Across Europe, basic norms of civilised society are giving way to panic. The unvaccinated are being excluded from an ever-wider range of basic rights. Austria has criminalised them. Italy has stopped them doing their jobs. The Dutch police have fired on anti-lockdown demonstrators, seriously injuring some of them. We are witnessing the ultimate folly of frightened politicians who cannot accept that they are impotent in the face of some natural phenomena.
A court in Vietnam on Monday sentenced an aquaculture farmer to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of spreading “anti-state propaganda” on Facebook, state media reported.
Nguyen Tri Gioan, 42, was convicted of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the state” at a one-day trial in the central province of Khanh Hoa, the official Vietnam News Agency said.
Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism.
In passing the PATRIOT Act, Congress enacted a “solution” to preventing another 9/11‐like debacle without having any evidence that a lack of surveillance powers was what allowed Osama bin Laden’s suicide hijackers to succeed in killing nearly 3,000 Americans.
The Utah Supreme Court is the latest stop in EFF’s roving campaign to establish your Fifth Amendment right to refuse to provide your password to law enforcement. Yesterday, along with the ACLU, we filed an amicus brief in State v. Valdez, arguing that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination prevents the police from forcing suspects to reveal the contents of their minds. That includes revealing a memorized passcode or directly entering the passcode to unlock a device.
We generally assume that the world is becoming a better place every year. But when it comes to individual freedoms, the opposite is true. Most studies show humanity is now less free than several years ago.
20 years ago we had decentralized Internet and a relatively unrestricted banking system. Today, Apple and Google censor information and apps on our phones while Visa and Mastercard limit what goods and services we can pay for. Every year we give up more power and control over our lives to a handful of unaccountable corporate executives we didn’t elect.
Most of us willingly carry tracking devices – our phones – and allow corporations to use our private data to target us with content that keeps us distracted with low-quality entertainment. Unlike 20 years ago, we are now surrounded by surveillance cameras, which in countries like China use AI to make sure nobody can hide.
In 2017, China overtook the US as the largest economy in the world by purchasing power, showing the world that individual freedoms are not required for economic development. Looking at China’s success, more countries become authoritarian, curbing essential human rights such as freedom of speech, movement and assembly.
Who is going to fix it?
The most active and creative minds of our generation are too busy playing in the rapidly shrinking sandbox called “free enterprise” or producing digital content to keep everyone else glued to their devices for longer. The rest seem to be too distracted with the abundance of cheap digital entertainment to critically assess the trend and take action.
Watching this, I wonder what will become the legacy of our generation. Will we go down in history as those who let free societies turn into dystopian nightmares? Or will we be remembered as those who defended the freedoms that previous generations fought so hard to win?
In the summer of 2013, shortly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the surveillance capabilities of the American National Security Agency (NSA) began to appear, I had a private conversation with a former cabinet minister about the implications of the leaks. At one stage, I mentioned to him a remark attributed to a prime architect of some of the NSA systems – that they had taken the US to “a keystroke away from totalitarianism”. The MP scoffed at the idea. What I needed to remember, he told me, in that superior tone that toffs adopt when speaking to their gardeners, was that the US and the UK were “mature democracies”. In such polities, the chances of anyone coming to power who might have the inclination to use such power for sinister purposes was, he said, zero.
If Julian Assange is extradited to the United States and convicted of any of the charges he faces there – such as unauthorised obtaining of national defence information – the US government will let him serve his sentence in an Australian prison.
The US has also agreed that, as things stand, the Wikileaks founder will not be held at the administrative maximum security prison near Florence, Colorado, known as ADX. Nor will he be subject to special administrative measures designed to prevent the disclosure of classified information – such as limits on correspondence, visits and telephone calls.
Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a newborn child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.
Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.
In the case against former United Kingdom diplomat-turned whistleblower Craig Murray, the UK supreme court refused to hear Murray’s appeal. He will now surrender himself to police for an eight-month prison sentence.
The High Court in Edinburgh in Scotland convicted Murray of contempt on March 25 after concluding that he published several blog posts, which they believe led people to identify witnesses in the sexual assault trial against former Scottish Minister Alex Salmond.
Murray is the first person in the U.K. to be incarcerated for media contempt in over a half century. It has been 70 years since someone was incarcerated in Scotland on this charge.
