De omnibus dubitandum
15 Sep 2009
Following the dreadful example of France, the UK is now bowing to corporate lobbyists whispering disinformation in the ears of MPs – a new law proposed by Lord Mandelson would disconnect UK internet users after being accused of downloading copyrighted material.
Let’s forget that the whole ‘copyrighted material’ issue is a grey area to begin with, subjected to hopelessly antiquated laws designed for an era without instant digital reproduction. Instead let’s focus on what this would mean for the average citizen.
First, it’s ridiculously easy to download copyrighted material. It’s so easy in fact that you’re likely to do it several times in any given week’s regular internet activity, probably without realising it yourself.
Secondly, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a particular individual downloaded copyrighted material. An IP address can belong to an entire household or even a whole building, and can also be easily spoofed. Yet IP addresses are used exclusively as evidence of individual copyright offences.
Thirdly, cutting off internet access means you won’t be able to do a lot of things that are necessary in these modern times. You won’t be able to do your banking online any more. Can’t book any flights or tickets online. Unable to look up the latest screen times of that new movie you want to see. Won’t be able to download that discount voucher.
Cutting people off from internet access is a ridiculous penalty. It’s like prohibiting convicted drivers from using the road – not just from driving cars, but from using any means of road transport at all!
Unfortunately the pro-copyright corporate lobby is rich and powerful and is polluting our governments with disinformation. One government after the other is succumbing to their lies and manipulation. We must stand up to this to protect our digital rights.
30 Aug 2009
I’m not a fan of Apple. They make bloated, overpriced, overdesigned fashion statements. But that’s not what I hate about Apple – Nike makes similar products but I have no particular animosity towards them.
No, I hate Apple because they make closed, proprietary systems and insist on maintaining absolute tyrannical control over what its users are allowed to do with it.
But closed systems are stupid, counter-innovative and evolutionary dead ends, and anyone who supports that kind of thinking deserves to be punched back into the stone age.
Jason Calacanis, a somewhat notorious Internet entrepeneur, apparently shares my loathing:
21 Aug 2009
Ireland is an interesting country. I’m not talking about its beautiful landscape, its delicious beers, its fine whiskeys, or even its wonderful people.
No, it’s interesting because on one side Ireland wants to belong in the 21st century, with an economy powered by high-tech companies and an educated population to go with it. But on the other side, Ireland seems intent on embracing the ways of ancient times.
First there came a law against blasphemy, a law that would befit a nation in the 1400′s. But certainly not a nation that’s a part of the modern civilised world.
And now the largest ISP in Ireland, Eircom, has announced that at the request of record companies it will start blocking access to The Pirate Bay. Corporate-controlled Internet censorship has arrived in Ireland in full force.
With this move Eircom is essentially taking the side of obsolete business models and deliberate ignorance. Instead of innovation, a word so often used by Ireland’s government officials, it’s choosing to adopt older ways of thinking. Ways that have totally lost their relevancy in the modern world.
Ireland should be learning from past mistakes and looking towards the future. Instead it seems to be blind to the flaws of history and continues to stare at the past with an utterly misplaced sense of nostalgia.
Here’s a warning for Ireland: Keep this up and the rest of the modern world will be leaving you behind with your Dark Age mentality as we move onwards to better things.
17 Aug 2009
Good news for digital rights proponents in the Netherlands: Bits of Freedom, the once-defunct digital rights group, has been re-ignited.
New funding from XS4All has enabled BoF to restart the fight and once again oppose online government censorship, corporate lockdowns on online behaviour, and other symptoms of the decreasing freedom of the Internet.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to support BoF financially at this stage, but seeing as how XS4All is the primary sponsor of the organisation it might be a good idea to switch internet providers to them (if you’re not a customer of them already) and let them know your main reason for choosing them is their support of digital freedom.
14 Aug 2009
I go on a short holiday to visit my family and friends back in the motherland, and what happens? My Twitter account is suspended.
Why? No fucking clue. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say my account was flagged by some automated (and deeply flawed) spam-detection script and suspended without further human interference.
Over time I’ve come to rely on Twitter for a lot of things – keeping up to date in my field of employment, maintaining my network of professional and personal contacts, finding new viral content early, and generally keeping my finger on the pulse of the internet.
