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EFF: Say No to Online Censorship (eff.org)
189 points by jdp23 on Dec 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

If we were to make decision as voters, don't you think we should have some reliable idea about what the government is doing?

What if the current administration is doing evil something behind the back of the electorate? How would we know about it?

You see, secrecy is a catch-22 proposition. If you're trying to do actual real work of tracking down terrorists, you don't want the whole world to know(at least until years later). But if you're doing something EVIL behind our back, the world have the right to know.

The cablegate? Hardly any reason to get angry over. It make the government looks good. But politicians are overreacting.

With the slight twist that if we didn't have all this secrecy going on we might not have engaged in the kind of behavior that made people decide it was worth forfeiting their very lives to strike at us.

With all due respect, the current problems with terrorism have roots that go much deeper than the recent activities of our government(s).

A lot of, if not most of, the current tension in the Middle East dates back to just after WWII, when someone decided it would be a good idea to stick all the people that no one wanted (but wouldn't come right out and say it) in the middle of a bunch of people who were ill-prepared to absorb them (and didn't particularly want them, either).

That pretty much paved the road to our current little slice of Middle Eastern hell.

The conflict with Israel is just a tiny fraction of the issues behind the Middle East problems.

Much more substantial were the efforts of the US government to overthrow moderate regimes for hardlines who would support them, as well the UK's efforts to deliberately screw up the decolonization efforts by drawing up national boundaries with no regards to the inhabitants' will.

It's complex, but it's ridiculously easy to see where things were wrong, and you don't need the hindsight either.

Thanks. Don't leave out France, either, inventors of the dumbest system of government possibly in world history in Lebanon, and the proximate cause of about 30 years of civil war.

France practically invented modern state-sponsored terrorism with what they did in Algeria.

We actually have an interesting topic, here - no particular need to start a long, all-consuming thread by throwing out a wildly-oversimplified bit of red meat.

I'd say it goes back to the Balfour declaration:


The tension in the middle east dates back to when ug the cavemen decided the sun was god and zog the caveman decided the moon was god.

Take any news report about the middle east and replace the names with cananites, babylonians, persions, egyptians, romans, etc - the story doesn't change.

In fact if you read any books by Josephus - it sounds just like CNN (except better written)

If you're trying to do actual real work of tracking down terrorists, you don't want the whole world to know(at least until years later). But if you're doing something EVIL behind our back, the world have the right to know.

The main safeguard is rule of law. There's a whitelist of information that is allowed to be classified -- spelled out in http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13526 .

    Information shall not be considered for classification 
    unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be 
    expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to 
    the national security in accordance with section 1.2 of 
    this order, and it pertains to one or more of the 

        (a) military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

        (b) foreign government information;

        (c) intelligence activities (including covert 
            action), intelligence sources or methods, or 

        (d) foreign relations or foreign activities of the 
            United States, including confidential sources;

        (e) scientific, technological, or economic matters 
            relating to the national security;

        (f) United States Government programs for 
            safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;

        (g) vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, 
            installations, infrastructures, projects, 
            plans, or protection services relating to the 
            national security; or

        (h) the development, production, or use of weapons 
            of mass destruction.
You can't simply mark your shady activities "TOP SECRET". Not even the president has the authority to do that. That's an improper classification, and is illegal -- anyone who works with classified information should know that, and could be expected to report it.

Between rule of law, a law that outlines which categories of things the government is allowed to keep secret, and the fact that even really secret programs of any significant size have to ultimately be staffed with lots of normal citizens, I think it's actually a pretty safe and sane system.

I could drive a truck through half of those clauses. Of course you can just mark your shady activities TOP SECRET. It's national security!

"If voting made any difference, it'd be illegal."

who is that quote from?

Chris Hedges said it near the end of his talk on The Death of the Liberal Class at the Sanctuary For Independent Media this Fall[1]. He attributed it to his brother-in-law, if I recall correctly. However, I am sure I've heard it before.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYCvSntOI5s

It's much older, as I've been hearing it for years.

> doing evil something behind the back of the electorate? How would we know about it?

I think the existence of an 'administration' and an 'electorate' pretty much guarantees that they are doing something evil behind your back.

I don't believe in the possibility of an educated electorate or an electorate that can resist the temptation to vote itself money.

Just donated yesterday. You should too

Thanks! I just did and got a cool t-shirt.

I got the hat. Don't know if its cool, but I like it.

The issue here is not about censorship on the web (ha!), it's about confidential relationships and whether, as a society and for the betterment of it, we feel some information should be confidential and protected.

Would the same arguments be made about censorship if WikiLeaks' instead posted health records, or confidential conversations between attorneys and their clients? (which are confidential and legally protected, similar to security clearances).

