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The Wrong Way To Weaponize Social Media

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-like-this-and-so-does-everyone-else dept.

Censorship 90

BorgiaPope writes "NYU's Clay Shirky, in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, calls the US government's approach to social media 'dangerous' and 'almost certainly wrong,' as in its favoring Haystack over Freegate. The Political Power of Social Media claims that the freedom of online assembly — via texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Twitter, humble email — is more important even than access to information via an uncensored Internet. Countering Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, Shirky looks at recent uprisings in the Philippines, Moldova, and Spain to make his point that, instead of emphasizing anti-censorship tools, the US should be fighting Egypt's recent mandatory licensing of group-oriented text-messaging services." Only part of Shirky's piece is available for non-subscribers, but Gladwell's New Yorker piece is all online.

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Ok (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667432)

The Political Power of Social Media claims that the freedom of online assembly — via texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Twitter, humble email — is more important even than access to information via an uncensored Interne

I don't understand the distinction being made between these two.

Re:Ok (2, Interesting)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667492)

The internet can be anonymous. Anonymity is very hard to achieve in real life compared to the levels offered by the internet.

Only with true anonymity comes true freedom of speech.

That said, "texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Tiwtter, humble email" are not the most anonymous of the communication methods that the internet offers by far. IMHO If you replace that by "anonymous internet communication" then it is a solid point, otherwise not so much.

Re:Ok (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667562)

The internet can be anonymous. Anonymity is very hard to achieve in real life compared to the levels offered by the internet.

Only with true anonymity comes true freedom of speech.

That said, "texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Tiwtter, humble email" are not the most anonymous of the communication methods that the internet offers by far. IMHO If you replace that by "anonymous internet communication" then it is a solid point, otherwise not so much.

Really? If you have to hide covering in a corner while voicing your opinions in a way that make sure they can't be attributed to you, you don't really have true freedom of speech do you, if you assume you have to hide your opinions.

You have freedom for repercussions (and responsibility) for your words, but is that really true freedom of speech?

Re:Ok (2)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667588)

being able to speak while hidden is the only free speech that still holds true if the government goes totalitarian

Re:Ok (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668080)

In other words, in the light of recent events we should make sure that we retain that right.

Re:Ok (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674774)

must of came off a little media-fear-spreading-ly

better to be safe then sorry, and even if one drop of totalitarian gets written in some small law(it will) its worth the small problem of having freedom on the internet, parents rising their kids and people having to learn to not trust everything

but its still a bit extreme think the law will result in some unstoppable censorship (as extreme as thinking the law wont have flaws that outweigh the cost of freedom, of course its not their freedom the older generations are trading for 'safety', so they could just be shortsighted)

Re:Ok (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674836)

I come from a country where "it won't be so bad, they can't do THAT..." led to some really nasty atrocities. Maybe I'm just sensitive to statements like "it can't be that bad, they can't REALLY do that" for that reason.

Re:Ok (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669106)

Doesn't have to be the government, even. Social stigma or private organisations can be oppressive too. Would you like to openly advocate for a cause, if it meant the risk of protestors setting up outside your house or harassing you and your family? Or your employer deeming you an embarassment to the company and fireing you?

Re:Social Stigma (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669282)

Actually that's getting worse with the peaking of Facebook. "Oh my gawd you don't have cute cuddly pics of your baby daughter on there? What's WRONG with you?"

Re:Ok (4, Interesting)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667630)

If I have a guarantee that nobody knows who I am when I say something then it follows that I have a guarantee that nobody can do anything to me because of what I said.

Laws can always protect freedom of speech in real life, but they can't protect you against someone who disagrees with you enough to want to do some damage to you and does so before law enforcement can step in. They also can't stop people not wanting to be your friend or not wanting to do business with you because of your point of view.

Freedom of speech should grant me the right to say anything I like with no consequences to myself, not just from the government. There is nothing you can do to stop people from treating you different in subtle ways if they know what you said and they strongly disagree with you. Therefore, anonymity is the only way to achieve that. If anonymity is not "true" freedom of speech then "true" freedom of speech is impossible to gain. Life isn't perfect, anonymity is the closest thing to freedom that we have.

Re:Ok (5, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667726)

If I have a guarantee that nobody knows who I am when I say something then it follows that I have a guarantee that nobody can do anything to me because of what I said.

Not entirely. There are (statistical) ways of identifying people solely by *what* they say, and *how* they say it. For example, suppose you're completely anonymous and there's no way to trace where your speech comes from. Now let's say you visited Area 51 and saw the spaceships, and you like to talk about the particular details of what you saw online. Most anonymous commenters on the internet couldn't talk about those details and let alone get them right, but you can. So you're formally anonymous, but you still stick out and the exact contents of your speech can betray you.

