rejecting all innovation.</p><p dir="ltr">China’s solutions won’t always appeal, but it faces similar problems to the west: working out what political institutions are best suited to managing digital technologies. If you believe that society is going to have to change radically in the face of technological innovation, it’s helpful to have somewhere radically different to draw lessons from – and China is well qualified in this respect.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/304270/who-can-you-trust/#S5bRYAm7u73zMgjK.99">Who Can You Trust?</a>&nbsp;</strong><strong><em>How Technology Brought Us Together – and Why It Could Drive Us Apart</em></strong></p><p><strong><em></em></strong>by Rachel Botsman</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/programme-2017">programme</a> for more details).</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/chenchen-zhang/curious-rise-of-white-left-as-chinese-internet-insult">The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/china-s-digital-nationalism-kungfu-panda-under-fire">China’s digital nationalism: Kung Fu Panda under fire </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/node/19295">e-democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/china-democracy-in-action">China: democracy in action </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/china-correspondent/great-firewall-of-china">The Great Firewall of China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/stein-ringen/china-and-embarrassment-of-western-democracy">China and the embarrassment of western democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties China World Forum for Democracy 2017 Jimmy Tidey Thu, 26 Oct 2017 23:00:32 +0000 Jimmy Tidey 114298 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How can you show that the Snowden disclosures are everybody's business? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/alina-floroi/how-can-snowden-files-become-part-of-commons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What's to become of the Snowden files? Are these documents to be re-appropriated into the system they sought to expose – or can the leaks be elevated to the realm of the commons?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Textbody"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_exhibition view_Blace.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_exhibition view_Blace.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Undressing for XKeyscore - norms/forms to fit in/out" by Zeljko Blace. Andi Weiland | berlinergazette.de. CC-BY-NC. </span></span></span>The Snowden disclosures have triggered debates about democracy, civil rights, the internet and intelligence agencies all around the world. These debates have led to a number of political changes, including negative ones, for instance, consolidating the delusion of cyber-security. Meanwhile, the documents that triggered the debates remain hard to penetrate for the general public, as well as for many experts. And it is not certain that the documents will be preserved for posterity or for those writing our history, since they are so spread out over the world corresponding to numerous sources.</em></p><p class="Textbody"><em>The book and exhibition project SIGNALS takes this problem as its starting point and situates the historic leak in the context of civic appropriation. The artists participating in the exhibition test the files as material and, by creating works, transform them into commons.</em></p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book cover.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book cover.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Field Guide to the Snowden Files - Media, Art, Archives 2013 – 2017. Krystian Woznicki | berlinergazette.de. CC-BY-NC.</span></span></span>For the first time documents of the greatest intelligence leak in history were presented in an exhibition in Berlin – the former 'capital of the spies' and the present retreat of many digital dissidents. Snowden’s well-known documents – published all over the world – represent only a small percentage of the files that he actually saved before disappearing from his work as&nbsp;an NSA subcontractor.</p> <p class="Textbody">Snowden‘s documents cover various programs of the NSA (the US National Security Agency). One of these programs is called PRISM. It offered a backdoor to access private data from Google or Facebook, others refer to phone records, or digital spying over the European Union’s secrets or many other countries in the world or to the XKeyscore program that literally enables users from the intelligence community to see what any internet user does in digital networks.</p> <p class="Textbody">Launched under the title <strong><em>SIGNALS – The Snowden Files in Art, Media and Archives</em></strong>, the exhibition shows that there is a great need for debate. The exhibition curators Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki, who are also the co-founders of the Berliner Gazette, sum this up: "some heard of the Snowden Files for the first time, someone else had believed so far that Snowden was only a fiction, and for those who are already involved with the subject matter, it became clearer that many questions remain open: what do these documents actually look like? why is it attractive to use them artistically?"</p> <p class="Textbody">The exhibition's unique undertaking and affiliated publishing project addressed this broad spectrum of questions and also managed to provide some answers. The curators were present at the show on a daily basis, providing tours and background information on the works exhibited. In addition to that, a number of events, including many of the involved artists, archivists and researchers were providing a platform for lively exchange and intense interaction. Magdalena Taube remarks: "there was quite a bit of astonishment, especially among those, who, for the first time took a look at the actual documents and their appearances in art, media and archives."&nbsp;</p> <p class="Textbody">The Berliner Gazette had worked on the Snowden disclosures from the very beginning. The nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders analyzes and tests emerging cultural as well as political practices in the digital realm and has done so for more than 18 years. The team has been publishing berlinergazette.de under a creative commons license, with more than 900 contributors from all over the world. The Berliner Gazette has manifested itself in the physical world, too, by organizing annual conferences and editing books.</p> <p class="Textbody">After Snowden came out with his first big disclosures in the summer of 2013, the Berliner Gazette started to ask critical questions. No one was much surprised about the actual content of the leaks as the Berliner Gazette team was aware of the security industry's methods and logics – learning, for instance, from the New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager‘s detailed description of ECHELON in his 1996 book, Secret Power: New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Taube and Woznicki soon realized that the documents themselves were the key materials to write history.</p><p class="Textbody">Intrigued about how the historic Snowden leak could actually help in the writing of history, Taube and Woznicki soon realized that the documents themselves were the key materials – to support any thesis and sustain any substantial narrative and subsequently to write history. So while taking the contents of the disclosures very seriously, the BG team turned their focus on the leaks as sources that needed to be preserved and accessed collectively and cooperatively on a long-term basis. Against this backdrop, they have launched several critical interventions under the motto 'Snowden Commons' which intended to explore and expand the democratic potential of the disclosures. The guiding question was: how could the Snowden files be turned into commons?</p> <p class="Textbody">First they observed media outlet such as the Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Intercept re-appropriating the leaked data as some sort of private property; then they witnessed various international archive initiatives struggling to cope with the quantity and precarity of the material and then, eventually, they discovered the actual documents surfacing in some art works like in a wonderful piece by Trevor Paglen, NSA-Tapped Fiber Optic Cable Landing Site, Mastic Beach, NYC, that presents a photograph of a beautiful beach and a geographic map of the era with Snowden documents interspersed – literally disclosing what's beneath the beach: a large scale data collecting operation by the NSA.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Textbody"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book page_Paglen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book page_Paglen.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"NSA-Tapped Fiber Optic Cable Landing Site, Mastic Beach, NYC" by Trevor Paglen. </span></span></span>This is the story of the Snowden documents so far – and how they surfaced in various contexts: media, archives and artistic spaces. What will happen next? As nobody knows, it is time to tackle and actually collectively shape this moment of transformation of raw leaks into the material of artistic archives – a task that the Berliner Gazette project follows, documents and scrutinizes: how have the raw leaks been appropriated? Are they transformed into the proprietary objects of the system they sought to expose? Or can the leaks be elevated to the realm of the commons?</p> <p class="Textbody">Now, that there is a critical mass of artists working with the Snowden Files, it is possible to take this as a starting point to reflect on these questions in a new way. The exhibition gathers a very wide range of contributors including Zeljko Blace, Andrew Clement, Colnate Group, Naomi Colvin, Simon Denny, Corinna Haas, Christoph Hochhäusler, Evan Light, Geert Lovink, M.C. McGrath, Henrik Moltke, Deborah Natsios, Julian Oliver, Trevor Paglen, Laura Poitras, Norman Posselt, SAZAE bot, Stefan Tiron, University of the Phoenix, Andi Weiland, Maria Xynou and John Young. And their works present a "user-friendly" way to approach these complex issues as well as the questions of property pertaining to them.</p> <p class="Textbody">Raising these issues, SIGNALS is different from international exhibition projects such as "Under the Clouds", "Nervous Systems", "Art as Evidence" or "Watched" that have touched upon surveillance issues without material reference to the Snowden Leaks.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Textbody">In this case, it is "for the first time that our project presents the actual Snowden files on display across a spectrum of media, archives and arts" as Krystian Woznicki points out. "We started with a critique of the media and then moved on to an exploration of archives with respect to their treatment of the files, and are now looking at the files in art. The files in media, archives and art – not 'the Snowden files in relation to these fields in general'. After all, a relation can be vague, indirect and open. In our case, however, it is not – at least not in the first place – about the relation of the files to the respective fields, but about the files themselves surfacing as concrete documents in these fields and their respective formats.</p><p class="Textbody">In a sense we ask the commons questions on a very materialistic level, which, we believe is very necessary, because from beginning to end (of all social processes) it is about the documents as materials, that you either have access to or not, can use and transform or not; moreover, materials, that will be preserved as common goods or not. It is important to be very precise about this, because neither the media nor the art field are constructed as fields to 'accommodate' such issues – on the contrary! Their logics of access are very propietary."</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Can the leaks be elevated to the realm of the commons?</p><p class="Textbody">The exhibition not only follows the transformation of the leaks into the material of media, archives and arts, but also re-appropriates them from these contexts back into a common document collection: in the form of the book. Here, each document, in whatever form, is presented as a two-dimensional page that can be read, turned and filed. The exhibition presents these two-dimensional pages in various ways: blown up to wall sized banners, beautifully framed, or pinned onto the wall. In some instances, the printing sheets of the book are displayed – disclosing the book's production process, it's "madness", so to speak, as well as its construction principles.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Textbody">How is it made? How could it be done? These are some of the questions that the exhibition prompts and it also suggests that what has been presented here could be done by others as well. The exhibition curators recall an encounter with a visitor: "from the exhibition I get the impression that I could make such an exhibition myself: I could get the book and use its pages for a show of the Snowden files“.</p> <p class="Textbody">If you look at the project again, you gather that between the lines SIGNALS invites people to come and actually use themselves the book pages as a preservation and exhibition tool. And isn‘t this how eventually everybody could participate in turning the Snowden files into commons?&nbsp;</p> <p class="Textbody"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book page_University of the Phoenix.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/SIG_book page_University of the Phoenix.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Ghost Machine" by University of the Phoenix.</span></span></span><a href="https://diamondpaper.net/title_26)">A FIELD GUIDE TO THE SNOWDEN FILES</a> is the first book to critically engage with artists responding to the NSA-files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The book has been conceived in the context of SIGNALS, a project by Berliner Gazette e. V. which was funded by the Capital Cultural Fund. The book is published in conjunction with SIGNALS. AN EXHIBITION OF THE SNOWDEN FILES IN ART, MEDIA AND ARCHIVES, September 12-26, 2017, at DIAMONDPAPER Studio, curated by Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki. More info: <a href="http://berlinergazette.de/signals">http://berlinergazette.de/signals</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/paul-lashmar/undigested-snowden">Undigested Snowden</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/carly-nyst-rosemary-bechler/after-snowden-can-technology-save-our-digital-liberties">After Snowden, can technology save our digital liberties?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/didier-bigo/paradox-at-heart-of-snowden-revelations">The paradox at the heart of the Snowden revelations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Alina Floroi Thu, 26 Oct 2017 20:31:44 +0000 Alina Floroi 114279 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could populism be a side effect of the Personalized Algorithm? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/claudio-agosti/could-populism-be-side-effect-of-personalized-algorithm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And can we work together so that one day we can use filter bubbles against themselves?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1*dUxKns4GtyBf83L-jYIdQA.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1*dUxKns4GtyBf83L-jYIdQA.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Claudio Agosti: "During the French elections, our users (a,b,c,d,) were following the same news media sources and access to Facebook at the same time per day, one per hour. Despite all having 0 friends and only different 'likes', Facebook displayed different posts to these users in that hour." All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In a democracy, the way information circulates is a power in itself. The landscape of the so-called ‘fourth estate’ has metamorphosed out of all recognition in the last 15 years. Currently, social networking is the technology that is used to share our perceptions of the public space.</p> <p>Given the addict-like compulsion to adopt such technologies, we have endowed those advertising firms who profit from this (that’s the business, the category, that they are in) a de facto role they do not deserve.</p> <p>During recent decades, it has become clear that the information generated by your thousands of friends can be considered as so much noise if you don't want to listen to them. Algorithms have been developed by these platforms to replace this unorganized information flow, keeping us satisfied by prioritizing content more likely to enable you to interact, engage, or get the solution that you aspire to.</p> <p>These communication platforms intermediate both public and private exchanges. But whatever their superiority to other communication networks such as the telephone or the television, they are far less transparent on the rules that govern our conversations.</p> <p>Transparency is essential when it comes to the way that the public discourse gets shaped. This is what motivates us at Tracking Exposed: we want to make the Personalization Algorithm – the algorithm that learns from the user and provides personalized content – transparent and accountable.</p> <p>Imagine yourself as a Facebook user; you follow a certain Nobel prizewinner among your sources, and they publish a post. On Facebook, the complex multi-paragraph text full of articulate concepts gets posted, and a few minutes later you access the article. </p> <p>Something happens behind the curtain: a “posts competition”. All the posts you are eligible to see have been attributed a numeric value by Facebook, (probably) proportional to the likelihood that you are going to interact with them. The posts will show up ordered. In the primary position, the one that it is most likely you will interact with, and so on and so forth. Who won that competition appears on the timeline.</p> <p>Coming back to our Nobel prize text, it has entered a competition with another more uncomplicated, and swifter gratification: a lovely landscape perhaps, or a puppy. But you have never told the algorithm that you prefer cats to the Nobel prize – the algorithm has just assumed this is the case based on your previous interactions.</p> <p>Is this in our best interest? Is it censorship? Do we have some control over it? This is a question even the mainstream media are pondering because most of their visits (and consequently &nbsp;their income) depend on what Facebook ‘favorites’ or penalizes.</p> <p>The most creditable and official way out of this conundrum is to have a proper policy. But it is not happening so far, and so, we are still in the field of civic activism.</p> <h2><strong>Our goal</strong></h2> <p>We know that the real goodies in social networks lie in the users’ data. A veritable goldmine. Our goal: to make that goldmine accessible to everyone (wait, in a not totally unregulated, but privacy-preserving way). In this millennium, the power lies within the data? Then we must aim to re-possess the data, own our gold, keep it under our control and thank only those who display openly how social media works, why they manipulate our perceptions, and how they do it.</p> <p>That's how our techno-activist venture begins. It starts with that theory, and becomes over time a <a href="https://github.com/tracking-exposed/web-extension">browser extension</a> that records the posts showing up in your Facebook Newsfeed. In the beginning, it is just a personal copy of the public posts, structured, and re-useable under certain conditions.</p> <p>Our mission is to display and highlight how this business logic distorts and plays with our time, our expectations and, even more fundamentally, with our perception of reality.</p> <p>So far, this might look a little like an academic project: collecting what the user saw, detecting which content has been promoted despite the chronological order. But that's not the goal! </p> <p>Researchers, journalists, analysts, and policymakers are among our target users, but we aim for a far broader audience. </p> <p>Algorithms have a collective impact, and can only be addressed collectively. If we can make the problem accessible to users with average skills, our activism will have achieved its goal.</p> <p>We need lots of users, not a ‘critical mass’ like Facebook itself, but enough to observe the features of the so-called "walled garden." To get this kind of user base, we have to offer them some kind of functionality, and we are currently researching the socially helpful types of functionality Facebook doesn't ( and won’t?) provide.</p> <p>The first and basic exploration this puts in the user's hands is "look at your information diet." No tool in this world can enable you to pop the filter bubble you are in, and anyway, you really don't need a technical solution to fix what another technology has mistakenly forced on you.</p> <p>But seeing your information diet allows you to access what is informing you, which topics, and where you stand in the world.</p> <p>If we can't be on a network without a filter, at least we have to know the nature of that filter and some day in the future, have enough power to determine our algorithm.</p> <p>There is a secondary functionality we can offer, too. If you have ever used the legacy mass media, you know that they have an agenda. The Editor has it; it influences a little bit the observations contained in the stories as reported.</p> <p>With Facebook, the algorithm is our personalized Editor. And again, the best way to understand such technocratic subterfuges, is to compare your information diet with that of another person you know. It is like watching something together and exchanging comments. It is a way to get some human feedback from a place, the social net, where gamification is usually reserved for researchers on a dopamine high. </p> <p>The last functionality, which will not be ready for some time, is to use the filter bubbles against themselves.</p> <p>We can assume that populist waves lead to audience fragmentation and, perhaps, filtered interactions confirming their positions have been complicit in this fragmentation.</p> <p>This fragmented condition has made it even more difficult to relate to problems far removed from our reality. How do you understand the problem of a migrant, for example, if you have never been away from home and you don't spend time directly in their company?</p> <p>Can we use their filter bubble to understand their world? Can we navigate a cluster of aggregated information, perhaps, to register the different points of view, the comments, the feelings about any specific topic?</p> <p>Developing this functionality is a complex exercise because it immediately imposes on us two barriers before we start. The first is that "a navigator cannot be allowed access to the original post". As individuals, we know that information shared in some context is often inappropriate to share in another. That’s why we have different disclosure expectations of the same bit of information in respect to different situations or people. Our ability to keep track of the flow of information we send and receive through a different context is what makes privacy valuable for our individual autonomy. </p> <p>Even if we are working with only publically posted posts, and the author has willingly consented to go public with these, we must not display such content outside the expected channels and original purpose of their consumption. The content must at least be <a href="https://www.wisporg.com/blog-posts/2016/8/10/data-minimization-and-anonymization-essential-tools-for-reducing-privacy-and-security-risk-and-enhancing-trust">anonymized and minimized</a>, before it can be served up to others. This “privacy-by-design” commitment and technology reduces content misuse and privacy loss. To be more precise, I want to protect the users involved from what is called “social media intelligence”. See <a href="https://medium.com/privacy-international/social-media-intelligence-the-wayward-child-of-open-source-intelligence-201f31dfb81d">more about social media intelligence here</a>.</p> <p>Secondly, we are proud to be developing "stupid tools, for smart users", which empower critical judgment rather than extending the influence of the algorithm or its capacity for surveillance. These are robust, simple tools which do not try to give you answers, just an output of your usage.</p> <p>This whole system, which empowers researchers by giving them the data to work on and users the highlights that inform them, is a collaborative project. More supporters can only mean bigger benefits for all those who will join us later on. At the moment, a user can only support us by using the browser extension for Firefox or Chrome, and to know more look here at <a href="https://facebook.tracking.exposed">facebook.tracking.exposed</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Claudio Agosti will make a presentation at WFD 2017's Lab 7 on 'Bursting social media echo chambers' on <span class="date">9 November 2017 - 14.30-16.30 - Room&nbsp;5.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/programme-2017">programme</a> for more details).</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Internet World Forum for Democracy 2017 Claudio Agosti Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:35:33 +0000 Claudio Agosti 114162 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Breaking ideological gridlock from the bottom up https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/timothy-karr/breaking-ideological-gridlock-from-bottom-up <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The key to advancing policies is to build diverse political support at grassroots level, leveraging that support against policymakers who put party loyalty before the needs of their constituents.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30999214.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30999214.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley holds town meeting in Iowa, April 2017. Issues raised by constituents included the affordable health care act, bio diesel fuel credits, immigration, and net neutrality, and members of Congress actually working together to do things for the American people and not just for specific parties or special interests. Jerry Mennenga/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="normal">On a cold Thursday morning in January, a small group of advocates gathered outside the imposing edifice of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. They opened the trunk of a red Ford Fusion parked nearby and began unloading more than twenty white banker’s boxes. Within minutes, they had assembled a makeshift cardboard podium. Inside the boxes were more than a million signatures collected in just two weeks from people across the country.