Anonymous are now ‘rickrolling’ Isis

The best way to fight terrorism? The world’s oldest meme, apparently

Rick, rollingvia YouTube

And so, the cyber war between Isis and Anonymous rages on. After shutting down over 5000 of the militant group’s social media accounts, and publishing a handy “how to” hacking guide against them, Anonymous are well into the midst of their “biggest” ever terrorist takedown. The online activists are apparently more determined than ever to destroy Isis – and now, they may have just unleashed their most powerful weapon yet.

According to a recent tweet from the #OpParis account, Anonymous are now flooding all pro-Isis hashtags with “Rick Roll” videos. That means; whenever any Isis account tries to spread a message, or get something trending, the topic will instead be flooded with countless videos of Rick Astley circa 1987.

“Rickrolling”, the internet meme where you trick people into watching the Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”, was started on 4chan way back in 2007. It’s been used in viruses, protests against Scientology and Internet tax, and on countless lolz April fool’s days videos. If you’re a hacker with a penchant for the past, it’s the obvious choice.

For those of you that don’t remember the meme, don’t worry. I don’t blame you. It’s easily over eight years old – which, in internet time, basically means it’s prehistoric. It probably stopped being funny around that time too. But oh well. Just appreciate the effort, everyone.

US officials seize on Paris attacks to press for “back door” to encryption


By Joseph Kishore
18 November 2015

US officials are moving rapidly to exploit the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday to push forward with already existing plans to undermine encrypted communications and vastly expand the powers of the state.

The Obama administration, which created the conditions for the tragedy in Paris with its war policy that has laid waste to much of the Middle East, is now using it to further its criminal operations. The campaign is being led by John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, who has been personally implicated in both the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional spy programs and the CIA’s torture program.

In remarks delivered Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Brennan blamed insufficient spying capacities for the terrorist attacks. “A lot of technological capabilities that are available right now… make it exceptionally difficult, both technically as well as legally, for intelligence and security services to have the insight they need,” he claimed.

As with responses to other attacks, there is no effort to reconcile claims that insufficient “intelligence” allowed the attacks in Paris to happen with the fact that the individuals who carried out the shootings were known to intelligence agencies, with several being actively monitored. One of the alleged attackers, Omar Ismaïl Mostefai, had been flagged by French police for suspected “radicalization” but had been allowed to travel to and from Syria unhindered. Warnings from Turkish officials were ignored.

Brennan went on to denounce NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for exposing the blanket surveillance of communications all over the world. “[I]n the past several years because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of handwringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging.”

In other words, the CIA and NSA must be given the power to spy on all communications, and any challenge to these powers (“handwringing”) provide aide and comfort to terrorists. By “legal” actions, Brennan is referring to a handful of court decisions that have ruled some aspects of the vast NSA spying apparatus illegal, prompting Congress to pass the “USA Freedom Act” last year. Far from undermining the NSA programs, however, the act—which Brennan supported—gives a pseudo-legal cover for unconstitutional spying to continue.

Michael Morell, Obama’s former CIA deputy director, also blamed encrypted communications for the attacks on Monday. “I now think we’re going to have another public debate about encryption, and whether government should have the keys, and I think the result may be different this time as a result of what’s happened in Paris,” he said on CBS’s “This Morning” program.

The US Congress had considered but has not yet adopted a law that would require private companies to allow “backdoor” access by the state to any encrypted communications. This legislation will likely now be revived.

Both Democrats and Republicans have joined in denouncing Snowden and insisting that the powers of the state must now be vastly expanded. Former press secretary for George W. Bush, Dana Perino, expressed the thinking of the ruling class most crudely, tweeting on Friday night, “F Snowden. F him to you know where and back.” Perino is currently a pundit for Fox News.

Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced telecommunications companies on Monday, saying: “I have asked for help and I haven’t gotten any help. If you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents, whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, [to] take down an airliner, that’s a big problem.”