To truly preserve your anonymity in plain sight, you cannot say too many useful things, at least nothing original that hasn't been already said by many other people before you, and will also be said by many people after you. And that of course means you have to be a nobody who doesn't say interesting things and doesn't influence people.

Re:Ok (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667774)

Sure.

But either doing that takes an enormous pile of accumulated data to mine (something like a database of all person's locations, occupations, typical spelling errors and modes of expression). Or even larger "after the fact" data gathering resources. It is also not impossible that someone monitors all internet connections routed to about everywhere.

But either of these is surely well out of reach of the average person or even (probably) most if not all governments. So that leaves only the possibility that you might get identified by pure, and -I surmise- very low chance.

Re:Ok (2)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668118)

But either doing that takes an enormous pile of accumulated data to mine (something like a database of all person's locations, occupations, typical spelling errors and modes of expression).

You mean like this [google.com] and this [facebook.com] ? GPs point is valid provided that the information is available. Sadly, at least to some extent, it is.

Re:Ok (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667998)

I wonder how many delusional ACs are furiously grinding their HDDs into dust as we speak. Well done martin-boundary. You have most likely just destroyed the /. conspiracy theory community.

Re:You fell for his beautiful trap! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669296)

What, shooting the messenger? Of course this was always the case. But the NSA wasn't saying.

+1 Julian Assange!

Re:Ok (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669466)

Learning how to deliberately write (and speak) in a different manner than you usually do is helpful to those who are aware of what you've said.

Re:Ok (1)

braeldiil (1349569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667820)

Laws can always protect freedom of speech in real life, but they can't protect you against someone who disagrees with you enough to want to do some damage to you and does so before law enforcement can step in.

That's a valid issue, but not one you can do much about.

They also can't stop people not wanting to be your friend or not wanting to do business with you because of your point of view.

This isn't a valid issue. You want to abbrogate their freedom of speech - by preventing them from disagreeing with you - to further yours. That's not how it works. Freedom of speech isn't a lone man shouting, it's a conversation. If I can't disagree with you - even shunning you, if I feel strongly enough, then I really don't have freedom of speech, do I? The whole point of speech is consequences - to change someone's mind, and therefore their actions. You can't demand that only the positive consequences be allowed - that's too tolitarian even for North Korea.

Re:Ok (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667984)

This isn't a valid issue. You want to abbrogate their freedom of speech - by preventing them from disagreeing with you - to further yours.

No, I couldn't care less if they disagreed with me and replied to my anonymous postings anonymously themselves. What I do not want is for them to know who I am in real life and then be able to cease to do business with me because of our disagreement.

Re:Ok (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668952)

If you have such disdain for the people with whom you work that you think they would abandon their business with you were they to hear what you have to say, then perhaps there is something else you should be more concerned about than your freedom of speech.

For example, I'm pro-choice. I'll take that stand in whatever appropriate forum there is. If a client of mine can't do business with me because they read this post and link it to me, then honestly, I don't need their business. If instead that client chooses to engage me in an argument I'd be happy to take it on, although I'll let them know that the clock doesn't stop just because they've changed the subject.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668998)

It sounds to me as if you are on the favorable side of what I call the one-to-many equation. You are the one central point of contact for many clients. They may or may not have the benefit of 'firing' you without substantial consequence but because there are many clients you do have that option.

But what if you are the employee who needs their job and the employer chooses not to do business with you because of what you said? Perhaps you spoke out about some truth of the industry in which you work and would be blacklisted not only by your specific employer but your profession?

You have a buffer in the form of many clients but what if what you said was more dangerous than being pro-choice? What if it was something that didn't get you blacklisted by one client but all of them or so many that it might as well be all?

Re:Ok (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669110)

"If you have such disdain for the people with whom you work that you think they would abandon their business with you were they to hear what you have to say,"

This is called 'reality.' People are not rational. If they really don't like your position on some issue, they'll try to punish you however they can, even in ways completly unrelated to the issue at hand.

Re:Ok (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669592)

And if you are in the south all it will take is ONE preacher in the right place to say "bennomatic is a baby killing bastard!" to not only completely destroy your business, by making sure not a single person in the community will do business with you, but if there are any fundies that are say...a few bubbles off of plumb? Well lets just say I hope you own a gun or are able to throw away everything you have worked for and start anew somewhere else.

It is NEVER the popular speech that we need freedom of speech for, it is the unpopular. By tying everyone's words that they say online to an individual you have just "Disneyfied" speech on the Internet, because to dare to speak out or advocate anything that is any any way unpopular would simply be too risky.

For a perfect and topical example, look at the "pro pedo" Amazon book. The man who wrote it is currently sitting in prison for writing a book. Sure it is a tasteless book, but it is still just a collection of thoughts on paper and as such no more offensive than Mein Kampf or Mao's little red book, which I would actually classify those two as more offensive seeing is how we can attribute 80 million plus dead to those. What amazed me was the discussions I saw were VERY heavily in favor of free speech, pointing out that it is ALWAYS the speech the public does not agree with that needs to be defended, less ALL speech be degraded into nothing but a chorus of the masses.