</p> <p class="normal">Each person had signed on to an online letter demanding the FCC protect<a href="https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now"> </a><a href="https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now">net neutrality</a>, the democratic principle that ensures that the internet remains open and free from blocking or throttling of content by the large phone and cable companies that control high-speed internet access. <span class="mag-quote-center">Maintaining an open internet is as fundamental to functioning democracies as protecting free speech rights. </span></p> <p class="normal">After delivering a few speeches standing behind the podium, net neutrality advocates carried the boxes across the building’s threshold and delivered the petitions to the federal agency.</p> <p class="normal">This petition delivery at the FCC was just one small moment in years of activism both online and in the streets. Over the past decade, the once obscure issue of net neutrality has grown to draw popular attention from tens of millions of people of every ideological stripe. It’s an explosive issue that at the grassroots level bridges political differences. And while net neutrality protections are currently under threat in Washington&nbsp; – where too many politicians cater to the needs of the cash-rich phone and cable industry lobby – people beyond the reach of the capital’s influence industry remain united.</p> <h2><strong>United behind an Open Internet </strong></h2><p class="normal"> At a very basic level everyone agrees that the companies that provide access to the internet shouldn’t be in the business of controlling the types of information that flows across the network onto the screens of our cellphones, tablets, laptops or home computers. Maintaining an open internet is as fundamental to functioning democracies as protecting free speech rights. </p> <p class="normal"><a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/7x9kyg/most-americans-support-the-net-neutrality-rules-that-trumps-fcc-wants-to-kill">Public polling</a> in the United States shows strong support for net neutrality protections from both Democratic and Republican Party voters: a<a href="https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/ud-cpc-natagenda2014pr_2014netneutrality.pdf"> </a><a href="https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/ud-cpc-natagenda2014pr_2014netneutrality.pdf">University of Delaware survey</a> found that 85 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats opposed allowing their internet access provider to prioritize some web content over others. A similar poll from the<a href="http://time.com/3578255/conservatives-net-neutrality-poll/"> </a><a href="http://time.com/3578255/conservatives-net-neutrality-poll/">Internet Freedom Business Alliance</a> found a large majority of self-identified Republicans and conservatives support net neutrality rules, and are willing to stand alongside Democrats in support of an open internet.</p> <p>Net neutrality as an idea is but one part of a larger global movement of people fighting for internet freedom. It is a movement that includes democracy activists in Eastern Europe, Arab Spring protesters in the Middle East and North Africa, and dissident bloggers and “hacktivists” across Asia. In early 2012, more than ten million people of differing political views mobilized online and off to defeat the SOPA/PIPA Web censorship legislation in the United States. <span class="mag-quote-center">In early 2012, more than ten million people of differing political views mobilized online and off to defeat the SOPA/PIPA Web censorship legislation in the United States. </span></p><p class="normal">Activists on the right and left are using the open internet to fight unchecked spying and surveillance by the NSA and demand online privacy and free speech rights. The internet was designed to be an engine of disintermediation, free speech, and inclusion – a means by which anyone could route around the gatekeepers, build online communities, and share information.</p> <p class="normal">It opened the door for new forms of grassroots political organizing and gave smart online activists an impressive means to create diverse coalitions, influence policies and shame bad actors in government.</p><p class="normal">With only a tiny fraction of the financial resources of our opponents, internet freedom advocates struggle every day to preserve this online openness. The very latest threat to net neutrality in the United States comes from the Trump administration, which is determined to unwind the protections won under former President Obama. </p><h2 class="normal"><strong>Strange bedfellows</strong></h2><p class="normal">As politics across the world become even more divisive – as evidenced by recent elections in the United States and Europe – the key to advancing policies is to build diverse political support at the grassroots level, and to leverage that support against policymakers in government who have a tendency to put party loyalty before the needs and demands of their constituents.</p> <p class="normal">This is certainly the case with net neutrality in the United States. When we started organizing people around the issue more than ten years ago we focused on building a coalition of strange political bedfellows.</p> <p class="normal">While the socially conservative group Christian Coalition opposes almost every position taken by the progressive activists at MoveOn they linked arms in support of the open internet&nbsp; – so much so that they took out a full page ad in the <em>New York Times</em> declaring their shared view. “When it comes to protecting Internet freedom, the Christian Coalition and MoveOn respectfully agree,” the ad read. <span class="mag-quote-center">When we started organizing people around the issue more than ten years ago we focused on building a coalition of strange political bedfellows.</span></p> <p class="normal">These two groups had never teamed up on anything before. Their new alliance on net neutrality surprised so many people in Washington that one lawmaker remarked: “If you can get these two groups to agree on an issue, how can it be wrong?”</p> <p class="normal">The Christian Coalition and MoveOn formed the multifaceted backbone of a net neutrality coalition that included more than a hundred organizations. Librarians joined with gun owners, musicians with gardening clubs, racial justice advocates with video gamers, and libertarians with lefties to demand protections for the open internet.</p> <p class="normal">In turn, these groups mobilized their members to act. People picked up their phones and called elected representatives in Congress; they submitted comments into public dockets at the FCC, they organized house parties to talk about the issue and spoke out at local town hall meetings; they wrote songs and created online videos in support of protecting the open internet.</p><p> More than 20 million people commented as part of the most recent net neutrality proceeding before the FCC, breaking all records for public participation in any matter before the agency. On a few occasions this year, the agency’s online commenting engine crashed unable to manage the flood of comments.&nbsp; <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><h2><strong>Building from the bottom up</strong></h2><p class="normal"> The unprecedented growth in grassroots support for net neutrality policies was so rapid and overwhelming that it has caught Washington politicians off guard. Many were left scrambling to alter their positions on the issue – from one of alignment with the powerful phone and cable lobby to positions that favored net neutrality as a concept but differed on the recommended policy solution.<br /> After ten years of organizing on the issue, the grassroots managed to shift enough DC policymakers to win landmark net neutrality protections at the FCC. On February 26, 2015, the <a href="https://www.dailydot.com/via/fcc-net-neutrality-we-won/">agency voted</a> to prohibit phone and cable companies from blocking and throttling internet content or giving priority online access to rich companies while relegating the rest of the internet&nbsp; to slow lanes.<br /> It would be hard to overstate just how important this 2015 decision was for internet users. But nothing in Washington, not even a public-interest win of such magnitude, is final. The ink had barely dried on the FCC’s Open Internet Order before phone and cable companies shifted into overdrive. “It falls to Congress to step in,” said the head of the phone and cable industry’s chief lobbying group. “The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution.”</p><p class="normal"> The election of Donald Trump in 2016 set <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/12/15715030/what-is-net-neutrality-fcc-ajit-pai-bill-rules-repealed">wheels in motion </a>to take away the online freedoms won by a well organized coalition of internet users. Net neutrality laws put on the books in Brazil, Chile, India and across the European Union face similar threats from powerful business interests. <span class="mag-quote-center">The only way to counter these threats is by creating an international, popular movement for internet freedom.</span>The only way to counter these threats is by creating an international, popular movement for internet freedom. To mobilize this movement, advocates must welcome people of all political persuasions. They must be mobilized through direct outreach at the grassroots, in the personal places where people formulate their opinions beyond the influences of powerful special interests. This robust field strategy must be combined with the expert ability to compel policymakers to side with the public interest. </p><p class="normal">Whether working for internet freedom in the United States or abroad, advocates won’t win the right policies without a symbiosis of fieldwork and policy intelligence. While the fight for net neutrality is far from over, the best long-term strategy for saving the internet will be to reach across ideological differences and build from the bottom up.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/mary-fitzgerald-tim-karr/we-ve-moved-forward-since-911">We’ve moved forward since 9/11</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Net Neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties United States Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Internet Net Neutrality World Forum for Democracy 2017 Tim Karr Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:33:57 +0000 Tim Karr 114179 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why does the UK Data Protection Bill exempt the ‘risk profiling’ industry? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/ben-hayes-ravi-naik/why-does-uk-data-protection-bill-exempt-risk-profiling-industry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Anyone trying to open a bank account or send money overseas must undergo extensive risk assessment by private data-brokers, which amass non-credible data and falsely blacklist the wrong people on a speculative basis.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/4475786680_d8a00179c4_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/4475786680_d8a00179c4_b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Al Ibrahim. CC BY-SA 2.0.</span></span></span>The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the most important pieces of human rights and consumer protection legislation of the 21st century. It extends the rights we have as citizens and overhauls a framework developed in the 1990s that governs the way states and corporations can collect and use information about us. The GDPR also allows the free movement of personal data across the EU and the government’s decision to seek to implement the measure in full, regardless of the Brexit negotiations, is a mark of its importance.</p><p dir="ltr">However, the <a href="https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/dataprotection.html">bill</a> transposing the GDPR into UK law is complex and labyrinthine. As the GDPR must be applied by May next year, the government has set a tight legislative timetable for its passage, and the bill has already had its second reading in the Lords.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet to be raised is the significance of the exemptions set out in Schedule 2 to the Bill, which, as drafted, would potentially remove entire industries dedicated to vetting, profiling and blacklisting private individuals from the reach of the law. Whether intentional or not, the language it contains means that private companies that vet people on behalf of banks, employers and landlords could claim exemption.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Those actors who the bill proposes to exempt do not simply act on a ‘case-by-case’ basis; instead they compile large, pre-emptive and often highly speculative databases that result in de facto blacklisting.</p><p dir="ltr">The scope of the exemptions is striking, but one particular and apparently deliberate application stands out: vetting in the financial sector. Under UK and EU law, anyone trying to open a bank account, send money overseas or enter into various financial transactions must undergo an increasingly extensive risk assessment in accordance with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism conventions. These checks are now frequently outsourced to private companies who have created vast databases containing the names and profiles of individuals and organisations who might pose such a risk. One of the market leaders is World-Check, a UK based data-broker owned by Thomson-Reuters that has now amassed more than 3 million such records, and is featured regularly on the pages of Vice (see <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/vice-news-reveals-the-terrorism-blacklist-secretly-wielding-power-over-the-lives-of-millions">here</a>, <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/exclusive-uk-government-and-police-are-getting-information-from-shadowy-terrorism-database">here</a> and here).</p><p>Over the past few years, our work has highlighted both the lack of credibility in the data giving rise to some of these profiles and the adverse implications that being listed as a financial crime or terrorism ‘risk’ by companies like World-Check can have. Not only could you be refused financial services, you could be passed over for a job, or denied a visa, because employers and authorities also subscribe to these databases in large numbers.</p><p dir="ltr">We have represented dozens of individuals and organisations who suffered devastating consequences as a result of being falsely identified as posing a terrorism risk. We believe these cases represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg.</p><p dir="ltr">Under the exemption provisions in schedule 2 of the current bill, World-Check and its numerous competitors would ostensibly be exempt from the core data protection provisions that apply to other data controllers. They would be under no obligation to inform you that they hold your data – or consider you a crime risk – and would be free to share it across the world. You would have no right to access your records, object to the processing, or seek any form of redress in the event that the data they hold is false, inaccurate or misleading.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">World-Check and its numerous competitors would ostensibly be exempt from the core data protection provisions that apply to other data controllers.</p><p dir="ltr">Crucially, it is only through individuals exercising these rights under the existing UK data protection framework that legal accountability has begun to be possible. We are concerned that these fundamental rights may fall by the wayside, particularly on such a tight timeframe for legislative scrutiny.</p><p dir="ltr">Also included in the Schedule 2 exemptions are profiling related to the provision of banking, insurance, investment or other financial services; to the health, safety and welfare of persons at work; to the maintenance of effective immigration control; and to the protection of charities or community interest companies against misconduct or mismanagement.</p><p dir="ltr">This means that as long as they can claim a vague, undefined, ‘public interest’ justification, credit reference agencies, employment agencies, letting agents, companies that profile charities and their staff, and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41357048">private companies involved in the enforcement of immigration control</a> could all seek to rely on these exemptions in the future – where none exist at present. We are unlikely to know whether those public interest justifications are validly applied unless they are challenged. Yet without the right to know what data is being processed, will such a challenge even be possible?</p><p dir="ltr">What should concern us most is that those actors who the bill proposes to exempt do not simply act on a ‘case-by-case’ basis; instead they compile large, pre-emptive and often highly speculative databases that result in de facto blacklisting. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/14/blacklist-construction-workers-mcalpine">Consulting Association scandal</a>, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/16/equifax-hack-puts-data-of-400000-uk-customers-at-risk">Equifax hack</a> and today’s news about World-Check <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/pak7wb/exclusive-secret-blacklist-marking-innocents-as-terrorists-continues-to-grow">profiling trade unionists and animal rights activists</a> demonstrate&nbsp;why the proposed exemptions are of such concern.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Back in 2011, lobbyists employed by World-Check had <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/justice/news/consulting_public/0006/contributions/not_registered/world_check_en.pdf">pushed for the inclusion of similar provisions</a> in the EU proposals for the GDPR. Their efforts received short shrift from EU legislators. Last week in the Lords we were <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2017-10-10/debates/22188EC1-6BAB-4F06-BE64-5831ABAF78E2/DataProtectionBill(HL)">told</a> that</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“offerings such as World-Check [play] a key role in Europe and globally in helping many private sector firms and public authorities identify potential risks [and] will be needing a number of clarifications in the Bill so that it will be able to continue to provide its important services”</p><p>We should not be fooled. The only clarifications we need are to schedule 2, to ensure that the likes of World-Check have to respect the rule of law like everyone else.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/chris-jones/ongoing-march-of-eu-s-security-industrial-complex">The ongoing march of the EU’s security-industrial complex</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/hielke-hijmans/role-independent-supervision-upholding-privacy-age-surveillance">The role of independent supervision in upholding privacy in the age of surveillance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/theresa-may-s-counter-extremism-plan-will-create-incompetent-p">Theresa May’s counter-extremism plan will create an incompetent police state </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite/waking-up-to-uk-s-investigatory-powers-act">Waking up to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties uk Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Ravi Naik Ben Hayes Thu, 19 Oct 2017 14:55:49 +0000 Ben Hayes and Ravi Naik 114128 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How online citizenship is unsettling rights and identities https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/james-bridle/algorithmic-citizenship-and-digital-statelessness-are-digital-non-citizens-status-quo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The challenge is to transform the internet – and thus the world – from a place where identity is constantly surveilled, judged, and operationalised, to a place where we can act freely as citizens of a greater sphere of social relationships.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screenshot-Safari-002.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screenshot-Safari-002.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of Citizen Ex. James Bridle. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>On November 2 the </span><a href="http://berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire">Berliner Gazette‘s Friendly Fire conference</a><span> asks: are digital </span>non<span>-/citizens the status quo? Two prolific speakers will look for answers: the artist James Bridle, whose visionary project "Citizen Ex" reflects digital citizenship and the political thinker Eleanor Saitta, whose work explores the potential of radical democracy and consistently challenges the blind spots of the digital avantgardes. Opening the three-day conference, this public talk will reflect the politics of citizenship with regard to the rampant digitalization of people's lives – be they citizens or not. Here, James Bridle reflects on algorithmic citizenship and digital statelessness.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Historically, and for those lucky enough to be born under the aegis of stable governments and national regimes, there have been two ways in which citizenship is acquired at birth. Jus soli – the right of soil – confers citizenship upon those born within the territory of a state regardless of their parentage. This right is common in the Americas, but less so elsewhere (and, since 2004, is to be found nowhere in Europe). More frequently, Jus sanguinis – the right of blood – determines a person’s citizenship based on the rights held by their parents. One might be denied citizenship in the place of one’s birth, but obtain it elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr">Citizenship law is strange and complex, with rafts of exceptions and omissions, which undercut the commonly-accepted view of citizenship in the Global North as something stable and absolute. In the United Kingdom, citizenship has only been defined in law since the early twentieth century, and the history of its definition is primarily one of exclusion and revocation, as the British state sought first to strengthen its borders, then to exclude its former subjects from the mainland, and finally to renounce those of its citizens who are deemed to have acted in such outrageous fashion that they should be denied due process of law. As Hannah Arendt famously wrote, citizenship is “the right to have rights”: the guarantee from which all other protections flow; and so citizenship law and how it is applied are worth watching, as litmus tests for wider democratic freedoms.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Citizenship law and how it is applied are worth watching, as litmus tests for wider democratic freedoms.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the places we see traditional notions of the nation state and its methods of organisation and control – particularly the assignation of citizenship – coming under greatest stress is online, in the apparently borderless expanses of the internet, where information and data flow almost without restriction across the boundaries between states. And as our rights and protections are increasingly assigned not to our corporeal bodies but to our digital selves – the accumulations of information which stand as proxies for us in our relationships to states, banks, and corporations – so new forms of citizenship arise at these transnational digital junctions.</p><p>Jus algoritmi is a term coined by John Cheney-Lippold to describe a new form of citizenship which is produced by the surveillance state, whose primary mode of operation, like other state forms before it, is control through identification and categorisation. Jus algoritmi – the right of the algorithm – refers to the increasing use of software to make judgements about an individual’s citizenship status, and thus to decide what rights they have, and what operations upon their person are permitted.</p><p>The origins of this form of citizenship lie with the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), although it seems unlikely that they are the only state or other surveillant body to deploy such tests. Among the documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 is to be found a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/jun/20/exhibit-a-procedures-nsa-document">file entitled</a> “Procedures used by the National Security Agency for targeting Non-United States Persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States”. These procedures are necessary because, under US law, NSA is not supposed to surveil US citizens, or those who are located within the US. Such a division was relatively simple in the days of physical eavesdropping: black chambers for opening the nation’s post; secure rooms in exchanges for tapping telephone calls. But in an age when most of the world’s internet traffic passes through the United States, ascertaining who exactly is under surveillance is more difficult. In response, the NSA’s procedures use a points-based system to determine, on a case-by-case, byte-by-byte basis, whether a target is eligible for surveillance, based on the texture of their communications. From this determination flow all of their rights: this determination determines citizenship.</p><h2>Citizen Ex</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2015, I created <a href="http://citizen-ex.com">Citizen Ex</a>, a free-to-download browser extension which tracks your movements online (and does so entirely privately; I do not have access to any of the data thus generated). Every website you visit is recorded, as well as its location. Over time a map builds up, populated with the places your data has been and gone to: datacenters and servers in other places, other nations, and other legal jurisdictions. And each of these locations is weighted and judged, contributing to a percentage score of the nations you visit virtually: your algorithmic citizenship. At time of writing, my own Algorithmic Citizenship is 74.68% USA, 4.5% United Kingdom, 1.45% Germany, 1.42% Netherlands, 1.22% Ireland (home to a large number of European datacentres), and a host of lesser attributions. Of course, NSA’s determinations are far more sophisticated than these, but it’s interesting and useful to get a sense of one’s own distribution. Some users have reported attempting to “browse more locally”, while others have learned much about the physical infrastructure of the internet, an important new form of literacy in a time when this infrastructure both illuminates and reproduces the political and juridical structure of the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Every link clicked, every site visited, every HTTP call made and header sent, subtly recalibrates the balance of our rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Using Citizen Ex over time, the key characteristic of algorithmic citizenship becomes clear. Every link clicked, every site visited, every HTTP call made and header sent, subtly recalibrates the balance of our rights, as percentages shift and different judgements are made. Algorithmic citizenship is significant not because it is new, or because it is distributed, or even because it is, most of the time, opaque to the subject, but because it is constantly in flux. Moment by moment, the citizenship assigned to us, and thus the rights we may claim and the laws we are subject to, are changing, subject to interrogation and processing. We have become effectively stateless, as the concrete rights we have been accustomed to flicker and shift with a moment’s (in)attention.