June 6th 2011 was a strange day. Facing the Pacific ocean Steve Jobs was describing his perfect plan to know which books you read, what magazines you buy, what music you listen, who you correspond with, who you love and who hates you. On the Atlantic ocean Eben Moglen, Lawrence Lessig were describing how that kind of technology is threatening the very foundation of our democracy. Moglen’s keynote starts with:
we have 4 forces doing anything they can to eliminate freedom on the net.
- governments deeply concerned about the possible loss of control that comes from the freedom to tell stories any way we want and escape the framing that power puts around things
- content owners who believe that their bits are sacred and the risk that those bits may be copied justifies controlling the net down to each endpoint and down to every eyeball and every eardrum
- data miners, the industry of the future, their job is to know what you want before you know it so that they can sell you to somebody. All that is required is to read your email, check every party that you go to, check the conversations you have with your friends. And they have arranged to make this possible.
- network operators that are transforming the end-to-end network (as described by Lessig) into the “everything must come to us” and “all your life are belong to us! aren’t you happy, people?”
platforms, devices that won’t allow you to take the ads out of the webpage or prevent you from sharing a song or prevent you from speaking your mind.
[…] We are losing the autonomy of personality. […] The net has turned against us.
Enter the Freedombox and take back the net as we know it. Watch the full video, it’s well worth it.
That’s the theme of the Personal Democracy Forum that started today in New York.
Too often, the discussion of technology and politics employs a kind of lazy shorthand. We say things like “The Internet is revolutionizing politics,” or “the Internet is helping dictators,” as if a set of network protocols and bits and wires could do anything on its own. Unfortunately, that shorthand often infects our discussion of current events, and we end up debating things like “TwitterRevolution” or “Facebook effect” rather than the real issues, which are what people do with these tools. The Internet, after all, doesn’t empower anyone. We empower ourselves.
Don’t miss the plenary keynote with Dan Sinker, Michael Wesch, Lisa Gansky, Lawrence Lessig, Andrew Rasiej and Eben Moglen that will probably tell the public more about the FreedomBox.
Eben Moglen explains on CBSNews the FreedomBox project: software that keeps you in control of your private addressbook and your digital life online combined with plug-computer hardware. The ending quote “If that’s a revolution then we’re doing it” is pure Moglen style. Enjoy it.
Eben Moglen is helping Free Software to keep the promise of a free society. In his keynote speech at FOSDEM Moglen has laid out the foundation for the future of the Free Software movement: make sure that digital communication between people remains free.
Our freedom depends on reengineering the network to replace vulnerable, centralized services with alternatives which resist government control.
He identified the enemy (the data-mining industry, lead by corporation and governments around the world), gave the enemy a name and an easy target (Facebook) and he gave an action plan (the Freedom Box).
Freedom Box is the name we give to a free software system built to keep your communications free and private whether chatting with friends or protesting in the street.
I noted that he didn’t mention Twitter in his speech, and I think I know why. First of all Twitter has a good track of records when it comes to step up against government requests. What I believe is Moglen’s most clear reason to mention only Facebook is that he wants to give one target to the crowd, and a fat, easy one, too. Facebook must be the evil, much like Microsoft was the only big, fat target for all FSF’s propaganda (not Autodesk or or Adobe or Oracle or IBM).
It’s important to donate now on Kickstarter: Push the FreedomBox Foundation from 0 to 60 in 30 days. I hope that FSF and FSFE now donate to this project, too: I’d be really surprised if they don’t.
PS If you want to read more here are some articles: NY Times, WSJ, BoingBoing, Slashdot, reddit, ZDNet, The New York Observer, New Europe, techPresident, LWN.
Eben Moglen mentioned not too long ago Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg saying:
Mr. Zuckerberg has […] done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age
I wonder if he foresaw also that this golden boy would also try to hack the US financial system and get funds from Wall Street without actually going to Wall Street. And meanwhile he may be creating a new bubble, with the help of Goldman Sachs, supported by US tax money, according to Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF.
I have the feeling that if the SEC lets it go, this financial hack may be remembered as Zuckerberg’s master hack.
I watched Eben’s speech but now I can quote it too thanks to the transcript done by the friends at Software Freedom Law Center. Talking about the problems of the cloud services, Eben hits Facebook hard with his rhetoric:
The human race has susceptibility to harm but Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record. He has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age. Because he harnessed Friday night, that is, ‘Everybody needs to to get laid,’ and turned into a structure for degenerating the integrity of human personality and he has to remarkable extent succeeded with a very poor deal, namely ‘I will give you free web-hosting and some PHP doodads and you get spying for free all the time’. And it works. How could that have happened? There was no architectural reason. Facebook is the web with, ‘I keep all the logs, how do you feel about that.’ It’s a terrarium for what it feels like to live in a Panopticon built out of web parts. And it shouldn’t be allowed. That’s a very poor way to deliver those services. They are grossly overpriced at ‘spying all the time’, they are not technically innovative. They depend on an architecture subject to misuse and the business model that supports them is misuse. There isn’t any other business model for them. This is bad. I’m not suggesting it should be illegal. It should be obsolete. We’re technologists we should fix it.
As Nicole says, Facebook is Internet for the lazy people that don’t know or want to setup a blog on their own and learn how to use search, RSS or even email. And there are many of those.
So what do we need? We need a really good web server that you can put in your pocket and plug in any place. It shouldn’t be any larger than the charger for your cellphone. You should be able to plug it into any power jack in the world or sync it up with any wi-fi router that happens to be in this neighborhood […]
This is stuff we’ve got. We need to put it together … I’m not talking about stuff that’s hard for us. We need to make a free software distribution guys.[…]
Great social networking, updates automatically, software so strong you couldn’t knock it over if you kicked it, and you know what, you get ‘no spying’ for free. We can do that …
A small, personal, portable device, connected to the Internet with a simple and easy way to receive updates via a push mechanism and sync data between different sources. Something similar to what Funambol’s CEO said in Five Reasons To Care About Mobile Cloud Computing and I sketched earlier thoughts about the same topic. We’re facing interesting and busy times ahead.
Read there rest of Highlights of Eben Moglen’s Freedom in the Cloud Talk – Software Freedom Law Center.