But how many of those would have actually came out for free speech if tomorrow there would be a sign at work that says "John is for protecting a kiddy fiddler!". You can be rest assured with the mob mentality going on now anyone who said anything but "string him up!" WILL lose their job, and could even be faced with violence. Or look at how the librarians had to fight to protect the right to check out books with anonymity, because some feds decided "Cather in the rye" equaled "terrorist that needs investigating"? Do you REALLY want a USA where you can not be an advocate for anything without wearing it on a T-shirt?

Re:Ok (1)

linuxrocks123 (905424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668038)

No, he doesn't want to abrogate their freedom of speech. They are free -- anonymously or not -- to speak arguments against the ones he makes. All he wants is the freedom to speak his mind without his words being traced to him. That way, people can't refuse to interact with him socially or economically based on the views he expresses only as his anonymized persona. As a country, we (the US) recognize that there is a right to such a form of speech.

Whether people should be able to refuse to interact with someone based on his views, if they discover them somehow, is a different question: certainly you should not have to be the friend of someone you don't like, and certainly the owner of a business shouldn't have to hire anyone he dislikes for any reason, but note that the "owners" of large businesses are typically hordes of plutomanic investors who would not be making hiring decisions directly. Whether a manager should be able to make a hiring decision based on political views is less clear-cut: in my opinion, such a manager would be abrogating his duty to serve the company's interests.

---linuxrocks123

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (1)

Rhodri Mawr (862554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668004)

Where do you draw the line?

Holocaust denial? Blasphemy? Race hatred? Incitement to murder? Incitement to commit sexual crimes? Incitement to commit sexual crimes against children? Speaking out against free speech?

We don't live in an existential world. There ARE universal moral laws which we have to abide by. Lack of anonymity actually protects us. The only real argument is over where we draw the line and at what point your "theoretical" anonymity is breached by the investigation of law enforcement officers.

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668344)

While debatable; I would personally draw the line at anything provably false or slander that makes provable yet unlikely claims without citation/proof. To censor such things is very much fair. Just because I think other things are morally wrong doesn't make me right about them being morally wrong, so it is not my right to demand them to be censored.

Of course with anonymity networks that are censor resistant, such as FreeNet, there is essentially nothing you can do to stop that anyway.

That is the price that has to be paid to grant anonymity. What does it matter anyway? You don't have to believe the lies and they can't hurt you.

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669118)

The only reason for even having slander/libel laws is that some people are so uneducated they'll believe anything they hear.

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668518)

Please enumerate these universal moral laws. Who or what codifies them? Also, using the qualifier "universal" gives a pretty vast scope so please be sure to take into account alien civilizations (that may or may not exist) in your answers.

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668582)

There ARE universal moral laws

If there are, one is an absolute right to express unpopular views anonymously. Without limitation.

Re:Ok, where do you draw the line (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668966)

There ARE universal moral laws

If there are, one is an absolute right to express unpopular views anonymously. Without limitation.

I guess the question is, then, what's the point? Information is only as good as its source (as Pierre Salinger), so if you feel strongly that, say, Bush II personally hired the 9/11 pilots to fly into the WTC towers, if you post that anonymously somewhere, it doesn't mean anything. There's nothing behind it.

I'm not against protecting the ability to speak anonymously; there will always be some way to do it and that's fine. However, if what you're saying is important enough to say, isn't it important enough to commit yourself to it?

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668010)

Wrong. You shouldn't be able to say "anything you want" You shouldn't be killed for speaking out, but if you, through your use of free speech, injure another individual then you should have consequences. Maybe not something like a punch in the nose, but risk of litigation is a likely possibility.

Get out of my country. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668086)

Freedom of speech should grant me the right to say anything I like with no consequences to myself

No.

Try again, soccer mom. Oh, and lern2responsibility.

Re:Ok (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668114)

Well, there are limits to this for good reason. Less because of reality, more because of how people work and think.

If I go ahead and spread, anonymously or pseudo-anonymously (by pretending to be someone or inventing a few people), lies about you, slander you and ruin your reputation, while at the same time cross-referencing it all to myself (my alter-egos) to make it appear credible, I can essentially and quite successfully ruin you. "igreaterthanu is a pedo". Let's repeat that a billion times for the next month or two, make sure your neighbors get copies of your face with that allegation, drop your name into the various hysteria spreading pages that don't even bother to check once whether any allegation is true and reference to that page... I bet your rep is down the loo quite fast.

I with the solution was just to educate people to not believe every bull and hype they run across, but I guess neither media nor government would have any interesting in that kind of education, so I'd guess it's a bit of a lost cause.

If you have any idea how to prevent this from happening, I am all for total anonymity. Also because I essentially agree with you, if it wasn't for the slander problem.

Re:Ok (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668606)

Generally when these kinds of personal accusations are made anonymously, they are not given any credibility. Even your scenario where a network of anonymous and semi-anonymous pseudo personalities are created to spread a lie, there are those that look for an original source to determine credibility. I've never heard of a case that has worked otherwise. Consider, for example, the widely-spread rumor that "Glenn Beck raped and killed a girl in the 1990's". I've heard it repeated quite frequently, but I've never heard anyone seriously consider it credible.

So, yea, even your scenario means that there needs to be no "limits for good reason." There are far more, historically demonstrated reasons for protecting anonymous free speech (consider the pamphlets spread anonymously during the British government's tyrannical crack-down on the American colonists in the 18th century).

Re:Ok (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668972)

Nobody ever accused Glenn Beck of raping and killing a girl in the 90's. They're just asking the question, and Glenn Beck refuses to answer. Why is that? If he's innocent, why can't he provide a simple alibi?

The point, of course is to lampoon the whole "birther" movement, which GB happily pushed along with similarly insipid rhetoric.

Re:Ok (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668976)

And I forgot to tie it all up. Nobody actually did spread the rumor you referenced. And the people who were "asking the question" were not doing it anonymously. So it was a very bad example to use to make the point I think you were trying to make.

Re:Ok (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668780)

...so I'd guess it's a bit of a lost cause.

Not if you actually sanction people for acting on hearsay. Then they'll think twice. It's just much more convenient to kill the messenger.

Re:Ok (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668320)

Freedom of Speach does not mean freedom to be a giant ass.

P> There are always consequences for exercising your freedoms. If there weren't then people would be running around causing mahem and destruction 24/7.

There always needs to be a ballance, but that balance needs to tipped somewhat in favor towards the people else the government will run right over the little guy.

Re:Ok (1)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669090)

If I have a guarantee that nobody knows who I am when I say something then it follows that I have a guarantee that nobody can do anything to me because of what I said.

Laws can always protect freedom of speech in real life, but they can't protect you against someone who disagrees with you enough to want to do some damage to you and does so before law enforcement can step in. They also can't stop people not wanting to be your friend or not wanting to do business with you because of your point of view.

I started using a fake name on the internet mainly to avoid spam. Heavens, if I had something very important to say, I'd sign it with my real name, and I wouldn't do it here. Yes, there are electronic fora in which I do use my true name. Slashdot is a geek kaffeeklatsch. It's fun, but not deep. If you do have something very important to say, then I think you should do it with your real name—I doubt someone is going to pay any attention to you if you fear to stand behind your words. Besides, the degree of anonymity afforded by using a fake name on Slashdot is minimal; I'm quite sure that any government or sufficiently motivated individual can find out who I am.

Freedom of speech should grant me the right to say anything I like with no consequences to myself, not just from the government. There is nothing you can do to stop people from treating you different in subtle ways if they know what you said and they strongly disagree with you. Therefore, anonymity is the only way to achieve that. If anonymity is not "true" freedom of speech then "true" freedom of speech is impossible to gain. Life isn't perfect, anonymity is the closest thing to freedom that we have.

This sounds like a fearful, tremulous sort of freedom to me. You want to be insulated against all consequences of speaking out. Do you also want to be respected? Do you expect people to listen to you? If yes, then I think you're going to have to be a bit braver, and stand openly behind your words. You will have to talk to people, even argue with them. There's a trade-off here, I think: greater anonymity brings with it greater obscurity. The most perfectly anonymous voice is one that is never even heard.

Re:Ok (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669132)

I work in a school. Chances are I'll work in another school. I even used to work in a catholic school, and may do so again - finding work is hard, I won't turn down a position just because I don't agree with the school's religion.

I hate the catholic church, believe all religion is just a mixture of superstition and obsolete social codes, enjoy pornography and advocate for abortion rights and the use of contraception online.

I value my future employment, and know that employers like to google on candidates. I'll use my real name when that church's hell freezes over.

Re:Ok (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34670652)

There is more than one freedom bouncing around in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of association is exactly the same idea as freedom not to associate. Think about it. Were the founders so stark raving insane as to compel all people to associate all of the time? In other words freedom not to associate is part of your freedom and mine as well. Then it follows that some will say that we must associate unless certain exceptions are in play such as hiring people or choice of who we marry. That also will trash freedom as it opens you to examination of motives and inquiry by law enforcement and civil courts. For example a black woman with bleached blond hair fails to get a job and files a complaint. Was it her age, her skin color or bleached hair that caused her to be rejected? Maybe it was due to her blue eyes as refusing to hire people because of eye color is legal. Maybe you wanted to hire a man or a transvestite. Should law enforcement or any court have the right to interrogate you and pass judgement upon your motives? I think not.
            I had a wretched mother in law who was an alcoholic, a red head, Jewish and the most rude woman I have ever known. I hated everything about her. If a person reminds me of her for any reason I wouldn't hire them as it just creeps me out to be around them. How could I ever offer proof that it is not religion, age, sex or whatever but her rude attitude that causes me to reject anyone that reminds me of her?