US spy agencies have spent vast resources in the effort to gain access to all communications, including emails, Internet records and phone records. The aim is to be able to monitor the political activities and associations of all individuals, in the United States and internationally. The September 11 attacks were used to expand these powers enormously, but intelligence officials have long complained that encryption technologies have undercut their efforts, allowing individuals to “go dark” and avoid surveillance.

A Justice Department memorandum from November 10, three days before the Paris attacks, stated that “among the greatest challenges the department faces in [the area of cybersecurity] is that malicious actors are increasingly relying on encryption and other technological advances to remain elusive and thwart the government’s efforts to isolate and mitigate cyber threats.”

In September, the Washington Post obtained an email from Robert Litt, general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence complaining that the climate in Congress of a law to require a backdoor to encrypted communications was “hostile” but that this could change “in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.” The intelligence agencies now have their attack, and they are determined to use it to the full.

On Tuesday, Bill Bratton, the police commissioner for New York City’s Democratic Party Mayor Bill de Blasio, added his own denunciation of encrypted communications after announcing the deployment of 500 “counter-terrorism” police officers who will be given “shoot to kill” orders in the event of a terrorist attack. These heavily-armed police forces throughout the city have been accompanied by the deployment of National Guard troops.

“One of the most fruitful avenues, which was our ability to potentially listen in, has been closed in a very significant way,” Bratton complained on Tuesday.

New York has been a center of protests over police violence over the past year, particularly after police strangled to death Eric Garner in July 2014. Earlier this year, when the city unveiled a new counterterrorism “Strategic Response Group”, Bratton let slip that one of the main aims of the new police unit would be to “deal with events like our recent protests.”

The principal driving force behind all of these measures is not the threat posed by terrorism, but the state of social relations in the United States. In the face of growing social inequality and widespread public opposition to war, the American corporate and financial aristocracy is using the tragic events in Paris as an opportunity to shift the framework of discussion further to the right, intensifying the attack on the democratic and social rights of the working class and accelerating the implementation of police-state forms of rule.

A week off from Facebook? Participants in Danish experiment like this

Group who quit site for a week felt less stressed and spoke more with family and friends face to face, in study by Danish Happiness Research Institute

People taking pictures under blooming cherry blossoms at the cemetery of Bispebjerg in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Those in the Danish study that quit the social media site for week said they felt a ‘calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time’. Photograph: Sophia Juliane Lydoplh/EPA

“We look at a lot of data on happiness and one of the things that often comes up is that comparing ourselves to our peers can increase dissatisfaction,” said Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

“Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news, but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain (especially in Denmark!),” he said. “This makes the Facebook world, where everyone’s showing their best side, seem even more distortedly bright by contrast, so we wanted to see what happened when users took a break.”

Participants aged between 16 and 76 were quizzed before the experiment began on how satisfied they felt, how active their social life was, how much they compared themselves to others, and how easy they found it to concentrate. The group was then split, with half behaving as normal and half agreeing to abstain from Facebook for seven days – “a big ask for many,” according to Wiking.

Stine Chen, 26, found it tough at first, saying: “Facebook’s been a huge part of life since I was a teenager and lots of social activities are organised around it.”

It was also a challenge for Sophie Anne Dornoy, 35: “When I woke up, even before getting out of bed, I’d open Facebook on my phone just to check if something exciting or important had happened during the night. I worried I’d end up on Facebook just out of habit.”

She deleted the smartphone app and blocked the site on her desktop to reduce temptation. “After a few days, I noticed my to-do list was getting done faster than normal as I spent my time more productively,” she said. “I also felt a sort of calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time.”

A week later, the group who had abstained reported higher levels of life satisfaction and better concentration, as well as feeling less lonely, less stressed and more sociable.

“My flatmates and I had to chat instead of just checking Facebook,” said Chen. Dornoy found she had longer conversations on the phone than normal and reached out more to family and friends: “It felt good to know that the world doesn’t end without Facebook and that people are still able to reach you if they want to,” she said.

The next step for researchers is to assess how long the positive effects of a social media sabbatical last, and what happens when volunteers go without Facebook for extended periods. “I’d like to try for a year,” said Wiking, “but we’d have to see how many volunteers we get for that.”

