I was thinking today how it was interesting that both Aaron Swartz -- the one-year anniversary of his suicide is coming up soon -- and Edward Snowden had something in common: both stole 1.7 million items. Swartz stole 1.7 million JSTOR articles, and Snowden stole 1.7 million documents. Obviously articles and documents can be different sizes, but that doesn't matter -- when you are copying and torrenting masses of documents, you go down directories of files and copy items -- and it doesn't matter whether the file is big or small, an article or a document -- it's still just a file. Why 1.7 million? Let's see, is this a multiple of 512?
Somebody said this was the stuff of conspiracy theories, but I said that it was a technical question -- and that anyway, everybody knows this is a "six degrees of separation" with these people. Well, one degree. Both knew Jacob Appelbaum, and they had other hackers and adversarial journalists in common in the end, too.
All this got me to thinking about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the announcement that Edward Snowden is going on the board of the Foundation for a Free Press -- news rather uncritically retold by Charlie Savage at the New York Times using FPF's press release rather than a critical journalistic mind.
I'll remind you that FPF is the group which Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow founded, who is also founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was created to fund WikiLeaks -- and basically funds Snowden. They admit that. They even put now Snowden on the board, defiantly, as if to say, you can't investigate us for anything, it's all legal, our lawyers are already on this, and it's not like providing material aid to a terrorist, right? Well, let's hear it then, guys: what is the budget for ferrying around the world all these journalists and hackers, and maintaining them in nice hotels in the world's capitals, and sustaining Snowden and his lovely assistant Sarah Harrison for months on end? Well? Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are also on the board.
By institutionalizing adversarial journalism with the assistance of activsts and anarchist hackers, the old copyleftists hope to strengthen their legal position -- if any of these people are even stopped for questioning by law-enforcement -- as some have been -- it will be viewed as a blow against freedom of association and freedom of speech, not protection of national security. Brilliant!
So I kept thinking about these connections and how there really are so few people in these networks, they really do overlap -- and repeat.
Then I rememberd something funny -- the time John Perry Barlow told me he would kick me in my tiny avatar nuts (I have a male avatar in Second Life) -- and when I looked that up, I saw it was interesting, mentioning the NSA. Here it is, a response to this article on my blog, in the comments, and there is no doubt it's him -- and we had many spats after that.
Here's an excerpt of my article -- basically, the issue back in 2010 boiled down to this -- Electronic Frontier Foundation failing to see the connection between respect for private property and individual rights and privacy secured in that private property, and the intrusion on that privacy by gaming companies and Google, and then the NSA snooping on that social media. Funny how we all talked about this back then, eh? But in the terms of the time, which had to do with EFF's pround indifference to copyright violation and intellectual property -- and even their hostility as they litigated on behalf of copylefists whose speech they claimed was "chilled".
JPB made it seem as if silly dancy bears in a virtual world were not worth copyrighting -- he has an extreme view on digital creations and think everything should be liberated to serve his own particular business model. I once saw a budget in a book about the Grateful Dead for their revenue -- and 30% of it came from the record sales. Some percentage came from ticket and merchandise sales. So, sure, they could give away the tapes made from the soundboard by fans because they still had revenue streams based on copyright protection. That was all about to change.
I made the point that if you couldn't secure private property, you couldn't secure privacy of dancing bears, then you couldn't secure, say, a private Muslim religious group and its activities from prying government eyes. They were intrinsically related when everything is digitalized and when we all move online to live our lives -- especially with the coming Internet of Things. At that time -- funny to think -- I took it for granted that the EFF litigation against the NSA was somehow appropriate, that it really was about some overreach of intrusion. Now I know it wasn't.
Naturally he didn't see it that way.
Excerpt of my blog post from 2010:
So you get a vigorous campaign to oppose the government's invasion of privacy with wire-tapping in which the non-electronic ACLU [i.e. real-world] wages press campaigns and litigation against this illegal intrusion, but then you get somebody like Eva Galperin writing this fucked-up condescending nasty little barb like this:
if you don’t want people taking pictures of your floating city/dancing bear/epic space opera, don’t leave your floating city/dancing bear/epic space opera in a public place.
