Completing the seventh year soon…
Summary: As its motto claims, or as the old saying goes, Techrights vows to fight the good fight in the increasingly-oppressed digital landscape
The war on dissent is being fought against computer programmers and other such folks who are technical, recognising — quite correctly — that they have power to fight back against abusers of power. This goes beyond digital protests and extends to journalism. Abuses of the secret services, for example, are getting hard to hide because people out there facilitate anonymous Internet usage and truly private chats. In their book, Julian Assange and co-authors stressed the importance of ciphers, focusing on one particular cornerstone of online activism. Here in Techrights, key members have been encrypting E-mail for quite some time and using anonymisation tools (we received important leaks and scoops over the years). Whatever makes a group harder to map makes it harder to disrupt. It doesn’t mean that given enough effort it will stay impossible to map, but it sure helps discourage that. One key member of the site — someone whom I have known since around 2005 — complained in several E-mails today that LinkedIn somehow still managed to link him to me (he works from Internet cafes and is very privacy-conscious). When data gets passed around and moreover sold, even the most prudent among us find ourselves unable to stay low key. Pamela Jones had a legitimate point to be concerned about. When people put their job on the line and reach out to reporters we must have some safe harbours and assurances that not everything is being tracked. Surveillance deters sources from coming forth, drying up investigative journalism as a result.
“Everything is peaceful and stable now, but the world is not. There is a lot of work to be done.”Those who have followed this site since 2006 have seen it going through harder times. Threats, DDOS attacks, smear campaigns etc. probably peaked around 5 years ago and even members of the site suffered from it (insults and threats were common). In recent years we have suffered from almost not a single troll. The focus on the site was not defence from opponents’ attacks (this was common in early days) but the subjects we wish to tackle. Everything is peaceful and stable now, but the world is not. There is a lot of work to be done.
Over the past few days we have gathered some new stories that show how corporations and/or the people who lead them control politics and gain an increasing level of power over everything (see links at the bottom). This in itself is not news and it is not shocking. But it is helping to show where many of society’s fears like war, famine, climate change etc. come from, directly or indirectly.
A lot of people think that pollution, war, and economic disparity (among many issues that would take a paragraph just to name) can be addressed by selecting a political party which big businesses control through money. It’s not an election, it’s selection, where one typically gets just two choices (the choice between spokespeople elected by plutocrats).
Bill Gates is not the devil and he is not the world’s only problem. Microsoft is not daemonic and eliminating just Microsoft would not render software benign overnight or the computer industry more fair over time. In my discussions with Stallman it repeatedly comes up that Apple worries him more than Microsoft. I don’t share this view, but I can accept the premise laid out by him. While I’m away (summer vacation, will take photos as usual) a scheduled story will appear where Stallman speaks to me about Steve Jobs and Apple.
“Over the coming year we will cover more Apple news from a sceptical eye, but Microsoft will stay the centre of focus.”Several weeks ago Obama served Apple like no president before him. In a sense, this was a troubling reminder of the rising power of Apple, which only Android seems to be effectively limiting. At the stores here in the UK I saw just Android and Apple products on the shelves (I bought something for the tablet earlier today). Apple is far from dead here. The Apple brand may be diminishing, but Apple still has some momentum.
Over the coming year we will cover more Apple news from a sceptical eye, but Microsoft will stay the centre of focus. Microsoft does far worse things to FOSS and now that Ballmer is expected to leave, the company will be able to do this with more impunity (if a CEO gets chosen from a minority ethic group and/or is female, that would not be surprising). Other topics of interest meriting blog posts are formerly sections of daily links; assuming it is sustainable (time-wise), we will cover surveillance, devices, copyright, lobbying, patents, operating systems, and pertinent software. Expansion of coverage is further defended by those who generously support the site financially (readers), so if you want to keep us strong for years to come, please consider making a contribution. Personal sacrifice cannot be gratis for a lifetime. Independent writing cost me a career. I do need support from readers, but I don’t wish to be seen as begging for support. In return for this support we will publish Stallman interviews until the end of the year (editing takes a lot of time) and post about 50 stories per week. My existing workstation is faulty (hardware issue since two days ago), so I will need to purchase a replacement shortly. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a coalition of pan-African networks, with members in 50 African countries and representing smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society, met in Addis Ababa 12-16th August 2013 to formulate an action plan to safeguard Africa’s sovereignty over its food, seeds and natural resources from the assault on Africa’s food systems.
Do corporations seek to maximize profits? Or do they seek to maximize power? The two may be complementary—wealth begets power, power begets wealth—but they’re not the same. One important difference is that profits can come from an expanding economic “pie,” whereas the size of the power pie is fixed. Power is a zero-sum game: more for me means less for you. And for corporations, the pursuit of power sometimes trumps the pursuit of profits.
There’s a kind of right-wing media criticism we’ve often called “working the refs.” The point is not to make complaints with a basis in reality; rather, the hope is that by complaining that your “side” isn’t getting a fair shake, someone in the media will want to avoid further scolding and so next time cut you break.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting in Chicago earlier this month was marked by massive protests outside, but inside the walls of the Palmer House Hotel, the business of this notoriously secretive organization went forward as usual. The few quotes that have trickled out from inside the ALEC meeting are revealing.
In the decades that have followed, those struggling for justice are not the only ones who have rallied in Washington. CEOs from Wall Street and large corporations have of course been a powerful presence. They don’t march to Washington but instead fly in corporate jets. They don’t come with millions by their side, but rather with millions in their pockets. And they don’t come to demand greater inclusion and opportunity for all, but for more tax breaks for their businesses, to be paid for by cuts to services provided to ordinary families.