Here’s something which very much relates to a presentation I delivered at a conference some time ago at the University of Dayton on the Social Practices of Human Rghts. Today, the modern, ground breaking platform for enabling that most fundamental of human processes and needs - communication - is being quickly turned into a tool for the most thorough form of social and political control ever known. It is what astute writers and political thinkers have warned us about for years now; the corrosive effects of mass surveillance, and the very real threat it poses to not simply our individual political liberties, but to our very humanity.
A dystopian counter-revolution is indeed underway in cyberspace. I argue that this goes to heart of the systemic problems we face today. For if our information systems and capacity to communicate are compromised, polluted, even eliminated, our ability to respond to, and solve any of the other problems we think need to be addressed, simply become impossible to do so.
This situation needs to be addressed, stopped, and reversed. And now.
Many people in Kiev awoke Tuesday morning to a frightening text message on their phones. “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance”, it read…
The incident is just one in a growing number of attacks on Internet users. It’s a troubling sign that the information age has entered a new era, one where our rights to connect and communicate are under constant siege.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Openness, user access and empowerment defined the first 30 years of popular Internet use. By design the network embraced decentralization; it spurned gatekeepers and amplified the voices of the many over the dictates of the few.
The once democratic online world is giving way to a model where governments and powerful communications companies call the shots. In this new reality, Internet users have turned into data profiles and bargaining chips…
A whole new surveillance industry has cropped up to provide governments with the tools to filter online content, break privacy-protecting encryption codes and aggregate and sort data on Internet users.
Whatever the term, it’s a scenario where power over information is tilting away from rank-and-file Internet users toward the corporate and ruling elite.
In Verizon vs. FCC, Verizon argued that it has the First Amendment right to block and censor Internet users. (In case you missed that:
Verizon is claiming that, as a corporation, it has the free speech right to silence the online expression of everybody else.) The court decision enables Verizon and any other ISP to be the arbiters of speech on the Web.
Both AT&T and Verizon had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Beltway lobbyists, lawyers and public relations firms to win supporters of this idea on Capitol Hill. The court’s decision means Verizon has prevailed over yet another branch of government.
As advocates of online rights, we used to say that you have to “use the Internet to save the Internet.” This was an effective call to action when the network helped Internet users become better informed and more empowered in making demands of their governments.
But the Internet counter-revolution is about empowering those who are already in power. It’s about turning our ability to connect and communicate against us, a dynamic that’s become all too real to those protesting today on the streets of Kiev…
To return to an open, people-centric network, we need a broader and more sustained Internet freedom movement, one that fights to protect our data as much as it does to restore Net Neutrality. Staying silent, even when speaking out involves risk, is no longer an option. Loud public pressure, both online and off, is the only way we can save the Internet.
This is why the fight for communication rights needs to be at the center of the global human rights movement. It is at that nexus point where we will have identified the hole in the Death Star of global corporatism. It is from there in which can be asserted a truly effective and meaningful civic movement for a civically-based notion of globalism, and for the advancement of universal norms in support of human rights and the dignity of the human person (and I might add, for all of nature and the health of its ecosystems).
The disturbing development in the Ukraine, and its implications for all of us, was elaborated on in this pointed piece, as well…
It’s downright Orwellian (and I hate that adjective, and only use it when absolutely necessary, I swear).
But that’s what this is: it’s technology employed to detect noncompliance, to hone in on dissent. The NY Times reports that the “Ukrainian government used telephone technology to pinpoint the locations of cell phones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters early on Tuesday.” Near. Using a cell phone near a clash lands you on the regime’s hit list.
See, Kiev is tearing itself to shreds right now, but since we’re kind of burned out on protests, riots, and revolutions at the moment, it’s being treated as below-the-fold news. Somehow, the fact that over a million people are marching, camping out, and battling with Ukraine’s increasingly authoritarian government is barely making a ripple behind such blockbuster news bits as bridge closures and polar vortexes. Yes, even though protesters are literally building catapaults and wearing medieval armor and manning flaming dump trucks.
Hopefully news of the nascent techno-security state will turn some heads‚ as its right out of 1984, or, more recently, Elysium: technology deployed to “detect” dissent.
Read more in Maybe the Most Orwellian Text Message Ever Sent