</p><p dir="ltr">But in addition to showing us a new potential vector of oppression, Citizen Ex illustrates, in the same way that the internet itself illustrates political and social relationships, the distribution of identity and culture in our everyday online behaviour. The nation state has never been a sufficient container for identity, but our technology has caught up with our situation, illuminating the many and varied failures of historical models of citizenship to account for the myriad of ways in which people live, behave, and travel over the surface of the planet. This realisation and its representation are both important and potentially emancipatory, if we choose to follow its implications.</p><p dir="ltr">We live in a time of both mass migrations, caused by war, climate change, economic need and demographic shift, and of a shift in mass identification, as ever greater numbers of us form social bonds with other individuals and groups outside our physical locations and historical cultures. If we accept that both of these kinds of change are, if not caused by, at least widely facilitated by modern communication technologies – from social media to banking networks and military automation – then it follows that these technologies may also be deployed to produce new forms of interaction and subjectivity which better model the actual state of the world – and one which is more desirable to inhabit.</p><p dir="ltr">An interesting current experiment in digitally-mediated citizenship is to be found in Estonia, which since the mid-1990s has prided itself on being the most wired country on Earth, investing heavily in internet infrastructure, IT skills, and digital society innovations such as online voting, direct democracy, and electronic health records. In 2014, Estonia started offering an “e-residency” programme, which offers the benefits of Estonia’s digital society to almost everybody: the ability to open a bank account, digitally sign documents, start a business, pay taxes online – in short, many of the government services available to its own citizens, with the exception of actual, physical residency. In effect, Estonia has delaminated a raft of state actions from the substrate of its physical territory, offering citizenship-as-a-service on the model of contemporary cloud software platforms.</p><p dir="ltr">Ironically, Estonia has one of the largest stateless populations in Europe. In common with its Baltic neighbours, a significant proportion of the population is effectively stateless due to naturalisation laws passed after the fall of the Soviet Union. These laws required members of ethnic groups from Russia or elsewhere in the Soviet Union to reapply for their citizenship of the newly independent republics. For reasons of politics, bureaucracy, history, family, or any number of other causes, many failed to apply or pass, resulting in thousands of “non-citizens” who are still today subject to restricted democratic rights, limits on movement, and multiple forms of discrimination. It remains to be seen whether technological innovations such as e-residency will benefit those with most to gain from reengineered systems of citizenship, or, like so many other digital products, merely augment the agency of those who already have first-class passports, first-class access to information, and the first-class opportunities which flow from these privileges.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">It remains to be seen whether e-residency will benefit those with most to gain from reengineered citizenship, or, like so many other digital products, merely augment the agency of those who already have first-class rights.</p><p dir="ltr">As the example of NSA’s procedures for determining citizenship illustrate, contemporary networked interventions in the sphere of identity are typically top-down, state-led, authoritarian moves to control and discipline individual subjects. Their operational processes are opaque, and they are used against their subjects, reducing their agency. The same is true for most corporate systems, from Facebook to Google to smart gas and water meters and vehicle trackers, which abstract data from the subject for financial gain. The Estonian example shows that digital citizenship regimes can point towards post-national, post-geographic territories, while continuing to reproduce the forms of identity most conducive to contemporary capitalism and nationhood. The challenge is to transform the internet, and thus the world, from a place where identity is constantly surveilled, judged, and operationalised, to a place where we can act freely as citizens of a greater sphere of social relationships: from a space which is entirely a border zone to one which is truly borderless.</p><p dir="ltr">Such a change requires a radical re-engineering of most of the systems we use today, which are inherently constructed as anti-privacy, data-gathering, judgement-processing and capital-accumulating networks. But the seeds for doing so are present within the technologies as well: systems of distribution, of anonymity and encryption, of proof and assertion. If we could truly own our data selves, and decide for ourselves what information to give out, and which to hoard, which to share and which to delete forever, then we would have the tools at our disposal for a more equitable negotiation with commercial and governmental forms of power. The ability to accumulate, store, and process such valuable information has historically been the prerogative of the state, and increasingly of the corporation, but as we migrate from place to space, moving between the physical to the digital, the possibility of determining and asserting our own citizenships, our own rights, becomes more and more widely available to us.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jaak-erik-laja/e-residency-citizenship-of-future">E-residency: the citizenship of the future?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties World Forum for Democracy 2017 James Bridle Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:39:26 +0000 James Bridle 113905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Repression and digital resistance in the #CATALANREFERENDUM https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/xnet/repression-and-digital-resistance-in-catalanreferendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Success and failure in the use of digital tools in Catalonia’s rebellion; a calendar of events.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33147306.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33147306.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Barceona citizens came in at night to keep polling stations protected from the police, Oct.1,2017. Parrot Pascal/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The battle presently being fought in the streets and polling stations in towns and cities throughout Catalonia before, during and after October 1, in which a diverse civil society has come together in huge numbers, putting their bodies and knowledge in the service of the shared goal of defending what is considered to be real democracy, has also created a crucial battleground in the case of the Internet.</p><h2>September 7, 2017</h2><p>On September 7, 2017, the Constitutional Court declared <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-politics-catalonia-court/spains-constitutional-court-suspends-catalan-referendum-law-court-source-idUSKCN1BI2TE">the referendum in Catalonia illegal</a>. Thenceforth, the Spanish government embarked on legal, police, and administrative persecution of any “device or instrument that is to be used for preparing or holding the referendum”, including ballot boxes and papers which were now criminal objects. Websites, apps and tools related to the referendum were closed down on the Internet.</p><p>Independently of whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision of the Spanish courts to ban the referendum, the closing of many regular Internet spaces can only be viewed, in a great number of cases, as a grave violation of freedom of expression – and especially the freedom of political opinion – which is protected in international treaties and by Article 11 of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights on “<a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf#page=11">Freedom of expression and information”</a>.</p><p>While some websites, apps and domains belong to the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia and were tools directly linked with organizing the referendum, many others were of private individuals or associations, and basically reflect political opinions. Clearly it is one thing – arguable or not – to ban a referendum and quite another thing to block, while they were at it, the right of citizens to express their political opinion that the referendum should be held.</p><p>In the last few days, Catalonia has been the testing ground of what we have always denounced or, in other words, the fact that the space of the Internet has yet again been subjected to a state of exception which “democratic” governments wouldn’t dare to apply to physical space because this violation of rights would immediately be visible. Proof of this is that many of the shut-down websites belong to associations with physical premises but no authority has risked ordering that these centers should be closed down.</p><p>Internet access is essential for the exercise of our freedoms and should be considered in itself a fundamental right <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton/">#KeepItOn</a>. <br />If we let the space of the Internet become the first casualty in the curtailment of basic rights, we can be sure that the next step will be to limit those rights in other spaces as well.</p><h2>September 13, 2017</h2><p>On September 13 a court order shut down <a href="http://www.catalannews.com/politics/item/catalan-government-opens-new-referendum-website-after-original-is-shut-down-by-spain">the web page referendum.cat</a>, triggering a game of cat-and-mouse between the Spanish government (with its state repression) and the Catalan government. </p><p>Some citizens published the referendum web code in Github. After this, clones of the website began to appear, created by volunteer citizens in domains with names like piolin.cat (where piolin refers to Tweetie Pie, painted on the boat accommodating Spanish police), referendum.ninja or marianorajoy.cat, while alternative sites were also made available by the Generalitat itself.<br />The police operation continues with domains being shut down and access blocked to all these sites as well as many other web pages with opinions about the referendum, including those of associations, sports clubs and private sites. All of this was occurring against a background of politicians being arrested and presidents of civil society associations being charged with sedition.<br /><br />In ten days more than 140 websites were blocked. The project OONI by Tor includes <a href="https://ooni.torproject.org/post/internet-censorship-catalonia-independence-referendum/)">a non-exhaustive list </a>of affected domains plus information on the type of block. As part of this state operation, the Guardia Civil raided the headquarters of Top Level Domain .cat, confiscating IT equipment and data, and detaining one of its IT staff. This disproportionate measure, which is unprecedented in the European Union, implies the possibility of opening the way for something we have been struggling against for years, namely domain managers being held responsible for content. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 17.37.35.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 17.37.35.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Internet Society, the Electronic Founder Foundation, and many other organizations like our own have condemned this blocking of websites and the inordinate digital repression carried out by the Spanish government just days before the referendum was held, which meant that there was no chance to establish their validity, suitability and legality because they left no time to do so.</p><blockquote><p>(https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/09/cat-domain-casualty-catalonian-independence-crackdown</p><p><br />https://www.internetsociety.org/news/statements/2017/internet-society-statement-internet-blocking-measures-catalonia-spain/</p><p><br />http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22176&amp;LangID=E)</p></blockquote><p>In this situation of persecution and very serious violation of rights, many people, moved by their convictions and without proper legal advice, have exposed themselves to risks which could have been avoided in some cases, and have left their identities at the mercy of a repressive apparatus that needs scapegoats to justify its actions. The open use of names among the alleged authors of the first mirror sites has meant that the authorities are now boasting that they have rounded up the <a href="http://www.europapress.es/catalunya/noticia-libertad-cargos-13-investigados-clonar-webs-referendum-20170925193606.html">young perpetrators </a>(as many as 14).</p><p> Some of them face very serious charges like “heading a seditious organization” which, as everyone knows, makes no sense at all in a free, open space like the Internet. These are definitely measures that aim to inflict disproportionate punishment so as to bully and intimidate citizens in an attempt to discourage their i<a href="http://www.eldiario.es/cv/val/policia-proreferendum-Valencia-cabecilla-desobediencia_0_692231117.html">ntense online activity</a>. </p><p>One of the most common errors made by citizens has been their frequent use of servers with few and poor legal guarantees for the client. A case in point is the insistent use of .cat domains. These come under the control of .es, and therefore the Spanish state, which shows no concern for civil rights, in contrast with other generic domains (.net, .org, .com...) with are overseen by ICANN and other organizations that do respect basic rights.</p><p>We believe that it is important to stress that we shouldn’t need martyrs to prove that our struggles are just. We must make every possible effort to ensure that the people who are struggling for their rights don’t suffer reprisals. In this regard, Xnet has tried to give an overall explanation of how to avoid this and other useful information in <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/">a Guide that seeks to protect people who work with the Internet</a> from unjust repression. This initiative is part of a set of actions designed by the lawyers and organizations of #SomDefensores to defend basic rights.</p><p><strong>Net democracy: distributed government&nbsp; </strong></p><p>We have seen a Generalitat that is competent and farsighted in its online activity but, in particular, we also note that the acceleration of events in Catalonia has catalyzed the population into a massive use of digital tools in defense of their basic rights. Unlike similar situations, such as that in Turkey for example, the Catalan institutions have agreed in recent days to cede and share, in a widely distributed manner, responsibility for safeguarding freedoms, thus regularizing what we see as the embryo of what could be a truly transversal democracy worthy of the digital age, as some of us have already proposed in our discussion of the methodology of the device Red Ciudadana Partido X.<br /><br />The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemon t– thanks also to help from international experts who have actively and continually been engaged in providing advice for the defense of rights (people like Julian Assange and Peter Sunde)—have recommended the <a href="https://twitter.com/KRLS/status/909126641145798656">use of proxies </a>in social networks in order to gain access to blocked websites. He subsequently announced that IPFS had also been used as <a href="https://twitter.com/KRLS/status/911482634789953536">a distributed tool </a>for housing the website giving citizens information about where they should go to vote.</p><h2>September 23, 2017</h2><p>On September 23, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia <a href="http://www.elmundo.es/cataluna/2017/09/23/59c69496468aeb8c7f8b45bb.html">ordered </a>the “blocking of websites and domains [giving this information] which are publicized in any account or official social network of any kind”. This was not just a matter of a specific list of sites but a general order giving a free hand to forces of security in ordering Internet providers to shut down websites.<br /><br />With these new powers, the Guardia Civil blocked <a href="https://twitter.com/AlexHinojo/status/911900292152791041">the domain gateway</a>.ipfs.io and thereby cut off connection, not only to the referendum website, but also to all content from the Spanish state hosted in IPFS through this gateway. The shutdown extended to websites of nongovernmental organizations and movements like empaperem.cat, assemblea.cat y webdelsi.cat which are in favor of the referendum. This carrying out of the court order also extended to GooglePlay, which was forced to withdraw the app allowing people to find information about where to vote.<br /><br />Nevertheless, at all times the whole population of Catalonia has been able to keep informed about polling stations thanks to continuous replication and massive use of VPN and anonymous browsing in order to access sites that were blocked from Spain. This capacity for action distributed between the government and organized citizens has been the trend throughout the electoral process, with large-scale use of chats, networks and other tools that have allowed swift circulation of information circulated on the micro-scale and among strangers who are working together to deal with hoaxes, leaks and infiltrations. </p><p>This networked action by means of which people have, for example, organized themselves, polling station by polling station, has also been manifest in physical spaces, for example with regard to <a href="http://www.ara.cat/tema_del_dia/referendum-Que-gestar-se-Elna_0_1880212030.html">protecting the ballot boxes</a> from police seizure.<br /><br />For a month, the state security forces and their secret services have been searching all over Catalonia for the ballot boxes and voting papers. Although they have raided printers, media offices and headquarters of political parties and other organizations – sometimes without a court order – the ballot boxes were never found, yet they magically appeared in the polling stations. The ballot boxes and papers were there – they were everywhere – guarded by small groups, autonomous nodes, and spread all around Catalonia.</p><h2>October 1, referendum day</h2><p>Finally, even while the referendum was taking place on October 1, the Spanish government tried to block, by every means it could, the possibility of accessing the “universal census” app of the entire electoral register. The domain registremeses.com where the app was hosted was immediately blocked. The Generalitat quickly supplied the more than 1,000 polling stations throughout Catalonia with alternative IPs for access. We believe that, in this case, it probably would have been better to work with Hidden Service in order to avoid police harassment and DDoS attacks by groups opposing the referendum.</p><p>Internet connection was <a href="http://www.ara.cat/tema_del_dia/Violencia-tambe-digital-contra-referendum_0_1880212015.html">also interrupted</a> and it is not yet known who is responsible. Could it have been Internet suppliers obeying state orders (although they deny it)?</p><p>However, the polling stations still managed to function, almost all of them routing the smartphones of the volunteers in order to access the Internet. In the street, people were chorusing “airplane mode” so as to save network bandwidth for people working inside the polling stations. The operation lasted from 5 a.m. – which is when citizens began filling the streets to protect the polling stations – until midnight when the vote count ended. All this was achieved in the midst of violent charges by National Police with a toll of more than 800 wounded. Despite everything, more than 2,200,000 people came out to vote.<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">Order is the people, equal to equal: disorder is this state and its violence.</span></p><p>The citizens and government of Catalonia have learned and are witnesses to the fact that in the front line of defense of our democracy, digital resistance depends on our use of technological tools which allow us to protect our rights autonomously and in a well distributed manner. We hope that the Catalan government will never forget this and that its administration will always resist the temptation of the usual kind of discourse that criminalizes tools protecting privacy, encryption and decentralization of the Internet.<br /><br />Moreover, when repression was massively unleashed in the streets and villages of Catalonia, the social networks and their intelligent use by citizens were once again used to put an end to the blocking and manipulation of information by the mainstream media in Spain, and to let the international media outlets know what was really happening. Perhaps in 2017, many people were already used to this, but it is also highly possible that there have never been so many published videos and photographs <a href="https://twitter.com/joncstone/status/914450692416397312">documenting police violence</a> as there have been this time.<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">Without the widespread use of social networks to testify and inform, the people of Catalonia would have been totally isolated and crushed with absolute impunity.</span>From this point of view, what has been happening in the last few days is historic. This acceleration towards a greater degree of democracy and more power in civil society is happening spontaneously but the ignorance of most people about some aspects of the digital milieu is exposing them to risks and, in this regard, this is what we must make, and are making, <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/">every effort to avoid</a>.</p><h2>October 1, 2017 as just a beginning</h2><p>On October 1, 2017 the politicians were nowhere to be seen. Only <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unidos_Podemos">Unidos Podemos</a> could be heard now-and-then. Apart from this, there were only grassroots people organizing and acting, including some members of parliament and councillors who are people like anyone else. Over 24 hours, civil society came together to work for a day in which people could vote and vote on a huge scale and, furthermore, it didn’t fall into the temptation of responding to the state’s provocation in the form of violence, even though hundreds of injured people needed medical attention. </p><p>There was happiness, anger and fraternity among the most different people. It was incredibly moving. There were no slogans, no shouting, so that people could vote without being coerced in this display of a valiant, stirring capacity for organization and desire for democracy. On October 1, 2017 we proved that order is the people and disorder is this state.<br /><br />Xnet<br /><br />============<br /><br />More information:<br />info@xnet-x.net</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/digital-repression-and-resistance-catalan-referendum/">XNET</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/how-to-preserve-fundamental-rights-on-internet-guide">How to preserve fundamental rights on the internet: a guide</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? dissent Xnet Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:52:02 +0000 Xnet 113795 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the left can win the battle of the bots https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/james-smith-alfie-bown/how-left-can-win-battle-of-bots <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Digital media present the progressive left with vast opportunities, but only if they can understand how data can be used for good.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-24009060.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-24009060.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jim Messina in 2015. Gregor Fischer/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Many were shocked that right-wing causes such as those associated with the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump could garner decisive support via social media. These campaigns mobilised memes and fake news bots, but also highly sophisticated targeted advertising based on data analytics, <a href="https://verrit.com/joy-reid-its-very-hard-for-people-to-admit-they-were-fooled/">to brainwash and manipulate voting populations</a> – or so the argument goes.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">We need an appreciation of the ‘libidinal’ nature of politics online.</p><p dir="ltr">While many moderate liberals have responded to this with an increased suspicion of social media and new technologies, we argue that the left needs not to <em>resist</em> algorithms, but to create new algorithms of resistance in place of those being used by the corporate state and those on the right. To do this it needs an appreciation of what we call the ‘libidinal’ nature of politics online. The surprise result of the 2017 General Election in the UK has shown that <a href="http://www.huckmagazine.com/perspectives/reportage-2/momentum-hackathon-corbynmania/">digital media can be just as congenial to left-wing causes</a> as it has been to right-wing ones over the past few years, but in order to put this potential to use we need a better understanding of how such processes work. This needs to start with the revision of a number of assumptions about how social media affects people in the way it does.</p><h2><span>Normies, sheeple and political agency</span></h2><p dir="ltr">The similarities between the Trump presidential run and the ‘Leave’ campaigns in the UK referendum were not coincidental. Leave.EU, the rowdier unofficial ‘second’ Eurosceptic campaign, headed by Nigel Farage, had its communications director, Andy Wigmore, meet with Trump’s advisors in summer of 2015. Together, they discussed political style, in particular how Leave.EU could imitate the ‘gaming’ of media cycles achieved by Trump’s deliberately outrageous remarks. Both campaigns kept their messages in the news by presenting themselves as offensively as possible, and then ‘doubling down’ when apologies were demanded, ensuring they were repeated in the news and on social media over and over again.