Category Archives: Censorship

Is “Operation Payback” either appropriate or effective?

I have spent a good amount of time today conducting some research on “Operation Payback,” (sometimes also called “Operation Avenge Assange”) and pondering whether or not it represents a tactical toolbox that is appropriate as a response to the recent trend of government and corporate entities attempting to cut off support (financial and otherwise) from wikileaks.

(If you aren’t familiar with the background of this story, here’s some background.)

First, of course, I wanted to be on the “inside” of the story and really see the play-by-play of what was happening.  I tried to go to the publicly announced planning center, a chat room on  Unfortunately, this domain name had also been the target of the volley of attacks that was transpiring.  However, a nice gentlemen in the #wikileaks channel of directed me to the server by IP address:  Do have a visit with your IRC client if you are interested.

Upon arrival, I was prompted to check out #operationpayback, the central meeting spot for these hacktivists.  Once in the channel, I was astounded at the pace of the conversation – about 5-7 comments EVERY SECOND.

Most were updates on the state of the LOIC (Low-Orbit Ion Cannon), the tool of choice for taking down from the Internet (LOIC is, or at least was, a fairly mainstream tool for testing server defenses).  The tone was absolutely jovial – was down, and the mainstream media regarded the events of this chatroom as headline-worthy.

Yet, I did not get a sense of constructive, radical civic duty.  In fact it seemed to me that the average age (judging by comment maturity and grammer) was probably about 14.

I do understand how a person of a different bent might derive a bit of glee from the spectacle of the denial of service attack being coordinated.  I, however, noticed a very different sentiment unfold in my gut:

Mere destruction of existing power structures, without contemporaneous (or, for that matter, preceding) construction of alternatives is unlikely to ever result in sustainable positive change.

May I suggest to all the people who are distressed about Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, and whomever else abandoning Wikileaks that their mission needs to be to build peaceful, sustainable alternatives to Amazon, Visa, and Mastercard?

May I further suggest that this is the only truly radical use of information technology?  Destruction has been possible (and in fact normative) since the beginning of time.  Only now, however, is parallel construction possible.

Stop the temper tantrum.  Stop the blame game.  Instead, just work toward an information age where the the quasi-censorship that has characterized the industrial age is mathematically precluded at the infrastructural level.  I suspect that thanks for this work will come not only from Wikileaks (and all those who are spiritually motivated by its basic premises) but in fact also from governments and corporations too.  Everybody has an interest in the tech infrastructure working more efficiently and smoothly, and this will naturally translate to lower costs and increased availability in disadvantaged communities.

Make no mistake: I’m not happy about the treatment wikileaks is getting. But is this really the best that we can come up with as a response? Have we really run out of civil, ethical, and constructive ways to deal with these kinds of issues? If so, doesn’t that make us as bad as “them?”

I urge the young, tech-savvy people who are concerned about technological freedom: shut down LOIC, start up Eclipse and Miro, and get to work – there’s plenty to be done.

Google did nothing wrong by collecting wifi data with the streetcar.

3033520.binCan somebody please explain what Google did wrong?

They drove around with a car, taking photos of the public surroundings of their car (that’s how they make StreetView).  While so doing, they picked up and recorded whatever wireless signals were coming in to their car.

Now people are whining that they are being spied upon.

Does anybody really think that preventing this kind of conduct has anything to do with making our communities secure against unwanted surveillance?  Is this line of defense the best we’ve got?

If you stand at your doorway, yelling at the top of your lungs about many intimate, private details of your life, is it fair to accuse a passerby of illegal (or unethical) surveillance because they happen to be recording their surroundings with an audio recorder?

Do you think that members of congress will rally to your defense, accusing those same pedestrians of spying on you?

There are plenty of very secure options for wireless communication.  If you aren’t using any of them, that’s your prerogative.  If you abstain from secure practices while at the same time communicating about sensitive issues which you bizarrely regard as private, that’s your problem.

On the bigger issue of Google being a scary monster of information collection… Sure, I see your point.  While on one hand, the information they collect is, in every practice I know of, voluntary (search phrases, email contents on Gmail, advertising clicks, cookies, the Google Toolbar, and many other methods), it’s not any less scary that they know more than anybody else about the modern polity.

I’m not usually a defender of google or any other giant corporation – I’ve expressed my fair share of google skepticism.  In this case, I think they’ve actually done wrong by repeatedly apologizing, but I guess that’s a PR move.

Nevertheless, their amazing (and thankless!) gift two weeks ago of releasing the VP8 codec to the public domain under an open source license was perhaps the single most significant act of bolstering independent radical journalism in the (still short) history of website-based video delivery.  Still not as profound as the movement that Miro represents, I’ll grant, but big (and a LOT more expensive).

To my mind, Google gave us as $124.6 million dollar gift, and I think we have a responsibility to accept it in full if we want to take advantage of it. That means in turn taking full responsibility for our network presence.  If your upload stream includes poignant, radical, inspirational content encoded in a free codec for the world to cherish, good.  If your upload stream (and wireless connection) includes unencrypted content that you irrationally regard as private, bad.

David Keene runs and hides from media coverage of his corruption

David Keene, the President of the “American Conservative Union,” got his ass handed to him by John Ziegler on video.

Keene is a BS conservative who sold himself out to Arlen Specter and then tried to solicit Fedex to give him millions to write a positive op-ed.

Ziegler was supposed to be on a panel at the conference where this encounter occured, but got booted after putting the tough questions to Keene.

I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a Ziegler lover, but this video is absolutely sick.

Check it out: