Firstly, my heartfelt condolences must go out to everyone affected by the tragic events in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) last Friday. Secondly, I’d like to express my admiration for all the young people who took part in the School Strike for Climate activities that same day. Even while we express our sadness at being in the shadow of a dark cloud, we must remember that there is so much more power in the sunshine than in the darkest cloud.

Laura O’Connell Rapira, Director of ActionStation.org.nz, sent out a wonderful email about how we can support the survivors of Friday’s tragedy, which I totally endorse, with one very important exception. Here’s my reply:

 

Kia ora Laura,

Thanks for your compassionate and helpful email at this difficult time. I have signed the petition on banning public ownership of semi-automatic weapons in Aotearoa. I note that having Police roaming the streets with guns in their cars did nothing to prevent this tragedy, while that policy has led to a number of tragedies of its own making. I hope to see ActionStation campaigning to end the policy of providing beat cops with firearms, and redirect resources into making sure our appropriately trained Armed Offenders Squads have everything they need to respond quickly and effectively when things like Friday’s tragedy happen.

Moving on to the rest of your email, I agree with most of what you say, but as I’ve expressed in previous emails, I have some serious concerns about this part:

“TAKE ACTION TO END HATE SPEECH 

For the last few months, our team has been researching the links between online hate, online misinformation and the rise in hate crimes

One thing is abundantly clear: Extreme words lead to extreme actions. We need to do all we can to stop both.

Sign this petition that we’re delivering in a couple of weeks if you want our government to crackdown on online hate and misinformation

I support an end to hate speech and misinformation online.”

I certainly share this goal, as an activist who has been involved in running internet forums since the 1990s, including about 7 years in the editorial collective of Aotearoa Indymedia. But with all due respect, I have to say I think you are going about it exactly the wrong way.

I strongly believe that venues where people can express ignorant opinions and have them firmly but respectfully challenged are - aside from being essential to a functioning democracy - also an essential safety valve that can help to prevent more tragedies like what happened on Friday. What better venue could there be for this than the internet? On the net, arguments can’t escalate to physical violence between participants, as they can in person. Online, we can all make informed decisions about whether or not to engage in the spaces where these kinds of discussions take place, and if we do, use the opinions expressed as a guide to who we might want to connect with, ignore, mute, or even block from seeing or contacting us. Online discussion platforms need to be engineered to put that power in the hands of us, the end users, not corporations or governments. For example, the open source community designing software using the SSB (Secure Scuttlebutt) protocol have a set of principles for how they are going about that.

I think the censorship strategy ActionStation is arguing for is not only ineffective in achieving our shared goal, but counterproductive to it. Why?

For a start, I don’t accept your generalization that “extreme words lead to extreme actions”. I think it’s just as arguable that extreme actions can result from an inability to blow off steam through words, or from feelings of frustration, alienation, and injustice, that can arise in people unable to openly express their honest opinions.

It’s also important to consider the psychological principle of “negative reinforcement”, which states that whenever any behaviour earns someone attention or reactions it is encouraged, even when that attention is negative. Positive Parenting courses integrate this principle by encouraging parents to give their children lots of attention for behaviour they like (”caught being good”), and minimal attention to behaviour they don’t like, ignoring it completely if possible. On the net, this principle is known as the “Streisand effect”, and it’s long been recognized that trying to suppress anything online only increases interest in it, multiplying the problem like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice chopping up his broom.

So not only is trying to suppress racist speech online likely to have exactly the opposite effect, it may also have a more dangerous one. As Three Arrows pointed out in his web video debunking Jordan Peterson, Nazism - like all forms of xenophobic ethno-nationalism - thrived by cultivating a sense of collective victimhood. Excluding people expressing white nationalist ideas from the normal protections of our democratic rights to speak our minds, assemble, and organize, only serves to reinforce that sense of victimhood. So it’s likely it actually helps groups planning racist violence with their recruitment, rather than hindering them.

I strongly suggest you watch the documentary ‘Taking Liberties’, which explains how the governments of the Allied countries - including New Zealand - carefully studied how the Nazis came to power, and why the majority of Germans who didn’t support the Nazis were unable to effectively resist them. As a result of this study, many of the civil rights we now consider essential to democracy were strengthened or even created after World War II, specifically to prevent a resurgence of fascism. Arguably, it is as a consequence of the erosion of civil liberties in democratic countries since 9/11 that we have seen the rise of toxic enthno-nationalism and its associated violence, not as a result of too much of the wrong kinds of speech.

I also don’t accept that the ends justify the means. Even if it was true that giving the state absolute power to stop people openly saying racist things would fix racism, that wouldn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Killing the entire human population might fix climate change and prevent the extinction of many other species, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. In this (admittedly extreme) example, the negative consequences are obvious, but in designing policy, we also need to be very mindful of the risks of unintended consequences.

There’s a parallel here with the well-meaning attempts by US legislators to suppress sex trafficking - another goal we all support - with FOSTA/SESTA. As Norman Shamas of Open Privacy explained in an interview with Final Straw Radio, not only do these laws make life harder for a lot of innocent people, they also make the jobs of the people who investigate sex traffickers harder too. When sex traffickers can’t hide their communications in plain sight among legitimate ads put up by sex workers, it doesn’t stop them communicating. It just pushes them deeper into the darknet where it takes a lot more resources to find and investigate them. Exactly the same is true for communications among white supremacists.

It’s much safer for everyone if people with racist views discuss them on mainstream platforms, where they can be monitored by both law enforcement and civil society watchdog groups like ours. This is such an important discussion that I’m going to post the text of this email on the Disintermedia blog, and submit it to TheDailyBlog.co.nz as a possible guest blog. I welcome you to engage with me by private email, or on either of those platforms.

Kia manawanui,

Danyl Strype

I recently received an email from activists at ActionStation.org.nz, announcing the release of their new report about the state of the internet

“Our lives online are now dominated by a handful of tech giants, and their products are increasingly being used to hurt people and spread misinformation and hate. It’s time to do something about it. Today we are launching The People’s Report on Online Hate, Harassment and Abuse. It is the result of lots of thinking, reading, research, and listening to others’ experiences on the internet. In it we argue the tech giants who have come to dominate our lives online have failed to stop their products from damaging individuals and our wider democracy.”

Here’s my response to that email.

Kia ora ActionStation crew

Have you read the dystopian science fiction novel ‘1984′? Do you remember the part where George Orwell writes:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

You say you’ve taken a serious look at what’s happening to the internet. Yet what you’re worried about is not surveillance capitalism, the increasing power of state-corporate entities to monitor and control what we can say and see online, and manipulate what we believe about the past and the present. Instead, you say you’re worried that they’re not using that power enough?!?

I’m currently living in China, where the internet is under total state-corporate control. Nobody here is allowed to have private or free conversations online. The Chinese state uses its Great Firewall to make sure that its population can only access internet services under its control, and it uses that control to monitor every aspect of their lives, and prevent any dissenting views being openly expressed online. If you think this is good for the rights of women, or queers, or indigenous people, or immigrants, you’re dead wrong.

The Harmful Digital Censorship Act moved Aotearoa a step towards this same kind of anti-democratic technocracy. We don’t need it to be strengthened. We needs it to be repealed, and replaced with amendments to relevant laws against libel, harassment, stalking, and so on, to make sure they are fit for purpose in the digital age. Amendments that carefully constrain the powers of the state, and corporations, to control what citizens say and see online.

We especially don’t need tech corporations policing online discourse on our behalf. We need digital tools that take that power and responsibility out of their hands, and empower users to create respectful online communities and address the social problems caused by trolls, shills, and corporate PR tactics. Ideally, that means moving our communities off corporate-controlled servers completely, and replacing monocultures like FarceBook and Twitter with federated social networks, connecting ‘digital cafes’ owned and controlled by the communities that use them.

In summary, we agree that the corporate tech giants are a problem. But we need to have some serious discussions about the true nature of that problem, and come up with solutions that fix it, instead of making it worse.