</p><p dir="ltr">Subsequently, both campaigns recruited Cambridge Analytica, a company which promised to revolutionise political campaigning. Political parties have been using expressions of political opinion by people on social media as a campaign tool since at least the Obama campaign of 2008. But Cambridge Analytica claimed to be able to take this a stage further. Using a method called ‘psychometrics’, the company inferred from ‘likes’ on Facebook, not just political allegiances, but specific personality types and emotional states, and then algorithmically directed tailored political content to their newsfeeds. This enabled them to reach the voters they anticipated would be most susceptible to their clients’ ideologies. As <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mg9vvn/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win">one account of the method</a> puts it, “psychological profiles [can] be created from your data, but your data can also be used the other way round to search for specific profiles: all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats?”.</p><p dir="ltr">It is not clear quite how much Cambridge Analytica helped either Trump or ‘Leave’, and the likelihood is that this has been overstated. Both campaigns have been unforthcoming in acknowledging the company’s help, and it may also suit the company itself to appear as a shadowy operator, capable of delivering the impossible.</p><p dir="ltr">What is clear, however, is that stories about Cambridge Analytica have fuelled what many people seem to want to believe about social media: that it is turning us into uncritical zombies, reducing everything to the lowest common denominator, and brainwashing ‘the masses’, who are – anyway – always only a few steps away from outright barbarism.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Stories about Cambridge Analytica have fuelled what many people want to believe about social media: that it is brainwashing ‘the masses’, who are – anyway – always only a few steps away from outright barbarism.</p><p dir="ltr">But the left is already using forms of digital media to gain support online. Our contention is that they will only be successful if it is able to move away from the view of ‘the masses’ implied in liberal criticisms of the Trump and ‘Leave’ campaigns as prone to confusion – ‘they know not what they do’. Instead, we must recognise that social media users are now active political participants – not just a mass to be manipulated – and focus on how to understand and engage these users more accurately.</p><p dir="ltr">Fear of how easily ‘the masses’ might be manipulated stems from a very old conservative mythology, one that has a particularly vibrant life in the alt-right’s resentment-fuelled dismissals of ‘normies’ and ‘sheeple’. The left and liberal centre is <a href="https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/enemies-people-nagle">not immune</a> to this thinking either: witness how swiftly some leftists dismiss consumers of Fox News or Britain’s Sun newspaper as simply stupid, or how some liberals speak of any group expression of political allegiance to the left of them as if it were a cult. In a useful corrective, the literary critic Raymond Williams once remarked that “there are no masses, only ways of seeing people as masses”. The left cannot win if it makes the mistake of copying the right’s belief in brainwashed ‘sheeple’ when talking about those who disagree with them.</p><p dir="ltr">This is not, however, quite the same as thinking that people are just free agents, and are immune to being influenced online. Success on digital platforms comes not from unscrupulously exploiting ‘sheeple’ by lying to them, or by manipulating the emotional vulnerabilities they may reveal in their online behaviour. Instead, political success online comes from realising that digital media thrive on what psychoanalysts call ‘libido’. While modern media have always worked by trying to trigger and direct our desires, online media depend on them in new and material ways.</p><h2>Digital media’s ‘libidinal’ economy</h2><p dir="ltr">Both older forms of data-based advertising and traditional political polling asked the voter the question ‘what do you want?’, without sufficiently attending to the complexity of the question. According to psychoanalytic theories, the question of what we want is always bound up in the construction of desires through politics, and culture, and technology. This new terrain can’t, then, be negotiated without psychoanalysis.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The literary critic Raymond Williams once remarked that “there are no masses, only ways of seeing people as masses”.</p><p dir="ltr">In his essay ‘Suggestion and Libido’, Freud discussed the relationship between individual and group desires. Using the concept of ‘libido’ to throw light on group psychology, Freud argues that a particular form of pleasure is found, not in pursuing individual desires, but in giving up what the individual wants for what the group wants. This is far from the simple utilitarian argument that we must give up what we want for a greater good. Rather, it acknowledges that a new type of pleasure and desire becomes possible in the act of desiring with a group. The contemporary right makes use of this form of political pleasure often. Trump’s campaign was full of such creations of a ‘desire of the Other’. Chanting ‘build the wall’ or ‘lock her up’, was as much about the pleasure of joining in with a desire so passionately enjoyed by others, as it was about any personally held policy conviction. The <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2017/08/07/long-read-review-deplorable-me-the-alt-right-comes-to-power-by-j-a-smith/">alt-right</a> constitutes another specifically digital example, where pleasure is particularly found in grouping towards a political outcome.</p><p dir="ltr">While left-alternatives like 8Chan’s /leftypol/ board and Bunkerchan have emerged, the left has often been behind the right when it comes to putting this desire to work, not least because the right’s cravings often seem unpalatably close to fascism, taking forms the left has seemed reticent to ape. But a movement from individual to group desire need not remain the preserve of the right: there is no reason that the left cannot harness digital media platforms and use group desire to assert a left agenda.</p><p dir="ltr">The causes that stand to benefit most from digital media are not determined by the terms ‘left’ and ‘right,’ nor by ‘honest’ and ‘fake’’. They are determined by how much they manage to solicit users’ desires. Political success online is dependent on two interrelated ingredients: data and shareability. Campaigns need a stockpile of contact information, records of prospective supporters’ online behaviour, and innovative ways of interpreting them. Then, their material needs to lend itself to being shared beyond initial users, validated by the fact that ‘ordinary people’, are sharing it.</p><p dir="ltr">But only certain kinds of politics are alluring enough to provoke the casual online behaviour that allows campaigns to know where to direct their arguments. Digital media is a media of desire, and will always reward the political campaign with the most claim on ‘the libidinal’: in particular, campaigns have most to offer in terms of the collective pleasures described above. This is why the attempts of Activate – the Tory youth group – to emulate the success of the left’s Momentum was doomed to fail, even before they collapsed after a couple of weeks of infighting and scandal: digital-libidinal politics is not some pre-existing model that can be applied to any position or cause.</p><h2>From Brexit to Corbyn</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK’s EU Referendum, ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ used digital media to infer voter’s likely political allegiances from their behaviour on social media, and used this information to inform targeting of social media advertising, to create mailing lists, and even to direct on-the-ground contact with campaigners. A version of this strategy had been employed in Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 run by Jim Messina, who was recruited by the Conservatives for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/479aedd0-4f5e-11e7-a1f2-db19572361bb?mhq5j=e5">2015 General Election</a>. In that election, activists reported that Messina’s model was especially effective in surreptitiously recruiting voters who – the model predicted – could be convinced to vote Conservative, without rival parties in the constituency even being aware that targeting was going on.</p><p dir="ltr">In the relatively mainstream electoral contexts of Obama’s re-election and the 2015 UK election, Messina’s model worked well, but it came under some strain in the EU referendum. <a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008215170/all-out-war">The most straightforward reason for this failure</a> is the fact that the model was designed to target extremely specific groupings of undecided swing voters in specific decisive parts of the country – much fewer in a General Election than in a referendum. Messina complained that by the time the data that was needed to make adequate inferences about groups’ motivations was finally sourced, the campaign's spending limit (a restriction on what the campaigns were permitted to spend) had already set in. This delay in finding adequate data meant that Remain was limited in what it could do with it when it was finally found.</p><p dir="ltr">More significantly, the Leave campaigns could draw on years of data trails, networks, and online interactions occurring in the orbit of the Eurosceptic party, UKIP. This was material people had long been sharing online. Allegiance to the EU, by contrast, had historically created no such ‘libidinal institutions’; nothing like the culture of Facebook groups, shareable memes, and ‘likeable’ Facebook pages that are necessary producing hordes of data. Digital media, in this case, was necessarily on the side of whichever politics was best suited to creating these stores, material that people took pleasure in spontaneously sharing. It was not a question of which side was most willing to lie and brainwash people, but of which side tapped into these libidinal behaviours.</p><p dir="ltr">Against expectations, these same ‘libidinal’ patterns served the left spectacularly in 2017. After Leave’s successful use of lurid ads about the risks of remaining in the EU, the Conservative Party, under Messina’s guidance, spent millions on Facebook advertising focussed on Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged terrorist sympathies and Labour’s economic irresponsibility. The Labour left campaiging group, Momentum, meanwhile, was criticised for its irreverent memes, and videos satirising Tories, and was accused of ‘preaching to the converted’ with short clips of Corbyn’s rallies (the same criticism continued to be made after the election about Corbyn’s appearance at Glasonbury). At the same time, Momentum created a ‘My Nearest Marginal’ app, allowing Corbyn supporters to bypass local parties and simply turn up to campaign in the places it would make the most difference. The Labour Party itself adopted another Momentum innovation – the Labour phone app, which allowed any party member to talk to undecided voters in their own time, and from their own homes.</p><h2>A digital libidinal left</h2><p dir="ltr">Stunningly, Momentum’s digital strategy was vindicated. While <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-40209711">no pro-Conservative election material ‘went viral’ during the campaign</a>, Momentum’s did regularly, because it was funny, and created collective pleasure. Indeed, backing Corbyn online became its own pleasure, as it meant being welcomed into <a href="https://newsocialist.org.uk/pragmatics-for-pragmatists/">a culture of irreverent memes</a> calling him ‘the absolute boy’. The apps were also a ‘libidinal’ pleasure to use, because in contrast to the self-sacrificing and technocratically controlled atmosphere of traditional Labour campaigning, this was to be done on your own time, with your own friends, with technology that was second nature.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">All these examples of left technology involve empowering users, rather than conceiving of the target user as passive and susceptible to manipulation.</p><p dir="ltr">The broader left’s realisation that appealing to ‘the people’ now means appealing digitally to people’s desires&nbsp;– in all their complexity – can be witnessed in various examples of emerging left technology. The New Inquiry’s ‘<a href="https://whitecollar.thenewinquiry.com/">White Collar Crime Risk Zones</a>’ application, for example, uses industry-standard machine learning to predict where financial crimes will happen across the US, combatting the right-wing trend (and policing algorithms) which associate crime statistics with impoverished and non-white communities, instead showing a link between wealth and criminality. Similarly, The Southern Poverty Law Center has created a <a href="https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map">‘hate group tracking map’</a> identifying fascist and racist organizations in the US and allowing users to follow their movements and organise resistance. In each case, the technology enables users to enjoy taking an active role in its potential uses.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.textezurkunst.de/106/uber-die-meme-der-produktion/">Left-wing ‘memeing’</a> is another example of people putting themselves to work in the service of a political movement, extricating memes from their apparently apolitical history and seeing them as important political tools. The many programmes created by the hacktivist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/07/aaron-swartz-suicide-internets-own-boy">Aaron Swartz</a> (except perhaps Reddit), form trailblazing parts of this evolving culture. Among other things, Swartz was responsible for campaigns for net neutrality, online petitioning and lobbying sites, as well as the creation of the Creative Commons, before his premature death under pressure from a US government determined to make an example of him. Recently, <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/91/evgeny-morozov-socialize-the-data-centres">Evgeny Morozov</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/30/nationalise-google-facebook-amazon-data-monopoly-platform-public-interest">Nick Srnicek</a> have made crucial appeals to the left to become more involved in imagining alternative ownership models for online platforms like Google and Facebook, that could wrest these essential tools of daily life from the self-interested and secretive bodies that currently control them.</p><p dir="ltr">All these examples of left technology involve empowering users as active participants and investigators, asking them to search, share and create online ‘content’, rather than conceiving of the target user as passive and susceptible to manipulation. Such technologies recognise users as libidinally motivated actors, not as brain-washable sheeple. If social media users were not ‘sheeple’ when they were enthused by Corbyn online, neither were they ‘sheeple’ when they were won over by Leave or Trump. A tech-savvy left will win again by continuing to develop innovative digital media for campaigning: but it also needs to commit to a left-‘libidinal’ understanding of what audiences are when they use digital media, what convinces them online and provokes them into action. While traditional politics has claimed to keep itself apart from pleasure and desire, if the left is to succeed at this juncture, it must recognise not only that desire is influenced by politics, as psychoanalysts have long argued, but that politics must sometimes be influenced by desire.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/epochal-election-welcome-to-era-of-platform-politics"> An epochal election: welcome to the era of platform politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/will-tory-momentum-fail">Will the &#039;Tory Momentum&#039; fail?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/nick-mahony/no-seat-is-unwinnable-how-labour-activists-set-out-to-reclaim-tory-strongholds-and-defi">No seat is unwinnable: how Labour activists set out to reclaim Tory strongholds and defy predictions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/exposing-invisible/this-is-how-you-can-leverage-social-media-to-uncover-wrongdoing">This is how you can leverage social media to uncover wrongdoing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/5-reasons-why-facebook-should-be-in-global-cooperative-public-ownership">5 reasons why Facebook should be in (global, cooperative) public ownership</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties World Forum for Democracy 2017 Alfie Bown James A. Smith Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:14:50 +0000 James A. Smith and Alfie Bown 113802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Israeli algorithm criminalizing Palestinians for online dissent https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-nashif-marwa-fatafta/israeli-algorithm-criminalizing-palestinians-for-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian “suspects.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4325890917_1b190753d6_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4325890917_1b190753d6_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti on the separation wall in the West Bank, Palestine. Photo by Wall in Palestine. Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0) Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/05/palestinian-authorities-arrest-activist-issa-amro-in-growing-free-speech-crackdown">arrest of West Bank human rights defender Issa Amro</a> for a Facebook post last month is the latest in the the PA’s recent crackdown on online dissent among Palestinians. Yet it’s a tactic long used by Israel, which has been monitoring social media activity and arresting Palestinians for their speech for years – and has recently created a computer algorithm to aid in such oppression. </p><p>Since 2015, Israel has detained around 800 Palestinians because of content they wrote or shared online, mainly posts that are critical of Israel’s repressive policies or share the reality of Israeli violence against Palestinians. In the majority of these cases, those detained did not commit any attack; mere suspicion was enough for their arrest. </p><p>The poet Dareen Tatour, for instance, was <a href="https://972mag.com/meet-the-palestinian-israel-put-on-trial-for-her-poetry/129482/">arrested </a><a href="https://972mag.com/meet-the-palestinian-israel-put-on-trial-for-her-poetry/129482/">on October 2015</a> for publishing a poem about resistance to Israel’s 50-year-old military rule on her Facebook page. She spent time in jail and has been under house arrest for over a year and a half. Civil rights groups and individuals in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and abroad have <a href="https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/dareen/">criticized</a> Israel’s detention of Tatour and other Palestinian internet users as violations of civil and human rights. </p><p>Israeli officials have accused social media companies of hosting and facilitating what they claim is Palestinian incitement. The government has pressured these companies, most notably Facebook, to remove such content. Yet the Israeli government is mining this content. Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian “suspects.” </p><p>Predictive policing, which uses data analytics and algorithms to forecast where and when a crime might occur, is nothing new. Fifty police departments in the US already use one form of predictive policing: area mapping of so-called hotspots on which police then focus their efforts. In contrast, Israel uses predictive policing to identify likely attackers. </p><p>The algorithm-based program monitors tens of thousands of young Palestinians’ Facebook accounts. It searches for such elements as photos of Palestinians killed or jailed by Israel to identify individuals it deems suspicious. The Israeli army also monitors the activity of relatives, friends, classmates, and co-workers of recent Palestinians killed by Israel to assess their potential risk. </p><p>In the US, a coalition of civil rights organizations, including the ACLU and the NAACP, criticizes the use of algorithms because they <a href="http://www.businessinsider.de/predictive-policing-discriminatory-police-crime-2016-10?r=US&amp;IR=T">reinforce existing police bias</a> and discrimination against minorities and other oft-targeted groups. Essentially, predictive policing uses past data related not to actual crimes or attacks, but to the state or police response to it. For example, when <a href="https://hrdag.org/2016/10/10/predictive-policing-reinforces-police-bias/">researchers</a> applied predictive policing algorithms to drug crime data in Oakland, California, the algorithm recommended police be deployed exclusively to neighborhoods with low-income black residents. Oakland police were already patrolling these areas heavily for drug crime. Thus, such algorithm-based systems only reinforce existing biases. </p><p>“[Predictive policing] concentrates existing law enforcement tactics, and will intensify stringent enforcement in communities of color that already face disproportionate law enforcement scrutiny,” the coalition <a href="http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/FINAL_JointStatementPredictivePolicing.pdf">said in a statement</a>. </p><p>While systematically targeting Palestinians online, Israel does not punish its Jewish residents for their social media posts, though a significant number of them are racist and violent toward Arabs or Palestinians. A <a href="http://7amleh.org/2017/02/07/7amleh-center-publishes-the-index-of-racism-and-incitement-in-the-israeli-social-media-2016/"><span>recent report</span></a> from the Palestinian organization <a href="http://7amleh.org/">7amleh</a> reveals that in 2016 almost 60,000 Israeli internet users wrote at least one post containing either racism or hatred towards these groups, mostly on Facebook. This translated into a violent post every 46 seconds. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">The difference in how the Israeli government treats Palestinians and Jewish Israelis in regard to their online speech is emblematic of how it treats them in real life.</p> <p>Even government officials write such content. In the lead-up to Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2014, Ayelet Shaked, an extreme right-wing Israeli parliamentarian,<a href="https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israeli-lawmakers-call-genocide-palestinians-gets-thousands-facebook-likes">&nbsp;posted a Facebook message</a>&nbsp;that said that Palestinian fighters’ mothers should be killed and their homes destroyed.&nbsp;She, nor any other Israeli Jewish internet user who publishes such language has been arrested or even called to account. </p><p>The difference in how the Israeli government treats Palestinians and Jewish Israelis in regard to their online speech is emblematic of how it treats them in real life. Israel severely restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement through checkpoints and the massive West Bank separation wall in an attempt to control an oppressed people struggling for its freedom. Jewish Israelis, on the other hand, are permitted unfettered freedom of movement, both in Israel and most of the OPT. Israel justifies its mining of online data by boasting that doing so has decreased the number of violent attacks. The argument is similar to other authoritarian governments that justify online surveillance, internet shutdowns, the blocking of websites, and censorship. </p><p>Even if such algorithms deter attacks, imprisoning Palestinians based on a probability created by a machine is a clear violation of Palestinians’ rights. The expansion of the Israeli occupation’s oppression of the Palestinian people, now in its fiftieth year, to the cyber sphere is an alarming trend. Every and any Palestinian is now a suspect simply by exercising their freedom of expression online. </p><p>While some western analysts <a href="http://www.salon.com/2017/05/13/why-big-data-analysis-of-police-activity-is-inherently-biased_partner/"><span>suggest</span></a> collecting neutral data or building neutral algorithm models as a way to circumvent abuse and discrimination, such recommendations do not resonate in a context of prolonged military occupation. Israel must stop policing the internet to further silence and oppress Palestinians. The detention of Palestinian civilians based on a machine’s prediction and no evidence is yet another instance to be added to Israel’s long list of violations of Palestinian human rights.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/louise-brown/gaza-border-controls-frustration-despair-and-death">Gaza border controls: frustration, despair and death</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/magdalena-l-carolina-l/i-am-proud-to-keep-resisting-fighting-occupation-in-he">“I am proud to keep resisting”: fighting the occupation in Hebron</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/eyal-weizman/vertical-apartheid">The vertical apartheid </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/efraim-perlmutter/football-kicking-players-on-fiftieth-anniversary-of-1967-wa">The football kicking the players, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samia-khoury/50-years-of-occupation-will-not-kill-hope-for-free-palestine">50 years of occupation will not kill hope for a free Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/carly-krakow/politics-of-water-access-under-occupation-is-international-law-sufficien-palestine-israel">The politics of water access under occupation: is international law sufficient?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia digitaLiberties North-Africa West-Asia Israel Palestine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Internet occupation Marwa Fatafta Nadim Nashif Wed, 04 Oct 2017 12:33:27 +0000 Nadim Nashif and Marwa Fatafta 113757 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to preserve fundamental rights on the internet: a guide https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/xnet/how-to-preserve-fundamental-rights-on-internet-guide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Spanish government's crackdown in Catalonia has shown that the entire population – not only Catalan people – needs tools to guarantee their fundamental rights. Here's a practical guide to securing them online.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-33056239.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-33056239.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Students of university and secondary school strike demonstrating in favour of the referendum of Catalonia due to take place on October 1. September 28, 2017, Barcelona, Spain. Nur Photo/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span style="font-size: 17px;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span style="font-size: 17px;">#Democracy – Rights and freedoms protected by the people: recent events in Catalonia as a case study</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/">How-to guide</a></p><p dir="ltr">What is happening in Spain these days in relation to the situation in Catalonia is a very significant milestone in the defence of freedoms and rights around the world in the digital age.