July 2012 Contents
How to Kill the Internet
Seeking Radical Techies!

How to Kill the Internet

Around the world, there is a magic formula for passing laws to severely limit
internet freedom: claim that you must block and monitor traffic in order to prevent
child pornography.

If you are like me, your impulse is to stop reading right now. There is nothing that
I would like to avoid more than a discussion of child pornography. This unease, of
course, is why evoking the specter of child pornography is so effective when
attempting to pass controversial legislation. As a new parent to a young hatchling,
my first impulse is to support any measure that might prevent even one child from
being abused.

However, once you scratch the surface of these attempts to regulate communication in
the name of saving children, it’s clear that these laws ignore children entirely and
work to catch all of society up in a giant web of surveillance and control.

The copyright lobby in Scandinavian countries was the first to figure out the magic
formula. Johan Schlüter, head of the Danish Anti-Piracy Group, complained that
“politicians don’t understand that file sharing is bad.” The solution, he said, was
to focus on child pornography, “because that’s something the politicians understand,
and something they want to filter off the Internet… Once we get them to filter
child pornography, we can get them to extend the block to file sharing” [1]. This
strategy was wildly successful, and has lead to a series of laws in Scandinavian
countries that allow the government to force ISPs to block certain sites, most of
which are sites accused of file sharing. The same story has been repeated in
Australia, the UK, South Korea, and others.

More recently, law enforcement agencies around the world are using this magical
formula. Police find it hard to convince people in a democracy to submit to
totalitarian levels of continuous surveillance — unless they drape these extensive
powers in the cloak of child protection (anti-terrorism used to work, but is less
effective these days).

In the US, the same lawmakers who introduced the infamous SOPA bill have another
gem: “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act.” This bill requires ISP’s
to retain the internet addresses and billing records of their customers for over a
year. Rather than limiting police access to cases involving suspected abuse of
children, customer information would be made available to government agencies for
any suspected crime [2].

In the UK, the current government is pushing a bill called the “Communications Data
Bill”, commonly referred to as the “Snoopers’ Charter”. This bill would automate the
process of allowing police easy access to all the “meta-data” of all online
communication (with whom, when, and how long) and require this data be captured and
stored by communication providers for over a year. The Home Secretary could order a
provider to give the government unrestricted access to datamine all the data that is
retained [3].

The audacity of the Snoopers’ Charter is impressive and if it sounds too far-fetched
to be real, the defense of this bill is equally surreal. In response to criticism,
the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, penned a dismissive editorial where she
wrote that “conspiracy theorists will come up with ridiculous claims about how these
measures infringe freedom.” She warns that “paedophiles are avoiding capture because
the police cannot get access to all the data they need”, and that “without changing
the law the only freedom we would protect is that of criminals, terrorists and
paedophiles”, [4].

In Canada, a similar bill is being advanced by the ruling Conservatives called the
“Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act.” If passed, it would grant the
Canadian police an automated backdoor into ISP’s to monitor the historical and
real-time digital communications of any Canadian–all without a warrant [5]. The
only mention of predators or children is in the title, which used to be called the
“Lawful Access Act” [6]. The new name appears to be nothing more than a “rhetorical
ploy of appealing to the sake of children to garner support”, as the opposition
Green Party has suggested [7].

In all these cases, lawmakers are attempting to use “child pornography” as a Trojan
horse to enact sweeping new surveillance powers once thought unimaginable in a free
society. None of these proposed bills do anything to increase funding for
investigation or prosecution of child abuse. Even worse, these measures create the
illusion of action while ignoring the evidence-based public health approaches that
have been shown to be effective at reducing child abuse [8]. In place of actually
protecting children, we get a greatly expanded police state.

Unless encryption is completely outlawed, expanded surveillance powers will do
little to catch child pornographers. Sadly, pedophiles are among the few people who
practice good communication security. These proposed bills will catch the general
population in a giant dragnet of surveillance but will let the child abusers slip

Social movements rely on more than the ability to speak, they also require the
ability to whisper. Around the world, there has been an all out assault on the right
to whisper in the form of attempts to “civilize” the internet. Now we see this
assault wrapping itself in the banner of child protection. It is a cynical approach
that should be called out for what it is: a distraction from real measures that can
help children, and a threat to the possibility of dissent.





[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protecting_Children_from_Internet_Predators_Act


[7] http://www.oakbaynews.com/news/139733713.html

[8] see http://www.springerlink.com/content/a737l8k76218j7k2/ and

Seeking Radical Techies!

We in Riseup like to practice solidarity, share skills, and share resources with
other groups and people doing radical tech work worldwide. We maintain a list of
groups similar to us at —


Are you someone that activists call for help fixing their computers? Do you stay up
all night fixing software to help people in the movement communicate and do their
work? Are you part of a group that works on these things? If so we want to hear from
you! If you are willing to share info, please mail allies@riseup.net with the
subject “radical tech” and let us know about you and if you want to be listed on the
above page. Any information you send will be kept private and only used to forward
you information about others seeking radical techs in your region.


Thanks, thanks, and more thanks to the huge number of you who’ve donated to
riseup.net lately. It is the only thing that keeps us going. You all are superstars
lighting up our night sky. Thanks! https://help.riseup.net/donate


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: