Starsuckers is a feature documentary about the celebrity obsessed media, that uncovers the real reasons behind our addiction to fame and blows the lid on the corporations and individuals who profit from it. Made completely independently over 2 years in secret, the film journeys through the dark underbelly of the modern media. Using a combination of never before seen footage, undercover reporting, stunts and animation, the film reveals the toxic effect the media is having on us all and especially our children. Chris Atkins presents Starsuckers as a series of five lessons on fame in the modern world: how children are persuaded that fame is something they want, how television and the media reinforces the importance of celebrity and the efforts to attain it, how the mind and body reinforces our need to follow the activities of well-known people and strive to join their number, how the press became addicted to celebrity coverage, and how the art of promoting fame has led to celebrities and their handlers controlling the press instead of the press having say. Along the way, Atkins demonstrates how celebrity news with no basis in fact gets into print, why newspapers will run press releases almost verbatim, how parents will eagerly sign away the image rights to their kids, how certain mass scale charity events end up helping the performers far more than the causes they designed to support, and how publicists keep accurate but unflattering stories out of the news.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Journalists Arrive Back in U.S. after Being Being Freed from N. Korea Jail

-- Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee arrive back in the U.S. after being freed from detention in North Korea.

Watch live coverage now on

(Click on title above to go there)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

(Update 1) FBI Forces Alex Jones Off Of The Air Today During Radio Broadcast

July 31st 2009

Ernest Hancock
Date: 07-31-2009
Subject: Media: Radio

Developing Story - From I can learn. There was a blog post on Alex Jones' web site by a blogger threatening Law Enforcement. So the FBI come to Alex's studio and pulled him off the air to... not sure why specifically. But they cerrtainly wanted the post taken down. And I'm sure they wanted any additional information about the individual that Alex Jones was able to provide.

I'll post more as I know it but Alex was forced to run pre-recordings while dealing with the demands of the FBI for the actions of another using his site to express himself in an illegal manner as alleged by the FBI.

More to come.....

My good friend Dale Williams is a great talk show host in Salt Lake City and has provided me with the background informatiuon that I am certain that you are interested in....

Alex Jones Interrupted by FBI

Today the Alex Jones Show ( was interrupted by a visit from agents of the FBI. They took Alex from his broadcast booth for a 30 minute “interview.”
When Alex came back on the air, he stated that the “interview” was related to postings, by an unaffiliated third party, on one of his websites, and that the FBI delivered a subpoena related to those postings which will require Jones’ presence at a trial in Virginia.

A call to the Jones studio confirmed that Alex is fine. Highlights from previous shows were played during the initial period of today’s rebroadcast, followed by the show interval which immediately followed the FBI’s intrusion on today’s show.

Please go to Alex’s website and tell him you support his efforts and pray for him and his family’s welfare daily.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Anatomy Of The Twitter Attack

by Nik Cubrilovic on July 19, 2009

The Twitter document leak fiasco started with a simple story that personal accounts of Twitter employees were hacked. Twitter CEO Evan Williams commented on that story, saying that Twitter itself was mostly unaffected. No personal accounts were compromised, and “most of the sensitive information was personal rather than company-related,” he said. The individual behind the attacks, known as Hacker Croll, wasn’t happy with that response. Lots of Twitter corporate information was compromised, and he wanted the world to know about it. So he sent us all of the documents that he obtained, some 310 of them, and the story developed from there.

It’s clear that Twitter was completely unaware of how deeply they were affected as a company - when Williams said that most of the information wasn’t company related he believed it. It wasn’t until later that he realized just how much and what kind of information was taken. It included things like financial projections and executive meeting notes that contained highly confidential information.

We’ve already said a lot about all of this and the related “server password = password” story that was discovered by another individual last week. But we’ve got two more stories to tell. The first, this post, is exactly how the hacks took place, based on information gathered from hours of conversations with Hacker Croll. The second is what was happening behind he scenes with Twitter as the story unfolded. We’ll post that later this week.

When the story first broke the true scope of what had taken place and how it occurred was not understood. Various bloggers speculated about the cause of the attack - with some placing the blame on Google while others blaming the rising trend of hosting documents in the cloud.

We immediately informed Twitter of the information we had in our possession (and forwarded it to them), and at the same time reached out to the attacker. With some convincing, the attacker responsible for the intrusion at Twitter began a dialog with us. I spent days communicating with the attacker in an effort to gain insight into how the attack took place, what the true scope of it was and how we could learn from it.

Read More

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tom Wolfes Obeservations: Novelist as Journalist / Reporter

The Bonfire of the Vanities - coming to this blog

Posted: 14 Jul 2009 06:11 PM PDT

Tom Wolfe likes to introduce his novels with a sort of "making of" Introduction. I noticed he did so with "I am Charlotte Simmons"; and now I discover that, about twenty years before, he did the same with "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

The Introduction to "The Bonfire of the Vanities" is a lovely literary essay, the sort of thing that arouses serious writers (whom Tom Wolfe defines as those who aim for literary prestige). It is rich with historical context from the world of fiction, from as far back the nineteenth century to the 1980s. It is also an argument for something.

Wolfe argues that novel writing must rely on reporting skills. A serious writer must be able to document - carefully - the world he wishes his work to inhabit. He has to interview, live in, make friends with, that world. Wolfe compares realism to electricity; you can't go back on it, you can't do without it. Realism is essential for fiction, he argues.

His point seems true; part of The Wire's immense TV success is that its creator immersed himself in the inner-workings of Baltimore, Maryland. Indeed, David Simon was a reporter for a local Baltimore paper for many years.

Some nuggets:

In 1969, Tom Wolfe sought to write a novel about New York - that irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening. He thought it the most obvious idea an American writer could have.

1960s America was a time of immense change. He kept waiting for novels about those changes. Nothing.

By the time 1979 swung around, and still no grand novel on New York had come out, Wolfe began to prepare for writing that book himself.

The reason why no novels where forthcoming was complicated. Most writers were experimenting with different forms of fiction. The realism school was deemed to have been 'over'.

Extraordinary and abundant news coverage challenged fiction writers. There was no way they could replicate that realism. The news was full of detail, full of things even a fictional novelist would be at loss to match for symbolism and surprise.

Reporting is the most vaulable and least understood resource available to any writer with exalted ambitions, whether the medium is print, film, tape, or the stage.

Wolfe sought to document the influence of society on even the most personal aspects of the life of an individual. It strikes me as folly to believe that you can portray the individual in the city today without also portraying the city itself.

I doubt that there is a writer over forty who does not realise in his heart of hearts that literary genius, in prose, consists of proportions more on the the order of 65 percent material and 35 percent the talent in his brain.

Between 1981-1985, Tom Wolfe gathered material by visiting neighborhoods and making friends with people he would never have encountered. The novel was published in 1987 to widespread acclaim; it was often described as 'prophetic'.

Hola: While in London, my friend avantcaire set up this book-reading-circle of sorts; to my lot fell the honour of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" - all 740 pages of it. My task is to read it, and send it on to the next person in the ring. Wish me luck!

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Access Scandal Echoes Beyond The Washington Post or How We Get Our "Un-Biased" News

For those readers not familiar with the "Access Scandal" click on title above to read original artile of which this one (below) is a follow-up)

Friday 03 July 2009

by: Michael Calderone and Andy Barr | Visit article original @ The Politico

For embarrassed Washington Post executives-reeling from what the paper's own ombudsman called a public relations "disaster" over a flier promoting a "salon" for lobbyists to mingle with prominent newsmakers-there must be a sense of "Why us?"

The fact is The Post's clumsy effort to make money on its brand name and market its access to the powerful was a belated effort to follow in the steps of at least two other prominent news organizations: the Wall Street Journal and the Economist magazine.

The Journal, for instance, is charging a $7,500 for its two-day CEO Council in November, an elite gathering that will include the paper's top editors and high-profile speakers like Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. And for a few thousand dollars, The Economist can open the door to intimate off-the-record meet-and-greets with world leaders.

These events illustrate how the basic transaction-charging big fees to special interests to arrange private, special-access encounters with powerful people-that caused the Post this week to be excoriated is a more endemic practice than many people in political and media circles realize. Some watchdogs hope this week's Post scandal will help put an end to a hard-to-defend practice by revenue-hungry news organizations.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he thought the Post flier raised a red flag for news organizations to be wary of entering into a financial arrangement with people that you're covering.

"One has to ask," Rosenstiel said, "Is the amount of money you might generate from this worth damaging that bond with your readers?"

While the speakers at the Journal conference this November will be on the record, with ostensible benefits for Journal readers, Rosenstiel said the bigger problem is when newsmakers and top editorial staffers are offered up to guests with no press access whatsoever, as the Post was originally planning. By doing so, he said, news organizations are "encouraging the notion in the readers mind that [they're] part of some insider establishment that it considers more important than public knowledge."