He mihi nui

Strypey

Filed March 1st, 2019 under independent media

 PeerTube is a revolutionary new video hosting system created by a developer known as Chocobozzz.  Supported and funded by Framasoft, a French organization working on a project to  “de-Googlify the Internet“, PeerTube (as the name suggests) has been created as a potential replacement for YouTube and you can watch the intro video here, streamed from a PeerTube site. Excited software freedom geeks have been testing experimental versions of PeerTube for a couple of years now, and there are dozens of groups and individuals running PeerTube sites (or “instances”). In October of 2018, Framasoft proudly announced the release of PeerTube 1.0.

Finally, the wait is over, and PeerTube is ready for average users to dive in. But what what makes PeerTube different from existing independent video sites like EngageMedia or BitChute? First, a little background.

Since it first became possible to embed video files in websites, it’s always been risky to host your own videos on your own website. The reason is that even short video files are much, much bigger than text or image files, or even audio files. If your video goes viral, and you have hundreds or thousands of users trying to stream or download the video at once, you end up having to pay huge fees for the bandwidth that uses on your server, or even having your website break down completely because of the traffic jam.

For years, this has created a paradox where creators who publish their own video, or small, community-hosted video sites, get nowhere if none of their videos get attention, and get punished if any of the videos they host get too popular. Either way, they lose. This is why, with the exception of a few determined anti-corporate activists and free code hackers, most people host their video on a handful of giant, corporate-controlled hosts like YouTube and Vimeo.

What makes PeerTube sites different from other independent video sites like EngageMedia or BitChute is not the type of video they host, nor their moderation policies, but the way they all interconnect (or “federate”) with each other. Using new technologies like WebTorrent and ActivityPub (more on them later), PeerTube sites automatically combine their hosting power to form a federated, video-hosting network. Working together, they can compete with corporate video-hosting platforms like YouTube, something no independent site, and certainly no independent video producer, can afford to do alone.

Today, I started a project of reaching out to independent video producers to make sure they know about PeerTube and the fediverse it’s a part of, encourage them to make use of these tools, and offer support to help them do so. Here’s a generic version of the text I wrote, in case it’s useful to anyone wanting to do something similar.

“Great to see work you’re doing in independent film-making.

I note that your contact page links to a number of corporate-controlled media platforms (FarceBook, TheirsTube etc). Have you heard about the ‘fediverse’, the federated replacements for these centralized platforms, using free code (or “open source”) software? For example, there are a number of inter-connected micro-blogging networks that offer a replacement for the birdsite, including GNU Social, Mastodon, Pleroma, and Misskey, and users on any of the thousands of independent sites running any of these software packages can all communicate with one another, not just the users on their site (or “instance”).

Even more relevant to your work, is PeerTube, a network of video-hosting sites that are similarly inter-connected with each other. PeerTube sites use WebTorrent to allow users watching videos to help serve them to other viewers, reducing the bandwith load on the host if a video goes viral, and making it viable for organizations to host their own video directly. PeerTube sites also use inter-connect with the rest of the fediverse, allowing users to follow PeerTube channels, watch embedded videos, and comment on them, all from within their social media client.

If you need any help figuring out how these technologies could help you organize, promote, and distribute your work, please feel free to get in touch.”

Filed November 27th, 2018 under independent media, free software

Update 2018-11-29: Rich Bartlett wrote an excellent piece on his experiences with trying to get paid for contributing to the commons. Rich is an activist, writer, and hacker, associated with Enspiral, Loomio, and The Hum.

——–

A couple of years back, I decided to see if I could actually get funded by the communities who I created Disintermedia to inform and support. I started gathering information about different ways people could pay me over the internet, and adding it to a page called Help Disintermedia, which was initially created to publicly thank services like CoActivate that help us in non-monetary ways. First, I experimented with setting up the software to receive BitCoins, and put up a wallet address (is that right?), and over the next year that was followed by a link to a Patreon page, and then a Liberapay page. These “micro-patronage” sites allow people to give small, regular amounts, and in theory, like newspaper subscriptions, many people’s small payments can add up. I’m embarrassed to admit that so far, these efforts have been a dismal failure.

For a start, the BitCoin address I published was: 19KER7hfqXhZnHnnJ3VcGRr2w3i1v6e44e

But I have no idea now where this directs BitCoins to, or if anyone actually donated any, how to retrieve them. I just haven’t had the time to do all the reading required to fully understand how to use BitCoin; how to back up my wallet, how to accept payments to the same wallet from multiple devices, whether I can do this using the same address, so many questions! The same is even more true for other crypto-tokens (FairCoin, FreiCoin, SolarCoin, NameCoin, FileCoin etc). If you can help me get to grips with any of this, especially if you are keen to donate to Disintermedia  please feel free to contact me.

I’m also considering figuring out how to use Brave, Minds, SteemIt, Earn.io, and a bunch of other new systems that claim to offer ways of paying creators who contribute to the weaving of the free web. But seriously, figuring out which of these are honest, and viable, is a high-stakes research project in and of itself. With real money involved, there’s no kind of software more attractive to bad actors, idealistic incompetents, and venture capitalists. They all take time to set up and learn to use well, and you can’t get any benefit out of them without giving them real personal details and banking information. On top of that, there’s a risk involved in implicitly endorsing them if they end up being dodgy.

I’ve thought about experimenting with the newly relaunched Flattr 2.0, since unlike most micro-patronage sites, it’s pretty set-and-forget. Creators can get paid through it without needing to constantly self-promote (”click here to subscribe!”). There have been some hard questions asked about the privacy implications of the Flattr browser extension, but the developers do sound like they take privacy seriously, and it’s encouraging that all their apps are free code (not sure about the javascript on the site itself though). Another critical question is about how much money creators can realistically get out in payments. Even if they took 50% of whatever Flattr payout I got, that’s still potentially more than I’d get by not using it at all, but the new fees scheme for Flattr does seem to take a lot of bites out of my sandwich before I get to eat it.

Really, if the developers of any of these community funding platforms really think they are viable, they should be eating their own dogfood, and funding themselves using their own platform. Gratipay did this (RIP), and Liberapay still do, which is why I tried them first. Any platform skimming their users’ donations with fees, or heaven forbid, sucking up to venture capitalists, isn’t showing much confidence in their own funding platform. After all, you don’t see GitHub developing the code for GitHub on another code forge (they might have a backup there but that’s different).

For example, Ko-fi fund themselves using their own platform, instead of taking fees. I can’t find any source code though, and their use of a proprietary mail missile called SendGrid to send out emails isn’t encouraging. Ko-fi is designed to give the original Flattr model another go; buttons creators can stick on their web page, that users can click to “buy me a coffee”.

A Flattr developer posting on HackerNews claimed that model failed, because:

  • a) people using the web don’t want to click buttons (?!?)
  • b) publishers didn’t want another private company’s branded buttons all over their site

None of this seems to affect PaylPal / Stripe or social media buttons. I suspect it was more like:

  • a) people are used to having to enter their credit card details (or deal with PayPal shudder) when they click a donate button, which is a painful and scary user experience
  • b) when Flattr launched you couldn’t get paid anything without first setting up a monthly contribution to Flattr so most people didn’t bother (that’s why I didn’t), and nobody wanted buttons all over their site promoting a thing that smelt like a pointless ponzi scheme
  • c) Flattr funded themselves by skimming off 10% every time credit moved across their platform, and as mentioned above, Flattr 2.0 has even more ways to charge everyone.

I’ve set up a Ko-Fi account, just to try it out. Is it really going to help to add yet another layer of management between me, PayPal, the bank, and the person trying to give me money? I’m sceptical about whether it was worth the time, or the indignity of having to deal with PayPal or some other toll collector on the information superhighway (again, shudder). Frankly, I’m not convinced that Ko-Fi is an improvement on just having a button for PayPal or Stripe, although it is nice to not have their garish corporate branding all over an activist website. But hey, prove me wrong, buy me a coffee!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

I suspect that for the contribute button thing to really take off, it needs to become a neutral web standard, so the buttons are all over the web, they always look the same, and its a standard icon on them, not one company’s logo. The person clicking them can set up a payment system that gets activated when they click the contribute button, and website creators can decide which payment gateway processes the money when they get clicked. I’m hoping GNU Taler takes off, and we can eventually use that. If anyone reading this is involved in a credit union, or cooperatively owned bank, who might be willing to get involved in a pilot scheme, I encourage you to contact the Taler team.