</p><p dir="ltr">The reaction of the Spanish government has clearly shown that the entire population – not only those living in Catalonia – needs to have tools to guarantee their fundamental rights (natural rights guaranteed per se which do not depend on any government) independently of any <a href="https://www.eff.org/es/deeplinks/2017/09/cat-domain-casualty-catalonian-independence-crackdown">unjustified or arbitrary tutelage</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many international institutions like the <a href="https://medium.com/@josepot/is-sensitive-voter-data-being-exposed-by-the-catalan-government-af9d8a909482">United Nations</a>, recommend this after the Snowden revelations, emphasizing that knowledge and use of digital tools by everyone to ensure their privacy, freedom of expression and access to information are essential and the only way to guarantee fundamental rights in the face of increasing state-approved mass surveillance.</p><p dir="ltr">The acceleration of events in Catalonia has finally made the whole Spanish population aware of this situation and many citizens are now ready to begin use these tools. These days, in contrast to situations such as those experienced in Turkey, for example, even the Catalan institutions are publicising the necessary tools. They have finally agreed to assign, distribute and share responsibility for <a href="https://twitter.com/mvilaredon/status/912231920540487680">protection of freedoms</a>, thus beginning to endorse what we see as the embryo of what has to be a democracy that is up to the requirements of the digital age.</p><p dir="ltr">Xnet fights to empower people because we believe that a real democracy resides in the fact of making it possible for each and every person to access the necessary tools to monitor their institutions and to be autonomous in their judgments and, consequently, in protecting their rights and freedoms. We have worked tirelessly to teach people how to use these tools and to deactivate the gross attempts to criminalise them by powers that require people to be at their mercy.</p><p dir="ltr">From this point of view, what is happening these days is of historic significance and hopeful. This acceleration towards a greater degree of democracy and strength for civil society is taking place spontaneously. But lack of information about some aspects of the digital milieu is exposing people to risks.</p><p dir="ltr">Accordingly, and in order to facilitate this process of co-responsibility wherever necessary, Xnet has summarized the most important information in a <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#how-to">basic How-to guide</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our How-to guide is also associated with the indispensable work in defence of rights and legal freedoms carried out by several organisations in the campaign <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Somdefensores?src=hash">#SomDefensores</a>.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Basic how-to guide for preserving fundamental rights on the Internet</h2><p dir="ltr">Xnet has prepared this technical guide with tips and tools addressed to activists, journalists and citizens whose fundamental freedoms and rights on the Internet are being restricted by state powers or authoritarian governments.</p><p dir="ltr">It is important to read the recommendations, download and learn to use these tools before a possible arbitrary blocking of the Internet, or the concerted attempt to access the private data of citizens, etc. Because, once it starts, it will be too late.</p><ol><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Blocking">Arbitrary website and application blocking</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Encryption">Mobile Device Encryption</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Hosting">Hosting: privacy and security</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Messaging-VOIP-email">Messaging, VOIP, email and file sharing privately and securely</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Blocking-Messaging">Blocking of messaging applications</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Shutdown">Internet shutdown</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#More">More</a></p></li></ol><p dir="ltr"><i><b>This guide is to be improved collectively; if you have any corrections write to: info[at]xnet-x.net /<a href="https://xnet-x.net/keys/infoxnet-0x3E59F813-public.asc">Clave pública PGP</a>.</b></i></p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Blocking">#</a>Arbitrary website and application blocking</h2><p dir="ltr">Arbitrary Internet blockages occur primarily – but not only – when a government intentionally disrupts access to websites, mobile applications or electronic communication services to censor or control what people say or do.</p><p dir="ltr">Internet access is essential for the exercise of our freedoms and should be considered in itself a fundamental right [<a href="https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton-spanish/">#KeepItOn</a>]. Partially or totally blocking Internet access is a common practice in countries with authoritarian regimes, for example, to avoid access to certain types of content (in opposition to the regime, LGTBI, etc.) and to exercise control over conversations and the flow of information.</p><h3 dir="ltr">How to access websites that are arbitrarily censored or blocked in a particular connection/location: Tor and VPN</h3><p dir="ltr">Both the Tor network and a VPN allow access to websites and applications that have been improperly blocked in a region or country, surfing the Internet as if it was being done from another geographical location.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, if a country blocks access to Twitter, people can use the Tor network or a VPN to access the social network as if their connection was coming from another point or country where these arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information are not happening. </p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, navigation in both cases is encrypted – in a “closed envelope”, so that it can only be read by the sender and receiver.</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Tor for <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Tor-Andorid">#Android</a> | <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Tor-iPhone">#iPhone</a> | <a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Tor-PC">#PC</a></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#VPN">#VPN</a></p></li></ul><h3 dir="ltr">Tor for Android: Orbot</h3><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.03 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.03 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.18 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.18 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.30 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.36.30 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="222" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li><a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.torproject.android"></a><a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.torproject.android"><i>Download Orbot</i></a></li><li>Open and start Orbot</li><li>You are connected to the Tor network</li><li>Click on “Apps in VPN mode”. You do not need to install Orfox<span style="font-style: italic;">, you can use your usual browser.&nbsp;</span></li><li>Select the Apps that you cannot access because of the blocking&nbsp;</li><li>You can also select your browser, other apps, or everything (increases battery consumption)&nbsp;</li><li>Verify that you can access the blocked App with Orbot. If you have also activated it for your browser, check it works <a href="https://check.torproject.org/" style="font-style: italic;">here</a><span style="font-style: italic;">&nbsp;</span></li><li>To add more Apps to Orbot go to Settings</li><li>and there ‘Select Apps’.</li></ol><p>&nbsp;</p><h2><span style="font-size: 17px;">Tor for iPhone: Onion Browser</span></h2><p dir="ltr">There is no iPhone application that allows use of the Tor network for any application installed on the device. However, with Onion Browser you can access websites and the web version of arbitrarily blocked applications.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.38.33 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.38.33 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="219" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/onion-browser-secure-anonymous-web-with-tor/id519296448?mt=8">Download Onion Browser</a> for iPhone; open it and select ‘connect to Tor’</li><li>From here you can access blocked websites and blocked web apps</li></ol><h3 dir="ltr">Tor for PC: Tor Browser</h3><p dir="ltr">Download Tor browser for <a href="https://www.torproject.org/">Linux / MacOS / Windows</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">How to install and use Tor in <a href="https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en#linux">Linux</a> / <a href="https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en#macosx">MacOS</a> / <a href="https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en#windows">Windows</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Video: How to use Tor in PCs created for the launching of the <a href="https://boingboing.net/2017/01/19/barcelona-government-officiall.html">Whistleblowing Platform against corruption</a> of the City Hall of Barcelona (CAT):</p><p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Tdmq8qCEncI" frameborder="0" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p><h3 dir="ltr">VPN</h3><p dir="ltr">A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows your data to travel through an encrypted connection, or a kind of tunnel, before heading out to the open Internet, to connect to the Web from another location.</p><p dir="ltr">The easiest and fastest application to install in order to activate a VPN connection is Bitmask, which is also free. At the moment it is only available for Android phones and Linux PCs, although its version for the MacOs iPhone is about to be released and, in the not too distant future, its Windows version. However, there are many very low-cost payment services that offer VPN connection for all types of devices – see below for information on Internet services that ensure the preservation of privacy and information.</p><p dir="ltr">It is advisable to have both Tor and VPN options. If traffic is blocked through Tor, you can then use the VPN, and vice versa.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.40 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.40 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="211" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.50 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.50 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.59 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.39.59 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li>Download and install <a href="https://bitmask.net/es/install">Bitmask</a></li><li>Open it. Select a provider. Any one of the 3 works</li><li>Register (or initiate session)</li><li>Choose a username and password</li><li>After logging in, start Bitmask</li><li>Accept connection via VPN</li><li>You will see an icon in the top bar indicating that you are logged in</li><li>Display the top notification menu to check the status of Bitmask or turn it off</li></ol><p dir="ltr">For a correct configuration of the VPN connection, it is important to ensure that you are not suffering ‘DNS leakage’. Otherwise you will not be able to overcome the blockade and will reveal your connection data. In the page <a href="https://hidester.com/dns-leak-test/">DNS Leak test</a> you can find out how to test it and how to solve it.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.40.07 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.40.07 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li>Visit the page <a href="https://hidester.com/dns-leak-test/">DNS Leak test</a>&nbsp;</li><li>Perform a test without the VPN connected. Look at the data.</li><li>Connect the VPN and perform another test. If the data is the same you have a DNS leak. The same page explains how to solve it.</li></ol><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Cifrado">#</a>Mobile Device Encryption</h2><p dir="ltr">Encrypting devices, especially mobile phones, is essential to maintain the privacy of personal data should they be lost or stolen. This is why most smartphones have installed by default tools which, in a few simple steps, encrypt the entire device, and it always is recommended to protect the privacy of data, accounts, contacts and user information.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Mobile Device Encryption: Example with Android</h3><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.42.17 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.42.17 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="209" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.42.28 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.42.28 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li>'Additional settings'"&gt;</li><li>The device encryption option is in ‘Settings’ -&gt; ‘Additional settings’&nbsp;</li><li>‘Privacy’</li><li>‘Device Encryption’&nbsp;</li><li>In order to encrypt the device you need to have the battery charged and it should also be plugged in</li><li>When loaded and connected you can encrypt. The process is long and if interrupted you could lose data, so it is advisable to make a previous backup.</li></ol><p dir="ltr">In general, as a good practice, you should not store unnecessary information in your devices, delete periodically. Even though you may be sure that everything you have is absolutely legal, remember that it is not you but the power who decides what is legal and what isn’t, and what today is legal might not be so tomorrow in the event that the regime becomes authoritarian. Deleting and emptying the bin is not enough, you have to use specific tools that overwrite the data several times. More information and tools to do it <a href="https://securityinabox.org/en/guide/destroy-sensitive-information/">here</a> (a backdoor was discovered in CCleaner for Windows that has already been <a href="http://www.piriform.com/news/blog/2017/9/18/security-notification-for-ccleaner-v5336162-and%20-ccleaner-cloud-v1073191-for-32-bit-windows-users">patched</a>: always download the latest version).</p><p dir="ltr">Note to the Spanish State: In the case that security forces confiscate someone’s device because this person is under investigation, he or she has the right not to reveal encryption keys, PIN, unlock pattern, password or similar data, in accordance with the right not to testify against oneself (Criminal Procedure Law <a href="http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1882-6036&amp;p=20151006&amp;tn=1#a118">Art. 118 h</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1882-6036&amp;p=20151006&amp;tn=1#a588septiesb">Art. 588 septies b 2</a>; as explained in this <a href="https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/3347/response/11918/attach/5/Encryption%20questionnaire%20ES%20DRAFT%20PA.pdf#page2">document</a> to the Secretariat of State of the European Union).</p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Hosting">#</a> Hosting: privacy and security</h2><p dir="ltr">The censorship of websites by authoritarian governments can happen at a deeper level when, instead of blocking access to the web through the network, the page is entirely closed down either by intervening in the servers or by seizing the domain. In this case, tools like Tor or a VPN will not help.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to foil such attempts (or create a mirror-copy of the same website – in a secure hosting if the web has already been censored), citizens living in authoritarian states should not choose a server within the territory of their country. It is necessary to search and choose countries where the legal framework offers strong guarantees regarding freedom of expression and information about where to locate the hosting.</p><p dir="ltr">Neither should they register the domain of a website susceptible to be censored with Top Level Domains of their own country. It is easier for a government to intervene in its TLD than in others such as .net, .eu or .is. In Spain, we have recently experienced a preposterous example of this, unprecedented in the European Union, with the TLD .cat:</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.46.46 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.46.46 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li>Fundació Puntcat &lt; href="https://twitter.com/puntcat/status/909525852446187521"&gt;denounces to ICANN the inordinate action of the courts assaulting its headquarters&nbsp;</li><li>Internet Society <a href="https://twitter.com/internetsociety/status/910995196405518336">statement</a> on internet blocking measures in Catalonia, Spain</li></ol><p dir="ltr">Finally, to protect your privacy and security (to avoid spam, spam, or other harassment), you should acquire your domain in registration services that offer strong legal security, eg <a href="https://njal.la/">Njalla</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many domain registrars undertake not to publish the owner’s data and to manage the requests they receive themselves, whether they are requests from buyers, individuals, or authorities and institutions. This type of service is known as private whois.</p><p dir="ltr">The importance of this requirement can be understood by entering, for example, <a href="https://whois.icann.org/">https://whois.icann.org/</a> or <a href="https://www.nic.es/sgnd/domain/publicInformationDominios.action">https://www.nic.es/sgnd/dominio/publicInformacionDominios.action</a> (for domains ending in .es) and looking for any web.</p><p dir="ltr">A file will appear in which all data will be output. If the person who owns the website has not used a provider which had undertaken to protect their privacy, his or her information will be published, and anyone from anywhere can see it:</p><ol><li class="blockquote-new">REGISTRANT CONTACT (note that providing inaccurate or outdated information is punishable )</li><li class="blockquote-new">Name: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">Organisation: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">Street: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">City: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">State: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">Postal Code: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">Phone: …</li><li class="blockquote-new">Email: …</li></ol><p>If the owner has taken the functional and customary measure that the requests are to be managed by the provider (has activated the private whois service), the data will be forwarded to the service provider. The provider will notify the owner if someone has searched or required it. It is important that the provider should assure you in the contract of the deadlines within which it provides you with the information. The more ethical providers who are respectful of the rights of their users usually offer deadlines between the requirement and the communication of your data to those who require it if you have not answered.</p><p dir="ltr">Not all domains agree because not all domains are managed in the same way. Generic domains, .com, .net, .biz, .org, etc… are managed by ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the leading Internet governance body, and this organization is the one which permits the use of domains that can have recourse to Whois protection. The .es domains, on the other hand, are managed by Red.es and these domains do not allow hiding the data of the registry of users who want to acquire an .es domain.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Messaging-VOIP-email">#</a> Messaging, VOIP, email and file sharing privately and securely</h2><p dir="ltr">Massive surveillance of what we do and say on the Internet (and in all electronic communications) by governments has been clearly revealed thanks to Snowden’s revelations. Below are some tips to help defend privacy against these practices using encryption tools.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Messaging</h3><p dir="ltr">To protect the privacy of your communications always use messaging applications that have end-to-end encryption by default. We strongly recommend using Signal (<a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.securesms&amp;hl=en">Android</a> | <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/signal-private-messenger/id874139669?mt=8">iPhone</a>), an end-to-end encrypted messaging app whose use is easy and intuitive, and recommended by Snowden himself. Among other popular messaging applications, Whatsapp has also integrated end-to-end encryption in all communications by default (however, Facebook has already <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/25/whatsapp-to-share-user-data-with-facebook-for-ad-targeting-heres-how-to-opt-out/">shared user data</a> with WhatsApp and the social network, so Signal is still the best choice). Telegram, has an encryption option but is not active by default.</p><p dir="ltr">It is important to note that, even though they are encrypted end-to-end, the above applications are associated with the user’s mobile number. Hence, even if the communication is encrypted (a third person cannot see the content) it is not anonymous and the identity of the sender and receiver, as well as connection and geolocation times are known.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Video calls – VOIP</h3><p dir="ltr">You can make encrypted calls and video calls over the Internet with Signal (and Whatsapp) to a contact. <a href="https://meet.jit.si/">MeetJitsi</a> allows you to make group video calls. Calls and video calls through Skype, Hangouts or others do not sufficiently protect the privacy of your communications.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Encrypted email</h3><p dir="ltr">In the case of e-mail, it is important to know that all e-mail sent and received can be read (and is actually processed) by the mail service providers. Some of them, when required by the authorities, show little concern about the privacy and legal security of their customers/users. We do not recommend the use of services like gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc. In any case, it should be known that sending any email without encryption is almost the same as sending a letter in an open envelope. In order to protect the right to confidentiality of communication, it is possible to use encryption with PGP. This allows you to ensure the privacy of communications and files sent via email. This guide from Security in a Box explains how to use email with PGP with <a href="https://securityinabox.org/en/guide/thunderbird/linux/">Linux</a> | <a href="https://securityinabox.org/en/guide/thunderbird/mac/">MacOS</a> | <a href="https://securityinabox.org/en/guide/thunderbird/windows/">Windows</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Again in this case, the communication is encrypted in terms of content, but not anonymous.</p><p dir="ltr">What does this mean? It means that, even if we do not indicate our name, or we use an email account in which our identity does not appear, or a throw-away one, all electronic communication leaves a trail , the so-called IP address, which is a unique address assigned to each device on the network and indicating the point from which a communication has been made. In addition, the sender, recipient, and subject of the message as well as other “metadata” of the mail are not encrypted and indicate who receives it, when, and other data. Therefore, the real anonymity possible for transferring files and information can only be achieved through the Tor network, because this communication is not made from point A to point B but the connection passes through several intermediate nodes within the Tor network, none of which knows the origin and destination at the same time. Obviously, accessing our regular account of gmail or any social network through the Tor network will reveal the identity even if the IP address is hidden.</p><p dir="ltr">One example of how to deliver information privately and securely is the <a href="https://xnet-x.net/buzon-xnet/">XnetLeaks</a> mailbox for reporting corruption, based on <a href="https://www.globaleaks.org/">Globaleaks</a> and accessible through Tor.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Blocking-Messaging">#</a> Blocking of messaging applications</h2><p dir="ltr">Alternatives to private and public communication in case Signal or Whatsapp messaging applications and social networks are blocked.</p><h3 dir="ltr">FireChat: for Android and iPhone</h3><p dir="ltr">FireChat is a messaging application that allows communication between devices and publishing in public forums between nearby devices through mesh-networks.</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Public rooms: like #PublicRoom1, are open chats in which all messages reach all participants in the chat. All messages are public and not encrypted. The creators of FireChat recommend that people should not use personal data and that they should be careful with personal information that is shared in the public chats.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Private Messages: Private messages are encrypted and can only be viewed by the sender and the recipients, which can be one or several.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">This is the application used by demonstrators in the yellow umbrella revolution in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/29/firechat-messaging-app-powering-hong-kong-protests">Hong Kong</a> when their communications were blocked. <a href="https://twitter.com/JulianAssange/status/910477462647316480">Julian Assange</a> recommends it (along with Briar) for this type of situation.</p><p dir="ltr">Download FireChat for Android or iPhone: <a href="https://www.opengarden.com/firechat.html">https://www.opengarden.com/firechat.html</a></p><p dir="ltr">How to use FireChat: <a href="https://www.opengarden.com/how-to.html">https://www.opengarden.com/how-to.html</a></p><p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GogPPT3ePGQ" frameborder="0" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.opengarden.com/how-to.html"></a></p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#Shutdown">#</a>Internet shutdown</h2><p dir="ltr">In the extreme case of a shutdown in which the Internet connection is completely cut off, as happens in situations of great repression, there are applications that allow communication between mobile devices, even without connection.