[Freedombox-discuss] Raining on the parade

Sandy Harris sandyinchina at gmail.com
Mon Jun 25 03:07:14 UTC 2012

Granted the basic notion of the Box is excellent, I'd say it would
be useful to ask ourselves some hard questions, especially in
relation to possible use in oppressive regimes.

Evgeny Morozov has written a critique of the whole
notion of using the net as a way to liberate the world.
His book definitely has limitations; for one thing, he
looks at the problem mainly from the point of view
of US foreign policy. However, I'd say it is still
worth reading: http://www.evgenymorozov.com/

Stated goals, from https://freedomboxfoundation.org/learn/

    Email and telecommunications that protects privacy and resists eavesdropping
    A publishing platform that resists oppression and censorship.
    An organizing tool for democratic activists in hostile regimes.
    An emergency communication network in times of crisis.

Those are all extremely worthy goals, but are they achievable?

The stated goals for WikiLeaks include this text:

" Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in
" Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the
" Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to
" people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical
" behavior in their governments and corporations.

They have exposed some things in those areas, such as
extrajudicial killings by the Kenyan government and some
of the Syrian dictator's email. However, far their best
publicised and controversial work has involved not the
claimed "primary" targets, but misbehaviour by the
US government.

Are we in danger of something similar, building a toy
for Western hackers rather than a system that
oppressed people can use?

Can a computer actually function as "An organizing
tool for democratic activists in hostile regimes"?
Such regimes routinely imprison dissidents without
much in the way of legal safeguards. Does anyone
imagine they would not stomp rather firmly on
anyone they caught with a Box?

A reference on laws about crypto around the world:

In many of the countries where one might hope
to see Boxes used to resist oppression, they
would be illegal under existing law. In China, for
example, you need a license to use crypto at
all, with an exception for things built into other
products such as SSL/TLS in a browser or the
file encryption in MS-Word.

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