Post-Revolution Egypt Arrests Activist Blogger

I was fortunate to see Alaa Abd El Fattah speak both at PDF over the Summer and just last week at the Silicon Valley Human Rights conference. Every time I have heard him give a talk, I am impressed by his courage, conviction and the way he brings home the personal scale of much of what has happened as part of the Arab Spring. Alaa constantly serves as a reminder that technology alone is not enough, whether that is blogging or social networks; what matters is by whom and how these tools are used.

Even as Alaa spoke at SVHR, he was facing charges back home in Egypt for speaking out against the use of military courts and trials when the time has clearly come to restore the civil and criminal justice systems. Curt Hopkins at ReadWriteWeb has a bit more background both on the current charges and Alaa’s past activism. Upon returning to Egypt after SVHR, Alaa was imprisoned on these charges.

The organizers of SVHR, Access Now, have organized a campaign in support of Alaa, seeking his freedom. Please consider participating.

feeds | grep links > Towards a Graphene Transistor, Over Broad Child Protection Law Blocked, B&N Caught Deleting Customer’s EBooks, and More

Apologies for the second day of just links. I was in a rush to get to the local CopyNight here in DC last night. I took a sick day from work today to try to final get over this cold and have been trying to keep blogging to a minimum, too, in order to maximize my rest.

Thankfully, tonight’s podcast is an interview I recorded last week so will got out with minimum effort as scheduled.

Following Up for the Weekn Ending 10/24/2010

feeds | grep links > Problematic Federal Plan for Online IDs, FCC Report Paints Bleak Broadband Picture, and More

feeds | grep links > Origin of the Blink Tag, Blocking Political Speech with Copyright, 3D Information Storage, and More

feeds | grep links > Clarification on New Quantum Computing Research, Intelligence Analyst Arrest over Claims of Leaks, and Australian Police Want to Deputize Facebook

  • Clarifying coverage of paper eroding quantum computing
    Scott Aaronson has a must read post if you follow quantum computing as I do, in particular the Ars post on a paper that proposes to undermine one possible advantage of quantum computing. In a nutshell, what the paper shows is much more limited than Chris Lee made out, in particular the findings do not necessarily apply to all models or approaches to quantumcomputing.
  • Intelligence analyst arrested over claims he leaked video to WikiLeaks
    I debated not remarking on this and still feel that there isn’t anything particularly interesting here, despite the supposed role of WikiLeaks and Adrian Lamo. Manning clearly made a huge mistake outing himself as a source of leaks and arguably an even bigger one violating the trust placed in him as a member of themilitary.
  • Australian police want to deputize Facebook
    I have to agree with Curt Hopkins in his conclusion in this RWW post. It is enough that companies not break local laws, this is asking to much, that Facebook play an active role in reporting crime and enforcing local laws. Does anyone know if the Australian police have tried this before, by way of context, with Facebook or any other such service?

feeds | grep links > Future Firefox Will Sync, Canadian Copyright Provably Pushed by US, Fonts with Feelings, an Open WebM Converter, and France Considers Outlawing Anonymous Blogging

  • Firefox Sync to be built into future version of the browser
    I want to say I had read this suggestion before though I cannot find evidence of commenting on it previously. Ryan Paul has some details of a move that makes good sense given comparable features included or closely bundled with competing browsers.
  • Canadian copyright firstly motivated by satisfying the US
    Many have suspected that efforts like C-60 and C-61 were politically motivated, bowing to pressure from the US. Professor Geist links to a paper with some analysis that bears out this interpretation, including some quotes that make the prime motivation starkly clear.
  • Microsoft patents fonts with feelings
    I am at a loss for words or understanding of this patent that Slashdot explains. First, how is this even patentable? Are the animations described automated in some way, using natural language processing to associate some stock animations to words based on their meaning and context? Second and more importantly, who the hell would actually use technology like this? It would be like having Clippy assaulting every paragraph you push through the silly thing producing text/sprite hybrids that would constantly induce eye bleeding.
  • Miro releases converter to help make WebM video
    Cory at Boing Boing has the news, that of a bit of software from the fine folks who make the wonderful Miro player. Now we have Miro’s converter alongside the recent VLC release candidate. The standard appears to be taking off fast from a technology stand point. It should make whatever comes out of the patent rumblings all the more interesting if it ever comes to a head.
  • French senator proposes outlawing anonymous blogging
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the story, though there is not much more to it than the headline. I don’t know how strong free speech traditionally is in France but the stated reasons, ease of suing, seem a rather poor argument against the inherent value of being able to speak anonymously.

DMCA Conflicts with Free Speech

Ars Technica is one of many outlets commenting on a new paper by Wendy Seltzer, a copyright scholar and the person behind the Chilling Effects site. Chilling Effects is a warehouse of bogus takedown notices intended to illustrate how this practice stifles speech and expression.

It is not surprising that this practice of takedowns proven to be incorrect is at the core of Seltzer’s paper. Nate Anderson does a good job distilling this sixty page paper down to its core concepts. Essentially, the mandatory period that material must remain offline in the wake of a bogus takedown before it can be restored is a form of prior restraint. That is to say speech is suppressed before any discussion or adjudication can take place to determine whether that speech is legitimate. The cost of issuing a request is disproportionately low to the cost of recovering from an erroneous request. This encourages using takedowns regardless of any legitimate infringement claim.

The paper includes some reform proposals, any of which may help the situation considerable. Any one of requiring a burden of proof on issuance, adding a penalty on a successful counterclaim, or reducing or eliminating the 10 to 14 day wait period might be doable. I also wonder if a comparison between these proposals and SLAPP regulations, laws some states have passed to deal with litigation used to suppress speech or activity regardless of the ultimate merits in the claim.

Seltzer, however, urges a more extensive overhaul, not surprisingly. I agree with her reasoning, that the takedown regime operates much more on presumption of guilt, counter to much of the rest of our laws which assume innocence. I am also hugely concerned how this aspect has been modeled into the expansion of rights for copyright holders like what ACTA would require or with which the UK was just saddled in passage of the Digital Economy Bill.

Israel’s Supreme Court Protects Online Anonymity

Slashdot links to the story but uses some potentially misleading absolutes in their summary. Reading through the story, the veil of anonymity can still be pierced but only when a cause of action is proven and that anonymity is being used to avoid liability.

Still, this is a pretty clear endorsement of anonymous free speech online and good cause for celebration for those protected by the ruling. I would dearly love to see judges elsewhere undertake this same sort of push back, requiring that legislators enact john doe processes rather than having to deal with the the propped up and conflicting standards for the same that has emerged out of case law. Sadly, I think that ship has sailed for places like here, in the US.

Australian Law Forbids Anonymous Commentary During Elections

Wait, what?! Mick Masnick at Techdirt has the details. To be clear, what the law requires is any commentary to bear positive identification with their remarks. If your head isn’t spinning on this one, it should be. Of all forms of speech, political discourse has the richest tradition of anonymous interwoven with free speech. The bill’s author is clearly unaware of this tradition, Mike quotes a naive statement from Michael Atkinson that clearly demonstrates his lack of clue about the importance of anonymity as a protection from political censure and reprisal.

As Mike continues to explain, Atkinson has a history of bone headed political maneuvers. There may be more of an agenda, here, though. In this case, he may be targeting speech specifically critical of him with this law. This reeks of a pending constitutional challenge to me, if ever a law was deserving of one. Australia has some sort of constitutional court, right?