Re:Ok (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671530)

If I have a guarantee that nobody knows who I am when I say something then it follows that I have a guarantee that nobody can do anything to me because of what I said.

You also have a guarantee that if nobody knows who you are, then nobody will want to listen to you or provide you any support. And in a complex technological society, it's difficult to live entirely alone. Heck, if you completely socially isolate yourself, you go mad - that's why solitary confinement is considered torture.

The only reason we trust people is because they build up a reputation over time. Unfortunately, reputation is a double-edged sword: it means that what you do and say has consequences. That's kind of the point, though - people generally don't like hanging out with people who aren't willing to stand behind their words and actions, because perfect consequence-freedom tends to breed irresponsibility.

tldr: perfect anonymity is what a lot of people think they want, but isn't.

Re:Ok (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671936)

You also have a guarantee that if nobody knows who you are, then nobody will want to listen to you or provide you any support.

That depends though, for example on /. I have psuedo-anonymity. Nobody knows who I am, but people can track my posts by my account.

Just because I have the option of posting as AC doesn't mean I should use it all the time, but I still want the right to use it. In the same way that I use electronic money (CCs and internet banking, etc.) for almost all of my transactions, I still want the ability to use cash which is anonymous. Anonymity doesn't solve everything but there are some situations where it is very important.

Anonymity is part of my freedom. I have the right to use it and the right to not.

Re:Ok (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34673462)

The only reason we trust people is because they build up a reputation over time. Unfortunately, reputation is a double-edged sword: it means that what you do and say has consequences. That's kind of the point, though - people generally don't like hanging out with people who aren't willing to stand behind their words and actions, because perfect consequence-freedom tends to breed irresponsibility.

This is only true if the majority of practitioners in your field of speech are also known. Any field where the total publicly known practitioners are fewer than constitutes a majority of all practitioners requires more complex analysis.

I wonder, though, how you feel about total delegation positions? There are difficulties in accountability when the speaker and the doer are always two different parties, even when both parties are known. Isn't this institutionalized freedom from consequence provided the speaking party makes every appearance of legality, thought the acting party will commit a crime? The speaking party is protected so long as the acting party can be safely sacrificed, right?

Wouldn't perfect anonymity provide a similar mechanism for the individual? The speech won't burn you, but any actions may result in penalty.

Anyhow, I like being able to talk with the assumption that only site administration and people guilty of what I consider to be a crime have access to my specifics. It's even better when someone you have conversed with over time brings up something you posted AC while replying to your non-ac post elsewhere.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668084)

did your mother name you Anonymous Coward?

you are NOTHING!

-sincerely, Michael David Kristopiet.

Re:Ok (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668192)

"Really?"

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
        Oscar Wilde

Actually it's easier to be anonymous IRL. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668346)

You send a letter without a return address and it's almost impossible to trace back. Just ask the UNABOMBER, or those retards mailing white powder around.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34669208)

Unfortunately being anonymous is not being courageous. Your neighborhood is never going to down tools and rise up in revolt based on what anonymous people say online. For all they know, those thousands of online activists could be one guy at the CIA running a botnet.

what a joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667474)

the US should be fighting Egypt's recent mandatory licensing of group-oriented text-messaging services."

Egypt is under "state of emergency" laws and has been for most of the last 30 years.
Mandatory licensing of group-oriented text-messaging services is one of the smallest problems Egypt has with censorship and its token efforts at democracy.

Re:what a joke (1)

nickn (80268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667570)

Note: Shirky's Philippine example re EDSA 2001 was not facilitated by "group oriented text message services." The 2001 EDSA phenomenon was totally P2P relays of text messages.

Re:what a joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667604)

If we want to play games I would suggest that a declared State of Emergency that alters the domestic observance of rights is better than an unmentioned Constitutional Crisis that alters domestic observance of rights. Can you imagine how much easier it would be for representatives to debate the War on Terror if it had been defined as a State of Emergency. Maybe that isn't helping the Egyptian citizens right now, but it seems a more assailable position.

The observation that Egypt has many issues when compared with other democracies may be accurate, but does nothing to touch the idea of whether the current manifestations of those issues may be assailable, no matter how small.

Weaponizing social media? (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667578)

What are we going to do, make fun of the Taliban until they all go emo and commit suicide?