Twitter Is So Hopelessly White Its Only Black Engineering Boss Just Quit in Protest

Twitter Is So Hopelessly White Its Only Black Engineering Boss Just Quit in Protest

Leslie Miley was “the only African-American in [engineering] leadership” at Twitter, a company that employs thousands, and owes much of its success to adoption by non-white users. Then he quit, as he explains in a new blog post, because the company is absolutely brain-dead on race.

Despite repeated “commitments” “to” “improving” “diversity,” Twitter remains as lily white as the day it was founded by a cabal of white people. According to Miley’s account, it’s because everyone inside either doesn’t really give a shit about diversity in hiring, or is too clueless to be helpful:

There were also the Hiring Committee meetings that became contentious when I advocated for diverse candidates. Candidates who were dinged for not being fast enough to solve problems, not having internships at ‘strong’ companies and who took too long to finish their degree. Only after hours of lobbying would they be hired. Needless to say, the majority of them performed well.

Especially painful is this quote by Twitter’s (white) Senior VP of Engineering:

Personally, a particularly low moment was having my question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity answered by the Sr. VP of Eng at the quarterly Engineering Leadership meeting. When he responded with “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.” I then realized I was the only African-American in Eng leadership.

In other words, hiring more black leaders at Twitter would require Twitter to “lower the bar” on talent and ability, which is absurd.

Miley also says the few black employees at Twitter often felt like they’d been forgotten:

Twitter sponsored an event celebrating the work of Freada Kapor Klein and the Level Playing Field Institute. The former Head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous was a featured speaker. This event was attended by many a variety of leaders in tech representing a broad cross section of races, genders, and backgrounds. However, the employee resource group representing Twitter’s black employees (@blackbirds) did not receive an invitation.

And in June of 2015, Jesse Jackson was allowed to present at the Twitter shareholder meeting. Again, there was no communication to Twitter’s black employee resource group. In comparison, when Hillary Clinton and Mellody Hobson visited, the Twitter Women Engineering resource group was notified and given an opportunity to meet privately.

When Twitter did make an effort to find non-white talent, it derailed itself by taking a painfully dense data-centric approach, rather than just trying to act like humans. It’s Silicon Valley to a dumbass T:

As we continued the discussion, he suggested I create a tool to analyze candidates last names to classify their ethnicity. His rationale was to track candidates thru the pipeline to understand where they were falling out. He made the argument that the last name Nguyen, for example, has an extremely high likelihood of being Vietnamese. As an engineer, I understand this suggestion and why it may seem logical. However, classifying ethnicity’s by name is problematic as evidenced by my name (Leslie Miley) What I also found disconcerting is this otherwise highly sophisticated thinker could posit that an issue this complex could be addressed by name analysis.

Miley laments that now that he’s gone, “Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management.” This doesn’t sound good for the chances of including people who don’t look like Jack Dorsey.

Contact the author at

How your Facebook profile can affect your credit

Many people are guilty of over-sharing on Facebook — whether they realize it or not — and the potential consequences of what people post on social media are getting even worse.

There once was a time when the only thing at stake was your reputation, but those days are long gone. Most people are well aware of the potential risks of social media these days, and it’s no secret that a Facebook post can get you fired from a job or prevent you from getting a job in the future.

But your Facebook profile now poses a new threat — to your credit score.

According to a report by the Financial Times, some of the top credit rating companies are now using people’s social media accounts to assess their ability to repay debt. So if you want to be able to qualify for a loan and borrow money, this is just another reason to avoid saying certain things on Facebook.

“If you look at how many times a person says ‘wasted’ in their profile, it has some value in predicting whether they’re going to repay their debt,” Will Lansing, chief executive at credit rating company FICO, told the FT. “It’s not much, but it’s more than zero.”

Lansing said FICO is working with credit card companies to use several different methods for deciding what size loans people can handle, and using non-traditional sources like social media allows them to collect information on people who don’t have an in-depth credit history. According to the FT, both FICO and TransUnion have had to find alternative ways to assess people who don’t have a traditional credit profile — including people who haven’t borrowed enough to give creditors an idea of what kind of risk they pose.

