Event Summary: “Hacktivists, Cyberwarriors and International Relations”

In recent weeks, the International Relations Society hosted a conference on Hacktivism at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Given the event’s focus on social action via the Internet, a few members from the Boler Research Team attended. Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights.

How secure are we online?
The keynote address from the Citizen Lab‘s Ron Diebert, emphasized how we must not take technology at face value. Diebert urged that citizens in the digital age need to question where their data goes (when you send an email, who can see it, besides just you and the recipient?) Increasingly, Diebert concluded, this will mean questioning the authorities who control these systems of information and content-sharing platforms.

Along with his talk, he provided URLs to further demonstrate the current status of cyberspace. Some of the URLs presented are as follows:

  • Wired Magazine – Do the Ends Justify The Means?
    Article on Internet Censorship and the Internet Censorship Explorer developed by Deibert’s team to bypass Internet-blocking schemes
  • Yahoo Terms of Service Agreement
    Highlighted that Yahoo service agreement grants foreign countries with permission to collect and use personal  data: “You understand that through your use of the Service you consent to the collection and use (as set forth in the Privacy Policy) of this information, including the transfer of this information to the United States and/or other countries for storage, processing and use by Yahoo! and its affiliates.”
  • Who Has your Back (by the Electronic Frontier Foundation)
    Non-profit that analyzes major provider including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Skype for their commitment to defending our personal digital rights by evaluating the following 4 criteria: tell users about data demands, be transparent about government requests, fight for user privacy in courts, fights for user privacy in congress
  • The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook
    An info graphic depicting the changes in default profile settings over time
  • It’s 2AM. What Are Your Apps Doing?
    An info graphic depicting the activity of apps behind the scenes; approximately 97% of users do not know the risks associated with their apps
  • Behind Blue Coat: Investigations of Commercial Filtering in Syria and Burma
    Recent report released by the Citizen Lab on the use of commercial filtering products in authoritarian regimes

Hacktivism and Democracy-Building. Good or Bad? 

One of the panels featured Dr. Gabriela Coleman, and Dr. Stefania Milan discussing the pros and cons of  Hacktivism for a democratic society.

Dr. Coleman started things off with a presentation that was more performance art than panel chat, on the “Aphorisms of Anonymous”. Her presentation briefly tracked the history of Anonymous, the now-infamous loosely-associated hacker network. She then drew on aphorisms by Nietzche, like “Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it,” to describe different elements of Anonymous as a movement (a massive movement of tricksters, when looking at it in this context).  Her talk really brought to life the different ways in which “trollish” behaviour might also be powerful, important for democratic aims, but also the paradox in that Anonymous seeks to expose state secrecy, but is a highly secretive movement in itself.

Next, Dr. Milan took the podium, explaning how hacktivism is not only “good for” democracy, but might be seen as a form of democracy in itself, as it could be conceived of as a method of “protest”. She spoke about the way in which hacktivism was challenging prior assumptions about political activism, especially by decoupling the notion of “resistance” with physical presence. According to Dr. Milan, there is much to be learned from such groups as Anonymous, as they point the broader public to a new model of cyber activism.

**The real takeaway for our purposes from this panel, was, as Dr. Milan put it “we cannot afford to raise our kids without the knowledge of these systems”. Here, she was referring to a more intimate knowledge of how the Internet functions and also what benefits and risks are associated with using it for activist purposes. Dr. Coleman emphasized that computing knowledge is power and this led to a discussion around the importance of teaching coding especially, so that the next generations stay connected to the languages that make up the internet.**

Written by Averie MacDonald (@averiemac) & Jennie Phillips (@drchangelove)

Nike: behaving badly

According to the Technically Incorrect blog at CNET, Nike, by asking the Chinese gov’t to reveal the name of the person who posted to a yahoo msg board and accused to company of having something to do with Liu Xiang’s, a famed Chinese hurdler, withdrawal from the event is behaving like a

granny who’s just had her handbag stolen by a tiny teenager and asked a big, burly policeman to find the man who took it? The company’s actions serve only to highlight the issue more, when letting a sleeping blog lie might have allowed for this little conspiracy theory to waft its way into the annals of obscurity.