Re:Weaponizing social media? (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667916)

What are we going to do, make fun of the Taliban until they all go emo and commit suicide?

Making them look like fools is a good start. Communism didn't survive once people stopped believing, although it took a decade for the USSR to run down after that. We need to make Islam look ridiculous. An online sitcom about Mohammed's early life as a used camel dealer would be a good start. Something like Monty Python's "Life of Brian".

Re:Weaponizing social media? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669134)

One problem with this, though: The actors and entire production team would have to face death threats, and with something like two billion muslims in the world there is a significent chance at least one of them is going to be so outraged as to go violent. Remember the Cartoon Riots? Quite a number of people were killed then.

Re:Weaponizing social media? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669138)

Which means that something like this could be done only when anonymous speech is available. And it has to be widely publicised. Internet cartoons of Mohammed were common before the Cartoon Riots, it was only when a real newspaper printed them that the fun started.

Re:Weaponizing social media? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668224)

What are we going to do, make fun of the Taliban until they all go emo and commit suicide?

It took about 15 years, but it worked against the Cult of $cientology.

PROTIP: The Internet's war on the Co$ predates Anonymous's hijinks by about 15 years. The USEN*T group alt.religion.scientology was arguably the first large-scale infowar. Yes, we lost anon.penet.fi, but in the end, we won the war. The cult is a shadow of its former self.

Re:Weaponizing social media? (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34685792)

The cult is a shadow of its former self.

Something i'd like to believe. By what metric? Number of members? Income? Is there a way to view hard figures on this?

Re:Weaponizing social media? (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668298)

Nah, we're going to do this the right way. We're going to slashdot them.

'Weaponize' ??? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667580)

I read the summary and I'm still nonplussed.

Is Slashdot using joke words for the holidays?

Re:'Weaponize' ??? (2)

BorgiaPope (52279) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667676)

The term "weaponize" is Shirky's own. Here's the full context from his essay:

"In contrast, one of the most successful anti-censorship software programs, Freegate, has received little support from the United States, partly because of ordinary bureaucratic delays and partly because the U.S. government is wary of damaging U.S.-Chinese relations: the tool was originally created by Falun Gong, the spiritual movement that the Chinese government has called 'an evil cult.' The challenges of Freegate and Haystack demonstrate how difficult it is to weaponize social media to pursue country-specific and near-term policy goals."

Re:'Weaponize' ??? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667720)

Cool, thanks.

(Even in context it still seems clumsy but in the context of a propaganda war perhaps militaristic language *is* apt.)

BHAHAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667592)

Clay Shirky's arguing about censorship from behind a paywall? That's idiotic.

Re:BHAHAHA (2)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667762)

A paywall isn't censorship. It is a rip-off, it does widen the knowledge gap between the rich and the poor, it is "shady", but it is not censorship.

Actually, only free registration required (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667612)

Timothy writes:

> Only part of Shirky's piece is available for non-subscribers

It's true that Foreign Affairs magazine has a paywall, but in this case all that's required to read Shirky's full essay is a free registration.

Mostly US backed (4, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667648)

In the good old days of the cold war, the US would just offer a military clique cash and recognition. After a well backed coup anyone who was an issue was killed by death squads.
The problem with that was it got very messy and the press seemed to link the CIA, US embassies back to the new juntas.
With todays 'internet' US gov backed NGO's can fund opposition groups that will rise up and sell out under the banner of 'freedom"
“Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.” should be a hint.
If you can follow pipelines, China, oil and the CIA front The National Endowment for democracy it all starts to look the same.
From Tibet (vast mineral wealth), Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Myanmar, Uygar ect, the soft destabilizations are just a new idea for the great game.

Re:Mostly US backed (2)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667766)

You make some good points. I think the main problem that the great powers are dealing with, the United States and China, is that for there to be an information based society, based on high technology and commerce... well it becomes very difficult to censor all dissent when the global economy is becoming increasingly unbalanced. Traditionally democratic countries are suffering economically, while those with few democratic ideals find their economies booming. This is a recipe for further crackdowns and more FUD from all sides.

Also, I don't quite understand how COMMERCIAL services such as Twitter and Facebook are the new bookends for protecting freedom.... they are just companies providing a ruse to gullible users while they pilfer their most personal details for financial gain.

Re:Mostly US backed (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667856)

"Also, I don't quite understand how COMMERCIAL services such as Twitter and Facebook are the new bookends for protecting freedom"
From NGO ads washing US gov funding, near endless hidden start up funding comes with some strings.
As the NSA is physically part of your 'private' telco, other areas of the US gov are deep in your 'new' social networks and celebrity backed causes.

Re:Mostly US backed (2)

mrogers (85392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667904)

No doubt you're right - but the difficult question is not whether the US and other countries support opposition movements for cynical reasons. Of course they do. The difficult question is whether those movements can still be legitimate. Was everyone who protested after the Iranian elections paid by the CIA? If not, do they still have a legitimate right to demand change, or does US involvement taint every opponent of the regime by association?