Now my account is suspended for no apparent reason. I’ve looked at Twitter’s rules and can’t find anything I’ve done that would incriminate my account. Twitter hasn’t provided a reason for this suspension either – the account has simply been closed. I didn’t receive any email. I had to find out about my account’s suspension from a friend who dropped me an email during my holiday.
Naturally I’ve contested this with Twitter’s support department, but to say they’re not very quick on the draw is a ridiculous understatement. Continental plates move faster than Twitter support. It’s been 6 days since I submitted a support ticket, and aside from an automated response I’ve received no word, despite two further requests from my side.
Even worse, Twitter’s standard text on account suspension states an account may be suspended for a minimum of 30 days pending ‘research’. This means I could be disconnected from a large part of my personal and professional information stream for over a month.
Creating a new account and starting from scratch isn’t really an option. Not only would I lose the valuable network I’ve built up over more than a year of Twitter usage, the rules also bluntly state that any account created to replace a suspended account faces permanent suspension.
It’s a good thing this has happened though. It has made me realise the amount of power a single social network can have over your day to day routines. This account suspension has made me feel disconnected from the internet as if I wasn’t online at all. I’m out of the loop. I’m not up to date on what’s happening any more. It’s somehow liberating and suffocating at the same time.
And it’s made me understand that Twitter, as a victim of its own popularity, is thoroughly incapable of handling its own success. Automated processes to detect and suspend spam accounts obviously don’t work, and Twitter seems reluctant to invest sufficient human resources to handle the emerging problems in an acceptable manner.
I suppose since Twitter is a free service I really shouldn’t complain. Yet most social media sites are free to use and that doesn’t stop us from revolting en masse when something goes wrong. Twitter however is unique in that despite its massive success has failed spectacularly in monetising its sudden ubiquity.
So I’ll give Twitter a bit of leeway. Another week, maybe. If they haven’t fixed my account by then, they can fuck off and I’ll start using FriendFeed instead.
UPDATE: After 17 days my account was re-activated. I never got an explanation for it, but I suspect it was because I was a little careless with my password and my account got taken over by a spammer during my holiday. Serves me right I suppose, but a little quick action from Twitter would’ve been appreciated.
30 Jul 2009
Ignoring the sheer technical impossibility of enforcing this ban, let’s contemplate what lies at the heart of the verdict: a private Dutch organisation has managed to persuade legal authorities to block access to a website for all Dutch users.
In other words, private organisations, with their own commercial agendas and for-profit priorities, now have control over what you as a Dutch citizen can see and do online. Today it’s blocking access to a site whose legality is questionable, tomorrow it’s websites that criticise powerful corporations or question government policies.
This is another very dangerous step towards full internet censorship where private organisations and uninformed lawmakers control the information we receive. The free spirit of the internet is being destroyed, one lawsuit at a time, and taking its place is a regulated corporate-controlled monstrosity.
Soon all the information we’re allowed to consume online is sanitised and commercialised – unless we stop this trend from continuing. If we value our freedom of information and the freedom of the internet, we must fight for it. So support your national digital rights group and help spread the word.
16 Jul 2009
“As the Google Apps suite of programs finally graduated from its ‘beta’ status this week, Google also announced its plans to release an operating system on which to run them. Google Chrome, based on the company’s new browser, will invite us all to spend a lot less time, energy, and money on our computers—and in the process, it may force the technology industry to consider how to make money after people no longer require expensive machines and software to do their work.”
Of course what the Chrome OS will really do is transfer power over our office productivity from Microsoft to Google. We’re simply exchanging one corporate juggernaut for another. Rushkoff doesn’t see this as a bad thing though.
“And luckily for us (if not the company’s shareholders), Google tends to do things because they’re neat, and worry about business models later. While it may imagine its OS will provide new opportunities to sell advertising space, chances are Google is hoping to benefit purely from the increased Internet traffic catalyzed by an always-on, always-connected, and always-collaborating network of users.”
So basically we’ll have to rely on Google’s promise to do no evil.
I’m not so sure about the Chrome OS. At least with MS Windows and Office I can still manage, encrypt and and delete my own files. With Google’s OS and Apps, it all resides in the cloud. How do I know that when I delete something on Google Apps it’s really gone? I don’t. On the contrary, it’s likely my docs will continue to exist in some form or another out there on the interwebs.
And until the Chrome OS can run F.E.A.R. 2 with a frame rate of at least 40fps, I’m definitely not switching.
(Via Boing Boing)