The Journal arguably crossed that line in March, when the paper agreed to allow National Economic Adviser Larry Summers to conduct his talk, during a $5,000-a-head conference, as closed to press. All the other speakers at the Future of Finance Initiative conference, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, spoke on the record. But when it came time for Summers talk, Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray, who's instrumental in organizing the paper's executive conferences, instructed attendees (and not reporters) to get in cars headed for White House. (The Journal declined to comment on this arrangement).

Changing the Summers talk from on to off the record and whisking executives over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue came up late in the process at the Journal. By contrast, The Economist, the British publication that has developed considerable readership on this side of the Atlantic, makes it clear from the start what the ground rules are for its conferences. And those have nothing to do with informing average readers.

The Economist has scheduled two off-the-record summits this year bringing together government officials and business leaders together in Mexico and Brazil. The magazine's website lists three aims for the summits, one of which is to foster an off-the-record, high-level debate between Mexican business leaders and key ministers on the policies and strategies of the current government. The price for the Mexico and Brazil summits are not listed, but prices for other events run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to nearly $4,000.

"The events are off the record because we have found it is the best way for our delegates and host governments to get value from the discussion," an Economist spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. "It also explicitly means that the event will not be covered by The Economist.

"We host events because they are a natural extension of the debate initiated by the magazine," the spokesperson added.

Rarely has a prestigious news organization found itself so much on the defensive about the practice as The Post was on Thursday following POLITICO's report on a marketing flier sent to lobbyists that offered exclusive, off-the-record access to the top of the Post's masthead, Congressional leaders, Obama administration officials, and the paper's health-care reporters in exchange for fees ranging from $25,000 for one event to $250,000 for ten.

Post executives- publisher Katharine Weymouth and executive editor Marcus Brauchli--focused on the flier, which in particularly over-the top language promised a corporations a "seat at the table" with policy-makers for a dinner that would have a certain type of mood. "Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it.""

Weymouth and Brauchli said the flier not been vetted, adding that the newsroom would never have taken part in a pay-to-play scheme as described. But Weymouth did not repudiate the concept of charging corporate sponsors for off-the-record dinners and insisted that "there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events."

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School, said on POLITICO's Arena that the bottom line for the Post brass was money, "and when people start thinking money, they tend to forget to think about anything else."

"Let's hope that the Chinese wall between the news side and the business side doesn't crumble under current intense financial pressure as the industry transforms," Kanter said. "The bottom line, so to speak, is not what was said on the fliers about paying big bucks and getting a seat at Weymouth's dinner table. It is that the fliers were honest about the nature of the offering: contacts for cash."

For the Post, facing steep losses this year, such events have been part of a revenue-generating strategy for some time. As Weymouth told staffers in a memo last December, "to expand our revenue base and diversify our business model, we must look for opportunities to create new products, especially in the areas where business and policy intersect." One idea, she wrote at the time, was "hosting of specialized conferences for business decision makers with a stake in Washington policy-making."

Perhaps no one has perfected the art of bringing together ideas and debate in the public sphere while generating profits and prestige as Atlantic Media owner David Bradley. Microsoft has teamed up with National Journal for private dinners, and Bradley's annual schmoozefest, the Aspen Ideas Festival, brought together over one hundred speakers with leading positions in government, business, journalism, advocacy and the arts this past week.

Sponsored by the Aspen Institute and Atlantic, along with corporate support, the festival also features Cabinet members, the top editors and writers from Bradley's magazines, and a sundry media all-stars. (As coincidence would have it, Weymouth sat on a future of journalism panel in Aspen titled "What's the News Worth to You?")

Atlantic Monthly editor James Bennet said that "the whole idea of the [festival] is to be on-the-record and in open conversation."

According to Bennet, "sponsors of the session here go to events and have the same opportunities to ask questions as everybody else." But The Atlantic, like other news organizations, charges big money for such gatherings, though anyone can head to the website for regular festival dispatches or clips of panels and interviews.

POLITICO has also collaborated with sponsors such as the ACLU and Yahoo in holding public events. But each has been open to the public and press - a critical distinction according to John F. Harris, POLITICO's editor-in-chief.

"My view is that it is the job of news organizations to illuminate public issues, and do so in a public way," Harris wrote in an e-mail. "Sponsored events, in which editors set the agenda and the proceedings are transparent, can do this effectively. It is not our job to serve as a kind of escort service to facilitate private encounters between special interests and public officials."

"Publisher Robert Allbritton agrees with this and has directed us to avoid events that revolve around these kind of transactions," Harris added.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Honduras new government is censoring journalists

Roberto Michele, new Honduran president - former head of the Honduran Congress


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- At the close of the one of this week's nightly news broadcasts, Channel 21 news anchor Indira Raudales made a plea: ``We have a right to information! This can't be happening in the 21st century!''

If Raudales offered more details, viewers did not hear them: the screen briefly went to static.

Her on-air appeal for freedom of the press came as the newly installed Honduran government kept several news outlets closed, detained international reporters, and periodically interrupted the signal of CNN en español.

Reporters for The Associated Press were taken away in military vehicles and Venezuela's Telesur network -- and any other station supportive of toppled president Manuel Zelaya -- are still off the air.

Stations that are broadcasting carry only news friendly to the new government. Several local papers have yet to publish information about Zelaya's international support in neighboring countries.

''They militarized Channel 36, which is owned by me,'' said Efdras López, director of the show, ''Asi se Informa.'' ``They brought more than a battalion -- 22 armed men -- took the channel and said nobody could come in and nobody could come out.

``I own this building!''

The crackdown on the media began before dawn Sunday, when hooded soldiers entered the presidential palace by force and captured Zelaya, a leftist firebrand who had vowed to defy the supreme court, congress and the attorney general's office in a quest to hold a referendum. The nation's media went black while Zelaya was flown out of the country.

When a new government presided by former head of Congress Roberto Micheletti was installed a few hours later, only the radio and TV stations loyal to the establishment were allowed to broadcast.

Citing a daily newspaper, the InterAmerican Press Association reported that Zelaya supporters in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula attacked reporters and photographers, as well as destroyed newspaper-vending kiosks. The advocacy group also reported that soldiers stormed into a TV station and newspaper newsrooms, ordering a halt to operations.

''We are deeply concerned by reports that several broadcasters have been taken off the air,'' said Committee To Protect Journalists' Americas senior program coordinator Carlos Lauría. ``We call on those in power to allow the resumption of all broadcasts and ensure that all journalists can work freely and safely at this critical time for Honduras.''

López said his station was targeted because of his past critical coverage of Micheletti and Gen. Romeo Vásquez, the head of the armed forces.

''There are journalists who Zelaya paid to insult me morning, noon and night,'' said National Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio López. ``There is no censorship in Honduras. We have simply asked the media not to feed the conflict. The media that are closed are the ones that were feeding hate.''

Custodio, the government ombudsman, said he has not received any complaints from the press.

''If I get a complaint, I will investigate it,'' he said.

If news outlets are leaving out chunks of the story, Custodio said, it's because they have the right to publish only the information that interests them.

''Who are we supposed to turn to when the government human rights commissioner is justifying this coup?'' said Andrés Molina, a correspondent for Venezuela's Telesur network, which is off the air. ``The military picked up our reporters off the street and held them for two hours. Later they said it was a mistake. How can it be a mistake, when these people are going around with cameras, microphones and media credentials?''

He stressed that Telesur is often criticized for being a ''leftist station out of Caracas'' but ``how then do you explain that they are taking CNN off the air too?''

''This is not ideology,'' he said. ``This is abuse.''

Micheletti's spokesman René Zepeda, himself a longtime journalist here, told reporters that if it were his decision, all stations would be broadcasting. The Zelaya administration's channel 8, he said, would return after consultation with lawyers.

A 2008 report by the Open Society Institute said government payments to the press were widespread. A report by the InterAmerican Dialogue think tank in Washington said the Honduran media operate as arms of political parties.

''One of the largest threats to Honduran democracy is the lack of independence of the Honduran media,'' according to the paper written by Manuel Orozco and Rebecca Rouse. ``The media have failed to fulfill their social function as government watchdogs, are controlled by business and political interests and do not practice fair reporting practices.''

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Korean Journalist Indicted for Telling Truth about Dangers of U.S. Beef

June 18, 2009

Korean journalists indicted for beef story

A controversial television broadcast that offended Korean agriculture officials resulted in five indictments for biased reporting Thursday, officials said.

Four producers and a script writer of "PD Notebook" on the MBC network were accused of defaming government officials, the Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday. Their show was critical of the Korean government's decision to lift its ban on beef imports from the United States, which were imposed out of fear of mad cow disease.

Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun and negotiator Min Dong-seok claim the show distorted facts. The indictment also said the producers deliberately mistranslated interviews and exaggerated any threat of mad cow from imported beef.

The decision by the Korean government to lift most restrictions on U.S. beef was hugely unpopular in South Korea, Yonhap noted.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Support Editors Fight to Preserve Our Privacy Right

Click on title above to join the editors fight to preserve our right to free-speech and privacy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Big Brother Subpoenas Newspaper to ID Online Commenters

Vegas paper gets subpoena to ID online commenters

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:34 PM

LAS VEGAS -- A Nevada newspaper says it has been served a federal grand
jury subpoena seeking information about readers who posted comments on the
paper's Web site.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that its editor, Thomas
Mitchell, plans to fight the request, which the newspaper received after
reporting on a federal tax fraud case against business owner Robert Kahre.
The subpoena seeks the identities and personal information about people who
posted comments on the story. The newspaper said prosecutors told the
judge in the case that some comments hinted at acts of violence and the
subpoena was issued out of concern for jurors' safety.

Mitchell said anonymous speech is "a fundamental and historic part of this
country." The newspaper would consider cooperating if specific crimes or
real threats were presented, he said.

The newspaper said the subpoena bears the name of U.S. Assistant District
Attorney J. Gregory Damm, a lawyer on the Justice Department team that is
prosecuting Kahre and others on charges including income tax evasion, fraud
and criminal conspiracy.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the subpoena is not a public record.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Nevada declined to comment.

The newspaper said it received the subpoena June 2, a week after its story
describing the government's case against Kahre, a Las Vegas construction
company executive accused of paying contractors with gold and silver U.S.
coins based on the precious metal value of the coins but using the much lower
face value of the coins for tax purposes. Kahre and the other defendants
have pleaded not guilty.

The story drew nearly 175 online comments by Monday night, most in support
of Kahre and critical of the government and jurors and attorneys in the

One commentator said: "The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury
who will convict him. They should be hung along with the feds."

Another called Damm a "socialist, fascist Mormon" and a "Nazi moron."

The comments are written under pseudonyms. Along with the real names of
people who posted comments, the subpoena asks the newspaper for the writers'
gender, birth date, physical address, telephone number, Internet service
provider, IP address and credit card numbers.

After a 2003 raid on Kahre's business, Kahre and several of his workers
sued Damm, two Internal Revenue Service agents and others who were involved.
That civil matter is pending.

In 2007, Kahre sued Damm and agents of the FBI and IRS, alleging criminal
behavior. U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint in
December, and Kahre appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two years ago, Damm prosecuted a similar tax case against nine defendants,
including Kahre. The trial ended with no convictions and four acquittals.
Five defendants were partially acquitted, and two of them were dropped from
the indictment that generated the current case.

Click on title above to go to original article;
Las Vegas Review-Journal,_http://www.lvrj.com_

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Green Dam Phenomenon

By REBECCA MACKINNON From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.

The Chinese government may be backing down from its plan to install new "filtering" software, Green Dam, on all Chinese computers. But it would be naïve to think that scrapping the Green Dam mandate means the end of headaches for computer- and device-makers world-wide. More and more governments -- including democracies like Britain, Australia and Germany -- are trying to control public behavior online, especially by exerting pressure on Internet service providers. Green Dam has only exposed the next frontier in these efforts: the personal computer.

First, some context: China currently has the world's most sophisticated and multi-layered system of Internet censorship. Objectionable content on domestic Web sites is deleted or prevented from being published, and access to a large number of overseas Web sites is blocked or "filtered." Decisions about what to censor are based on the Chinese Communist Party's desire to maintain power and legitimacy. There is no transparency or accountability in the censorship system, no public consultation in developing block lists or censorship criteria, and no way to appeal the blockage or removal of Web content.

Green Dam purports to take censorship to a whole new level. A report by the Open Net Initiative, an academic consortium dedicated to the study of censorship and surveillance, finds the Chinese government's mandate of censoring software at the PC-level "unprecedented." Companies installing the software risk becoming part of the existing opaque extension of regime power, at the other end of the chain that already includes Internet service providers, Web hosts and Web content companies.

But Green Dam is only an extreme example of a global trend: The Internet censorship club is expanding and now includes a growing number of democracies. Legislators are under growing pressure from family groups to "do something" in the face of all the threats sloshing around the Internet, and the risk of overstepping is high.

In Germany, Internet users and civil liberties groups are fighting proposed legislation mandating a national censorship system. The Bundestag votes today on a bill authorizing German police to establish and maintain a list of Web sites that Internet service providers would be required to block. In a petition against the bill, German civil liberties groups call it "untransparent and uncontrollable, since the 'block lists' cannot be inspected, nor are the criteria for putting a Web site on the list properly defined." These concerns aren't unfounded: Some German politicians have already suggested extending the block list to Islamist Web sites, video games and gambling Web sites, while book publishers have suggested it would also be nice to block file-sharing sites too.

Since 2007 Australia's Labor government has advocated a policy of mandatory national filtering. In the face of fierce public criticism the censorship plan may be downgraded to a voluntary industry initiative. But critics remain concerned the block list will not be selected and maintained in a transparent or accountable way -- and that the process for appeal is very unclear, making it likely that some Web sites will be blocked in error or that "mission creep" could take place without adequate public supervision.

In Britain, a "block list" of harmful Web sites, used by all the major Internet Service Providers, is maintained by a private foundation with little transparency and no judicial or government oversight of the list. At least one British family protection group, Mediamarch, has already spoken out in support of the Green Dam concept of moving censorship from the network down to the device level.

Back in China, the silver lining of the Green Dam mandate is that it has unleashed a passionate nationwide debate over the appropriate role of the government, the IT sector, media, parents and educators in protecting children from real threats. While some argue that the threat requires national mandates and tougher enforcement, others counter that draconian crackdowns and technical "auto-parent" solutions are no substitute for good parenting and teaching -- and that decisions about what children can or can't do and see must be left to individual families and schools. Sound familiar?

There are no easy answers. The argument will never end, but the right to keep arguing is an essential component of a functioning democracy. In a world that includes child pornographers and violent hate groups, it is probably not reasonable to oppose all censorship in all situations. But if technical censorship systems are to be put in place, they must be sufficiently transparent and accountable so that they do not become opaque extensions of incumbent power -- or get hijacked by politically influential interest groups without the public knowing exactly what is going on.

Which brings us back to companies: the ones that build and run Internet and telecoms networks, host and publish speech, and that now make devices via which citizens can go online and create more speech. Companies have a duty as global citizens to do all they can to protect users' universally recognized right to free expression, and to avoid becoming opaque extensions of incumbent power -- be it in China or Britain.

A new multi-stakeholder initiative called the Global Network Initiative aims to help companies do the right thing. Founded by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in conjunction with human-rights groups, socially responsible investment funds and academics, the initiative centers around a set of core principles for protecting users' right to free expression and privacy around the globe and helps companies to uphold those principles. Participating companies agree to develop robust human-rights policies, conduct human-rights impact assessments and be held accountable. While the initiative supports efforts to protect children and fight crime, they should "be narrowly tailored and subject to the rule of law" to prevent infringement of users' rights.

It is very encouraging that a coalition of industry groups has pushed back publicly against the Green Dam mandate, calling on the Chinese government to reconsider. But the Green Dam incident is yet another example of why it behooves companies to think ahead about how they are going to uphold their larger responsibility to society. Industry has a choice: be reactive -- and be forced into growing complicity with government censorship and surveillance around the globe. Or be pro-active, develop robust human-rights policies, and consider how to responsibly handle the inevitable pressures by all kinds of governments to serve as national auto-parent, if not auto-cop.

Ms. MacKinnon is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, an Open Society fellow and assistant professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong. She is writing a book about China and the Internet.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A13

Monday, June 8, 2009

NKorea convicts 2 US journalists

Sentences them to 12 years in labor prison

Associated Press

Last update: June 7, 2009 - 11:22 PM

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's top court has convicted two U.S. journalists, and sentenced them to 12 years in labor prison, the country's state news agency reported Monday.

The Central Court tried American TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee and confirmed their unspecified "grave crime" against the nation, and of illegally crossing into North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency said.

It said the court — which tried the women from June 4 to 8 — "sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labor." The report gave no other details.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul said it had no immediate comment.

The circumstances surrounding the trial of the two journalists and their arrest three months ago on the China-North Korean border have been shrouded in secrecy, as is typical of the reclusive nation.

There were fears that the two women would be used by Pyongyang as bargaining chips in its standoff with South Korea and the United States, which are pushing for U.N. sanctions to punish the nation for its latest nuclear blast and barrage of missile tests.

The journalists — working for former Vice President Al Gore's California-based Current TV — were arrested March 17 as they were reporting about the trafficking of women. It's unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China.

Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider did not have an immediate response to the sentencing.

The women cannot appeal as they were tried in North Korea's highest court where decisions are final.

The sentences are much harsher than what many observers had hoped for. The trial was not open to the public or to foreign observers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pro-Copyright Propaganda Enters US Classrooms

Written by Ernesto on May 22, 2009

Pro-copyright lobbyists and anti-piracy outfits have a clear idea of what is needed to manipulate the minds of the younger generations. The MPAA most famously handed out a “merit patch in respecting copyright” to LA Boy Scouts, and now the Copyright Alliance has entered US classrooms in an attempt to educate today’s youth about the benefits of copyright.

The Copyright Alliance describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to promoting the value of copyright as a means to make money. The more restrictions, the more money can be made is their credo, and they go to extremes to prove their point.

One of the key research documents listed on their website is a highly critical review of Professor Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture“. According to the review, Lessig is a “hypocritical demagogue” whose book imposes a “quasi-socialist utopianism” while “demonizing” copyright.

Of course, everybody is entitled to their own opinion but with regard to what’s being taught to youngsters in schools, one should at least try to get the facts right. Unfortunately, the Copyright Alliance screws up badly in this respect.

For example, in one of their their featured reports it is claimed that The Pirate Bay is selling pirated movies and music to its users. “Up until 2006, one of the largest global sellers of pirated films and music files was sold by a company based in Sweden – Pirate Bay,” it reads. Despite their blatant lies in their research reports, they have still managed to convince several schools to use their course materials.

“Think First, Copy Later,” is the working title of the pro-copyright curriculum set to be taught in several schools throughout the US. TorrentFreak contacted Aaron Engley, administrator at West Potomac Academy - one of the schools that plans to use the Copyright Alliance’s material.

Engley told TorrentFreak in a comment, “Our school has a communication and arts focus, we engaged in this relationship [with the Copyright Alliance] to assist our students protect their own intellectual property. We were teaching our students how to produce, but not educating them on how to protect what they produce.”

Of course, the Copyright Alliance itself fails to mention that thousands of artists profit from sharing their work for free, and that the lion’s share of copyright profits go to large corporations. But even if we put that aside, kids should be taught to think critically so they can make up their own minds instead of being brainwashed with pro (or anti) copyright propaganda.

Saved in: Copyright Issues, Politics and Ideology

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Proof That Social Media Efforts Pay Off

Posted on: May 21st, 2009

Arianna Huffington launched the Huffington Post as a news content and blog site in 2005. The site quickly became a strong advocator of community engagement and involvement thus turning it into a social news site. James Smith, the Chief Revenue Officer of HuffPost, credits the success of the site to that social evolution, saying:

“It’s [Huffington Post] almost a social media site with news as the topic of conversation.”

The site logs over one million comments each month.

In the above interview, James encourages other content publishers to push for active communities as well. He explains how implementing polls, thumbnails, and popular statistics can all add extensive social value to content.

Publishers that use social media know that it requires close monitoring. Most of the time publishers closely monitor their social efforts in order to manage the negative response. But did you ever think about how you could also benefit from closely monitoring the positive response? James says publishers have the opportunity to take advantage of the positive surges by further promoting them.

(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Marketers Tapping into Social Networks

Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships

Companies are working fast to figure out how to make money from the wealth of data they're beginning to have about our online friendships
By Stephen Baker

Data about behavior among online friends can be deceptive, says Danah Boyd Shawn G. Henry
A question: If you have 347 followers on the Twitter microblogging service, what are the chances that they'll click on the same online ad you clicked on last night? Advertisers are dying to know. Or, say you and a colleague exchange e-mails on a Saturday night. Can managers assume that you have a tight working relationship? Researchers at IBM and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are investigating.
Friendships aren't what they used to be. We now have tools, from e-mail to social networks, to keep in touch with people who a decade ago would have drifted into distant memories. Practically every hand we shake and every business card we exchange can lead to an invitation, sometimes within minutes, for a "friendship" on LinkedIn or Facebook. And unless we sever them, these ties could linger for the rest of our lives.

What do these relationships say about us and the people in our networks? Companies armed with rich new data and powerful computers are beginning to explore these questions. They're finding that digital friendships speak volumes about us as consumers and workers, and decoding the data can lead to profitable insights. Calculating the value of these relationships has become a defining challenge for businesses and individuals.

Marketers are leading the way. They're finding that if our friends buy something, there's a better-than-average chance we'll buy it, too. It's a simple insight but one that could lead to targeted messaging in an age of growing media clutter.

The second arena for study is inside companies. Businesses such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM (IBM) are researching employees' relationships with an eye to quickening the flow of knowledge and the generation of ideas within their ranks. One team at IBM Research, studying anonymous data of Big Blue's consultants, concluded that employees who forged tighter e-mail connections with their boss brought in on average $588 more in monthly revenue. This is early-stage research, but the goal is to distill patterns of successful communication and replicate valuable links throughout the company.

For most of us, the business value of networked friends is tied to a third area, personal opportunity. In addition to companionship, friends online represent a turbocharged Rolodex for entrepreneurs and job seekers inside and outside companies. These collections of contacts expand social horizons, keeping us in touch with more people who can provide ideas, answers, business leads, and even legal advice. Those who master these connections stand to win a big edge: the connections and brainpower of a large team.

An immense new laboratory of human relations is taking shape. Millions of us are playing, working, flirting, and socializing online—and producing oceans of data. Duncan J. Watts, a Columbia University sociologist now on leave and heading a research unit at Yahoo!, marvels at the change. "When I started network research 12 years ago, we had virtually no data," he says. Now he and his team can study the network behavior of 295 million e-mailers and legions of the 200 million Facebook users. For social scientists, Watts says, this flood of data could be as transformative as Galileo's telescope was for the physical sciences: "It gives us a new understanding of our world and ourselves."

But managing hundreds or even thousands of relationships is a thorny challenge. Which friends go where? A couple of months ago, Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in New York, decided to reduce the 360 people on his Facebook crowd into a circle of intimates. He kept the 56 he could see inviting to a wedding or bar mitzvah. The rest? "I nuked them," he says.

Others find value in a sizable following. Earlier this year, Jason Calacanis, founder of the search engine Mahalo, offered to pay Twitter $250,000 to put his account on a recommended list for the service's users. He says he was "half joking" but believes the investment would have paid off.

He figures the recommendation would have steered 5 million to 15 million new followers his way within two years and that many would have made their way to his company's Web site. "If 10% click on a link [to Mahalo] once a month," he writes in an e-mail, "you have about 1 million visits a year. ... I'd pay 5 cents for a follower." Lots of businesses, he says, could benefit from such followings. An airline such as JetBlue could offer discounts to the first 1,000 people who respond and "never [have] another empty seat."

While Calacanis tries to build crowds, advertisers are more interested in understanding individuals. Decoding friendship, many believe, could be the key to getting consumers' attention. Historically, this wasn't so hard. Information was in short supply, and by comparison, time was cheap. Not long ago millions waited through entire newscasts just to learn who won a game or what tomorrow's weather would be. This was ideal for advertisers: They had a captive audience.

Now we're swimming in information. We can call up nearly every bit of news, music, and entertainment we want on demand. In fact, there's so much of it that we need filters to block the boring or irrelevant stuff and help us find the bits we need or desire. This has created what many call the "Attention Economy." Says Bernardo A. Huberman, director of the Information Dynamics Laboratory at Hewlett-Packard: "The value of most information has collapsed to zero. The only scarce resource is attention." So how do we figure out where to direct it?

The easiest way is to get tips from friends. They're our trusted sources. At least a few of them know us better than any algorithm ever could. Little surprise, then, that the companies most eager to command our attention are studying which friends we listen to. Online friendship is a hot focus for Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. They joust to hire leading sociologists, anthropologists, and microeconomists from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley. Microsoft just established a research division focused on social sciences in Cambridge, Mass.

Statistically, friends tend to behave alike. A couple of years ago researchers at Yahoo found that if someone clicked on an online ad, the people on his or her instant chat buddy list, when served the same ad, were three to four times more likely than average to click on it. It makes sense. Friends share interests.

But it raised lots of questions. Which types of friends have the most meaningful correlations with each other? People have always confided in a small circle of intimates, often only two or three. They've also had wider circles of experts for specific advice, whether on cars or cooking. Then there's a broader circle of acquaintances whose opinions count far less but who can still generate buzz about a new restaurant or senatorial candidate. By studying patterns of interactions on networks—often scrutinizing us only as anonymous bits of data—researchers are working to predict which friends we trust and which we pay attention to in each area of our lives. The data can be hard to interpret, says danah boyd, a Berkeley PhD who just signed on at Microsoft Research. (She changed her name to lower case). "You may e-mail your mother less frequently than a colleague, but it's not that she's trusted less."

In an office above Palo Alto's University Avenue, a lean 32-year-old PhD from MIT's Media Lab pores over the data connecting millions of dots. Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, has perhaps the greatest lab in history for studying friendship. He can study social media communications including wall posts, shared photos, pokes, and friend requests among 200 million people.

For all its popularity, Facebook has yet to prove itself as an advertising platform. Visitors, it seems, focus on their friends and pay scant attention to ads. Few click on them, and advertisers pay pennies for page views. Consequently, Facebook, with its estimated revenue of $300 million this year, brings in scarcely a dime a month per member.

The hope is that if Marlow and his team manage to track the paths of influence among its communities, the company might be able to offer more effective and lucrative advertisements and promotions.

An early step is to separate each user's friends into clusters. Marlow pulls out a chart illustrating the social network of one of his colleagues, Alex Smith. It shows different groups of dots and their connecting links. One big and busy group represents fellow workers at Facebook. Others are high school friends, family, in-laws, frat brothers. Understanding these types of relationships could provide valuable context.

Marlow's team recently carried out a study to determine how close we are to our friends online. They looked at how often people clicked on their friends' news or photos, how often they communicated, and if the communications traveled in both directions. Studying this data, they determined that an average Facebook user with 500 friends actively follows the news on only 40 of them, communicates with 20, and keeps in close touch with about 10. Those with smaller networks follow even fewer. What can this teach advertisers? People don't pay much attention to most of their online friends. By focusing campaigns on people who interact with each other, they'll likely get better results.

It's an inexact science, to be sure. But that's not stopping a host of startups from hitching friendship analysis to advertising and media campaigns. A New York company, 33Across, has partnerships with social networks, instant chat providers, and makers of online applications known as widgets. Each of these partners tags users with bits of tracking code known as cookies. These let 33Across stitch together friendship profiles of tens of millions of people, says CEO Eric Wheeler. The people remain nameless numbers, but the company knows which ones are connected to which, how strong the connection is, and how many others are in their circles. Working with packaged goods companies, 33Across has focused on thousands of people who have bought a product online, sprinkling ads for the same item along the online pathways of millions of their friends.

In an industry where the majority of ads go unclicked, even a small boost can make a big difference. One San Francisco advertising company, Rapleaf, carried out a friend-based campaign for a credit-card company that wanted to sell bank products to existing customers. Tailoring offers based on friends' responses helped lift the average click rate from 0.9% to 2.7%. Although 97.3% of the people surfed past the ads, the click rate still tripled.

Rapleaf, which has harvested data from blogs, online forums, and social networks, says it follows the network behavior of 480 million people. It furnishes friendship data to help customers fine-tune their promotions. Its studies indicate borrowers are a better bet if their friends have higher credit ratings. This might mean a home buyer with a middling credit risk score of 550 should be treated as closer to 600 if most of his or her friends are in that range, says Rapleaf CEO Auren Hoffman.

Such intelligence could prove useful for a financial company. While no one would automatically green-light borrowers based on their friends, the friendship data could lead them to assign a human to see if the mathematical model is missing something. "They pay more than $100 in marketing to [attract] customers," Hoffman says. "If they reject you, they lose it."

Friendship data promise insights into not only the marketplace but also the corporation. Researchers can trace the hidden networks, identifying both the people who transmit valuable information and those who appear to block it—and how workers bypass them. By studying these patterns, managers can promote effective networkers and try to bring less communicative colleagues—outliers—into the flow.

To build up communication within the company, IBM Research scours its networks for employees with similar interests and expertise—and suggests them as friends. One key laboratory for IBM is its internal social network called Beehive, in which nearly 60,000 employees discuss patents, critique software code, and even post photos of pets.

Researcher Werner Geyer and his team sift through Beehive for correlations. Working with a control group of 3,000 employees, Geyer's team analyzed the words employees used, friends they had in common, blogs they left comments on, and many other variables. Then they suggested possible friends. Their most successful group added an average of 3.68 new friends to their networks, more than three times the average of the control group. The idea: Each new friend plugs an IBM worker into another sphere of knowledge and human contacts. "These could be valuable mentor connections," says Geyer.

For many, the question is not how to interpret friendship data but how to manage these networks and fit them into careers. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's founder, has built his entire company on extending webs of relations. The idea is that while each of us likely will switch jobs seven or eight times in our careers, we continue to build a network of friends that can sustain us.

LinkedIn's Hoffman sees himself as a test case for the value of casual friends. He says he has 1,864 contacts on LinkedIn. While he has met almost all of them personally, he admits that it sometimes takes a moment or two to recall some of them. "I think of them as light alliances," he says. But they have a value. According to studies, the contacts outside of our close friendships are more likely to lead us to new opportunities. Their networks have less overlap and extend into different areas.

Hoffman looks at friendship as a marketplace in which we trade favors. He says he can create an opportunity for someone by taking 30 seconds and whipping off an introduction to a friend. It's a small investment of time with a potentially big payoff. Both of his contacts benefit, and they have Hoffman to thank. His reputation inches up. But consider the risks. If Hoffman has misread one of his weak ties, the person he recommends might end up being a loafer, or worse. In that case, Hoffman's reputation takes a hit.

All of networked humanity mingles in this vast marketplace, trading information, creating alliances, doing favors. We may not think of our connections in such mercantile terms. But for business and individuals alike, the value in online friendship is poised to grow.

Return to the Future of Tech Table of Contents

Baker is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Monday, May 18, 2009

WaPost: Media Wink at Torture

No wonder mainstream media are goin down;...

Sun May 17, 2009 9:05 pm (PDT)

First Published 2009-05-13

Media Wink at Torture

Even as the power balance has shifted - and many readers have dumped their subscriptions - the Washington Post has chosen to remain a neocon bastion, turning its op-ed page into something of a clearinghouse for the excuses from all the ex-President´s men, says Robert Parry.

These days, the Washington Post has the look of one of those Southern newspapers in the 1960s standing firm for segregation as the wave of civil rights swept across the region. Except for the Post, the blind commitment is to neoconservatism.
The Post editors probably believe they are upholding some twisted journalistic principle, defying the views of most readers in a city that has a large African-American population, voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, and shows little sympathy for the neocons who rode roughshod over so many when George W. Bush was in power.
Even as the power balance has shifted - and many readers have dumped their subscriptions - the Post has chosen to remain a neocon bastion, turning its op-ed page into something of a clearinghouse for the excuses from all the ex-President´s men.
It also remains a comfortable home for pundits who pushed the Iraq War and seem to get a kick out of Muslims getting stripped naked and waterboarded.
The latest Post columnist to weigh in sympathetically on torturing Muslims labeled "unlawful enemy combatants" by the Bush administration is Richard Cohen in a classically dimwitted column entitled "What If Cheney´s Right?"
Cohen argues that former Vice President Dick Cheney had a point when he asserted that "enhanced interrogation techniques," including the near-drowning experience of waterboarding, elicited important intelligence information from the suspects and thus saved American lives.
Cohen, who apparently considers himself quite clever and the issue of torture rather funny, starts the column off with the quip, "Blogger Alert: I have written a column in defense of Dick Cheney." He later adds about the torture debate, "this is not merely some political catfight conducted by bloggers."
While agreeing that torture is morally wrong, Cohen writes that "where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether `enhanced interrogation techniques´ actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it."
Cohen apparently views himself as much more of a free-thinker than "those on the political left." He notes that Cheney - through his declaration that critical intelligence was extracted by these means - "poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?"
Bogus Intelligence
However, Cohen regrets that Cheney´s credibility is lacking due to his pre-Iraq War claims, such as when Cheney "insisted that `the evidence is overwhelming´ that al-Qaeda had been in high-level contact with Saddam Hussein´s regime when the `evidence´ was virtually non-existent."
If you were expecting that the next paragraph would observe that Cheney´s "evidence" for Hussein´s contact with al-Qaeda was based on a coerced confession from one of the CIA´s "high-value detainees," Ibu al-Sheikh al-Libi, you would be disappointed.
Though al-Libi´s case is precisely on point - and he is in the news since he reportedly just died (a purported suicide) at a Libyan prison - Cohen doesn´t mention al-Libi, who concocted those stories about Hussein assisting al-Qaeda to escape torture.
Al-Libi´s false claims had horrendous consequences, including the loss of much more life than occurred on 9/11.
A June 2002 CIA report cited claims by al-Libi that Iraq had "provided" unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Libi´s information also was inserted into a November 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Al-Libi´s claim found its way into Vice President Cheney´s public presentations and into then-Secretary of State Colin Powell´s infamous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003.
But the Bush administration´s confidence about al-Libi´s information went against the suspicions voiced by the Defense Intelligence Agency. "He lacks specific details" about the supposed training, the DIA observed. "It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers."
The DIA´s doubts proved prescient. In January 2004 - nearly a year after the United States invaded Iraq - al-Libi recanted his statements and claimed that he had lied because of both actual and anticipated abuse, including threats that he would be sent to an intelligence service where he expected to be tortured.
Al-Libi said he fabricated "all information regarding al-Qa´ida´s sending representatives to Iraq to try to obtain WMD assistance," according to a Feb. 4, 2004, CIA operational cable. "Once al-Libi started fabricating information, [he claimed] his treatment improved and he experienced no further physical pressures from the Americans."
Despite his cooperation, al-Libi said he was transferred to another country that subjected him to beatings and confinement in a "small box" for about 17 hours. He said he then made up another story about three al-Qaeda operatives going to Iraq "to learn about nuclear weapons." Afterwards, he said his treatment improved. [For details, see our book, Neck Deep.]
Lost Lives
Al-Libi´s false confessions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,200 American soldiers who have died in Iraq. Though such a point would appear crucial in evaluating the moral conundrum that the Post´s Cohen posed - regarding torture and saving lives - Cohen leaves it out and no Post editor put it in.
Besides the unreliability of tortured confessions, abusive treatment of detainees has stirred anti-Americanism and contributed to the death toll of American troops in Iraq, according to US military officers.
Former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008, "there are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq - as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat - are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo."
Having ignored these crucial points - reliability of intelligence and recruiting of new terrorists - Cohen goes on to praise Cheney´s eagerness to have a full and open debate on torture. "He is right about that," Cohen writes of Cheney.
Amazingly, however, Cohen defends Cheney´s position by citing the lack of a robust debate prior to the Iraq War.
"The run-up to the disastrous Iraq war was notable for its smothering lack of debate," Cohen writes. "That served us poorly then and it would serve us poorly now if people who know something about the utility, not to mention the morality, of enhanced interrogation techniques keep their mouths shut."
Perhaps Cohen thinks he is cleverly hoisting Iraq War critics on their own petard, but he is ignoring the role that Cheney, the Post and indeed his own columns played in silencing that dissent.
In the months before Bush´s invasion of Iraq, the Post editorial and op-ed pages were packed with a neocon consensus about the justifications for war and only ridicule for those who raised doubts.
For instance, in September 2002, when former Vice President Al Gore objected to the rush to war, Post columnists distorted and mocked what Gore had said.
Michael Kelly called Gore´s speech "dishonest, cheap, low" before labeling it "wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible." Charles Krauthammer added that the speech was "a series of cheap shots strung together without logic or coherence." There was no countervailing opinion published.
After Powell´s UN speech, the Post judged the presentation "irrefutable," adding: "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." That judgment was reinforced by a phalanx of Post columnists, including Richard Cohen, all hailing Powell´s speech.
Cohen laughed at anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.
"The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations - some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail - had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn´t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote. "Only a fool - or possibly a Frenchman - could conclude otherwise."
After the US invasion of Iraq and the failure to discover the imaginary WMD stockpiles, Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt made a rare and grudging apology. Hiatt acknowledged that the Post should have been more skeptical.
"If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction," Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. "If that´s not true, it would have been better not to say it." [CJR, March/April 2004]
Nevertheless, the Post´s editorial pages continued to attack American citizens who dared challenge Bush´s case for war, such as the Post´s assaults on former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson whose criticism led the Bush administration to expose Wilson´s wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA officer. [See´s "WPost Is a Neocon Propaganda Sheet."]
Cohen´s Obtuse Record
On the Plame case, Cohen also took up the neocon banner, defending Cheney´s former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with Plame´s outing. Cohen joined an Inside-the-Beltway pundit riot against Libby´s 30-month jail sentence and helped build up support for Bush´s decision to commute Libby´s sentence, sparing him jail time.
Cohen called the Libby case "a mountain out of a molehill" and poked fun at Americans who thought the invasion of Iraq might have been a bad idea.
"They thought - if `thought´ can be used in this context - that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to [columnist] Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something," Cohen wrote.
That Cohen was wrong about WMD and the case for war in Iraq should not have come as a surprise. His cluelessness is almost legendary. On nearly every major development of the past couple of decades, Cohen has missed the point or gotten it dead wrong.
For example, during the Florida recount battle in 2000, Cohen cared less about whom the voters wanted in the White House than the Washington insiders' certainty that George W. Bush would be a uniter, not a divider.
"The nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse," Cohen wrote. "That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush." [For more, see´s "Is WP´s Cohen the Dumbest Columnist?"]
Perhaps even more troubling than the Post's stupidity, however, is the racism that seems to underlie the smirking attitude within the Post´s editorial offices about the humiliation, torture and slaughter of Arabs and other Muslims.
Do Richard Cohen and his editors think it´s funny that Cheney and Bush saw nothing wrong with subjecting Muslim detainees to forced nudity (often in front of women), to days on end of sleep deprivation, to confinement in painful stress positions and to waterboarding?
If not, why the snotty tone of Cohen's column? "Blogger Alert"; "political catfight conducted by bloggers"; "soupçon of doubt"?
It is hard to imagine if the victims of the torture and abuse were of any other racial, religious or ethnic group that such a lighthearted tone would be acceptable. But anti-Muslim racism appears to be part of the Post´s editorial mindset, reflected in a similar lack of outrage over civilian deaths during Israel´s 2006 war in Lebanon and the 2008-09 assault on Gaza.
As the Post faces today´s economic crisis amid talk that it may not survive as a going-concern, the newspaper may look for sympathy from the community that it purports to serve. But the Post´s endless excuses for the crimes of the Bush administration have left many readers with an ambivalent sense of whether the Post deserves to survive.
Even some journalists privately feel such disgust at the Post´s neocon positioning that they tell me that if they woke up tomorrow and the Post had ceased to exist, they wouldn´t shed a tear.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

Monday, May 11, 2009

Journalist Freed

Petition Signers,

I'm writing with joy and relief to let you know that petition signatures helped to make a difference: American journalist Roxana Saberi is free!

Individuals around the world, including the almost 28,000 activists who signed our petition, have pressured the Iranian government to free Roxana Saberi. Ms. Saberi appeared in court to have her appeal heard yesterday and her charges were reduced. She walked out of prison in Iran today and was reunited with her parents.

You can read more about Ms. Saberi's appeal and release on the BBC. You can also visit to read more about the global campaign to support Ms. Saberi and the Committee to Protect Journalists to learn about the journalists who remain imprisoned in Iran and around the world.

Thank you so much to all who signed the Free Roxana Saberi petition - we helped to make a difference.

Rebecca Young,
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Monday, May 4, 2009

Freedom of the press declines in every region in 2008

By Joe Byrne

Published: May 3, 2009
Updated 8 hours ago

Freedom House' annual 'freedom of the press report' analyzed the state of the news media in 195 countries; advocates found that the freedom of the press declined in every region for the first time since the annual report was published.

The report, which can be found at the Freedom House website, recorded the seventh straight year in overall declines in freedom of the press worldwide.

The report categorized countries in one of three groupings: free, partly free, and not free. 36% of countries were 'free' for the media, 31% were 'partly free,' and 33% were 'not free,' according to Freedom House. Myanmar, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan were the countries with the worst rating for freedom of the press.

Other important changes to media freedom in the past year include the demotion of Israel to 'partly free' status, due to travel restrictions on reporters, attempts to influence media coverage, and "greater self-censorship and biased reporting, particularly during the outbreak of open war in late December." Israel was once the only state in the Middle East and North Africa to have 'free' status; now there is none.

News media based in Hong Kong and countries within the former Soviet Union also suffered from authoritarian governmental control in the past year.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The End of Times?

The nation's largest left-wing newspaper and the bible for network news producers and bookers may be going under. This week, The New York Times announced more staggering losses: nearly $75 million dollars in the first quarter alone. The New York Post is reporting that the Times Company owes more than $1 billion and has just $34 million in the bank. A few months ago, the company borrowed $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a reported 14 percent interest rate. With things going south fast, pardon the pun, Slim might want to put in a call to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

The spin from Sulzberger is that the Internet is strangling the newspaper industry, and there is some truth to that. Why read an ideologically crazed paper when you can acquire a variety of information on your computer? But other papers are not suffering nearly as much as the Times, so there must be more to it.

There is no question that the Times has journalistic talent. This week the paper won five Pulitzers. It's true that the Pulitzer people favor left-wing operations (the past eight Pulitzer Prizes for commentary have gone to liberal writers), but New York Times journalists often do good reporting.

The problem is that under Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller, the Times has gone crazy left, attacking those with whom the paper disagrees and demonstrating a hatred for conservatives (particularly President Bush) that is almost pathological. The Times features liberal columnists in every section of the paper, and they hit low, often using personal invective to smear perceived opponents.

That unfair and unbalanced approach has alienated a large number of readers and advertisers. According to a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, 46 percent of Americans define themselves as conservative. Just 34 percent say they are liberal. In this very intense marketplace, insulting half the country on a daily basis may not be a great business plan.

The Times company also has a major problem with The Boston Globe, which Sulzberger bought back in 1993. That paper is on the verge of bankruptcy and recently told its employees that it will cut their pay and health benefits. Since the Times and the Globe are big on "universal" health care, that caused some giggling in anti-Times precincts.

Over the past few months, newspapers in Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis and Denver have either folded or filed for bankruptcy. With the exception of The Rocky Mountain News, all the papers were committed left-wing enterprises. The truth is that most Americans are traditional-minded folks. They believe their country is noble; they want respectful discourse. Fanaticism of any kind is not the American way.

The New York Times is most definitely a committed left-wing concern that is openly contemptuous of the conservative, traditional point of view. That is the primary reason the paper may soon dissolve. And all the cash in Carlos Slim's fat wallet is not going to change that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009 - Links

Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:21 am (PDT)

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009

* _#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation_

* _# 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA_

* _# 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business_

* _# 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?_

* _# 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets_

* _# 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act_

* _# 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking_

* _# 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly_

* _#9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify_

* _# 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture_

* _# 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on

* _# 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind_

* _# 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq_

* _# 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste_

* _# 15 Worldwide Slavery_

* _# 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights_

* _# 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights_

* _# 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers_

* _# 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock

* _# 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record_

* _# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option_

* _# 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid_

* _# 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs_

* _# 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror_

* _# 25 Bushs Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer_

Click on title above to see 8 minute video about Project Censored and how our news at:

Journalism vs. Commentary

Alec Baldwin, HuffPost

A lot of huffing and puffing here about my last post. The reading comprehension here can be rather surprising at times.
I said I was a fan of both Keith and Rachel. Watch them all the time. I suppose I hold them to a higher standard as I feel that now is our time. A time for real change. I didn't vote for Obama to savor the thrill of having our first black president. I did so because I thought he was smart and tough. I want Obama to undo much of what was done these past eight years by the crypto-fascists in the Bush administration. And a good part of that would involve a press that was on the ball. On the case. Keeping an eye on what is going on. Making sure that Americans are properly informed about what our government is doing. Something that was scarce during the Bush years.

Journalism is what is required now. And, yes, some commentary. But more journalism than commentary. That's what a newspaper does. That's why newspapers are quoted so often as the sources of actual news on this very site. Newspapers are about journalism. The internet, and sites like this, are about commentary. People sign on and give their opinion. But that is not journalism. That is commentary, internet style, whereby most people are not trained as journalists and the comments of many posters here are anonymous. You can piss on anyone you want, say anything you want, and so long as it is within the boundaries of HuffPo politesse, you are in.

The sine qua non to understanding the garbage barge of the internet is the AOL home page. The AOL home page, which makes Us Weekly look like Paris Match, wants its readers to focus on the latest unflattering photos of stars or their DUIs. The AOL home page is where polls rated George W. Bush as one of the ten greatest presidents, even as late as last fall. The AOL home page is where they wrote that I had "picked a fight" with Maddow and Olberman.

Perhaps this comes as no surprise, but there are never, ever any names that appear as authors of the monstrously boring and mind-numbing content on the home page of this popular server. Never. Ever. AOL just keeps churning out all of that trash on their digital welcome mat, and you never find out who is responsible.

That's the Internet. Some great, serious, lofty thinking, one click away. The AOL home page, like a filthy dinner plate, just begging to be scraped and washed, another click away.

I'll take the Times any day. Judith Miller, or no. As for Keith and Rachel, I would never pick a fight with them. You think I want Keith Olbermann gnawing on me on national television? You haven't been gnawed till you've been gnawed by Keith. And Rachel? I love Rachel. Doesn't everyone? But just as I don't want root beer for dinner, I like my "news programming" a little straighter, at least during these times.

Monday, April 20, 2009

DC Reporting : Myths, Fabrications & Whitewash

DC Reporting : Myths, Fabrications & Whitewash
When creating D.C. myths, Washington reporters aren't interested in actual

I was reading _this_
( [link fixed], the zillionth "analysis" of political populism from a
Washington, D.C.-based reporter, when I came upon this pretty perfect example
of how Beltway journalists just make shit up:

The country today is different. America has an enormous middle class that
is heavily invested in the financial system and is hardly about to organize
for its overthrow...
People who have lost half the value of their 401(k) plans, in other words,
want to regain it by having the economy rebound, not by seizing the assets
of ExxonMobil Corp.

If this reporter was even the slightest bit interested in whether this
banalia was true, he would have spent all of 5 seconds on the Google and found
that actually, empirical public opinion data shows that Americans are quite
supportive of "seizing the assets" of oil companies like ExxonMobil.

As _USA Today_
( reported a few months ago, a windfall profits tax -
ie. a tax to seize oil company assets - is wildly popular, according to
its surveys. This was the_same finding as ABC News' earlier poll
( . Indeed, even the conservative-leaning

found that just 47 percent of
Americans oppose complete and total nationalization of the entire oil industry.
But, you see, when creating D.C. myths - in this case, the myth that
Americans celebrate being ruled by corporate special interests, want no change,
are completely happy with the status quo, and love oil companies -
Washington reporters aren't interested in actual data. They live in a world of
six-figures and lobbyists and cocktail parties - a cloistered gated community
whose residents are nauseated by the idea of "seizing assets" of the
wealthiest corporations in the world. And so these reporters assume the consensus
of that gated community is the consensus of the majority of Americans who
live outside that gated community - even when the hard data says exactly the

I wonder if instead of working in the factual world, I should just start
making shit up. It would save me so much time in my work to not have to, ya
know, verify anything. I could write entire columns just saying the first
piece of conventional wisdom that came into my mind, without even bothering
to see if it was true. Wow...what an easy life that would be.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Corporate TakeOver of Americas Newspapers

Read All About It: The Corporate Takeover of America's Newspapers is an institutional acknowledgement of what many wary readers have known for years: Corporate control is ruining our daily newspapers.

Oh, excuse me: I didn't mean to say "our" newspapers. It's just that I've always thought of daily newspapers as the guardians of our -- meaning the public's -- right to know. The guardians of truth, justice, the public welfare and all that.
But who am I fooling. America's daily newspapers don't belong to us. Nor, for that matter, do they even seek to serve us any longer. They have more important concerns now: appeasing advertisers and enriching stockholders. Read All About It, by James D. Squires, the editor of the Chicago Tribune from 1981 to 1989, explains why.

Click on title above for full article;

Website Demonizing Goldman-Sucks Raises Firms Ire

An irate adviser/blogger has created to vent against the firm
By Jamie Burns

April 17, 2009, 3:35 PM EST

With all of the frightening numbers being thrown around these days — five million jobs lost, an 8.5% unemployment rate — no numerical value conjures up evil more effectively than 666.

One angry adviser is relying on the number of the beast to illustrate his frustrations with The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on his website,
The New York financial giant — which posted positive earnings late Monday, has responded to creator Mike Morgan, a Jensen Beach, Fla. adviser, by demanding that he stop using the Goldman Sachs trademark within the URL of his site.

Although the site, launched March 26, states that it has no affiliation with Goldman Sachs, the company demanded in a letter sent April 8 that Mr. Morgan remove the company's trademark by tomorrow or face legal action.

“We always act to protect our firm,” a spokesman for Goldman Sachs said.

“This is not about Mr. Morgan’s rights to publish his views; it’s about his use of the Goldman Sachs trademark. It’s a domain issue, not a content issue.”

Mr. Morgan says he plans to fight for his domain name, as well as his First Amendment rights.

"We have followed all of the legal requirements to own and maintain the website under the address we have selected," he wrote on his blog.

"It's just another example of how a bully like Goldman Sachs tries to throw their weight around and this is a clear violation of our constitutional rights."

According to Mr. Morgan, Goldman Sachs did not mention the content of his site in the letter. “We’ve been very careful with the content,” he said in a media conference call.

Mr. Morgan says he hopes to inform readers about Goldman Sachs’ role in the economic crisis through blog posts and comments.

He hopes to write a book entitled, "How Goldman Sachs Destroyed the World" from information gathered through, according to the site.

Mr. Morgan and a team of volunteers are looking to expand their critique of the financial industry by franchising their brand.

He posted a list of links to upcoming sites that are in development to give other large financial institutions with the treatment, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Pacific Investment Management Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., and Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc., both of New York.

As of April 17, has received more than 236,000 hits.

Prof. takes questions on cybercrime and the Net

April 1 was to be the day that a destructive Web virus, dubbed Conficker, unleashed its full power upon unsuspecting Net denizens. While the day passed with no sign of calamity, worry about the virus, coupled with recent revelations of the threat of cyberespionage, have stoked fears about the impact of cybercrime. University of Toronto professor Ron Deibert is part of a crack team of Canadian researchers who
revealed this weekend a network, dubbed GhostNet, of more than 1,200 infected computers worldwide that includes such "high-value targets" as Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, as well as a dozen computers in Canada.

Who is behind GhostNet? Along with Rafal Rohozinski, Prof. Deibert wrote in the Globe and Mail: "The most obvious explanation, and certainly the one in which the circumstantial evidence tilts the strongest, would be that this set of high-profile targets has been exploited by the Chinese state for military and strategic-intelligence purposes. Indeed, many of the high-confidence targets we identified are clearly linked to Chinese foreign and defence policy, particularly in South and South East Asia."

China, for their part, dismissed the report as lies intended to stoke anxiety over Beijing's growing influence in world affairs.

Nevertheless, following the publication of the GhostNet research, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan warned Monday that cyberwarfare will be a "growing threat" for the foreseeable future, as he urged Canadian corporations to start patching potential holes in their networks.

How immediate is the threat posed to governments by cyberespionage? With so many digital worms creeping over the Web, what is the best way to respond to viruses like Conficker? How real in these cases is the threat to our own personal privacy? Prof. Deibert is joining us live to help separate the facts from the hype. Feel free to submit your questions using our comment tool or via Twitter @GlobeTechnology.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Matt Frehner, Thanks a lot for joining us today, Professor Deibert. Following warnings from Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan concerning the "growing threat" of cyberwarfare, what should policymakers be doing to try to limit the reach and frequency of cyberspy and other botnet systems? What do you see as Canada's role in this?

Ron Deibert writes: The question of what should be done at a policy level is an important one to me personally, and to us at the Information Warfare Monitor. For many years (and at least as far back as a 2003 comment piece I wrote in the Globe and Mail) I have been warning of increasing militarization of cyberspace and that we need to begin thinking about arms control in cyberspace. Part of the solution is to focus on securing critical infrastructures, and to create incentives for manufacturers of computer and software equipment to take security seriously. But that is only part of the solution. Arms control in cyberspace is going to be very challenging, in part because the "actors" involved include more than just states, and involve criminal organizations and even individuals. How do you get all of those actors involved in any possible arms control agreement? Another vexing problem is the one of attribution. Although the GhostNet study lays out quite powerful circumstantial evidence against China, we also lay out alternative explanations. Indeed, one of the defining features of cyberspace is the ease by which the perpetrators of these sorts of attacks can mask their identity and real location.

I see a great potential for Canada in this area. Long ago, we were widely known for taking a lead in pushing for arms control as part of a broader "human security" agenda, both in terms of arms control negotiations and verification. There was a small, but very influential area of expertise within the Department of Foreign Affairs on arms control verification, called the Verification Research Unit. That unit no longer exists, and our interest in promoting arms control and human security has diminished somewhat in recent years. In the area of cyberspace, I think it's natural for Canada to lead, both because of our past experience but also because of our historical experiences with telecommunications. We are a large land mass, and have depended on telecommunications, and we have a long and distinguished intellectual history around the study of telecommunications, beginning with Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.

Matt Frehner, With so many digital worms creeping over the Web, and the release of reports such as yours, how can the average computer user separate the hype surrounding viruses like Conficker from legitimate threats?

Ron Deibert writes: This is an excellent question and is at the heart of one of the aims of the Information Warfare Monitor -- to separate hype from reality. We are an evidence based organization, and that is why we were very careful to avoid speculation and hyperbole, and also to be cautious about making attribution. Some other organizations out there have been quick to identify China as the culprit, and the evidence does seem powerful, but it is not conclusive and there are alternative explanations. The answer is a combination of field investigations, technical scouting, and data analysis. This is a new field of inquiry we are helping to pioneer and I believe it is going to become more important as we move forward in dealing with the challenges of controlling arms races in cyberspace.

Roman Spears from St. Catharines Canada writes: With identity theft and hijack programs being threats to the average home user, what recommendations can you make to help us all be more secure online? Who is making the detection programs that can find this malicious code and rid the internet of it?

Ron Deibert writes: For the average Internet user, the GhostNet report -- and others like it -- has undoubtedly caused concerns, and we have been blitzed with many emails from individuals, activists, and NGOs, asking if they are infected, whether we can help, and what we might recommend for security online. We are not a service organization, but a research and development laboratory, so there is a limit to what we can do. There are many organizations out there whose job it is to provide information security, particular for consumers. But one of the remarkable aspects of our investigation was that the main tool used by the attackers was only identified by 11 of the 34 virus scanners we employed. That is a big problem. Many of the machines that were infected by GhostNet were using Windows, and of course most of the viruses out there disproportionately affect Windows operating systems. Switching to an open source operating system, like Linux, is now highly recommended for government ministries for this reason alone.

For NGOs and activists, there are many information security resources and training organizations out there that I would recommend, including Tactical Tech and Frontline Defenders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others.

Albin Forone from Canada writes: I trust and use the Canada Revenue Agency site more or less as confidently as I use my bank and brokerage sites, and I'd be inclined to assume government sites with national security data at stake are pretty secure. So given that there are nefarious government or terror groups with internet crowbars, how much concern do you have about the quality of the government site and communications internet security measures.

Ron Deibert writes: We place a great deal of trust in our governments' communications systems when we communicate sensitive information to them, and hope that they take the issues of information security seriously. What GhostNet reveals, though, is that a large swath of high impact political and economic targets can indeed be compromised, including ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, and international organizations. Many of these organizations were compromised for many months, without their knowledge, and the attackers had potential access to all sorts of sensitive documents, and even had the ability to eavesdrop on classified meetings through the activation of web cameras and listening devices. Although most governments have invested heavily in secure methods of communication, many have not. This is particularly the case in the developing world where information security is often a distant priority next to other goals, such as the elimination of poverty or even simply access to information.

As citizens, we should be diligent to ensure that our government in Canada is doing the best possible job to secure our critical infrastructures, particularly when it comes to sending and receiving our own private confidential information, and that they are handling the latter with the utmost care. We should do the same with respect to the companies that provide us with our connectivity. We live in a world deeply permeated by digital technologies, much of which is serviced by private third parties and hosted on servers beyond our immediate control. We put a lot of trust in those organizations when we communicate with and through them.

O.A. from Toronto writes: To what extent would restrictions designed to limit such malicious networks also have the overlapping effect of censoring or limiting everyone else's freedom on the Internet?

Ron Deibert writes: This is an excellent question, and one that is vexing me personally. I worry that some of the conclusions that may be drawn from the GhostNet report and others like it will end up leading to pressures to over-regulate of the Internet. For example, the difficulties around identifying the perpetrators of attacks like GhostNet may lead some to propose the elimination of anonymous communications. However, the ability to surf the Internet and communicate anonymously is often very important, especially in the cases of whisteblowers and human rights advocates, and it is intimately linked with the right to privacy. Recently, there were discussions being held at the highest levels, and including the national security organs of both China and the United States, for some kind of IP (Internet Protocol) trace-back system in which owners of machines connected to the Internet could be positively identified. Although I believe the proposal is ultimately unworkable and undesirable, the fact that both China and the United States were on the same side of this question is worrisome.

Ultimately, I worry that in order to deal with some of these emerging problems in cyberspace, regulations will be made that will ruin the Internet and turn it into something else altogether. We must avoid that while finding ways to deal with cyber-espionage, denial of service attacks, and the growing spread of viruses, trojan horses, and worms.

M.L. from Canada writes: In terms of stemming the infiltration of cyberspys, Are there steps individual users can take, or is the problem of cyberespionage largely one that governments need to combat?

Ron Deibert writes: Actually, I'd like to begin my answer by turning that question on its head (if you do not mind). One of the characteristics of cyberspace is that the capabilities to engage in the attacks described in GhostNet are now readily available on the Internet. The main tool that was used in the GhostNet attack was a trojan horse software program
called Ghost Rat that is widely available for free download on the Internet. It was written by Chinese programmers, and has since been translated into English. It has a very nice graphical user interface (GUI) and is very simple to operate. The same sort of tools and malware kits for virus and worm production are also easily obtained. One no longer need an NSA-size organization and budget to engage in sophisticated cyberespionage. The Internet has democratized many things, including apparently signals intelligence. The same goes for denial of service attacks and computer network operations.

I do believe that this is going to be one of the most vexing problems of controlling the militarization of cyberspace: getting agreement among ~200 states is one thing, but how do you get the agreement of individuals?

Governments and individuals both have a role to play. All of us need to understand that cyberspace is a precious commons, one that we will need in order to solve the many shared global problems that present themselves today. We need a shared communications medium through citizens around the world can communicate freely and safely. Right now, that medium is in the process of being degraded by Internet content filtering, censorship, surveillance, computer network attacks, privacy violations, and bandwidth throttling.

In terms of solutions, I think we need to begin locally here in Canada, and start pushing for laws that, for example, enshrine network neutrality, protect privacy, create free zones of access to the Internet for all people (especially in rural areas) and protect access to information and freedom of speech. From there, we need to encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit and hope a global regime of cyberspace protection ultimately emerges. Right now, regrettably, the opposite is the case.

Matt Frehner, That's all the time we have today. I'd like to finish off with one final question: Looking forward, can you tell us a little bit about how you see these threats developing in the next 5 or so years? What kind of a role to you see cyberwarfare playing in future conflicts between states?

Ron Deibert writes: In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in incidences of cyberwarfare, in conflicts that include Russia, Georgia, Estonia, China, Tibet, Burma, Israel, and others. Many states and non-state actors are investing heavily in cyber warfare capabilities, including the United States and China. Military doctrines now speak openly about fighting and winning wars in cyberspace and recognize the strategic importance of the information domain. At the same time, the number of states actively intervening to block access to information and services online is growing. Another research project I am involved in, the OpenNet Initiative, tracks Internet censorship and right now we are finishing up tests in 71 countries. I expect the number of instances we find of states blocking access to information will number in the dozens. That includes governments blocking access to the websites of political opposition groups and news organizations.

Alongside of all of this, the ease by which personal information can be harvested, fused, and analyzed from the digital traces we leave is growing. Surveillance is now widespread and facilitated by the private entities that service our communications, including Internet Service Providers and other communications companies.

Essentially, cyberspace is being carved up and militarized at the same time that it is being heavily monitored.

Together, these trends point to an ominous development and a troubling brew. I do believe that thinking about protecting the Internet as a forum for free expression, privacy, and access to information is one of the major issues of the next few decades.

Thanks for all of the questions!