Re:Mostly US backed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34668066)

"Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi." should be a hint.

Oh, I don't know, maybe it's that a lot of internet technology assumes that users are using the A-Z alphabet and their language goes from left to right?

Or that the Iranian gov't was blocking all sorts of internet & cellular communications in Iran?

Not everything is a US/CIA/NSA/Haliburton/Bush conspiracy.

The Iranian regime is evil. Despite that, all sorts of "activists" are willing to overlook human rights abuses in Iran because the Iranian regime is anti-American.

Dangerous Social Media (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667656)

Extremist much?

Unless you're talking about a WMD you left in the toilet, twitter has no legit use at all.

what a bunch of trash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667684)

I love these "academics", well I mean I *hate* them.

fuck you all!

Hedges - The Next Step (3, Interesting)

Roxton (73137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667780)

The ability to commit suicide is a hedge against slavery. The ability to say "no" (a relatively recent innovation in history) is a hedge against shitty "contracts."

The ability to coordinate with like-minded people on a large scale in economic, social, and political dimensions is a hedge against the limited set of opportunities afforded to us by traditional capital, consolidated media, and mere voting.

Shirky's right. Improved, sophisticated, unstifled collaboration that allows people to raise their heads out of the prepackaged trough of opportunity is of primary importance today, to be prioritized even above addressing problems of government control over media talking points.

We need new tools (2)

mrogers (85392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667782)

While I broadly agree with Shirky that free communication between people in authoritarian societies is a more important driver of social change than communication with the outside world, we have to recognise that the two can't be neatly separated. One of the reasons people currently use circumvention tools is to reach social media sites where they can communicate with other people who are behind the same firewall. That's a crazy situation for two reasons.

First, it turns commercial entities like Facebook, which couldn't give a fuck about fighting censorship, into vital tools for opposition movements. If there's one thing the WikiLeaks/Anonymous bunfight has shown, it's that internet companies aren't mature enough as institutions to balance their short term political and financial interests against their long term responsibility to protect free speech. We can't rely on them.

Second, it means that all communication between people in authoritarian societies has to cross the border twice, even though borders are among the easiest places to monitor and control. If you wanted to design a communication system for prisoners in neighbouring cells, I doubt your design sketch would begin, "First get the message to a trusted third party outside the prison."

Unfortunately, moving the social media sites inside the firewall doesn't solve the problem. Take China for example. There are already Chinese equivalents of Facebook, Twitter, and other firewalled sites, but they're subject to a variety of pressures to police their users, especially those that start to form political groups. If Facebook isn't going to stand up for Chinese dissidents then Baidu certainly won't.

It's also pretty tough to maintain social media sites outside the firewall that are dedicated to supporting opposition movements - such sites are susceptible to DDoS attacks and subtler forms of infiltration and monitoring, as in the Ghostnet case. The basic problem is that the web wasn't designed or implemented with censorship-resistance in mind. Let's not ask anyone to bet their life on the security of Wordpress.

So what do we do? In my opinion we need new tools. Tools that are designed with security in mind, that don't rely on servers inside or outside the firewall, that can be used from an internet cafe or a mobile phone, that don't produce easily recognised traffic patterns, that can be used to hold meetings, plan rallies, or just tell jokes - in short, to talk to people you trust without revealing anything to people you don't. We already have some partial solutions we can learn from - Freenet, WASTE, txtmob, CryptoSMS, Gazzera, Retroshare, SocialVPN - and a million research papers that never made it as far as implementation. Now we need some specs, some code, many eyes and regular backups. :-)

Re:We need new tools (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668160)

In my opinion we need new tools

We already have the tools to do everything you described. The real problems are:

  1. Educating users -- a lot of people are not aware of anything other than the web
  2. Getting the tools into the countries like China

Re:We need new tools (1)

Roxton (73137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668748)

We already have the tools to do everything you described. The real problems are:

Educating users -- a lot of people are not aware of anything other than the web
Getting the tools into the countries like China

No, mrogers [slashdot.org] is right.

People who think we already have the tools don't understand the problem well enough. Broad-based education is an end, not a means. If it is a mandatory means (God help us), then we need tools to get us there.

As an important semantic point, if the scheme that gets us to our goals isn't already in motion, then we don't have the tools yet. To think otherwise is to confuse collective behavior with volition.

Is there really a good way to verbize your nouns?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34667852)

Or is this just some Americanism which has been allowed to go too far??

Re:Is there really a good way to verbize your noun (2)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668242)

Or is this just some Americanism which has been allowed to go too far??

Gerunds? [wikipedia.org] Sorry to be a Grammar Nazi, but they exist in other languages as well.

