Friday, April 15, 2011

China criticizes USA internet freedom?

The Chinese do have a point, but it's almost too absurd to believe. The government that developed the Great Firewall of China is criticizing the US for its double standards? China, of course, has a history of "hidden" internet censorship--making websites appear to be offline, randomly dropping connections, forcing search engines to silently remove search results for queries that the government considers sensitive, and regularly deleting posts made on domestic websites. It's not too hidden, though--the government wouldn't want citizens to actually end up believing that they have free speech; then the government would have to lock a lot of them up for speaking the wrong opinion. I don't imagine they can afford to have as many prisons as the US, and it's impractical to execute all of them, too. So it's a good thing they do explicit censorship, too.

Anyway, it a comical case of the pot calling the kettle black. When you see that China is blocking reports and internet searches about the middle east uprisings, and even about time travel, it sort of makes you feel better about the U.S. government private industry harassing Wikileaks and its supporters. Or seizing laptops at the border without official suspicion or warrant. Or the whole Guantanamo Bay thing. Or any number of other policies. Surely, human rights activists in China wish they had our problems.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Avaaz supports Bradley Manning

I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite organizations, Avaaz, is starting a campaign to stop the torture of Bradley Manning. I signed the petition and donated to the Washington, DC ad campaign immediately.

Last time I went on vacation to the U.S., the self-checkin kiosk wouldn't work for us and the check-in agent said there was some sort of "flag" on me. On her screen I saw a bright red box with a message containing a three-letter acronym that I neglected to memorize. She explained that she'd have to make a call, went away for fifteen minutes, then came back and said I was cleared. On the way back to Canada, the same thing happened again, and the agent informed me that I could expect this to happen every time I crossed the border.

What sort of list am I on? Was I put on a list because of opinions on my blog (the blog's probably not prominent enough for that), or because I donated money to WikiLeaks in response to the Collateral Murder video? Bradley Manning is the person accused of giving that video to WikiLeaks, and given his harsh and unconstitutional treatment, I wonder if I should be worried for myself, too. Obviously, they can't imprison everyone that supports the cause of truth and transparency in government, but they can harass them a little bit at the border, and like lawsuits against people that share a couple of albums on the internet, they could pick a few targets at random just to create fear and discourage activism.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Software Patents Suck

Thanks to "Chris" at for this PSA:
If you develop an application and want it to be fully legal, I have to disappoint you. You have no chance to come up with anything, that won’t be in breach of at least one patent, as they now exclude you from use of most basic techniques. Most likely, you’ve already broken a dozen patents just by thinking about your app. Every Tuesday, the US Patent Office publishes some 3,000 new patents, many overbroad, generic, or just plain ridiculous. Piles of them created a legal maze, impossible to navigate even for companies employing armies of cloned, genetically engineered super-lawyers.