For now, if anyone can recommend any other sites for collecting one-off donations for struggling web writers, that would be much appreciated. If you want to donate, and you don’t mind the banking system knowing it, please contact me, and I can give you bank account details privately.

————————————

Update 2018-10-01: it just occurred to me that I could be missing out on potential donations by deleting emails from PayPal (which I presume to be spam), and emails offering me money (which I presume to be variants on 419 fraud). If you’ve ever tried to donate to Disintermedia, please reach out via the fediverse (where scam messages haven’t appeared yet), and let me know, so we can figure out if the money left your account, and where it went. 

Filed April 19th, 2018 under free culture, independent media, News, open source

Thanks to prolific NZ politics blogger Idiot/Savant of No Right Turn, I just discovered DocumentCloud, a platform for journalists who want to share and annotate the source documents on which they base their articles. From my brief tour, it looks like a fantastic tool, and I’m pleased to note that all of the software that powers it is available as free code, currently hosted on GitHub.

On a personal note, I’m currently in the process of moving cities, so expect very few new posts on this blog until that transition is complete. Also, Quitter.se has been offline for a number of days, so I’ve been unable to do any micro-blogging there. That site has been unreliable for some time, and I’ve been meaning to either move to a new host, or start experimenting with self-hosting. In the meantime, I don’t really have time to share links or shower thoughts anyway, I just want to reassure folks I haven’t left the planet ;)

Update 2018/01/29:  Quitter.se appears to be back up and running today.

Filed January 26th, 2018 under independent media, open source

In August 2010, a year before Occupy kicked off, I posted the following comments on an article posted to the open newsire of Aotearoa Indymedia. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

“Sometimes people seem to get confused about the difference between a website (or email list) and a group or organisation. It doesn’t help that the poorly defined word ‘network’ often gets used interchangably to refer to any and all of these things. A website is not the same thing as an organisation for the same reason a building is not the same thing as an organisation. It is a private space which can be used by a particular group or organisation, or like Indymedia (at least in theory), a neutral space that can be used by anyone who feels attracted to it.

Unlike a building though, which requires organising a large number of people to build in the first place, a website can be built by one person. So it’s becoming more and more common for people to see the need to build a broader campaign around something, and set up a networking website/ forum/ email list/ FaeceBook group, and see who they can attract. To me this is just the online equivalent of calling a public meeting or open conference, and seeing who comes, and what ongoing relationships and results come out of it. This is what Simon has done, at the request of his group in Tamaki Makaurau, in creating Solidarity.org.nz [sadly not archived anywhere that I know of - Stypey, 2017].

In theory such a website is a neutral space, and whoever participates determines it’s tone and character. But as we’ve seen with Indy, this is not actually true in practice. At the end of the day, someone has admin access to the guts of the thing, and there is an implicit heirarchy in any website that begins with those people (admins), is delegated to whoever does the day to day troubleshooting and editing at the CMS level (moderators), who effectively excercise censorship and banning powers over participants.

So what we have is a class heirarchy within the website:

admin = ruling class

moderator = middle class

participant = working class

This is why it matters who sets up and maintains websites, which website gets used for organising, whose computers are hosting them etc and why people raise the sorts of concerns being raised by Anonymous1. I wish I had a simple solution to this problem. I don’t. I am hoping that the new generation of peer-to-peer social networking clients like Diaspora (http://www.joindiaspora.com/) might offer us a truly decentralised way to network, where no one person or group has to hold power over the root of the system. In the meantime, I would recommend directing people to existing activist networking sites like CoActivate.org, and We.RiseUp.net, rather than any one person or group setting up a space and expecting everyone else to find it neutral.