And what does Nike think, the Chinese gov’t will simply waggle its finger at the olympic conspiracy theorist, all the imprisoned Chinese bloggers certainly may beg to differ.

Fascist State Blocks Pirates

arrrrrrrrr

arrrrrrrrr


Ok, the title is a little exaggeration – but only a little. Recently the Italian government has blocked access to The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay is a site that allows people to download torrent files of popular entertainment and software. They even have comic books. The thing is that The Pirate Bay hosts only the torrent files and not the illegal content itself, which makes it rather ridicolous to think that blocking the site will stop piracy.

Torrent files are also used for legit purposes as well. i won’t list them all here, but you can find more info on legit torrents here.

Popular Swedish file-sharing hub The Pirate Bay has been blocked by most of the major Italian Internet service providers, the company said in a note on its blog.

The action follows Italian law enforcement’s actions in last month to shut down Colombo-BT.org, which the IFPI called the largest BitTorrent site in the country and which offered links to 390,000 music and 500,000 movie files.

For its part, The Pirate Bay said it has already changed IP for the site, which the group said should return access to half of the ISPs.

It also recommended Italians switch their DNS to OpenDNS, “so they can bypass their ISP filters,” and directed users to LaBaia.org (Italian for “The Bay”), which is operational.

Create a video describing Bill C61 in 61 seconds

You can do it! More information can be found here.

From Michael Geist:
“Tens of thousands of Canadians have spoken out against Bill C-61 over the past month. In addition to the letters, MP meetings, and town halls, many have created mashups, videos, comics, posters, photos, and other creative art to express their disappointment and concern with Industry Minister Jim Prentice’s plan for copyright in Canada. To build on this creativity, the Fair Copyright for Canada group is launching a new YouTube video competition. C-61 in 61 Seconds invites everyone to post a video – whether rant, mashup, or something new – on the copyright bill.”

Via Boing

Chinese Internet censorship: An inside look

James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, has experienced “The Great Firewall of China” firsthand, an experience people from around the world will share this summer when the Olympics comes to that country. Based in Beijing, Fallows has researched the underlying technology that the Chinese use for Internet censorship, and he explained it in a recent article titled “The Connection Has Been Reset.”

link 

Egypt: Coincide Hosting the Largest Communication Conference in Africa, an opposition’s Web Site is being Blocked

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said today, that the website of the Egyptian Movement for Change:Kefaya “http://Harakamasria.org” was blocked in Egypt and the Internet users who have access to Internet through the T-Data Company, the largest Internet Service Providers in Egypt, which is controlled by the Egyptian Government since 4th May.

Charges against Steven Kurtz finally dropped….

Turns out he is an artist and NOT a bioterrorist: A judge threw out charges Monday against a college art professor accused of improperly obtaining biological materials for an exhibit protesting U.S. government food policies.U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara ruled that the 2004 mail and wire fraud indictment against Steven Kurtz, a University at Buffalo professor, was ”insufficient on its face.”

Kurtz is a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble, which has used human DNA and other biological materials in works intended to draw attention to political and social issues. His arrest drew protests from artists in several countries who called the charges an intrusion on artistic freedom. link

fitna removed from liveleak

controversial dutch film fitna has been removed from liveleak after threats were made against the staff: “Meanwhile, the Iranian government has summoned the Dutch ambassador in order to register protest against the film. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has published an article in the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, calling on people ‘to keep their head[s] cool and relations warm’. “

China blocks YouTube as protests spread in Tibet

One BoingBoing reader writes: ” I am visiting Beijing on business, and staying at a hotel that caters to Westerners. There have been reports that China was loosening controls on the media ahead of the Olympic games, in order to give visitors the impression that the media is unrestricted, but that is not the case in the last day. While watching CNN in my hotel room, the station goes dark during the top-of-the-hour news flash on the riots, then returns when the synopsis of “what’s to come” is given about other stories, and then goes dark again while the coverage switches to Lhasa.”