Tagfree speech

It’s Time To Take Back The Net Misogynist Trolls

Laurie Penny writes:

The attacks on Mary Beard, however, have focused public attention on just how viciously misogynist the internet is getting right now – particularly British-based sites, and particularly to women who are in any way active in public life. It doesn’t matter if we’re right-wing or left-wing, explicitly political or cheerily academic, like Beard. It doesn’t matter if we’re young or old, classically attractive or proudly ungroomed, writers or politicians or comedians or bloggers or simply women daring to voice our opinions on Twitter. Any woman active online runs the risk of attracting these kinds of frantic hate-jerkers, or worse. I’m not the only person who has had stalkers hunting for her address, and last week I needed a security detail after several anonymous trolls threatened to turn up to a public lecture I was giving. I could go on.

It’d be nice to think that the rot of rank misogyny was confined to fringe sites populated by lunatics. Unfortunately, not only are men like White clearly at least minimally sane enough to hold down desk-jobs, their school of misogyny has become an everyday feature of political conversation online, particularly in the UK.

Full Story: The New Statesmen: Take Back The Net: it’s time to end the culture of online misogyny

I think if anything Penny understates the issue — and certainly it’s not just the UK. Misogynist trolls are the reason I turned on comment moderation here at Technoccult. Every post that mentions women’s issues or focuses on a woman gets drive-by hate-spam. This thing sort of thing has been happening for a long time — remember what happened to Kathy Sierra — but it seems to have gotten much worse in the past year or so. There are apparently people out there who monitor the web for mentions of feminism so they can swoop in and post this sort of bile. I’m guessing the rise corresponds to the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian.

Another point from Penny:

These people talk unironically of their right to free expression whilst doing everything in their power to hurt, humiliate and silence any woman with a voice or a platform, screeching abuse at us until we back down or shut up. They speak of censorship but say nothing of the silencing in which they are engaged. I have even been told, with apparent sincerity, that using the ‘block’ button on Twitter to prevent anybody who has posted threats of violence against me is actually an attack on the troll’s freedom of speech – no apparent distinction being made between the right to express your views and the right to have your ugliest half-thoughts paid attention to.

That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms of about the nature of free speech that I won’t go into here, other than to say that in the U.S., and to a lesser extent the UK, state censorship of media isn’t much of a problem. Here what we see more of is marginalization of dissenting views, and increasingly harassment and shouting down of people.

See also: Being An Atheist Is A Hassle, But Being A Lady Atheist Can Be The Pits

Good Interview with The Net Delusion Author Evgeny Morozov

Good interview with The Net Delusion author Evgeny Morozov:

You once tweeted that ‘the term censorship has become meaningless’. Why? And what does it mean exactly?

I have? Half of my tweets are not meant to be serious. But, sure, I do find that a lot of debates about censorship – and especially Internet censorship – operate in very binary terms – i.e. people just look at whether a given site is blocked or not. This may have worked ten years ago but now we have much more sophisticated methods of control, ranging from cyber-attacks (which knock out a site for a short period – but the timing might be crucial) to self-policing by Internet companies to massive trolling. We need to find ways to conceptually allow for those new methods of control as well. [...]

Did the ‘Arab Spring’ and Occupy movements lower your skepticism about ‘hashtag activism’?

I’ve never used the term “hashtag activism” but the short answer is “no”. Furthermore, I’m not sure that my position here adds up to “skepticism”; as I state in the book and in the afterword, I have no problem acknowledging that Twitter and Facebook can be great for spreading information and mobilizing people. My concerns – and these are purely normative concerns – are that these tools may also be giving some budding social movements false hopes of being able to transcend the ugliness of political life and simply fight the man from within their Facebook profiles. The less it happens, the better – I’m not arguing that this is an inherent feature of all campaigns that take place online, only that this is one possible outcome and that participants (and especially policymakers who may be thinking of how to invest their money and attention) need to be aware of this possible outcome.

Journalism Festival: @evgenymorozov: openness always good, control always bad? crazy!

(via Justin)

See also:

Morozov’s TED talk How the Net aids dictatorships

Birthers and the democratization of media

Must read Glenn Greenwald on CIA propaganda efforts overseas and Wikileaks

Apathy Might Not Be Enough

The Report also cites the “fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan” and worries that — particularly if the “bloody summer in Afghanistan” that many predict takes place — what happened to the Dutch will spread as a result of the “fragility of European support” for the war. As the truly creepy Report title puts it, the CIA’s concern is: “Why Counting on Apathy May Not Be Enough” [...]