I hope we can keep in mind that what matters most is not which websites we are posting campaign and action ideas on, but what groups we are working with face-to-face in our own regions, and what actions we are putting our own time into. If websites and emails lists like Indy, Solidarity.org.nz, or DiscussionBeyondResistence - or even Facebook and Twitter for that matter - are a useful extension to that, great! Otherwise, just don’t use them. If you don’t like the person running this or that website, just don’t go there.

“Get off the internet, I’ll see you in the streets” - Le Tigre”

Filed April 8th, 2017 under open social networks, independent media

I’ve been scouring the web for music under CreativeCommons recently for the Common Sounds project, and I can’t help but notice that a lot of the independent sites out there are looking like refugees from the early 2000s.I’ve suggested that some of these folks check out GNU FM (licensed under GNU AGPLv3 or later) the software that’s used under the hood of the Libre.FM site, which is not pretty (sorry guys, but it’s not), but does provide a web media player using entirely free code. But it occurred to me after thinking about it a bit, that a tarted up instance of GNU MediaGoblin (also licensed under GNU AGPLv3 or later) might be more appropriate to their needs than GNU FM. It’s not pretty either, but it handles uploads, gallery displays, and playing of media files of all types using only free code.

One of the problems for these folks is that these days …

One does not simply ... code up some html and css and ftp it onto a webserver 

The bleeding edge of web development has moved a lot in the last decade or so, with HTML5 rendering browser plug-ins like Adobe Flash and Microsoft Sliverlight pretty much obsolete, mobile-friendly design influencing the style of websites (eg the ‘three vertical lines’ menu button), and a browser security arms race driven by software attack tools like the Great Cannon of China (no kidding, this is a thing) which have overwritten the concept of cyberwarfare from science fiction into reality.

Hobby websites set up for music distribution in more innocent times - and even some professional ones - are struggling to keep up. There is a confusing plethora of free code CMS (Content Management Systems) and web frameworks, written in a dizzying variety of different kinds of languages, and a person wanting to modernize their website has to somehow figure out which set of tools is right for the type and scale of site they want to run, and learn how to use them on the fly. No pressure :)

But I guess most of them know they will need to do some upgrade work sooner or later, to prevent their sites becomes unusable by modern browsers. For example, Mozilla Firefox and most of the other browser makers are gradually phasing out support for Adobe Flash because of its fundamentally broken security, not the mention all the spyware Adobe intentionally built-in (see my post on Adobe building the EME module for Mozilla Firefox). They have also flagged that at some point HTTPS will become basically compulsory, and a lot of the browser functions that allow things like streaming media or file downloads will not be possible from sites that don’t have an up-to-date and properly configured HTTPS certificate. The good news there is you can now get gratis (at no charge) HTTPS certificates from Let’s Encrypt. My friends who admin webservers tell me there’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve grasped their automated certificate issuing system, it’s pretty much set and forget.

I don’t want to discourage anyone in any way from self-hosting, but musicians and DJs do have a few other options for uploading music and mixes under CreativeCommons licenses. For example, you could host the audio files on a site like Archive.org, and make a simple HTML/CSS homepage that links to the files on the remote host. This is the sort of thing a prettied up instance of GNU FM could be good for. You do have the option of uploading your music and mixes to a platform like SoundCloud or MixCloud, and linking to your account there from your homepage. There’s a good article on LiveSchool.net describing exactly how each of these platforms work, and laying out the pros and cons of hosting DJ mixes on each of them.

I’m still convinced though, despite the many open source corpses littering the road towards it (eg the various zombie products of the defunct Participatory Culture Foundation), that the best way to distribute CreativeCommons music (and other larger media files like films and games) is a P2P system like BitTorrent. I can imagine artists putting magnet links to their songs or albums on their homepages, webseeds on the webserver hosting that page (or some other server), and a Commons Tracker website that provides a search hub for music fans. I like this concept because it distributes the technical and financial cost of the storage and bandwidth that makes that media file distribution happen, so people sharing the media are giving something back in exchange for free non-commercial access to new cultural work. Figuring out how to strap this together is the goal of our proposed MediaFlood project.