The UK is truly a garbage place for liberty. Speech should never be a crime, even if it’s “trolling”.
Europe truly is a shithole.
Responding to a “yes” vote in a referendum in Switzerland to give the Federal Police far-reaching powers in the fight against so-called “potential terrorist offenders” Amnesty International Switzerland’s Campaign Director, Patrick Walder said:
“Whilst the desire among Swiss voters to prevent acts of terrorism is understandable, these new measures are not the answer. They provide the police with sweeping and mostly unchecked powers to impose harsh sanctions against so-called ‘potential terrorist offenders’ and can also be used to target legitimate political protest.
An organization that has defended the First Amendment rights of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan is split by an internal debate over whether supporting progressive causes is more important.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently over whether to create a new system of digital vaccine “passports.” But that conversation is just a small part of a much larger movement aimed at creating a digital identity system, including a push by companies, motor vehicle departments, and some state legislatures to digitize the identity card that most Americans carry: the driver’s license.
At first blush, the idea of a driver’s license we can keep on our phone might sound good. Digital is often touted as the “future” and many people cast such a transition as inevitable. But digital is not always better — especially when systems are exclusively digital. There’s a reason that most jurisdictions have spurned electronic voting in favor of paper ballots, for example. And the transition from a plastic ID to a digital one is not straightforward: Along with opportunities, there are numerous problems that such a switch could create — especially if they’re not designed perfectly.
Today we’re releasing a report looking at digital driver’s licenses and their implications for our civil liberties. While not categorically opposing the concept of a digital identity system, we outline the many pitfalls that such a system creates if not done right, and some ominous long-term implications that we need to guard against. We call on state legislatures to slow down before rushing to authorize digital licenses, ask hard questions about such a system, and, if and when they decide to go ahead, to insist upon strong technological and policy measures to protect against the problems they are likely to create.
One of the hallmarks of totalitarian systems is the criminalization of dissent. Not just the stigmatization of dissent or the demonization of dissent, but the formal criminalization of dissent, and any other type of opposition to the official ideology of the totalitarian system. Global capitalism has been inching its way toward this step for quite some time, and now, apparently, it is ready to take it.
Germany has been leading the way. For over a year, anyone questioning or protesting the “Covid emergency measures” or the official Covid-19 narrative has been demonized by the government and the media, and, sadly, but not completely unexpectedly, the majority of the German public. And now such dissent is officially “extremism.”
Yes, that’s right, in “New Normal” Germany, if you dissent from the official state ideology, you are now officially a dangerous “extremist.” The German Intelligence agency (the “BfV”) has even invented a new category of “extremists” in order to allow themselves to legally monitor anyone suspected of being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimizing the state in a way that endangers security,” like … you know, non-violently protesting, or speaking out against, or criticizing, or satirizing, the so-called “New Normal.”
Naturally, I’m a little worried, as I have engaged in most of these “extremist” activities. My thoughtcrimes are just sitting there on the Internet waiting to be scrutinized by the BfV. They’re probably Google-translating this column right now, compiling a list of all the people reading it, and their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and professional associates, and family members, and anyone any of the aforementioned people have potentially met with, or casually mentioned, who might have engaged in similar thoughtcrimes.
American social media platforms have long sought to present themselves as venues for unfettered free expression. A decade ago, Twitter employees used to brand the startup as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” In late 2019, Mark Zuckerberg gave an address defending Facebook’s allegiance to First Amendment principles—including his oft-stated belief that platforms should not be “the arbiters of truth.”
The pandemic made a mockery of that idea. In the context of a global public health emergency, companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google began removing posts containing misleading information about the coronavirus, which required them to make judgments about truth and falsity. The presidential election pulled them even deeper into the job of fact-checking. By spring 2020, Twitter was applying warning labels to Donald Trump’s account, and by the summer, all the platforms were touting their proactive efforts against election misinformation.
Who would’ve expected this from the Germans! shock
No one should deny that corporations provide many valuable services to consumers; however, a dark side exists to some corporate services that are never admitted in their advertising campaigns. In this article, I will explain one of the dark directions that the giant corporations that dominate the Internet are taking to increase their profits, specifically their efforts to push as many consumers as possible into the cloud, whether this is in consumers’ best interests or not. I will then give some concrete methods that consumers can use to resist.