According to Lansing, FICO is “increasingly looking at data on a spectrum” to determine an individual’s credit-worthiness — with credit card repayment history being the most important factor on one end and information volunteered via social media on the other end.

And social media isn’t the only alternative source factoring in to people’s credit-worthiness. Credit rating companies are also using individuals’ payment history on phone bills, utility bills and even movie rentals. One good sign to creditors is if someone hasn’t moved a lot — which could suggest they’ve had problems paying rent.

“We can now score the previously un-scoreable,” said Jim Wehmann, executive vice-president for scores at FICO.

And while this may be a great way for more people to get access to loans, it’s also a wake-up call for those “previously un-scoreable” people to clean up their digital footprint — and fast.

Encrypted resistance: from digital security to dual power

By Ben Case On October 25, 2015

Post image for Encrypted resistance: from digital security to dual powerCyber-resistance is often viewed as a hacker thing — but if embraced by mass movements it has great potential as a prefigurative liberation strategy.

By J. Armstrong and Ben Case. Photomontage by yumikrum, via Flickr.

“It was a time when the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened…”

– Arundhati Roy

Digital technology is often seen as a curiosity in revolutionary politics, perhaps as a specialized skill set that is peripheral to the hard work of organizing. But the growing trend of “cyber-resistance” might hold more potential than we have given it credit for. Specifically, the popularized use of encryption gives us the ability to form a type of liberated space within the shifting maze of cables and servers that make up the Internet. The “web” is bound by the laws of math and physics before the laws of states, and in that cyberspace we may be able to birth a new revolutionary consciousness.

The use of open source encryption allows for the oppressed to take control of the means of communication, encoding a worldwide liberated zone within the fiber of the Internet. Cyber-resistancei has been viewed (or ignored, or derided) as a hacker thing, something undertaken by those with science fiction equipment in their basement. But if it is embraced by mass movements, it has great potential as a prefigurative strategy for liberation.

Prefiguration is vital for radical and progressive forces in the current moment. The building of prefigurative spaces — spaces that model revolutionary values and resist state violence — is crucial for successful movements from both the anarchist and Marxist traditions. As the old saying goes, revolutionary movements use prefiguration to plant the “seed of the future society in the shell of the old.”

Internet interactions are often juxtaposed with interpersonal interactions, so the idea that cyber-resistance could be prefigurative might seem counter-intuitive for a humanistic revolution. However, cyber-resistance might well hold the key to vibrant prefigurative struggle in the 21st century.

Popularized in the 1970s and 80s, prefigurative political struggle has experienced an upsurge in the 21st century. It has been experimented with in the “Arab Spring,” in the squares of Spain with the indignados, and in the Occupy movement, as activists seized public space and held it in common while building political consciousness and fighting for structural changes in the system at large (differences between and problems with these models notwithstanding).

Prefigurative methods are also deployed by many left-wing armed forces. From the Zapatistas in Mexico to the Naxalites in India and the Kurdish militias in Syria and Turkey, building prefiguration into armed struggle has been effective for many groups facing intense repression. In fact, an argument for building cyber-resistance as a form of prefiguration for socio-political struggle can be found in an unlikely source: Maoist guerrilla warfare strategy.

A Prefigurative Lesson from Guerrilla Warfare

Many militant leftists have criticized certain attempts at prefiguration, often forgood reasons. But the logic behind it — that in order to build a revolutionary future we must practice a revolutionary present — is essential for all liberation movements. And although it is less often emphasized, that logic has worked very well in modern guerrilla warfare.

Many rebel forces have developed strategies of protracted popular armed struggle, but since the early 20th century this method has been primarily linked to the military strategy of Mao Zedong. The strategy of a “protracted people’s war” was laid out in Mao’s famous guerrilla war manual, written in the context of Chinese resistance to Japanese occupation.

While Mao himself certainly has a dubious legacy, the protracted people’s war strategy has been embraced by millions of people in the past century and has been used effectively to build revolutionary movements all over the world.

