Categories
fb Network World

Payback time: Why I closed my Paypal account…

Dear Sirs,

A few days ago, you froze Wikileaks account in a blatant attack against freedom of expression and information. You accused this organization/movement of illegal activities, while no court in no country has accused Wikileaks of such activities yet. Where is the presumption of innocence? The guarantees that we, who think we live in a democratic country, want to preserve? By freezing Wikileaks funds, you attacked all citizens that care about our freedoms.

Therefore, I do not wish to have any relation with your organization.

Best regards,
Alejandro Ribó

Categories
fb Network World

The first infowar has started

“The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.” – John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The first infowar has started. Wikileaks’s disclosures of confidential documents from the Pentagon and the State Department have triggered an aggressive reaction from those sources that want to keep us ignorant of their manipulations of societies, public opinions, governments >> us. In only a few days, Wikileaks’s .org domain has been cancelled, Amazon has closed Wikileaks’s web space and Paypal has frozen Wikileaks’s account. These actions are not only against Wikileaks. These are all attacks on all of us. They are attempts of stopping us of getting the information that’s ours, information that concerns all of us.

How a government, how a company can be legitimated to stop me of knowing that a foreign government is manipulating the justice system of my country to stop my fellow citizens to get justice for the murder of an honest man, a professional journalist, a brother, a son? How can we let them stop us from knowing that a foreign country is blackmailing my government to pass a law written by its big media companies? How do we allow them to stop anybody from knowing the injustices, the blackmail, the conspirations that elites are playing on all of us? Before we could have an excuse: we couldn’t be certain. Now there is no excuse. We shall not let them.

This is not a conventional war. It’s wage in the physical and in the virtual world. The infowarriors are not professional soldiers trained to kill, but citizens, like you and me, who can use their resources at hand to wage war on those that have manipulated us for so long. A war in which our principal weapon is information. Anybody, anyone who knows something, even the tiniest particle of information, has a weapon that can help one side or the other. Your eyes, your ears, your camera, your phone, your computer are your weapons. If you know something, share it. Alone it’s worthless, connected it’s powerful.

Their power is centralised. It comes from concentrating together economic and coercive resources. If the centre is gone, their power is gone. Our power is distributed. It comes from the networks we form. It comes from the spontaneous aggregation of the grains of our small actions. It comes from our capacity to act unexpectedly and strongly, and be quickly gone, letting our target confused, not knowing from where we came from. It comes from having millions of heads, and millions of bodies. We have what we need. If we want, we can.

This is, thus, a war for our minds, for our hearts. If our will is with those that keep us silent, because “it is the way it has always been”, because “it is for our own safety”, because “it gives us what we materially need”, then they will win. If our will is with those that want to free information, to make truth a value, because knowing liberate us against the dangers of ignorance, because we are capable of managing our own affairs without the intervention of unelected elites, because it is the only way for us to solve our common problems, then we will win.

This will be a long war.

Categories
fb Network World

Leaking conspiracies out: Wikileaks hits the nail

The first infowar has started. Wikileaks‘s disclosures of confidential documents from the Pentagon and the State Department have triggered an aggressive reaction from those sources that want to keep us ignorant of their manipulations of societies, public opinions, governments >> us. In only a few days, Wikileaks’s .org domain has been cancelled, Amazon has closed Wikileaks’s web space and Paypal has frozen Wikileaks’s account. These actions are not only against Wikileaks. These are all attacks on all of us. They are attempts of stopping us of getting the information that’s ours, information that concerns all of us.

How a government, how a company can be legitimated to stop me of knowing that a foreign government ismanipulating the justice system of my country to stop my fellow citizens to get justice for the murder of an honest man, a professional journalist, a brother, a son? How can we let them stop us from knowing that a foreign country is blackmailing my government to pass a law written by its big media companies? How do we allow them to stop anybody from knowing the injustices, the blackmail, the conspirations that elites are playing on all of us? Before we could have an excuse: we couldn’t be certain. Now there is no excuse. We shall not let them.

This is not a conventional war. It is wage in the physical and in the virtual world. The infowarriors are not professional soldiers trained to kill, but citizens, like you and me, who can use their resources at hand to wage war on those that have manipulated us for so long. A war in which our principal weapon is information. Anybody, anyone who knows something, even the tiniest particle of information, has a weapon that can help one side or the other. Your eyes, your ears, your camera, your phone, your computer are your weapons. If you know something, share it. Alone it’s worthless, connected it’s powerful.

Their power is centralised. It comes from concentrating together economic and coercive resources. If the centre is gone, their power is gone. Our power is distributed. It comes from the networks we form. It comes from the spontaneous aggregation of the grains of our small actions. It comes from our capacity to act unexpectedly and strongly, and be quickly gone, letting our target confused, not knowing from where we came from. It comes from having millions of heads, and millions of bodies. We have what we need. If we want, we can.