The Report seeks to provide a back-up plan for “counting on apathy,” and provides ways that the U.S. Government can manipulate public opinion in these foreign countries. It explains that French sympathy for Afghan refugees means that exploiting Afghan women as pro-war messengers would be effective, while Germans would be more vulnerable to a fear-mongering campaign (failure in Afghanistan means the Terrorists will get you). The Report highlights the unique ability of Barack Obama to sell war to European populations. [...]

It’s both interesting and revealing that the CIA sees Obama as a valuable asset in putting a pretty face on our wars in the eyes of foreign populations. It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars. [...]

All of this has made WikiLeaks an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites around the world, including the U.S. Government. As The New York Times put it last week: “To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.” In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report — obtained and posted by WikiLeaks — devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled “Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?”, ways it would seek to destroy the organization. It discusses the possibility that, for some governments, not merely contributing to WikiLeaks, but “even accessing the website itself is a crime,” and outlines its proposal for WikiLeaks’ destruction as follows:

Pentagon

Glenn Greenwald: The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters

One idea someone on Slashdot came up with is using Freenet to submit stories to Wikileaks, which could be then be mirrored on the regular web, helping insure the security and anonymity of contributors and assuring the availability of the information.

See also:

Freenet, darknets, and the “deep web”

Little Brother

White House Cyber Czar: ‘There Is No Cyberwar’

White House Cyber Czar Howard Schmidt

Howard Schmidt, the new cybersecurity czar for the Obama administration, has a short answer for the drumbeat of rhetoric claiming the United States is caught up in a cyberwar that it is losing.

“There is no cyberwar,” Schmidt told Wired.com in a sit-down interview Wednesday at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.

“I think that is a terrible metaphor and I think that is a terrible concept,” Schmidt said. “There are no winners in that environment.”

Instead, Schmidt said the government needs to focus its cybersecurity efforts to fight online crime and espionage.

His stance contradicts Michael McConnell, the former director of national intelligence who made headlines last week when he testified to Congress that the country was already in the midst of a cyberwar — and was losing it.

Threat Level: White House Cyber Czar: ‘There Is No Cyberwar’

See also:

Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet

Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative

The Heretical Two

If a website is hosted in the United States but authored in another country, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? If a web site in favor of independence for Tibet were hosted in the United States but authored in China, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? What about a website in favor of women’s rights were hosted in the United States but authored in Iran? Most people I know would say that the free speech laws of the United States should trump the non-free speech laws of other countries. Most people I know would say that these websites should be allowed to continue to exist and that their authors should not be subject to criminal charges, either in the United States or in any other country. But when the free speech in question is in error or insulting then there are differences of opinion among those I know. Some laugh, some scowl and move on, some call for the free speech to be censored, some call for those practicing free speech to be punished.

England has laws that make ‘race hate’ literature illegal. The United States does not have such laws. Simon Sheppard [Wikipedia] of England publishes the website heretical.com out of Torrance, California. On Friday July 14, 2008 Sheppard was found guilty of eleven counts of ‘race hate’ relating to heretical.com. According to heretical.com the website was subject to British and not USA law because it was ‘available in England and Wales.’ What other websites originating in the USA are subject to British law because they are available in England and Wales? Perhaps my own, ovo127.com? Am I endangering my chances of visiting England again with this post?

OVO: The Heretical Two

I do not think that people should be jailed for hate speech. However, I believe a correction or clarification may be in order: Trevor quotes the claim that heretical.com is “‘irony, satire and parody of political correctness, intended in good humour and for the stimulation of debate.” Perhaps this is the case – hence their reprinting of Crumb’s clearly ironic comics. However, based on the general contents of the site, and Simon Sheppard’s background, it’s difficult to reach that conclusion. Which raises another issue – how does one differentiate between legitimate and ironic racist literature?

Corporate Control of Public Opinion

An excellent snap-analysis of the corporate world’s stranglehold on public opinion (in response to a man being fired from the Houston Chronicle for running a pseudonymous blog):

It seems to me that although blogs and other means of publishing give people the opportunity, in theory, to express their views and concerns, especially ones of political value, very few people have that freedom in practice because of their employers.

Consider e.g. someone who works for a software company, is opposed to software patents and could speak from experience about their flaws…

Unions protect the interests of some workers as it relates to their terms of employment, but who protects the interests of employees as individuals entitled to engage in asserting their influence in a supposedly democratic environment?

Ok, some people would argue that you can always work elsewhere and even if not, you are still free to vote according to your own judgement, but considering that most people are not in a position in which they can choose where they work, this is yet another mechanism by which corporations and money have more influence than individuals. Effectively, lobbyists not only get to represent the interests of corporations, but speak on the behalf of all of their employees.

Plastic: Blogging Reporter Gets Fired For Practicing ‘Gonzo Journalism’

See also: Nick Denton: the First Blog Martyr

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