[FoRK] [liberationtech] Fwd: [riseup] Space for dissent
eugen at leitl.org
Sun Aug 25 00:37:27 PDT 2013
----- Forwarded message from Sean Alexandre <sean at alexan.org> -----
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2013 19:18:49 -0400
From: Sean Alexandre <sean at alexan.org>
To: liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
Subject: [liberationtech] Fwd: [riseup] Space for dissent
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)
Reply-To: liberationtech <liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu>
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Space for dissent
It is a mistake to frame the recent US and European massive surveillance
revelations in terms of the privacy of individuals. What is at stake is not
privacy at all, but the power of the state over its citizenry.
What surveillance really is, at its root, is a highly effective form of social
control. The knowledge of always being watched changes our behavior and stifles
dissent. The inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any
possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there is no
longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or implied. Most
profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to eliminate the most vital
element of both democracy and social movements: the mental space for people to
form dissenting and unpopular views.
Many commentators, and Edward Snowden himself, have noted that these
surveillance programs represent an existential threat to democracy. This
understates the problem. The universal surveillance programs in place now are
not simply a potential threat, they are certain to destroy democracy if left
unchecked. Democracy, even the shadow of democracy we currently practice, rests
on the bedrock foundation of free association, free speech, and dissent. The
consequence of the coercive power of surveillance is to subvert this foundation
and undermine everything democracy rests on.
Within social movements, there is a temptation to say that nothing is really
different. After all, governments have always targeted activist groups with
surveillance and disruption, especially the successful ones.
But this new surveillance is different. What the US government and European
allies have built is an infrastructure for perfect social control. By
automating the process of surveillance, they have created the ability to
effortlessly peer into the lives of everyone, all the time, and thus create
a system with unprecedented potential for controlling how we behave and think.
True, this infrastructure is not currently used in this way, but it is
a technical tool-kit that can easily be used for totalitarian ends.
Those who imagine a government can be trusted to police itself when given the
ominous power of precise insight into the inner workings of everyday life are
betting the future on the ability of a secretive government to show proper
self-restraint in the use of their ever-expanding power. If history has shown
us anything, it is that the powerful will always use their full power unless
they are forced to stop.
So, how exactly are we planning on stopping them? We support people working
through the legal system or applying political pressure, but we feel our best
hope of stopping the technology of surveillance is the technology of
encryption. Why? Because the forces that have created this brave new world are
unlikely to be uprooted before it is too late to halt the advance of
Unfortunately, most existing encryption technology is counterproductive. Many
people are pushing technology that is proprietary, relies on a central
authority, or is hopelessly difficult for the common user. The only technology
that has a chance to resist the rise of surveillance will be open source,
federated, and incredibly easy to use. In the long run, decentralized
peer-to-peer tools might meet this criteria, but for the foreseeable future
these tools will not have the features or usability that people have grown
In the coming months, the Riseup birds plan to begin rolling out a series of
radically new services, starting with encrypted internet, encrypted email, and
encrypted chat. These services will be based on 100% open source and open
protocols, will be easy to use, and will protect your data from everyone, even
Riseup. This is a massive undertaking, made in concert over the last year with
several other organizations, and will only work with your support. We need
programmers, particularly those experienced in Python, C, Ruby, and Android
development, and sysadmins interested in starting their own secure service
We also need money. Donations from our amazing Riseup users keep us running on
our current infrastructure. But in order to be able to graduate to a new
generation of truly secure and easy to use communication technology, we are
going to need a lot more money than our users are able to donate. If you have
deep pockets and an interest in building this new generation of communication,
then we need to hear from you. If you have friends or family who care about the
future of democracy and who have deep pockets, we need to hear from them, too.
At Riseup, we have felt for the last few years that the window of opportunity
to counter the rise of universal surveillance is slowly shrinking. Now is our
chance to establish a new reality where mass numbers of people are using
encryption on a daily basis.
If you have the skills or the money, now is the time to step up and help make
this reality come true. Please contact waxwing at riseup.net.
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