</p><h3 dir="ltr">Briar: for Android</h3><p dir="ltr">Briar is an open source messaging application designed for activists, journalists and anyone else who needs a secure, easy and robust way to communicate. Unlike traditional messaging tools such as email, Twitter or Telegram, Briar is not based on a central server: messages are synchronized directly via p2p between users’ devices.</p><p dir="ltr">If the Internet is down, Briar can synchronize messages via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and thus maintain the flow of information in case of crisis. The devices must be able to connect between them so the maximum distance in the case of Bluetooth is 70 meters approx. or a little more in the case of Wi-Fi depending on its scope. In the case of groups or forums, the larger the group the greater the reach of p2p synchronization.</p><p dir="ltr">With Internet connection, Briar is synchronized through the Tor network, protecting users from surveillance.</p><p dir="ltr">Download Briar: <a href="https://briarproject.org/download.html">https://briarproject.org/download.html</a></p><p dir="ltr">Howt to use Briar: <a href="https://briarproject.org/manual/">https://briarproject.org/manual/</a></p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-fundamental-rights-internet/#More">#</a>More</h2><p dir="ltr">This guide contains a series of basic guidelines for preserving your rights on the Internet. For greater security and privacy on the Internet, visit Security in a Box: <a href="https://securityinabox.org/">https://securityinabox.org/</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The manual “Zen and the art of making tech work for you” to read more about creating and managing online identities as well as about building and maintaining secure spaces online and in physical life: <a href="https://ttc.io/zen">https://ttc.io/zen</a></p><p dir="ltr">MyShadow to read and learn about tools and methodologies to understand and change your digital shade: <a href="https://myshadow.org/en">https://myshadow. org/en</a></p><p dir="ltr">Finally in terms of basic logistics, it is recommended that you should always leave home with your devices charged and, if possible, with external batteries for greater autonomy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/cynthia-wong/us-cross-border-data-deal-could-open-surveillance-floodgates">US cross-border data deal could open surveillance floodgates</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nick-rider/catalonia-spain-referendum-there-is-more-than-one-nationalism-in-iberian-peninsula">There is more than one nationalism in the Iberian peninsula</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/chris-jones/ongoing-march-of-eu-s-security-industrial-complex">The ongoing march of the EU’s security-industrial complex</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Catalonia Xnet Fri, 29 Sep 2017 21:40:19 +0000 Xnet 113704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Weapons of maths destruction https://www.opendemocracy.net/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“The financial crisis was the biggest loss of wealth for the black community that we’ve ever seen". How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. An interview.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_198736082.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_198736082.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shutterstock/Ollyy. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></em></p><p><em><strong>Leo Hollis (LH</strong></em><strong><em>):</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp; </em></strong><em>Thinking about your own story, the one that you talk about in <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Weapons-Math-Destruction-Increases-Inequality/dp/0553418815">Weapons of Math Destruction </a>– you started off in academia studying maths, then went into the City, a fairly common move. But you were going into the hedge fund, into the quant world, until the financial crash. How did you first experience the crash? </em></p> <p><strong>Cathy O’Neil (C.O.): </strong>I actually walked into the crash. I left my professorship in June 2007, started a hedge fund, and in the summer, very soon after I came in – that was when the financial crisis started, from the perspective of people inside finance. </p> <p>It was called a ‘kerfuffle’ where I worked, but really it was a big, big deal. The Equity Group, which was probably the largest trading group, had to liquidate their books. They got freaked out, and they lost a lot of money because they were unwinding all their trades. Some of the trades were very big, so that meant a lot of loss. </p> <p>From that moment on for the next year, everyone was panicking. Then a year later that’s when Lehman Brothers fell and everyone else in the world noticed, but for that whole year there was a really clear problem in the overnight lending markets between banks. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>Did you see it as a structural problem straightaway, or was there the feeling that this was human error? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>I didn’t see it as anything, to be honest, because I didn’t know what I was doing. But at some point in that year, quantative analysts like me had an invitation to talk to Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Larry Summers about macroeconomic issues at the Rockefeller Centre, and they very clearly were worried about the securities market. </p> <p>They were talking about it being unstable, it being like a bomb about to go off. Then, after that, we started really talking about it within the firm. I remember our managing director describing how the mortgage-backed securities were structured, and how a terrible group of mortgages could end up being called ‘Triple A’. And I remember at that exact moment I felt sick to my stomach. I just remember thinking, “Wait a second. That’s mathematically stupid. How could that possibly be true? It doesn’t sound right. It sounds like it’s a sausage factory,” right? <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s actually that they wanted to <em>not </em>know the truth, so it was a different kind of bullshit algorithm.</span></p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>And you weren’t able to discuss this with your colleagues? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>That particular thing we did talk about, because one of the things that we felt protected by was the fact that we didn’t, ourselves, invest in those terrible mortgage-backed securities. We thought of ourselves as relatively walled off from that problem, which we weren’t at all, as we found out. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>And so you moved out of that business? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>I wanted to fix the problem. I tried to get a job as a regulator; I applied to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and all of these places. Nobody answered my call, so I ended up getting a job at a risk firm because I was thinking, “Maybe, if we had a better risk model, we could avoid these problems.” </p> <p>I actually ended up working on the ‘Credit Default Swap’ instrument class, to try and understand the risk, but I pretty much decided that they didn’t want to know. The world didn’t want to know. People were using the risk evaluations by the company I was working at – Risk Metrics, a very widely used company – as a rubberstamp to allow themselves to keep doing the same practices. </p> <p>It’s actually that they wanted to <em>not </em>know the truth, so it was a different kind of bullshit algorithm. One of them, the first one, was lying in order to sell more bad mortgages. The second one was lying in a different way to hide risk. Either way I was fed up, because, as a mathematician, I want to use my math to clarify, not to lie. </p> <p>I understood the power of the mathematical brand and how people will be trusting. They consider mathematics trustworthy and intimidating at the same time, and I thought, “I don’t want any of this. I don’t want to be brandishing mathematics. I want to be helping people with maths.” I thought data science would be a way to do that, so I went into data science, but very quickly figured out that the same thing was happening in data science. <span class="mag-quote-center">I was fed up, because, as a mathematician, I want to use my math to clarify, not to lie. </span></p> <p>The difference was (and this is post-financial crisis – I was actually a member of Occupy by this time) everyone noticed when the financial crisis happened. The kinds of failures I was seeing with algorithms outside of finance – they were silent. The failures themselves were silent. Even though they were happening in my estimation all the time, all over the place, there was no organised way of investigating it or even noticing it. </p> <p>Sometimes I’d use the metaphor that big data as an industry is like the beginning of a transportation industry, like car manufacturing, or even airplane manufacturing. But that’s not really true, because, with big pileups on the highway, or airplane crashes, everyone knows about it. But, when these algorithms fail, nobody knows – almost never. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>Was it around Occupy that you started, I suppose, seeing that there was a conversation going on about algorithms, or was it still something that they had missed?</em> </p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>I would say Occupy didn’t give me insight into algorithmic problems per se, but what it allowed me to do was connect the dots from finance to inequality, and to see these problems through the historical lenses of racism – slavery, even – and sexism. <span class="mag-quote-center">When these algorithms fail, nobody knows – almost never. </span></p> <p>I started learning a little more history. I’m not a historian at all. I was really only interested in maths when I started all this, but Occupy started making me realise: “Wait, this is not a coincidence that the people who were screwed most by the financial crisis are African Americans,” who once again were given outrageous APRs on their mortgages that they couldn’t possibly pay. The financial crisis was the biggest loss of wealth for the black community that we’ve ever seen. That was the end result of those mortgages. I’m not saying that a larger part of the population didn’t also suffer from the financial crisis, but, if you looked how the suffering was distributed, it wasn’t distributed equally. </p> <p>That’s what Occupy gave me: this conversation, and it’s still going on. I still meet with our Occupy group on Sundays about how these things come about and how they are all connected, through the Committee of Alternative Banking. Basically, we now talk about social justice through the lens of finance, not the other way around. </p> <p>We had that conversation, and I slowly but surely realised, “Hey, this applies to what I’m doing right now.” I’m working on online advertising at this point – this is 2011/2012 – and I realise I am manufacturing the most concerted effort to put people in marketing silos and to extract the most amount of money that we possibly can. </p> <p>Nothing has ever been this organised or this comprehensive, and it’s because of big data, it’s because of social media. It’s because we can surveil people, and keep track of them and profile them that we’re able to do this. For that reason, payday lenders are able to find the most desperate people and offer them terrible, terrible loans. <span class="mag-quote-center">Basically, we now talk about social justice through the lens of finance, not the other way around. </span></p><p><em><strong>LH:</strong>&nbsp;</em><em>In your book there are three keywords that you use early on to summarise the problems that big data and access to it bring about: opacity, scale, and damage. In terms of opacity, it's the ability to collect information on a level that we've never seen before and that is something of a black box to ‘us’, normal citizens. Do you feel that that is something that has occurred without us noticing?</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;It depends on who ‘us' is referring to, but I would say yes. I would say that we've been hearing the same line coming from the architects of the internet, which is essentially, “Well, you get something for your data. You get this free service,” for whatever reason. Even though they call it a trade, they say, “It's free.” You're paying for this service with your data, and people are willing to do that.</p> <p>That's been the line, but, of course, the real problem is that there's a lag of maybe 10 years or so between when people start collecting data and when they start really using it; preying on people because of what they've learned from that data. We haven't hit the lag yet, so we don't actually know if that trade has worked for us.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;So if you're not paying for the product, you are the product?</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;That's true too, yes. One thing I learned from Occupy is the lens of power. Most of those situations where you're giving data to the people that may or may not score or see you fairly, it's an important decision that you have no control over, no view into, and no appeals process. </p> <p>That opacity you're talking about – and destructiveness, for that matter – are in the context of people who you need to make happy. They ask you for your data and you have to give it to them. When you're trying to get a job, you have to answer the questions they ask you. Or when you're being sentenced to prison. Or when you're trying to get into college. When you have a power disadvantage, your data is up for grabs.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;And the people who are asking for that information are still a wide variety of power sources? Quite a lot of the examples you use in the book are the state bodies that have been provided with a certain kind of algorithm, usually commissioned or bought from a private company. It seems to me that what we've been sold is a sense that all software is basically neutral. It's just how you use it.</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;The example I give in the book is about making dinner for my kids, because actually algorithms happen in our own heads. We don't have to formalise them. I first of all talk about curating the data, which in this case is just the ingredients in my kitchen: what am I going to cook dinner with? I will not cook dinner with ramen noodles. That's not food to me. That's my teenager's favourite food, but it's not my favourite food.</p> <p>Every algorithm has a definition of success, and we optimise to the definition of success, obviously. Just by its very name, it carries our values: what do we think matters? I define success for a meal to be if my kids eat vegetables.</p> <p>My sons would not agree with that, especially my eight-year-old, who loves Nutella. His definition of success would be, “I get to eat Nutella.”</p><p><em><span class="mag-quote-center">It seems to me that what we've been sold is a sense that all software is basically neutral. It's just how you use it...</span></em></p> <p>That's kind of the perfect metaphor for any time you see an algorithm. It's called an objective, but there's always an embedded agenda in its definition of success – and, for that matter, how it treats errors. That's a very, very important thing. We usually optimise to accuracy, but we also optimise to the false-positive and the false-negative error rates, which can really, really matter, depending on what kind of errors we're talking about.</p> <p>If it's a hiring algorithm, a false positive is when a company hires someone even though they aren't going to be good for the job. That's probably a mistake that the company wants to avoid, so they're going to optimise away from false positives. A false negative is when somebody who is totally qualified doesn't get the job.</p> <p>The company will probably not even be able to measure the false negatives, if you think about it. If they never hire someone, they'll never even know that person wasn't qualified, and as long as the company is getting qualified people, they don't really care.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;The harm in that case falls upon the people who don't get the job. That's why I suspect that most of these hiring algorithms are ridiculously discriminatory, because there's every incentive for them to be and because there's no monitor on them. There's also no reason to think that they're just inherently fair, except for the marketing that we've been exposed to.</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;The mistake that people make is this: they think that when you build an algorithm you're going to be following the data, which is true, but they think that means it is somehow less biased. There's no reason to think that. It's exactly as biased as the data that you feed to it.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;And in your book you talk about the implications of that biased data further – for example with policing.</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;To be a bit clearer about that, it continues the past practices. It doubles down in the sense that if you also believe it to be a fair and objective process, like this algorithm, then you don't question yourself any more.</p> <p>So, if the computer is telling you, “Go ahead and be as racist as you've always been,” then you don't ask yourself: “Why do we send so many more cops to black neighbourhoods?”</p> <p>I think of the predictive policing algorithms as more of a police prediction than crime prediction. It's predicting what the police will do. Every algorithm should be a learning algorithm, which just means you refresh the data; you add more data all the time. In this case, the data is where are the arrests – locations of arrests? If the police started practising policing differently, if they stopped over-policing some neighbourhoods and they started expanding their reach – and, furthermore, they actually arrested white people for crimes of poverty like they arrest black people – then the algorithms themselves would look bad. They'd look inaccurate, but as you refresh them they would learn: “The police behaved differently and now here is how it works.” <span class="mag-quote-center">I think of the predictive policing algorithms as more of a police prediction than crime prediction. It's predicting what the police will do. </span></p><p>I'm not saying it wouldn't be possible to change our practices, our policies. The question is how much are we learning from the algorithm, and how much are we teaching the algorithm?</p> <p>The answer is that it depends, but people who really believe these algorithms work will have the police follow the algorithms, so the algorithms will be taking the lead rather than the humans. That's the problem – the problem of following the rules set out by mistakes in the past.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;Then you get companies like Facebook, with data that has become extraordinarily powerful. The first question is on ownership of that data. At the moment, clearly, they have complete ownership of that. Is that ever going to change? Would we ever be able to get back our information, do you think? Secondly, as they gather more and more big data, are they going to become increasingly powerful and, as a result, more and more dangerous?</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;Yes. It's up to us, first of all. Second of all, it's a really interesting ongoing conversation about data governance and how we could possibly approach regulating. We don't know right now and it's not obvious. I don't have a sound-bite answer to that, but I do think that we have to think about it. I think it's antidemocratic, the kind of power that Facebook already has, for that matter.</p> <p><strong><em>LH:</em></strong><em>&nbsp;Because they are monopolies now?</em></p> <p><strong>CO:</strong>&nbsp;Yes, they are monopolies. But, more importantly, they are propaganda machines and they have the power to swing elections. They might have already swung elections without even attempting to. That's even scarier in some sense because what they haven't done is acknowledge their power, and they haven't started monitoring their power in a way that is accountable to the public. <span class="mag-quote-center">That's the problem – the problem of following the rules set out by mistakes in the past.</span></p> <p>The Silicon Valley companies are very powerful, and they have a lot of lobbyists, and they have an infinite amount of money. If you wanted to sum up their ideology in one sentence, it is that technology is better than and will replace politics. Of course, what they mean by that is: “It will be replaced by our politics.” That looks like an ignorance of class, ignorance of gender and race, an assumption that we will all transcend and become one with the machine and we will never die.</p> <p>We need to demand accountability. I don't know if that looks like, “Give us our data back and stop tailored advertising” because that would close them down. I'm totally fine with that, by the way, we should definitely consider it. I don't have any limits on what we should do, but I don't know what actually makes sense to do. </p><p>I'm not a particularly open data, transparent data type of person. What I want is accountability, which is different from openness. I want to know: how is this algorithm affecting us? Are we losing sight of what truth is? How do we measure that? It's hard. Democracy is not an easy thing to quantify.</p><p><em><strong>LH: </strong>So, how is oversight achieved? Is that a personal obligation: to be aware of the way that one’s information is being used? Or are there some other ways that we can organise as a civil society? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>It has to be agitated at the civil society level. It has to be a political campaign, I think. It has to end up at policy. There’s this guy Ben Shneiderman. He was a Maryland computer science professor, but he came to the Alan Turing Institute a couple of months ago and he suggested that we institute something called the National Algorithmic Safety Board, modelled after the National Transportation Safety Board. They investigate plane crashes – and, for that matter, traffic crashes – and they suggest improvements in safety. </p> <p>He made a very important point, and he said this was crucial to emphasise: they hold <em>people </em>responsible – human beings. I think that is probably by far the biggest problem we have right now with respect to algorithmic harm: that almost no algorithm has a human being who is responsible for it. </p> <p>What we need is regulation. If everyone has the same regulation, then there’s no race to the bottom. That’s why regulations are sometimes very reasonable; we don’t allow chemical companies to pour their waste into the rivers, even though it would be cheaper for them to do so. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>So, regulation, and some kind of ethics commission coming out of civil society, forcing policy? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>I think accountability isn’t the same thing as ethics. When I say “accountability”, I mean things like, “Does this work?” </p> <p>When we accept an algorithm from a builder, we should say, “Show me evidence this works. Show me evidence this is legal.” You could say, “Show me evidence this is ethical,” but I think that’s actually a little bit further down the road. Let’s just first rely on our laws. If the laws are inadequate, let’s improve our laws. We have antidiscrimination laws, but we have all these algorithms that aren’t being checked against them. I would like that to start happening. That’s accountability, for me. </p> <p>But I do think it’s a different category altogether where you have criminal algorithms. You have all sorts of examples in my book – mostly unintentional mistakes, unintentional bias – but you also have VW with the emissions scandal. That is an algorithm. It’s a lying algorithm, and it’s a criminal algorithm. Uber had that, too, for avoiding government officials when it was operating illegally in cities. That is a totally different can of worms, and it’s much closer to hacking. </p> <p>The chemical companies shouldn’t put shit in the river, but these rivers, they’re not in our backyards any more. They’re not easy to look at. Where is the river of democracy? How do you see whether it’s polluted and who polluted it? It’s hard to track. <span class="mag-quote-center">Where is the river of democracy? How do you see whether it’s polluted and who polluted it?</span></p> <p>I’m sure big data companies are in the process of establishing their own standards on algorithms for internal use. Soon, then, they’re going to declare the war against bias in algorithms as over: “We won.” That’s going to happen and I’m glad they’re going to do it, but I know they’re not going to do it the way I would do it or the way the public should do it. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>Do you feel that progress is being made? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>There’s progress since I started worrying about it, which was six years ago, and I was the only person I knew who was worried about it. Everyone is worried about it now – not everyone, but communities are being set up, conferences are being set up to talk about it. </p> <p>One problem I’m hitting up against is that there is basically a data science institute for every university popping up, and none of them want to think about this stuff. They’re all thinking about smart cities and investigating partnerships with local big data companies. </p> <p><em><strong>LH: </strong>Is it that there is no funding for a critical position on this? Where is the institutional investment? </em></p> <p><strong>CO: </strong>I’ll explain to you why I’ll never get a job doing this. I’m talking about a risk that, as far as the people who are doing this stuff are concerned, is not imminent. Until it becomes an imminent risk, there will be no money in it, because there’ll be no money saved by preventing it. </p> <p>As soon as it becomes a shareholder value issue where they have to put aside $1 billion in potential litigation fees – at that moment I will have a job. But right now they’re like, “Who’s going to sue us? Who’s going to win? What is this fine going to look like? In the meantime we’re going to use this algorithm, even if it’s illegal.” </p> <p><em>This is the full interview from IPPR’s latest Progressive Review issue published on <a href="https://ippr.org/juncture-item/new-economic-policy-vision-required">September 13, 2017</a>. Thanks go to Wiley for the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/newe.12047/full">original version here</a>. <br /></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties World Forum for Democracy 2017 Leo Hollis Cathy O'Neil Thu, 28 Sep 2017 07:22:58 +0000 Cathy O'Neil and Leo Hollis 113672 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Gains from AI could mean humans live for leisure some day" https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/gains-from-ai-could-mean-humans-live-for-leisure <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What should we be asking about AI? A chat with Miles Brundage, researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute and specialist in artificial intelligence policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>ML:</strong> Interest and activity in artificial intelligence (AI)&nbsp;has boomed in the last few years with common questions including "to what extent will robots replace human labour" and "will AI supersede humans entirely".