No Internet Lockdown in Canada
This is a slightly edited version of an e-mail that I sent to the Canadian Pirate Party. Their site does not list any contact e-mails, telephone numbers, or physical address. I therefore asked around and subsequently found a public relations contact address which is thought to be valid. I have not yet received a response.
Date: December 11, 2012
To whom it may concern,
I have tried to join the Canadian Pirate Party on several occasions now. Firstly, it seems that the web site form is defective and I get an error code. Perhaps other machines, operating systems, and browsers in my collection will be able to supply the wanted interface, but I am unwilling to accept that a web site hosted by a group that purports to be proponents of an open web, cannot be used with any and all software. There must therefore be a problem with the site, or your server.
Secondly, I am shocked that I cannot participate on your forum. Of course I am willing to join the party, and will gladly pay a membership fee, but since your forum is your only (presumably) functioning contact with the public, I find it distasteful that one needs a major credit card to do so. I wish to point out that in Canada people with disabilities typically do not have an income which allows them to qualify for one of those cards. Is this indicative of the Party’s concept of inclusiveness, or is it just an oversight because the Party’s operators themselves are living comfortable lives with no economic concerns? I certainly hope not. I think it behooves the Pirate Party to welcome all people, and not just those with plenty of disposable income and running fashionable software.
I honestly think that your party would do well to have a published e-mail address for contact purposes. I found this one by contacting another PP and this is the best they could offer. Does a potential member need to reference the internet domain name database, and do you expect people to know how to do that?
Your web site not only has a defective input form, but is wholly inaccessible with some browsers. It does not even come close to meeting national accessibility standards. I think that it would be appropriate for your web site to not only include important documents about what you stand for, but to be written in a free and accessible manner, and not relying on closed source proprietary software.
Perhaps more important, it would be enlightening if you were to describe the demographic that you wish to address and presumably welcome. Being a senior citizen, I find the latter point to be particularly important as I was hoping to be an “opinion setter” among my social mores regarding your party. Of course, people on low incomes, or the visually impaired, can tell right away that you don’t wish to hear from them. Your IT presentation makes it difficult for me to trust your political position.
I apologise for the tone of my letter, but your on-line welcoming has left much to be desired. If you wish to gain me as a member and have me continue to advocate for the Pirate Party of Canada, I would appreciate a response.
I’ve often wondered what has possessed the USA and their copyright trolls to work so hard to destroy free speech and the free flow of information. OK, free speech I can understand, it is dangerous to their kind of government, but why the malicious attempts to influence the flow of information in other countries as well?
We all seem to think that Big Media is behind this and, in addition to some bad actors in the software world, that is the source of the problem. I’ve always been suspicious of this view because the “war” seemed bigger than that. Finally someone has shown me a bigger picture that makes sense of it all.
With the decline of commercially viable industrial production in the United States in the mid-1970s, and specifically the successes of Toyota, a number of committees in the US set out to redefine global economy to keep the United States on top of the global economy, regardless of whether it produced anything. Through a series of events, this effort came to be spearheaded by Edmund Pratt, the then-CEO of Pfizer, leading the Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations.
The effort was to redefine trade through a series of trade agreements portrayed as “free trade”, but factually lopsided the terms to make sure that the United States stayed on top. The idea was that if the United States can’t produce anything of value, perhaps it can rent out drawings and get finished products in return, and portray it as “free trade” to get away with it. Thus, copyright and patent monopolies would be the key to maintaining United States global economic dominance, rather than actually producing anything.
That is from The Game of Acta: Mid-Battle Analysis, Next Actions by Rick Falkvinge. I strongly recommend that you read the rest of it.
Times are changing. They always are. What is not changing is the need for people to keep fighting for the ownership of their basic human rights which are constantly being subverted for the gain of a few. In the new pirates we see the ongoing trial of permissions that characterises disruptive technology. Who will own the future freedoms? Who are the pirates?
The modern pirate supports free culture, transparent and accountable government, and engaging democracy. The Pirate Party of Canada has the following points in their 2011 platform: Copyright Law, Patent Law, Privacy, Neutrality, Open Government & Open Access, Whistleblower & Journalist Protection, Protecting Canadians’ Charter Rights..
“Our platform is based around information policy. Because we aren’t running enough candidates to have a Pirate-led government, our focus is making specific, simple, and targeted change for the betterment of Canadian information standards.” ~ Shawn Vulliez, Director-at-Large, Pirate Party of Canada
The new pirate engages in a multi-layered debate, reflecting over questions regarding copying, information infrastructure, and digital culture. The current ideas about intellectual property do not translate into the digital domain so there has developed a divide between those who believe in the free sharing of information and culture, and those who don’t. The outcome of this debate will have serious ramifications for creativity in mathematics, science, humanities, and anything that utilizes numbers and letters. In simple terms, what is on the line is all people’s freedom of speech.