I am writing this in solidarity with the crew of the TheDailyBlog*, a left-leaning blog site that publishes new writing about politics in Aotearoa (NZ). I’ve just discovered they have been subject to attempts at political censorship by the quazi-governmental speech police at the offices of NetSafe. I salute the firm stand taken by editor Bomber Bradbury, and NetSafe would get a similar reply if they contacted me about censoring Disintermedia:

“Netsafe demanded that I respond within 48 hours as to whether or not I would comply with their requests for censorship, so let me respond publicly to Netsafe.

You can censor The Daily Blog the day you take the keyboard from my cold dead hands. The content you have asked to be censored is not defamatory and allowing secret censorship of political blogs is the most dangerous and disturbing part of your powers.

This blog ain’t for turning”

NetSafe also sent an email about its desire to police TDB comments to The Standard, a centre-left NZ politics blog, broadly aligned with the NZ Labour Party. True, their editors have expressed open contempt for TDB and Bradbury in the past, and vice-versa, but they obviously can’t help NetSafe with their enquiries. Editor LPrent went to some trouble to explain, in detail, with references to the relevant piece of law, exactly how badly NetSafe failed to properly do the job the NZ state pays it millions of dollars a year to do. The incompetence of these digital keystone cops is truly breath-taking, and this high farce on the high seas of the internet would be hilarious, if their job wasn’t to undermine freedom of speech online.

The powers NetSafe is trying (and failing) to exercise are delegated to them under legislation passed by the NZ Parliament in 2015. As I said in a somewhat polemical blog piece at the time:

“Parliament called it the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, a valiant attempt at a euphemistic title which would not be out of place in novel by George Orwell, but which turns out to be accurate enough, as it is a Harmful Bill about Digital Communications. However, I prefer to use another title which more accurately describes it’s effects; the Harmful Digital Censorship Bill.”

In that piece, I used some pretty strong language to describe the MPs who voted for and against this underhanded, anti-democratic piece of legislation. I said I would republish them once the Act had come into effect, as an act of civil disobedience against it. Now that it has, clearly vindicating the criticisms made by myself and many other commentators across the political spectrum, I am furious about this staggeringly stupid piece of law-making all over again. So I say again…

The five Members of Parliament who took a principled stand and voted against this terrifyingly bad piece of legislation are heroes; Gareth Hughes of the Greens, Russel Norman of the Greens, Julie Anne Genter of the Greens, Steffan Browning of the Greens, and David Seymour of ACT

The MPs who voted for this bill, all MPs from National, Labour, and NZ First, the solo MPs from United Future, and the Māori Party, and the remaining Green MPs including its leaders Metiria Turei and James Shaw, are traitors to democracy, and mealy-mouthed apologists for fascism. I agree utterly with Idiot/Savant of NoRightTurn, fuck you all. You are sad sacks of shit, and I hope you all hang yourselves in your garden sheds if this new law is not repealed.

I apologise to the reader for my unusual gutter language, but *not* to those MPs, who thoroughly deserve it, and worse. Nobody has to read anything on my blog, any more than they have to read anything on theDailyBlog, the Standard, Indymedia, WhaleOil, or any other blog site. If they choose to do so, they can say anything they want to on their own blog in reply. That’s how freedom of speech works. You may not agree with this, but if you claim to believe in freedom or democracy, then you damn well better fight to the death for my right to say it.

Finally, for the sake of anyone who works for NetSafe who might find themselves unmoved by these statements of basic principle, be aware that I will republishing this piece on a range of different websites, none of them hosted in Aotearoa, nor subject to the whims of the NZ state and its censorship laws. I am the author and publisher of my blog pieces, and if you have a problem with their contents, you can talk to me.

* For the sake of full disclosure: I’ve had a few guest blogs published on TDB. But I believe I’d be saying the same thing if NetSafe went after any political blog, regardless of its ideological leanings, in fact I’ve made a number of comments on TDB defending the free speech of that rumour-mongering pit of McCarthyist foulness, Whale Oil.