</p><p>I note the recent launch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eff.org/ai/metrics"><strong>AI Progress Measurement Experiment</strong></a>&nbsp;to which you have contributed. As the subject reaches a new level of debate, what would you say are some key developments for people to keep track of? Perhaps it's wrong to focus on a few specifics given the scope of artificial intelligence as an issue, and we should treat it more like a classical discipline such as economics, which deals with countless concerns. Is there a framework for people trying to get a grip on the most important issues?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> The lack of a good framework for thinking about AI progress is perhaps the main remaining roadblock to a consensus on how fast things are progressing. We now, thanks to the EFF AI Progress Measurement Experiment and other ongoing initiatives like<a href="https://ai100.stanford.edu"> <strong>Stanford's AI Index</strong></a>, have or will soon have plenty of data.</p><p>But how important is, say, progress in playing Atari computer games versus speech recognition versus parsing of the role of words in sentences? It's hard to say.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/10856326715_da6924a9a4_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/10856326715_da6924a9a4_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="448" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><i>The Atari computer game QBert is often played by artificial intelligence systems. The results are used as a benchmark to measure their progress. Image:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/98859152@N04/10856326715/in/photolist-hxkvGP-7sTBJF-8twyZ2-fhMiV-TkEupi-nbUw5x-HFfvu-fQr7oD-841ioN-8vVKcW-bF5W9r-bsb3sW-4yEw55-n9S1Pv-6RPFpR-bsb37u-boJ22z-GqXgU-2CSqwM-2CWR4S-2CSpKK-85SLEb-9QkEjV-9p1XHN-2CSqDp-mL6sF4-dL1aQA-2CSpsV-2CSpCP-6F5dfg-8D9JGX-2CWQYb-v7Cih-2CSpWg-Acy76D-2CSoYc-aPLX8X-2CSpdD-dTfyuT-nbWGiy-nJg9sz-tHXXy-tHXWs-4Ra9zX-787JQ-77UdY-oL6xxZ-4MNc6u-2Gfkc2-9xSjUH/">TFC / CC 2.0</a></i></p><p>Another important related question is: assuming we know what the right metric is, how predictable is it? How steady is AI progress over time? Different theories abound, and there is more empirical and statistical work to be done in disentangling the contributions of algorithms, hardware, data, efficient software frameworks, etc. in pushing AI forward.</p><p>Personally, I've tried to make some short-term forecasts in specific areas like how well AI systems can play Atari and see how they turn out after a year. If we can't forecast reliably, even with some error bars, in that timeframe, we'll probably have even more trouble with making longer term forecasts.<i>&nbsp;</i></p><p><strong>ML:</strong> Where can we look at your Atari game playing and related predictions? Have your predictions been successful?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> You can find <a href="http://www.milesbrundage.com/blog-posts/my-ai-forecasts-past-present-and-future-main-post">a blog post I wrote on this here</a>, which I will revisit at the end of the year to see how it went. My Atari forecasts in 2016 turned out pretty well, and it's too soon to say for sure about 2017. The early evidence suggests that they're pretty much on track, but we'll have to wait and see. I am starting to think that I might have been overly optimistic on progress in speech recognition, but again, I'll wait until 2017 to revisit these.</p><p><strong>ML:</strong> You say that some experts in the field are cautious about engaging in certain public debates. This is understandable given alarmist attitudes to AI and the gravity of the issues involved. It'd be interesting to hear if there are any particular issues experts might avoid engaging in e.g. to avoid public alarm, and what the implications might be for public debate and policy.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> I think it's natural that AI researchers, having either experienced or read about the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AI_winter">AI winters of the past</a>&nbsp;when hopes for AI turned to disappointment, don't want to over-hype the progress that's happening or look too far into the future. And many impacts of AI, if they turn out to be substantial, like job displacement, are likely to be controversial, and not everyone wants to talk about this (even if they think big impacts are likely).</p><p>But there are plenty of exceptions, and many AI researchers are now speaking about issues they're concerned about, including job displacement, lethal autonomous weapons, and long-term safety. Thousands of AI researchers signed the open letters on some of these topics organized by the <a href="https://futureoflife.org/ai-open-letter"><strong>Future of Life Institute in 2015 and 2017</strong></a>, for example.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center" style="font-style: normal; background-color: #ffffff;">...it may make sense to not invest one's own identity too much in one's ability to do a job better or more cheaply than machines indefinitely.</span></p><p><strong>ML:</strong> I’m steeling myself for a future where we may need to become cyborgs in order to keep up. I'm thinking about implants, merging my mind with networks (<a href="waitbutwhy.com/2017/04/neuralink.html">NeuraLink</a>), etc. I must admit, it’s not going very well. Perhaps I’m somewhat conservative in my preferred human state.&nbsp;Are you making any personal preparations for a world where AI, in its various forms, is much more prevalent than today? Would you make any recommendations to others of how to get ready for the coming changes?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> I think people should probably plan for a world in which there is a fair amount of churn in the job market, so building up or keeping "fresh" one's skills in areas that are hard to automate is probably wise – for example, creativity, dealing with complexity, and social interaction.</p><p>Over the very long term, it's hard to say how big the impacts of AI will be or how quickly they will arise, and especially for young people, it may make sense to not invest one's own identity too much in their ability to do a job better or more cheaply than machines indefinitely.</p><p>Eventually, it's plausible that a large fraction of people will be able to have their basic needs taken care of via redistribution of the large productivity gains from AI and robotics, and that's potentially exciting for many people: one might get an early retirement and get to focus on what you want to do with your life e.g. arts, continuous education, and leisure, rather than what you think is the best way to get paid.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>ML:</strong> This idea of not investing your identity too much in a job role is fascinating. It'll be a real shift from prevalent approaches to self-worth and understanding. However, some folk contend that AI will also dominate the arts, literature, politics and almost every other domain of human life. Is there reason to think it won't?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> I think it's plausible that AI will eventually be capable of exceeding humans at performing any specific task in principle, though that could be very far from now. That doesn't mean that:</p><p>1)&nbsp;AI will actually do all of those tasks in the marketplace (we may be willing to pay a premium for humans performing the task, or require certain tasks to be done by humans using laws), or</p><p>2) that humans can't also do those tasks voluntarily in leisure time, or</p><p>3) that there will be nothing left for humans to do or create. The amount of possible art forms, leisure activities, etc. is probably infinite even if, for a given instance of creative work, a machine could be directed to do it, too.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>ML:</strong> Will the average policy-makers, politicians and citizens need to learn a whole new conceptual toolset to take part in debates? Will we be able to keep up or will policy-making, in the age of AI, become an ever-more specialised, elite field? Will folks need to upgrade their physical hardware to do so?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> It's getting increasingly easy to stay up to date with advances in AI, as there are lots of popular books being written on the topic, lectures to watch on YouTube, newsletters, etc. There do need to be clear accessible explanations of some of these advances for the public and policy-makers to grasp without going into the technical details, but I think this is a solvable problem.</p><p>Just like many people don't know the finer points of quantum mechanics but learn a bit about physics in school or in popular science books, I think the necessary level of knowledge to understand the basics of AI is within the grasp of most people without much or any technical training, if it's clearly explained.</p><p><strong>ML:</strong> Your own focus is around policy in AI. How do you feel about the way that fiction, art, and other domains are treating the issue of AI? Are current approaches helpful?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> Science fiction is, of course, a major way that AI is introduced to the public – in fact, surveys by the Royal Society show that it is mainstream media and science fiction that teach most people about AI, rather than direct exposure to experts or personal experience in developing AI.</p><p>A lot of AI-related science fiction sidestep the real issues a bit in order to be entertaining, so one can be misled. For example, science fiction often dwells on the humanness and human appearance of AI systems, when in fact some of the more interesting advances happening today are in systems that don't look that much (or at all) like humans and think in quite different ways.</p><p><strong>ML:</strong> Would you recommend any recent AI-related fiction, artwork, or entertainment, for its accuracy, or for asking the right questions, or otherwise?</p><p><strong>MB:</strong> I have some sort of beef with each piece of AI-related fiction, but there are two that I think are reasonably good in the accuracy respect. <strong>Ex Machina</strong> demonstrates the perils of anthropomorphising AI systems too much.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/XYGzRB4Pnq8?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" height="315" width="460"></iframe></p><p><a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Person_of_Interest_(TV_series)"><strong>Person of Interest</strong></a>&nbsp;demonstrates what a world with highly effective AI-based surveillance might look like, even if it arguably overestimates how good an AI could be at predicting the future; it also notably doesn't dwell on the physicality of AI, which I liked.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Matthew Linares Miles Brundage Tue, 26 Sep 2017 11:56:32 +0000 Miles Brundage and Matthew Linares 113397 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Web standards body constrains digital rights against members' wishes https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/cory-doctorow/web-standards-body-enforces-drm-standard-against-members-wishes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A letter from Cory Doctorow after the World Wide Web Consortium moves to enforce a digital rights management standard without compromise, despite agreement from only 58.4% of members.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chain-2204105_640.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/chain-2204105_640.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Constrained content. Pixabay. CC0.</span></span></span>In July, the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium&nbsp;<a href="https://boingboing.net/2017/07/07/eschatology-watch.html">overruled dozens of members' objections</a>&nbsp;to publishing a DRM standard without a compromise to protect accessibility, security research, archiving, and competition.</p><p>EFF&nbsp;<a href="https://boingboing.net/2017/07/12/save-the-web.html">appealed the decision</a>, the first-ever appeal in W3C history, which concluded last week with a deeply divided membership.&nbsp;58.4% of the group voted to go on with publication, and the W3C did so today, an unprecedented move in a body that has always operated on consensus and compromise.&nbsp;In their public statements about the standard, the W3C executive repeatedly said that they didn't think the DRM advocates would be willing to compromise, and in the absence of such willingness, the exec have given them everything they demanded.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This is a bad day for the W3C: it's the day it publishes a standard designed to control, rather than empower, web users.</p><p>This is a bad day for the W3C: it's the day it publishes a standard designed to control, rather than empower, web users.&nbsp;That standard that was explicitly published without any protections -- even&nbsp;<a href="https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html-media/2017Jun/0017.html">the most minimal compromise was rejected without discussion</a>, an intransigence that the&nbsp;<a href="https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html-media/2017Jun/0019.html">W3C leadership tacitly approved</a>.&nbsp;It's the day that the W3C changed its process to reward stonewalling over compromise, provided those doing the stonewalling are the biggest corporations in the consortium.</p><p>EFF no longer believes that the W3C process is suited to defending the open web.&nbsp;We have resigned from the Consortium, effective today.&nbsp;Below is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/09/open-letter-w3c-director-ceo-team-and-membership">our resignation letter</a>:&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">Dear Jeff, Tim, and colleagues,</p><p class="blockquote-new">In 2013, EFF was disappointed to learn that the W3C had taken on the project of standardizing “Encrypted Media Extensions,” an API whose sole function was to provide a first-class role for DRM within the Web browser ecosystem.&nbsp;By doing so, the organization offered the use of its patent pool, its staff support, and its moral authority to the idea that browsers can and should be designed to cede control over key aspects from users to remote parties.</p><p class="blockquote-new">When it became clear, following&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eff.org/pages/drm/w3c-formal-objection-html-wg">our formal objection</a>, that the W3C's largest corporate members and leadership were wedded to this project despite strong discontent from within the W3C membership and staff, their&nbsp;<a href="https://blog.whatwg.org/drm-and-web-security">most important partners</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fsf.org/blogs/rms/w3c-soul-at-stake">other</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://opensource.org/osr-drm">supporters</a>&nbsp;of the open Web, we proposed a compromise.&nbsp;We agreed to stand down regarding the EME standard, provided that the W3C extend its existing IPR policies to deter members from using DRM laws in connection with the EME (such as Section 1201 of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act or European national implementations of Article 6 of the EUCD) except in combination with another cause of action.</p><p class="blockquote-new">This covenant would allow the W3C's large corporate members to enforce their copyrights.&nbsp;Indeed, it kept intact every legal right to which entertainment companies, DRM vendors, and their business partners can otherwise lay claim.&nbsp;The compromise merely restricted their ability to use the W3C's DRM to shut down legitimate activities, like research and modifications, that required circumvention of DRM.&nbsp;It would signal to the world that the W3C wanted to make a difference in how DRM was enforced: that it would use its authority to draw a line between the acceptability of DRM as an optional technology, as opposed to an excuse to undermine legitimate research and innovation.</p><p class="blockquote-new">More directly, such a covenant would have helped protect the key stakeholders, present and future, who both depend on the openness of the Web, and who actively work to protect its safety and universality.&nbsp;It would offer some legal clarity for those who bypass DRM to engage in security research to find defects that would endanger billions of web users; or who automate the creation of enhanced, accessible video for people with disabilities; or who archive the Web for posterity.&nbsp;It would help protect new market entrants intent on creating competitive, innovative products, unimagined by the vendors locking down web video.</p><p class="blockquote-new">Despite the support of W3C members from many sectors, the leadership of the W3C rejected this compromise.&nbsp;The W3C leadership countered with proposals — like the chartering of a nonbinding discussion group on the policy questions that was not scheduled to report in until long after the EME ship had sailed — that would have still left researchers, governments, archives, security experts unprotected.</p><p class="blockquote-new">The W3C is a body that ostensibly operates on consensus.&nbsp;Nevertheless, as the coalition in support of a DRM compromise grew and grew — and the large corporate members continued to reject any meaningful compromise — the W3C leadership persisted in treating EME as topic that could be decided by one side of the debate.&nbsp;In essence, a core of EME proponents was able to impose its will on the Consortium, over the wishes of a sizeable group of objectors — and every person who uses the web.&nbsp;The Director decided to personally override every single objection raised by the members, articulating several benefits that EME offered over the DRM that HTML5 had made impossible.</p><p class="blockquote-new">But those very benefits (such as improvements to accessibility and privacy) depend on the public being able to exercise rights they lose under DRM law — which meant that without the compromise the Director was overriding, none of those benefits could be realized, either.&nbsp;That rejection prompted the first appeal against the Director in W3C history.</p><p class="blockquote-new">In our campaigning on this issue, we have spoken to many, many members' representatives who privately confided their belief that the EME was a terrible idea (generally they used stronger language) and their sincere desire that their employer wasn't on the wrong side of this issue.&nbsp;This is unsurprising.&nbsp;You have to search long and hard to find an independent technologist who believes that DRM is possible, let alone a good idea.&nbsp;Yet, somewhere along the way, the business values of those outside the web got important enough, and the values of technologists who built it got disposable enough, that even the wise elders who make our standards voted for something they know to be a fool's errand.</p><p class="blockquote-new">We believe they will regret that choice.&nbsp;Today, the W3C bequeaths a legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people.&nbsp;They give media companies the power to sue or intimidate away those who might re-purpose video for people with disabilities.&nbsp;They side against the archivists who are scrambling to preserve the public record of our era.&nbsp;The W3C process has been abused by companies that made their fortunes by upsetting the established order, and now, thanks to EME, they’ll be able to ensure no one ever subjects them to the same innovative pressures.</p><p class="blockquote-new">So we'll keep fighting to keep the web free and open.&nbsp;We'll keep suing the US government to overturn the laws that make DRM so toxic, and we'll keep bringing that fight to the world's legislatures that are being misled by the US Trade Representative to instigate local equivalents to America's legal mistakes.</p><p class="blockquote-new">We will renew our work to battle the media companies that fail to adapt videos for accessibility purposes, even though the W3C squandered the perfect moment to exact a promise to protect those who are doing that work for them.</p><p class="blockquote-new">We will defend those who are put in harm's way for blowing the whistle on defects in EME implementations.</p><p class="blockquote-new">It is a tragedy that we will be doing that without our friends at the W3C, and with the world believing that the pioneers and creators of the web no longer care about these matters.</p><p class="blockquote-new">Effective today, EFF is resigning from the W3C.</p><p class="blockquote-new">Thank you,</p><p class="blockquote-new">Cory Doctorow<br />Advisory Committee Representative to the W3C for the Electronic Frontier Foundation</p><p><em>This letter was originally published on <a href="https://boingboing.net/2017/09/18/antifeatures-for-all.html">Boing Boing</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/matthew-linares/internet-equality-is-about-to-get-trumped-let-s-build-wall-to-defend-it">Internet equality is about to get Trumped – let’s build a wall to defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/david-elston/link-tax-eu-copyright-directive-will-break-internet-as-we-know-it">The link tax threatens the internet as we know it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/amandine-scherrer-jef-huysmans/eus-active-fight-for-digital-rights">The EU&#039;s active fight for digital rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/spore-digital-rights-and-the-future-of-gaming">Spore, digital rights, and the future of gaming</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/yes/rights-to-spore">Rights to Spore</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties cory doctorow Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:29:42 +0000 cory doctorow 113569 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will the 'Tory Momentum' fail? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/will-tory-momentum-fail <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">After Momentum marshalled the youth vote with enviable mastery of social media, youthful Tories have hatched a plan to try to emulate Labour's success in the UK, with some hiccoughs along the way...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/GuLEIQp4_400x400.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/GuLEIQp4_400x400.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activate. Source: Twitter. Fair use.</span></span></span>According to the popup on its website, “<a href="http://www.activate.uk.net/">Activate is not a “Tory-momentum”</a>”. Nevertheless, if you’ve not heard of Activate, that’s the expression which sums it up best. A grassroots movement which is not officially affiliated with the Conservative Party, Activate’s aim is “to engage young people in the right of centre politics”.</p><p dir="ltr">Things have not gotten off to a great start. The group came under fire for talk of <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-gassing-chavs-whatsapp-messages-group-chat-activate-members-leaked-a7921086.html">“gassing chavs” and “shooting peasants”</a> in messages leaked from its WhatsApp group. Activate’s response was that these members did not represent it, but this did little to appease <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpBaXWJV3NY">commentators like Owen Jones</a> and others.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Then, things got strange – fast. The group came out on Twitter in support of Jacob Rees-Mogg as Tory leader in a move that wasn’t exactly shocking. After all, as a popular, outspoken, long-time backbencher of the Tory party, it’s fair to label him the Conservative equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn. Momentum and its members were Corbyn’s biggest backers during his leadership campaign, so it made sense that Activate would back Rees-Mogg during his leadership campaign.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Except that there is no Tory leadership campaign and Rees-Mogg has already made it clear that he has no interest in being the leader of the Tory Party. As it turned out, this was all an elaborate ruse. Activate’s account had been hacked, something which became clear as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/05/tory-momentum-clone-activate-at-war-as-hackers-back-jacob-rees-mogg-for-pm">the increasingly cringeworthy Rees-Mogg memes kept just kept coming</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 3.52.16 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 3.52.16 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="385" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rees-Mogg memes. Source: Twitter. Fair use.</span></span></span>In a statement to The Guardian, the group claimed that the attack was performed by a “he or she”. However, when I emailed Activate about the attack, it claimed that it was performed “by a Momentum activist who has been identified.” Activate went on to state: “we are in contact with both the Police and Twitter over this cyber attack”.</p><p dir="ltr">Other problems haven’t helped matters, either. The group is currently Tweeting from <a href="https://twitter.com/ActivateBritain">@ActivateBritain</a>, but accounts like <a href="https://twitter.com/ActivateUK_">@ActivateUK_</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/Activate_uk_net">@Activate_uk_net</a> are also posing as the original Activate. In between this and the whole hacking affair, it’s been difficult to figure out where parody ends and the group’s genuine efforts begin.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />If all of this sounds confusing, you’re not alone. The Independent originally reported on Activate’s support of Jacob Rees-Mogg as serious news, having no reason to believe otherwise. It has since removed the article. In short, it’s been a surreal first couple of weeks. As someone who makes a living in digital marketing, I would argue that things can improve.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><h2>All press is good press?</h2><p dir="ltr">When social media jumps on something, it’s hard to tell whether it will wind up being a good thing or a bad thing for the brand involved. Nando’s was <a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cheeky-nando-s">the biggest meme of 2015</a> when an American asked what exactly made eating there “cheeky”, but the real question is whether or not it sold more chicken as a result.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><span class="mag-quote-left">Right now, the group looks — for lack of a better expression — extremely stupid.