This is, thus, a war for our minds, for our hearts. If our will is with those that keep us silent, because “it is the way it has always been”, because “it is for our own safety”, because “it gives us what we materially need”, then they will win. If our will is with those that want to free information, to make truth a value, because knowing liberate us against the dangers of ignorance, because we are capable of managing our own affairs without the intervention of unelected elites, because it is the only way for us to solve our common problems, then we will win.

This will be a long war.

Categories
fb Network World

The day I met Julian Assange and how to leak conspiracies out…


I remember very well the first (and only) time I met Julian Assange. It was November 21, 2009 in Barcelona during the first Personal Democracy Forum – Europe. Already then I was very interested in new technologies, transparency, freedom of information and disclosure and, therefore, on what Wikileaks was doing. At that time, Wikileaks was in a difficult period due to lack of funds.

A passionate and friendly Julian told me about their plans to enter into partnership with big media companies (El País, The Guardian, Le Monde and NYT) to provide them a source of money and, also, a bigger platform for their leaks. He also told me that they were sitting on very sensitive stuff that needed the right platform of diffusion…this was November 2009. One year later, Wikileaks is changing world politics.

From all what I read about cablegate, the latest Wikileaks’s publication, Aaron Bady’s piece on “Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy” is among the best. It is a commentary on early Assange’s writings on conspiracies, secrecy and the power of new technologies to open them. As zungzung says

Most of the news media seems to be losing their minds over Wikileaks without actually reading these essays, even though he describes the function and aims of an organization like Wikileaks in pretty straightforward terms.

Four years ago, on November, 2006, Julian Assange wrote an essay titled “State and Terrorist Conspiracies“. In it, he says that:

To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not.

Assange defines the communication model of a conspiracy with a nail and twine analogy:

First take some nails (“conspirators”) and hammer them into a board at random. Then take twine (“communication”) and loop it from nail to nail without breaking. Call the twine connecting two nails a link. Unbroken twine means it is possible to travel from any nail to any other nail via twine and intermediary nails…Information flows from conspirator to conspirator. Not every conspirator trusts or knows every other conspirator even though all are connected. Some are on the fringe of the conspiracy, others are central and communicate with many conspirators and others still may know only two conspirators but be a bridge between important sections or groupings of the conspiracy.

zunguzungu summarizes Assange’s main thesis on conspiracy and his strategy to combat them:

[H]e begins by describing a state like the US as essentially an authoritarian conspiracy, and then reasons that the practical strategy for combating that conspiracy is to degrade its ability to conspire, to hinder its ability to “think” as a conspiratorial mind. The metaphor of a computing network is mostly implicit, but utterly crucial: he seeks to oppose the power of the state by treating it like a computer and tossing sand in its diodes.

In what we can call the “cognitive political advantage thesis”, Assange says that leaks will induce fear in the leadership of conspiracies, which will then minimize their “efficient internal communications mechanisms”, closing them further. In an environment that requires adaptation and facilitates disclosure, conspiracies, understood as “cognitive devices” will suffer an increase in their “cognitive tax”, that is the price to pay for getting information, precluding further the emerging benefits of information sharing. This will leave them vulnerable to organizations with more open forms of government, which could eventually replace them thanks to their cognitive advantage.

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

In other words, if the Pentagon and the State Department decide to start being more stringent about how they share information to avoid further leaking, they will jeopardize the efficiency of their activities. Other entities will thus enjoy a “cognitive advantage” compared to them.

In zunguzungu’s words

Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more…You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire

Categories
fb Network World

Letter to Amazon: Why I closed my accounts after your censored Wikileaks

Dear Sirs,

Due to the position taken by Amazon.com inc. in relation to the hosting of Wikileaks.org on Amazon Web Services (http://aws.amazon.com/message/65348/), I would like to close without revocation and with immediate effect my account on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

In your public message, your argue that :

“…[Amazon Web Services] have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them […] our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content […] that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy.”

I challenge these arguments:

1. Information published by Wikileaks is not owned (or controlled) by a specific person or organization, but it’s the property of all citizens, for it was produced using public resources under public function. Wikileaks or any other organization has the right, I would even say the obligation, to make public its content.

2. Wikileaks carefully screens the information it publishes “to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy.” If by any chance there is such information among all files published by Wikileaks, the appropriate action by Amazon won’t be to closed down the account, but to request the removal of such information.

In my opinion, Amazon.com’s action is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and the right of citizens to access the information that is theirs. Therefore, I do not wish to have any relation with your organization.

Your sincerely,
Alejandro Ribó Labastida