Shirky and Gladwell are more or less in agreement (3, Insightful)

justanothermathnerd (902876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34667868)

Borgiapope's summary misses the point of both articles. In fact, the two authors are largely in agreement- it takes a well organized and disciplined group to organize change. Social media isn't enough by itself, although it might be useful as one tool among many in such an organization and it might be able to create an environment in which such an organization can flourish. If you accept these conclusions then you pretty much have to agree with Shirky that a policy focused on the short term exploitation of social media to effect quick change isn't the smartest strategy for US foreign policy. I don't think that Gladwell would disagree with that at all.

Social media: overrated (3, Informative)

dominique_cimafranca (978645) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668726)

As far as the Philippines goes, Shirky has got it wrong. Shirky claims that text-messaging mobilization brought Joseph Estrada down. Not true. Estrada's political capital was on a steady decline owing to accusations of corruption and shady deals. Then he had a falling out with his ally, a prominent politician and gambling lord, who tattled on their agreements. Estrada was impeached for, among many other reasons, forging a signature. From there, it was downhill all the way to the precipice: opportunistic politicians made backroom deals, army and police generals withdrew their support, the judiciary colluded, and Estrada's then-vice president Gloria Arroyo took over.

Text messaging? All it did was whip up the mob which provided cover for what can be called, for all intents and purposes, a coup d'etat.

In the latter years of Gloria Arroyo, herself rocked by corruption scandals, all sorts of people tried to use social media to mobilize the crowds: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, what have you. Apart from the noise and the wasted electrons, did it result in her fall from power? No. Because business, congress, judiciary, and the military did not want any turbulent transition.

Social media did play a small role in bearing enough public pressure on Arroyo whenever she and her cronies tried constitutional change and term extension, but only as far as drawing attention of the international media (and the US and Chinese governments) to possible unrest and instability.

As to the actual transition, we did it the old-fashioned way: elections.

Re:Social media: overrated (2)

nicodoggie (1228876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669908)

Shirky would get confused I guess, since Philippine media at that time, kept reporting that the Philippines was the "text capital of the world" during those years and kept attributing Estrada's downfall to our text-happy countrymen.

Apart from the noise and the wasted electrons, did it result in her fall from power?

Fall from power isn't the only goal. People benefit from the transparency of government brought by additional info. Election is influenced by the amount of data the people get. What uncensored Internet brought the Philippines is that additional information—the things often omitted by news reports once Malacañang gets wind of it.

All that noise and attention brought by Social Media pushed favor away from people even slightly related to Gloria Arroyo. From the onset, her party's candidate Gibo Teodoro was really low in the ranks until he slowly distanced himself from her. Manny Villar's multi-million Peso campaign was derailed after Twitter reports came in that he received money from Gloria's side.

Aquino won this previous election more or less because of the noisy Filipinos on social networks. Well, I mean other than the death of his mother.

This is a joke, right ? (3, Informative)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34668942)

instead of emphasizing anti-censorship tools, the US should be fighting Egypt's recent mandatory licensing of

u.s. is emphasizing anti-censorship tools ? like how they pressured spain government to put out a censorship law, and failed ? like how they pressured heaven knows how many other governments to put out censorship laws ? like wikileaks ? like coica ?

this has to be a joke ...

Re:This is a joke, right ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34669876)

What freedom of speech in the US? There is no such thing as the media control is tightest in the world! Not even China has so tight media control as what US has.
And not even China is using such media control as a tool against other countries like US.

Re:This is a joke, right ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34670106)

For our enemies' peoples, we support anti-censorship.

For our allies' governments, we ask them to embrace censorship.

The revolution will not be paywalled. (0)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669482)

Only part of Shirky's piece is available for non-subscribers, but Gladwell's New Yorker piece is all online.

And isn't that just a bit ironic.

Re:The revolution will not be paywalled. (0)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34669530)

Yea! Damn those capitalist pigs! The information wants to be free! Now, does anyone have the torrent? ;)

False Dichotomy (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34670052)

the freedom of online assembly -- via texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Twitter, humble email -- is more important even than access to information via an uncensored Internet

Which is more important to sustain human life; oxygen, food, or water?

One cannot have democracy without free expression. That implicitly requires the pragmatic ability to think freely, to speak freely, to read freely, and to challenge or amplify existing expressions. Challenge and amplification, in turn, implicitly require free association. Claiming that any one of these things is more important than the others is to imply that the others are less important. They are all required. To posit that any component can be lost without losing the whole is -- at best -- the beginning of a philosophical exploration.

Supposing that any one is more or less important is perhaps a fine beginning to a thesis which uses modus tollens (denying the consequent) to show that all components are required, but surely it is no rational conclusion in itself.

re: haystack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34672720)

http://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2009/06/19/what-tipped-you-off/

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