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Just over a year after the Cheeky Nando's phenomenon, the restaurant chain announced a surge in profits which it attributed to lower costs and <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/business/agribusiness-and-food/nando-s-hungry-to-expand-after-recording-28-jump-in-revenues-1.2789980">a rise in sales over the previous 12 months</a>. Correlation is not always causation, but it’d be hard to argue that being the most frequently Tweeted or shared brand for an entire summer was bad publicity.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />With Activate, things are different. For a start, the cheeky Nando’s meme was ambivalent towards the quality of the chain itself. The open mockery of Activate, even from right-wing publications such as <a href="https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2017/08/tom-harwood-stop-trying-to-force-a-tory-equivalent-to-momentum-to-happen.html">Conservative Home</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/GuidoFawkes/status/903273413405499393">Guido Fawkes</a>, is far from ambivalent. Right now, the group looks – for lack of a better expression – extremely stupid.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">However, Activate’s aim is not to sell more chicken or to sell more anything. As much as it might argue otherwise, Activate’s aim is to rival Momentum. Or rather, that’s what it should be. One of the biggest mistakes Activate has made so far is to take so seriously the comment that it is a Conservative equivalent to Momentum. By doing so, it only helps to <a href="https://twitter.com/BenFrench42/status/902589002242551808">fuel the meme machine</a> which is already running at full capacity against it.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><h2>Activate’s digital marketing strategy</h2><p dir="ltr">Because Activate claims its aim is to “engage young people in the right of centre politics”, it’s hard to argue how well it’s doing. Certainly, some young people have come together against it. Still, if we are assuming that its aim is reach, then this can be measured.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The group is attracting followers at a blistering pace, but that’s not necessarily a measure of success. What matters is not how many followers you have, but how many people are engaged with what you are posting relative to the number of followers you have.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />If I have 100 followers on Twitter and my post gets 100 likes, that’s some incredible engagement. If I have a million followers on Twitter and my post gets the same number of likes, that’s pretty terrible. The average engagement rate on Twitter and Facebook is roughly <a href="http://www.adweek.com/digital/twitter-engagement-levels/">less than half a percent</a>. That sounds very low, but it makes sense. Someone with a million followers should be getting around 500 likes or retweets per post.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Measuring Activate’s engagement at the moment is difficult because the group has <a href="https://twitter.com/ActivateBritain/status/906135046297460736">only recently recovered from being hacked</a>. However, the whole fiasco has attracted a lot of attention. As such, the group’s tweets currently have engagement rates of around 1-5%. That said, it only has a handful of tweets left after deleting all the false ones.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />If Activate can continue this level of engagement now the hacking scandal is over, it may find itself being covered by The Guardian and The Independent again. Ideally, of course, Activate would want this to be because of some serious stance it was taking, not because it was a laughing stock for the political media.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><a href="https://www.facebook.com/activate.uk.net/?ref=br_rs">Over on Facebook</a>, where Activate has always had control of its own social media account, its posts receive even more engagement. Of course, as with Twitter, this engagement is far from positive.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Still, Activate <a href="http://www.activate.uk.net/">can take pride in its website</a>. Despite not officially having launched yet (that will happen on 10th October), its web traffic has gone from nothing <a href="https://www.similarweb.com/website/activate.uk.net">to 40,000 visitors in one month</a>. While the vast majority of that traffic will likely derive from intrigue in the group’s recent press coverage, it’s still more than <a href="https://www.similarweb.com/website/peoplesmomentum.com#overview">the 35,000 people who visited the Momentum website last month</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Long term, of course, Activate may not be able to maintain that same level of traffic. However, the multitude of links pointing at it will help the website in the long run. One of the many ways Google and other search engines decide to “rank” a web page in their search results is by the quality and quantity of links pointing to the web page. With so much news coverage about Activate recently, it has accumulated a lot of links from authoritative sources. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />This helps with the prominence of the website. It means, for example, that if you were to Google “Tory activism”, “Conservative activism UK”, “Conservative youth UK”, or even just “Activate” at some point in the future, Activate’s website would appear. The group’s long-term aim should be to top the search results for queries like that.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><h2>Finding Conservatives on social media</h2><p dir="ltr">Here are two fairly obvious but fairly important pieces of information. Young voters leaned towards Labour and Instagram users tend to be young. We already know that this is why <a href="https://www.instagram.com/peoplesmomentum/">Momentum</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/jeremy_corbynmp/?hl=en">Corbyn himself</a> continue to do well on Instagram.</p><p dir="ltr">However, while Momentum has <a href="https://www.instagram.com/peoplesmomentum/">an Instagram account with over 6,000 followers</a>, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Activate should do the same. The aim shouldn’t be to join every social media channel but to join the right social media channels. With that in mind, is social media even really the right route for Activate?<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />It could be. As much as <a href="https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/08/the-tories-need-houses-not-memes-to-win-over-the-young/">some older Tory commentators</a> might view the whole notion of social media outreach in the name of Conservative politics unnecessary, there is a lot to be gained by looking at what Momentum is doing right. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />What is missed is how Momentum and the rest of the Labour movement are using Instagram and their other social media channels. It’s not simply about jumping on the most popular social media bandwagon; it’s about properly engaging yourself with the right social media community.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Instagram tends to be used by young people – we know this. More than that though, <a href="https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/#instagram">the median Instagram user</a> is an 18-29 year old woman, who earns less than £22,000 a year, has some form of educational qualification past high school, and lives in the city.</p><p dir="ltr">And <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/">the median Labour voter in 2017</a>? An 18-29 year old woman, who has some form of educational qualification past high school, and <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/election/2017/results">lives in the city</a>. It’s almost a perfect match, except that the demographics for voting in the 2017 election show a more or less even split for the Tories and Labour when it comes to income and class. This could be because Labour’s message still didn’t quite resonate with the working class as much as it hoped it would, or it could be that party affiliation has moved beyond class entirely.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The demographic data isn’t in Activate’s favour when it comes to Twitter.</p><p dir="ltr">All that said, Momentum’s targeting of Instagram is spot on. Based on an average accumulated from its last 12 posts, the account has a 5% engagement rate which is more than double <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2016/05/12/6-tactics-that-will-instantly-improve-your-instagram-engagement/#47a41cc23f9d">the average Instagram engagement rate of 2.2%</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">The demographic data isn’t in Activate’s favour when it comes to Twitter. The <a href="https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/#twitter">median Twitter user</a> is once again an 18-29 year old woman, who earns over £56,000 a year, has a university degree, and lives in the city. This was not the average Tory voter in 2017.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />On the one hand, this might not matter. Social media networks are often accused of being echo chambers, but <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/04/twitter-accounts-really-are-echo-chambers-study-finds">this is especially true for Twitter</a>. With that in mind, it would be quite easy for Activate’s work to go viral in its own right of centre bubble.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />On the other hand, Activate would likely benefit by mastering the social media channel where its audience already is assembled. If being locked out of its own Twitter account teaches us anything, it’s that this group is not Twitter savvy. So, perhaps it’d fare better elsewhere.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Most YouTube users are <a href="https://digiday.com/media/demographics-youtube-5-charts/">25-34 years old</a>. The next most popular age bracket is 35-44 followed by 45-54. The 18-24 age bracket is the fourth most popular. YouTube is also <a href="http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/top-social-network-demographics-2017-infographic">predominantly male</a>. This demographic is perfect for Tory activism. LinkedIn is also a great place to connect with an older audience, with <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/192700/age-distribution-of-us-users-on-linkedin/">the vast majority of users being 25-64</a>. Also, as with YouTube, it’s <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/linkedin-as-a-marketing-and-brand-platform-2014-9">a much more male network than many others</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Activate states that its aim is to engage “young people” with Conservative politics. While this is an admirable aim, it might be better to target people in their late 20s to early 30s. This age group is still “<a href="http://genhq.com/generational_birth_years/">millennial</a>”, it’s still young, but it’s more likely to lean Conservative than 18-24 year olds.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">If Activate can keep the current interest in its movement and turn it into a social media presence on the right social network, it could rescue itself from the embarrassing start it’s had. It’s easy to mock Activate’s social media presence now, but there is a gap in the social media landscape the size of a British, centre-right, youth-led movement. Activate has as good a chance at filling that gap as anyone else.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like">Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties uk UK World Forum for Democracy 2017 Mitchell Labiak Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:04:12 +0000 Mitchell Labiak 113358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net US cross-border data deal could open surveillance floodgates https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/cynthia-wong/us-cross-border-data-deal-could-open-surveillance-floodgates <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Internet users should assess whether their domestic system would adequately prevent their government from abusing the arrangement, and whether local law enforcement can be held accountable.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30629059.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30629059.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Edward Snowden, a former CIA worker before turning whistleblower, speaks via satellite at the IT fair CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, 21 March 2017. Friso Gentsch/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In July 2016, the United States Department of Justice released a legislative <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2994379-2016-7-15-US-UK-Biden-With-Enclosures.html">proposal</a> that could vastly increase surveillance by other governments with the direct assistance of Silicon Valley. The unprecedented proposal would allow certain governments to demand the contents of Internet communications such as e-mails and chats directly from US companies, rather than going through cross-border law enforcement treaties that have long been in place to protect rights. The US has already negotiated the outlines of such a deal with the United Kingdom and the Justice Department proposal would extend it to other governments. <span class="mag-quote-center">The US has already negotiated the outlines of such a deal with the United Kingdom.</span></p> <p>This development should raise alarm bells for any user of US-based Internet companies such as Google or Facebook. If enacted, privacy safeguards will get much weaker, collection much broader, and private information potentially more widely shared, since governments will have increased access to user communications. While the legislative proposal generally conditions this access on a government’s general respect for human rights, it falls short of ensuring that rights will be adequately protected. </p> <p>The proposal was introduced on September 14 in the US Congress as an amendment to a defense spending bill, and may be introduced in stand-alone legislation later this year. </p> <h2><strong>The rationale </strong></h2> <p>Under current US law, Internet companies are prohibited from turning over the contents of communications directly to foreign governments, even for investigating crime. Instead, law enforcement agencies outside the US must make requests through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), with the Justice Department and US judges serving as intermediaries between the requesting government and the company that holds the information. </p> <p>As a byproduct of this process, the US extends the same strong constitutional privacy protections enjoyed by US citizens to surveillance targets outside the US. These protections have long promoted respect for rights in criminal investigations, despite the US reputation for excessive surveillance in the intelligence context.</p> <p>Under this system, the requesting authority must convince a judge that there is “<a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment">probable cause</a>” the search will elicit evidence of a crime. This is a high standard. The requesting government has to put forward specific facts – and not just a hunch or belief – that demonstrate the communications sought are likely to be evidence of criminal activity. The request must also specifically describe the evidence sought, preventing governments from speculative ‘fishing’ for evidence of crime. </p> <p>An impartial and independent judge must authorize the warrant and the US government also strips out communications that aren’t relevant to the request, all prior to disclosure. Finally, some treaties limit how the information may be used. While the MLAT process isn’t as transparent as it should be, it is rigorous and protective of rights – often more so than the domestic law of requesting governments. <span class="mag-quote-center">The request must also specifically describe the evidence sought, preventing governments from speculative ‘fishing’.</span></p> <p>Law enforcement agencies in the UK and elsewhere have become increasingly frustrated with this process, which can be slow. One 2013 <a href="https://www.lawfareblog.com/presidents-surveillance-review-panel-releases-findings">review</a> found that it takes an average of 10 months to fulfill a government request. This tortoise-like pace is not intrinsic to the process, which can be very quick for US authorities seeking warrants. The US has devoted insufficient resources to the process, leading to a large backlog, with the number of requests only increasing. Also, with US standards more rigorous than those in many requesting countries, requesting authorities must often devote more resources to gather evidence to meet them. </p> <p>In response, the UK has claimed that they can extend their surveillance orders “<a href="http://www.nextgov.com/big-data/2016/01/why-controversial-uk-bill-leaving-silicon-valley-worried/124998/">extraterritorially</a>” to Internet companies outside their borders to bypass this process. This places companies in the awkward position of deciding whether to comply with UK warrants in violation of US law. Major US Internet companies have also said that foreign governments’ frustration with the process is leading to calls for <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/the-impact-of-forced-data-localisation-on-fundamental-rights/">data localization worldwide</a>, which would force companies to store user data locally in territories where they offer services, or even <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/16/brazils-digital-rights-contradictions">arrest</a> of employees. </p> <p>US companies believe that the Justice Department proposal would prevent this parade of horribles and are <a href="https://www.blog.google/topics/public-policy/digital-security-and-due-process-new-legal-framework-cloud-era/">actively</a> <a href="http://reformgs.tumblr.com/post/147464333157/rgs-statement-on-us-uk-data-protection-discussions">supporting</a> the government’s move. Whether it would do so is an open question. But the proposal also means eliminating rights protections for many users outside the US. </p> <h2><strong>The proposal</strong></h2> <p>The proposal would allow qualifying countries to request the contents of communications directly from US companies, bypassing the MLAT process, for the investigation of undefined “serious crime.” The proposal actually goes beyond the existing system since it would allow governments to demand real-time wiretapping from US tech companies for the first time. But the requirements governments would have to meet <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/09/joint-ngo-letter-congress-cross-border-data-sharing">fall well short</a> of what <a href="https://necessaryandproportionate.org/principles">international human rights law</a> requires of the US and its partners—that an independent authority consider whether, in each individual case, the request is necessary and proportionate and subject to challenge and redress. <span class="mag-quote-center">It would allow governments to demand real-time wiretapping from US tech companies for the first time.</span></p> <p>For a government to qualify, the US would have to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the country and certify that it has “robust substantive and procedural protections for privacy and civil liberties.” But the proposal only lists “factors to be considered,” not firm requirements. The factors include whether the country generally has respect for the rule of law and human rights and “sufficient mechanisms to provide accountability and appropriate transparency” for surveillance. </p> <p>This blanket determination is far weaker than the case-by-case judicial authorization that the current process requires, and it overlooks the fact that the authorities of any country – no matter how well intentioned – may make mistakes or overreach. It also makes the certification process vulnerable to politics, where the US might ignore serious abuses to certify key allies. <span class="mag-quote-center">The US might ignore serious abuses to certify key allies.</span></p> <p>Once a country is certified and an agreement is in place, its law enforcement agencies could request stored communications or real-time wiretaps directly from US companies. Generally, those requests would be subject to the country’s own domestic procedures and standards, although the proposal would require them to ensure there is a “reasonable justification based on articulable and credible facts.” The meaning of that standard remains unclear, though it appears to be less than “probable cause.” The proposal doesn’t compel companies to comply, though the requesting government may try to do so. If a company denies a request, the government can resubmit its order through the usual MLAT process. </p> <p>Under the proposal, requesting governments would have to subject requests to undefined “review or oversight” by an independent authority, but officials would not have to seek <em>prior</em> judicial authorization. Such review could also be generalized rather than specific to each request. This is a major weakness since the current system requires an independent examination by a US judge of the justification for the request (and the potential impact on rights) before disclosure.</p> <p>Many of the proposal’s terms are undefined, and it is unclear how they will be interpreted and applied under vastly different legal systems. For example, the proposal requires requesting governments to specify a “person, account, address, or personal device” to target, which in theory might deter some sweeping data requests. In practice, however, a single request could involve disproportionate amounts of data, depending on how specific provisions are defined. For example, an “address” could be interpreted to include an “Internet Protocol address,” which could be shared by thousands of computers. The onus will be on the requesting government to “segregate” non-relevant information. <span class="mag-quote-center">Finally, the proposal does not require governments to provide notice to surveillance targets.</span></p> <p>Finally, the proposal does not require governments to provide notice to surveillance targets. Yet notice is a critical human rights protection that enables individuals to seek redress for surveillance abuses. Participating countries are also allowed to share information collected under this regime with the US and other governments in some circumstances.</p> <h2><strong>Impact on user rights</strong></h2> <p>Agreements negotiated under the proposed framework would undoubtedly lead to far more user information flowing from US Internet companies to the UK and other governments than under the current process. </p> <p>The proposal would protect US companies from liability for complying with requests made in “good faith.” This removes incentives for companies to scrutinize or deny such requests, given other legal or political pressures they may face from requesting governments. </p> <p>For users outside the US, the proposal’s shift of human rights scrutiny from US courts back to the institutions of the requesting country means the impact on privacy and other rights depends first and foremost on whether their country’s laws are more protective than the current MLAT system. In the UK, the protections are weaker. <span class="mag-quote-center">In the UK, the protections are weaker. </span></p> <p>The US government contends that the new system would encourage other countries to reform their own surveillance laws to qualify for speedier access to data held by US firms. But whether that is likely depends on political interests of both the US and the participating government. What countries may qualify – or could qualify with some reforms – is uncertain. The draft agreement appears designed to require no changes to UK law, which Edward Snowden <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper">described</a> as legalizing “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.” From conversations with companies and other stakeholders, Brazil and India may also be on a desired short list for data sharing under the proposal. <span class="mag-quote-center">The draft agreement appears designed to require no changes to UK law, which Edward Snowden described as legalizing “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”</span></p> <p>People in countries like Brazil or India should decide whether they are willing to trade privacy protections provided by the current MLAT system for some hazy incentive to improve domestic laws. The proposal’s criteria fall short of international human rights law, including the <a href="https://necessaryandproportionate.org/principles">Necessary and Proportionate Principles</a>, which would likely limit any reforms, even if a government were willing to change its laws.</p> <p>Finally, there is a question of accountability. The MLAT system subjects users’ rights to standards their own governments did not enact, under a process they cannot contest. This is not ideal, yet it manages to provide strong protections for people outside the US. The new proposal would simply remove many of these protections and defer to the participating government’s domestic processes, which may be even more opaque and unaccountable. </p> <p>Internet users should assess whether their domestic system would adequately prevent their government from abusing the arrangement, and whether local law enforcement can be held accountable, given how much more data would be available to them under the deal.</p> <h2><strong>What alternative?</strong></h2> <p>The US should adequately fund the current process so that government requests can be properly reviewed in a timely way. The US could also <a href="https://www.lawfareblog.com/presidents-surveillance-review-panel-releases-findings">streamline</a> the MLAT process, for example, creating a standardized online system for requests that would not require weakening rights protections. Both technology companies and the US should prioritize these solutions before pursuing a proposal that could allow a potentially vast expansion of surveillance, with lower safeguards. <span class="mag-quote-center">Any cross-border data request proposal should strengthen privacy protections and improve human rights accountability, not merely shift the burden to systems that have fewer protections. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>To be truly viewed as an improvement, any cross-border data request proposal should strengthen privacy protections and improve human rights accountability, not merely shift the burden to systems that have fewer protections. The current proposal doesn’t come close to achieving this. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties UK United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Cynthia Wong Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:30:44 +0000 Cynthia Wong 113425 at https://www.opendemocracy.net