So Eva, how does that work in real life with the government's wiretapping then? Let me run it by you after reading about your latest campaign against wiretapping:
If you don't want the government wiretapping your floating Islamic aid fund/dancing defense of defensive jihadists/epic Palestinian struggle opera, don't leave your floating Islamic aid fund/dancing defense of defensive jihadists/epic Palestinian struggle opera in a public space.
Like stringy grey-haired hippies of the 1960s, you know you hate the government's wiretapping and automatically salivate. But you don't have a vision for how to get rid of Google and Twitter wiretapping, which is scraping and keeping and using and manipulating all our online data, all the time. You hate corporations -- except when you don't.
Like some right-wing junta in the old Latin America, you talk about "freedom," and talk about "fair use," and you talk about "progress" but you insist that what appears to be my private property (my electronic property) isn't really mine, and that game or world companies can intrude on them for any reason or no reason, and that I should be simply available all the time, with my dancing bears and epic space operas, for perusal, use, ridicule, whatever without any recourse -- making me in fact reach for that government you thought was such an evil wire-tapper, because I can't think of any other power that would trump the overwhelming intrusion of Google Plus Electronic Frontier Foundation, *undermining my rights*.
Of course, there's an entire critique to be had about your awful destructive views about private property, in which your REAL agenda about DMCA or fair use constantly pokes out with the "Creative Commons" shtick of Cory Doctorow and others -- we're supposed to liberate our property by default, and any effort to protect it will instantly be branded as suppression of freedom of speech.
Of course, there's little comprehension for the fact that in a virtual world, all the property, all the scenes you see, are built by people who mainly haven't been paid -- unlike that real-world street where architects and city planners have corporate and public money available to pay for themselves and their materials, before photographers "fairly use" their scenes in works that further make *them* money.
And it's no accident, comrade, because the technocommunist beliefs underpinning EFF mean that you never fashioned a way for people to get paid online -- you only fashioned a way for them to get liberated and browbeaten online if they didn't force-march to the "Creative Commons".
The "Electronic Frontier" now looks like a pretty tacky shopping mall with a grimey "head shop" selling hippie memorabilia and tattered Woodstock posters along with beeded Indian dresses. You've commodified the ideals of the hippie era into the California business model letting you steal content online in permissive regimes until you get a DMCA notice that you'll bless as being "fair use".
But the rest of us are living on a very different Electronic Frontier where bots are scraping our data, third-party viewers are stealing our content, and everything we have is really owned by a company that has no government regulation to prevent its abuses. You're all fine with that. You think it's only about a progressive company in San Francisco, and a bunch of fools with dancing bears you can ridicule.
Hey, have I got news for you. This stuff is all going to get LOTS bigger and LOTS more important very quick -- and if you zoom away from your preoccupation with Second Life, where people still have those backward notions about their private dancing bears and their intellectual property you think should be available to swipe, to the 500 plus million people on Facebook and *their* dancing bears and *their* photos and artwork, hey, it gets bigger.
Yes, it's true. We are all living now on an Electronic Frontier where you are only visible as a distant hippie cabin with a tattered tie-dyed freedom flag, irrelevant to our lives and without a vision of the horizon.
Here is John Perry Barlow in the comments:
Fascinating, all of it, to think of today....
The argument John Perry Barlow so casually invoked -- that when I signed a Terms of Service agreement when downloading Second Life ( or like the End User License Agreement on the wrapper of any software) I essentially ceded my rights to a private non-state actor and made it impossible for anyone to defend me under the Constitution. To which I can only say -- irrelevant, because games and worlds and social media platforms are increasingly what the entire online matrix is, and where people increasingly exercise their rights, so it becomes more like civil rights cases against shopping malls and other public spaces, not mere private realms.
Funny how JPB was willing to sneer a the TOS over a dancing virtual bear, but he could overlook what is really the problem for his claims about NSA surveillance -- the initial situation where we cede all our data to Google, Facebook, Twitter and others, and they retain and use it. When blasting NSA collection, he doesn't say airily, "Oh, well, we all signed a TOS when we signed up for Twitter or G+, so too bad."
I had more to say to Barlow back then here and here where I wrote a Declaration of Independence in Cyberspace From its Founding Overlords which reversed his famous Declaration deliberately, precisely because of how destructive his hippie freak ideals had been to basic civil rights and liberties online.