Filed April 6th, 2017 under independent media

Traditional advertising is based on creating demand. Nobody wanted shrink-wrapped slices of cheese or plastic-lined paper coffee cups before some company realised they could make money by selling them. So to create a market for their products, these companies employed marketing companies, who are skilled at using psychological manipulation to convince people to want things, so they will buy those things. Worse, the companies that can afford to spend large chunks of their customers money on marketing are often the ones selling people landfill-to-be, future garbage that’s bad for them and the biosphere, sold by companies the size of small countries, who routinely strip-mine their workplaces and their communities.

Obviously, this marketing is an inherently unethical business. Comedian Bill Hicks is infamous for saying “if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself… there’s no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers… quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on everything on this planet.” As advertising has moved onto the internet - and it’s one of the few business models so far that’s survived the transition to digital - sadly it’s continued on its merry way, working on ever more insidious ways of making people want the things companies want to sell.

But what would advertising look like if it actually functioned according to the myth it likes to tell about itself? That its job is merely to inform the world about products and services that exist, and where they can be bought, so people can more easily find out about things they already want? What if a social enterprise’s marketing budget could still be channelled into supporting the development of online platforms for news, entertainment, seach, social networks etc, but instead of the mercenary approach where advertising agencies try to convince us to buy from the particular companies that give them money, the advertising algorithms were created to connect potential customers with the most ethical way of serving their real needs?

For example, if someone is reading a food blog, the advertising algorithm would still try to sell them food, but it might also try to help them reduce their food miles by directing them to nearest food shops to where they are, giving preference to those that sell more locally grown food. Depending on the keywords in the blog, the algorithm might also give preference to organic and wholefood stores, and so on. Shops that want to support social enterprises producing free code software, or decentralized social networks, could pay into this advertising network, instead of Google adSense, or FaceBook, and would have about as much chance of someone in their local area seeing their ads, and going to their shop as a result. Plus they would have the satisfaction of knowing that their advertising spending was supporting ethically-motivated technologists, who are also more likely to be their customers, instead of further enriching corporate investors, who most likely aren’t. A win-win game for social enterprises in both freedom technology and the traditional, main-street economy.

Filed March 11th, 2016 under independent media

A few postings ago I introduced webseeds, a method for distributing the pain of sharing large music or video files hosted online with the users receiving them, using an extension to the BitTorrent (BT) protocol. Around the same time I discovered VODO.net, an indie-film distributor who use webseeds as their primary distribution technology, and who distributed the excellent crowdsourcing documentary ‘Us Now‘. They also endorse the GPL-licensed SwarmPlayer project:

“With the SwarmPlayer you can view videos using Bittorrent swarming. Any Ogg video inside a Bittorrent swarm can directly be embedded on a webpage. Users visiting a page can view videos in mere seconds. Website visitors never need to be aware of any underlying technology, video simply works.

This week, I was excited to stumble across ClearBits (formerly LegalTorrents), who offer a range of hosting options - from free listing in their indexes to paid hosting of official copies of works - with unlimited distribution using webseeds. I was also excited to discover that BT founder Bram Cohen has announced the start of beta-testing for BitTorrent Live, a system for using BT swarms to share the load of streaming events like sports games, and concerts (and police brutality at protests and occupations?). The homepage for the original BT organisation now promotes legal distribution of new cultural works, featuring links to legal downloads of music, and documentaries. While looking for more info about BT Live, I also noticed a blog entry announcing BT distribution of the science fiction film L5, although on closer inspection in turns out L5 is also being hosted on Vodo. 

These, and others like them, are opportunities for emerging artistic creators to find and grow an audience. Especially those who use CreativeCommons licenses and crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo, KickStarter, and our own PledgeMe, hoping to cover their costs (and even make a living) through micropatronage rather than by enforcing an artificial scarcity of copies in order to individually monetize them.

Filed July 30th, 2012 under independent media
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