The debate should be whether we want to protect communications between our politicians and diplomats, not the inevitable publication of released confidential material and the vilification of the one who does it.

This release does show, however, that once this type of information is on the internet, whether it's medical records, nuclear secrets, or what the Secretary of State said to some diplomat, no one can stop its availability, as long as there are people who support its release.

I don't see how putting a button or a banner on your site is going to stop censorship, that seems to be pretty symbolic.

Saying 'no' to online censorship is not equivalent to some cosmetic changes, it's a fundamental thing to do and in the end of all we do is place some buttons then I doubt that would put a dent in to the plan of those that would have it differently.

Contributing directly to the EFF (I believe VISA and Mastercard are still processing donations to them, possibly even PayPal) would be one way, what other ways are there in which we could make more than just a symbolic stand here ?

Symbolic stands like this are often the first step to the more virtuous concrete actions you describe.

Indeed - it's starting a movement, and supporting the organization becomes part of your identity.

There's a great story in Cialdini's "Influence: Science & Practice" about window stickers and lawn signs that explains this common tactic. Website buttons are the thin end of the wedge.

wikileaks.eff.org is not resolving for me. It seems inconsistent for the EFF to talk about standing up to censorship without them hosting a mirror and encouraging others to do so.

That's the same void argument some people make when some non-artist is critising their art: "Well, you make it better then!"

Criticism does not need to be made by someone participating (I can't think of a better word, hm) to be valid.

I think it's an interesting point. If the EFF is claiming that the work of WikiLeaks is good and valid, then would they encourage someone else to mirror the leaked documents? Would they mirror they documents themselves? If not, then why not? I'd be curious to know the reasoning here.

Only because something is good and valid does not mean that you automatically need to directly support it.

I think that Wikileaks is a good thing, but I can't (won't) run a mirror because right now I'm not going to risk the legal consequences (and because I think that Freenet and Tor are better ways to host such data than HTTP).

In addition, running a mirror is not the only way how you can help Wikileaks: Donate money, run Tor nodes (even if they aren't outproxies), etc.

Sure. I wouldn't necessarily expect the EFF to take on the action of mirroring WikiLeaks, but would they view mirroring it as a good action to take, if one were so inclined to directly take action?

From http://wikileaks.ch/mirrors:

Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 1289 sites (updated 2010-12-08 19:07 GMT)

Does the world really need a 1290th mirror site?

It would be more of a political statement than an image of button.

That being said, the EFF already does enough and hosting wikileaks would likely cause more problems than it would solve.

No, the original one works fine.

Strange. The first time I tried I got a 404, and clicking the Mirrors link from the home page gave me mirrors.html. I wonder if a few of the servers behind wikileaks.ch don't have the /mirrors alias.

That's because the EFF exists to promote free speech, not WikiLeaks. Hosting WikiLeaks would do nothing to further their goals, and in fact would probably significantly undermine their cause.

If I have sensitive (and confidential) health records about my family members and someone steals them and posts them on the web, is that freedom of speech? Do I have the right to get them taken down, or in this case shut the website down?

If my company is working on a new product containing details we consider secret, is it OK to post those on the web?

If the gov't has secrets that could compromise our national security, is that Ok to post on the web?

How do we determine where to draw the line?

Don't use privacy as a strawman for censorship. Individuals and corporations have a right to privacy. That does not conflict with censorship.

Are the health records for your family members paid out of taxpayer's money? Do they have a negative impact on the lives of anyone outside your family?

Is your new product paid out of taxpayer's money? Will it do a lot of harm to people?

The line is quite clear to me.

Is the security of our citizen lives paid for by taxpayers money? Yes it is.

I'm not saying I am against the leaks of most of the cables/documents, but putting national security at risk is a different story

     putting national security at risk is a different story
"national security" is a vague concept; and either way security by obscurity doesn't work for terrorist groups with the right resources.

If "national security" is compromised from the leaks of a couple of documents to the public, than the nation wasn't so secure in the first place. After all, if Wikileaks got a hold of those documents, how hard do you think it is for somebody with a couple of millions in cash and the right connections to do it?

But yeah, we should think of the children.

Is there any good that comes out of putting sensitive and classified documents that are meant to protect our citizens (if kept confidential) on the web? Let's assume that the strategy or communication didn't mention any illegal activity or corruption from within our gov't within these documents?

A lame attempt by the EFF to get publicity and gain new members.

Instead of selling buttons or memberships, how about offering to host the documents on eff.org?

Action > words.

Thus requiring the EFF to spend all their resources defending themselves instead of needy others?

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