Archive | April, 2017

Barrett Brown back in custody

Journalist and writer Barrett Brown, who was imprisoned after exposing private sector surveillance – has been detained again. The Intercept:

Brown quickly became a symbol of the attack on press freedom after he was arrested in 2012 for reporting he did on the hacked emails of intelligence-contracting firms. Brown wrote about hacked emails that showed the firm Stratfor spying on activists on behalf of corporations. Brown also helped uncover a proposal by intelligence contractors to hack and smear WikiLeaks defenders and progressive activists. (…)

According to his mother, who spoke with Brown by phone after his arrest, Brown believes the reason for his re-arrest was a failure to obtain “permission” to give interviews to media organizations. Several weeks ago, Brown was told by his check-in officer that he needed to fill out permission forms before giving interviews.

The Intercept: Formerly imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown taken back into custody before PBS interview »


EU AVMSD: It’s not censorship to censor legal content

The EU is in the process of updating the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

As one could expect, this opens the floodgates when it comes to regulating and censoring content such as video (and even animated GIF:s) on a number of platforms. This includes otherwise legal content.

Today the EU E-Commerce Directive gives service providers and platforms some reasonable protection. EDRi explains…

That Directive protects freedom of expression by ensuring that internet companies are not unduly incentivised to delete content. It does so by limiting liability to situations where they fail to act diligently upon receipt of a notice of the illegality of the content in question.

But with the revised AVMSD things might change…

The Council and the Parliament want a wide variety of content to be regulated – anything that (based on the wisdom of the provider, in the first instance) might impact the physical, mental and moral development of minors. At the same time, video-sharing and (some) social media platforms are expected to restrict content that is an “incitement to violence or hatred” by reference, for example, to sex, racial or ethnic origin, disability, age, or sexual orientation.

The content that the providers will be required to regulate is not, or not necessarily, illegal. As a result, it is argued that this privatised regulation of freedom of expression does not breach the E-Commerce Directive, because the obligation is to regulate content. In short, restriction of legal content is not a breach of rules that cover illegal content.

So… according to EU logic, it’s not censorship if you censor legal content?

The Council also wants video-sharing and social media platforms to regulate live-streamed video.

This revision is turning into a mess. And for once it’s not the copyright industry that is pushing the changes. It’s politicians – aiming to regulate what you can or cannot say (or even joke about).

If this becomes law, platforms like Youtube and Facebook will have to introduce new terms and conditions narrowing down the scope of what is acceptable for users to upload. Doing so, they most certainly will be overly cautious – to stay on the safe side when it comes to EU regulation.

It all boils down to the EU – once again – pushing private companies to use their terms and conditions to limit in other ways legal free speech.

EDRi: AVMS Directive: It isn’t censorship if the content is mostly legal, right? »



Wikipedia vs. »fake news«

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales is planning a news service that combines the work of professional journalists and volunteers.

His goal is for Wikitribune to offer “factual and neutral” articles that help combat the problem of “fake news”.

The service is intended to be both ad-free and free-to-read, so will rely on supporters making regular donations.

BBC: Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales creates news service Wikitribune »


Just stupid

A group of fansubbers who turned the tables on BREIN by taking the anti-piracy group to court have lost their legal battle. The Free Subtitles Foundation sought a legal ruling determining that fansubbers act within the law, but this week the Amsterdam District Court sided with BREIN on all counts.

Torrentfreak: Unauthorized Subtitles For Movies & TV Shows Are Illegal, Court Rules »

TNW: Court rules fan subtitles on TV and movies are illegal »


Wikileaks is about freedom of the press

But if the US Department of Justice prosecutes Assange, as it reportedly may soon, he could become something else: the first journalist in modern history to be criminally charged by American courts for publishing classified information. WikiLeaks may not look like a traditional journalism outlet, but it shares the same ends—publishing true information from its sources. And that means legal action against Assange could threaten the freedom of the press as a whole.

Wired: The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial »


Wikileaks – Truth is not a crime

The U.S. administration is raising its voice when it comes to Wikileaks and its editor in charge, Julian Assange.

According to CNN Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.” (Link»)

We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail. (…)

“Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an Embassy in London. He’s not a US citizen,” Pompeo said.

But there is opposition…

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, argued that US prosecution of Assange sets a dangerous precedent.

“Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public,” Wizner told CNN. “Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”

So, what is it that Wikileaks have done to stir the wrath of Washington?

Wikileaks has published »war diaries« from U.S. wars in Irak and Afghanistan: Exposing what has been done in the name of the American people, paid for by American taxpayers – to the American public.

This is how it should be in a democratic society. Without transparency, it will become impossible to hold those in power accountable. And it will make democratic elections pointless, as voters cannot make informed choices without the relevant information.

Wikileaks also has published U.S. Embassy cables, exposing the U.S. administration having double standards and lying to other countries (many of them allies) as well as to the American public.

Once again, exposing this is a democratic undertaking. In a democratic society, it is a significant problem if the government holds one set of policies in public and a different one behind the scenes. Power should be carried out in public, not in secret.

Wikileaks and Julian Assange have provided a remarkable service to society, to the American people, and to the world.

Going after Assange is going to war against transparency, the truth, the people – and democracy itself.