The matters of fundamental freedoms which arise are not of great concern to everybody since some stand to profit at the expense of others. In this regard file sharing, and with it the fundamental communications mechanisms that people use to share information with one another, has become a battle ground. It is interesting to hear some of the reasons that people give to justify why they think it is OK to share digital movie and music files. Here are some comments:
- one doesn’t like one’s money flowing to organizations trying to mess with internet freedom. Any money to RIAA or MPAA is money funding the assault on civil liberties and the expansion of the corporate police state.
- artificial restrictions like DRM make the ‘pirate’ service a better product.
- one may object on principle to copyright law or copyright law being applied to non-commercial copying.
Times change and communication between people all over the world is almost all moved over to the digital domain. The issue of digital freedom is now coming to a head, but it was a fight which started half a century ago. The Free Speech Movement of the 1960s was part of the culture that helped shape the free-software/open-source movement which has empowered the people to take up the world wide communication and information sharing that the internet provides. Although we are now well into an electronic frontier, this half century old speech still resonates.
“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” ~ Mario Savio on Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964.
Young people all over the world have been prodded into action by attempts to destroy their digital culture. World wide efforts to limit and control person-to-person communication along with disregard for human rights has firmly placed the protagonists thereof in the enemy camp. The pirate movement is therefore now being enriched by people newly awakening to political life and newly involving themselves in the struggle to protect civil rights and free speech.
We all have varying understandings and concerns about society. This often evolves around different ecologies. Economy, equality, privacy, discrimination, and freedom of speech, are just a few examples.
Along with these issues there is sometimes a concern for the direction things are going in and how far that will go over time. This is tied in with the quarter degree concept, where things happen slowly and no point is reached where there is sufficient concern to object to, or reject, the status quo. It is a difficult problem because as humans it is not easy to get an understanding of the history of all the things that we are involved with. Thus we sometimes cannot get a sense of whether something is getting better or worse, or if it is even changing at all. A particularly human aspect of this is that we often have a general optimistic feeling because we feel good now. However this can give a sense of things getting better, despite any actual data or real information being taken into account.
In such an environment it is difficult to explain why you shouldn’t use Facebook or similar services. These services are part of an ecology which few have much knowledge about, and therefore not everybody is able to grasp the relevance to their own fundamental social concerns.
It is common knowledge that I don’t use Facebook. Some people are with me on that, and others don’t understand. I’m not sure either group understands why one shouldn’t use Facebook.
There are two basic Facebook aspects to consider. One is the impact on the freedom of the internet, particularly long term, by being a user of the service. The other is the appropriateness of public organizations using Facebook as a way to reach the public. In either case, the choice to use Facebook carries a big responsibility toward other internet users and the future of everybody’s internet freedom.
It is difficult to explain in a simple and plain way how this all works. Even a basic rundown of the importance of open standards and tcp/ip to freedom of speech makes people’s eyes glaze over, regardless of how important it is. In this society we can sometimes discuss the implications of legal contracts and politics, but rarely when they pertain to internet technology because, well, one would need to understand the technology. So, how does one explain the responsibility that the user has towards preserving such freedoms?
A common solution would be to use sloganism and FUD, but since I don’t indorse those I have taken the approach of explaining the things which I think many people will understand without needing to get a grasp on internet protocols and licence agreements. Please take the time to read my article, “Why you shouldn’t use Facebook”. Despite only covering some of the social aspects, (but they are, after all, the most important) I feel that this will provide enough insight for internet users to understand their responsibilities and make up their own minds. I will have this article posted here in a couple of days. Stay tuned.
For the impatient, I have compiled a short list of Facebook facts. I sincerely hope you will not trivialize them, but rather take the time to think about the implications.
Ten Points About Facebook
- Facebook is not accessible to everyone on the internet.
- What is put on Facebook is not really public. Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo! do not index Facebook.
- Facebook is a walled garden available through the internet. It is a gatekeeper of your communication.
- To join Facebook you are required to sign a legal agreement with a foreign corporation. This is a serious contract which is legally binding.
- When you involve someone in Facebook, you are involving them to the same extent you are involved.
- Facebook is a multi-national corporation, but it is not possible to use it without personal danger in many countries. This is because of the design of the Facebook technology.
- Facebook tracks internet activity of both members and non-members. It takes special skills to avoid this.
- Facebook censors content and membership. It acts like a “man in the middle”. This is a discrepancy with a Canadian concept of public space.
- To join Facebook, you must agree to have your information transferred to, and processed in, the United States. You also agree to not provide any false personal information. Again, this is legally binding.
- In light of the previous points, we can see that asking someone to join Facebook in order to communicate with them can potentially be asking them to compromise their ethics and personal integrity.
I am a big believer in taking responsibility for the way civilization is evolving. What we have is the result of what we have done, and what we get will be the result of what we do.
Not everybody believes that they have any control over the future. I think that is because of lack of empowerment. There is a cure for that. Every time a new communications technology comes around, don’t let go of it. That means that we all need to take ownership, and responsibility. Don’t let the “we” turn into “them”. The analogue media is getting old and “the people” have lost control of much of that, but the brave new digital world isn’t lost yet. I urge all people to learn about it, and take ownership.