[Freedombox-discuss] Raining on the parade

Michael Rogers michael at briarproject.org
Mon Jun 25 09:09:33 UTC 2012

Hash: SHA1

On 25/06/12 04:07, Sandy Harris wrote:
> Can a computer actually function as "An organizing tool for
> democratic activists in hostile regimes"?

Can a letter, a printing press or a telephone be used as an organising
tool? Clearly the answer is yes. So it would be strange if the digital
equivalents of those things couldn't also be used as organising tools.

> 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?

That's not an argument against the Freedombox, it's an argument
against trying to oppose an authoritarian state. Dissidents risk
punishment no matter what tools they use. All we can do as tool-makers
is to ensure that the tools we create don't make dissidents easier to
find or easier to punish - preferably, the opposite - and that they
allow dissidents to make informed choices about the risks they're
willing to take.

> 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.

Nevertheless, people in China routinely use encrypted communication
tools like Ultrasurf and Tor to circumvent the national firewall. The
law on paper and the law on the ground are two different things,
especially in authoritarian states.

Don't get me wrong - I think it's absolutely right to take a critical
approach to any project with lofty political goals. Thanks for raising
that perspective, even if I happen to disagree this time.

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