When it is dissected into its strategic components, people’s war has a lot to teach us in our 21st-century moment. The strategy is composed of three overlapping phases. The first is “strategic defensive,” where rebels establish base areas in remote regions. The second is “strategic stalemate,” where the base areas are developed into a liberated zone. Finally, there is a “strategic counter-offensive,” where insurgents engage and defeat the state in conventional warfare.

For the first phase to begin at all, it is crucial that the base area be established in a secluded region with rugged terrain that is difficult for the state to access, since the rebel fighting force is not yet equipped to confront the enemy head on.

Building has to begin in the state’s blind spots. Once an area is identified, insurgents focus on political education and grassroots organizing, providing medical care and other services to grow consciousness and mutual trust in order to develop the proverbial “water” in which the revolutionary “fish” will swim.

In the second phase, as the insurgents become more entrenched, they gradually establish their own institutions and form a revolutionary government based on a combination of community traditions and communist ideology. As they gain legitimacy, rebel institutions such as schools, clinics and courts expand and interconnect to replace the state in rebel-controlled areas.

This creates a “counter-state” (or, arguably in more libertarian versions, an anti-state), called a liberated zone. The liberated zone is a contested, semi-sovereign area organized into associations that are characterized by radical values — for example equity, minority ethnic rights, and feminism — where people live the revolution and where the rebels can rest, organize, train and develop resources.

In this way, people’s war can be seen as the construction of dual power, where the institutions of the state and the liberated zone coexist and compete for legitimacy. Today, many dual power strategists advocate the building of alternative institutions in the global “center,” within the cracks and fissures of the existing state, as we simultaneously attack oppressive systems with social movement mobilization.

However, this has proven difficult in many cases, as alternatives are vulnerable to state repression. What makes the prefiguration of people’s war so powerful is that it creates an area that the state cannot reach and in which alternatives can be safely constructed.

Most Maoist insurgencies never succeeded in (or even entered) the third phase, but historically the people’s war strategy has been very successful in creating stalemates — that is, in creating vibrant, stable, liberated zones. Politically, this has resulted either in a negotiated settlement with the government, as in El Salvador and Nepal, or intractable conflicts, as in India and the Philippines.

The fact that Maoist guerrilla strategy thrives in the second phase is instructive. The brilliance of this strategy might be not in the war-making, but in the prefiguration-building. The strategy is effective in large part because it forcefully opens up social and psychological space to experiment with radical systems and to embody the revolution in practice. It opens up space not only to see a revolutionary world, but to touch it, to be it. It wins people with practice as much as with ideas. This element of Mao’s strategy demonstrated the power of prefiguration long before that term was coined or popularized.

The Strategic Importance of Shadow

The single most important environmental condition required for people’s war is the existence of remote areas where connections to the central state are weak. At early stages of struggle, these are the only areas that are eligible to build autonomous systems, since the presence of the state forecloses on many possibilities for alternative practices.

Areas of operation must be out of the state’s sight in order for the revolutionaries to make alternatives visible to themselves and to the people. In other words, the state must be blind in order for the people to see one another as revolutionaries.

There are few unseen regions left in the 21st century world, and fewer still in the Global North. In the US, there is hardly a nook or cranny that is not mapped by satellite or categorized by title law, instantly accessible by drone and wiretap.

Proponents of dual power increasingly focus on creating prefigurative spaces, but they also tend to draw inspiration from armed struggles such as the Zapatistas in Chiapas or the Kurdish rebels in Rojava, which are taking place in areas that conform more closely to the formal liberated zone model.

Of course, this is not to say we cannot learn a great deal from those fronts, nor is it to say allies should not support these crucial struggles in any way we can. But most organizing in the Global North takes place in cities, and the conditions in western Kurdistan and the mountains of southeast Mexico bear little resemblance to those in the urban United States or Europe.

Not only is there a lack of secluded physical space in which to build a liberated zone, there is decreasing psychological space in which to build liberated minds. In the industrialized countries, modern state control has gone far beyond mapping physical space to mapping our very individualities. Today, their visibility extends beyond the physical.

Mass Surveillance and Panoptical Control

In order to assert their control, less developed state-forms used to publicly execute dissidents via torture or lock them in a dungeon and throw away the key (some still do). These practices obviously have devastating effects on the target individuals and their families, but the possibility of constant surveillance with the threat of punishment has a greater effect on a society’s behavior at large. Michel Foucault famously recognized Bentham’s “perfect” prison, the panopticon, for its political implications in this regard.

In contrast to dark, linear dungeons, Bentham conceived of a bright, open, circular prison, with a watchtower in the center and inward-facing cells around the periphery. Each cell would have a window to the outside that would back-light it, making the prisoner’s body visible to the tower. The tower, shaded by design angles, would be dark to all prisoners.

The effect is simple: at all times a prisoner is aware they could be watched by the guards, but they will never be able to know for sure when. This hierarchical arrangement of bodies in space — a few in the tower watching, many in the cells being watched — carries with it a power dynamic that effectively modifies the behavior of everyone subject to it.

In this arrangement, Foucault says, the prisoners, who are isolated and unable to communicate or act without being seen, begin to police themselves. The more the prisoners internalize this dynamic, the less actual force needs to be used to maintain order. In its extreme, the theory goes, an entire population of docile prisoners can be self-policed with no coercion whatsoever. Prisons around the world have since adopted aspects of this principle into their architectures.

The unverifiable but assured possibility of surveillance represents the epitome of state control. In its most advanced form, those in power not only have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force; they come to never need to use it to maintain their legitimacy. Foucault acknowledged that panopticism was directly applicable only to populations small enough to be arranged within the prison architecture, but he believed its logic could be applied to society at large.

Technology has evolved so that mass surveillance can psychologically take the place of the physical arrangement of bodies. Today the average American citizen spends over 11 hours a day engaging with electronic media. The public is increasingly reliant on the Internet, smartphones and social media for daily life, and we have become accustomed to omnipresent cameras, satellite photographs and wiretaps.

In 2013, the NSA completed a facility in Bluffsdale, Utah where the agency can store 1,000 times the data of the entire Internet, a “Yottabyte” of data. In order to fill this facility with information, the NSA is currently tapping most of the key fiber optic cables that make up the worldwide web and accessing the servers ofall major Internet companies. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know just how comprehensively state security forces collect this data.

This content and meta-data collection involves the capture and storage of all messages, with the goal being complete visibility of digital communications. Ultimately, the attempt is to tie all those communications to geo-location, physical data and relational meta-data; in other words, where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with.

Of course the NSA does not necessarily examine all of our digital conversations. But they could. And you have no idea if they are. You probably don’t really understand how they can, but you are vaguely aware that they can. It is a paralyzing feeling, and that is the essence of panoptical control.

In an era of increasing global control, pushing back against oppressive systems and liberating physical territory to prefigure our own alternative institutions is increasingly necessary, but it is difficult in full sight of the state’s forces. Knowing we are being watched, we aren’t even aware of the degree to which we police ourselves into docility. In the context of the surveillance state, creating the space to discuss and plan and grow the struggle is a prerequisite. When state control is a spotlight, revolutionaries need to create shadows.

Wikileaks, Encryption and Cypher-Shadows

To date, Wikileaks has been the most effective group in casting an electronic shadow. The NSA documents leaked by Snowden show that as early as 2010, Julian Assange and the human network that supports Wikileaks were on the NSA “manhunting” target list for extreme no-holds-barred surveillance. Even through this level of surveillance, Wikileaks has maintained their nine-year track record of never giving up a source.

In 2015 alone, Wikileaks have published NSA intercepts, drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, 600,000 cables from the Saudi embassy, and judicial gag orders — without ever having been implicated in outing a source. Wikileaks accomplishes this by effectively creating a shadow that even the most sophisticated government eyes cannot see into, and they do this through the use of open source encryption technology.

Most people already use encryption every day, and just not in their personal communications. Encryption is used in many common applications, from garage door openers to online money transfer sites, but the technology has been tightly controlled by the state, first through arms regulations and later through proprietary standards and funding restrictions.

Encryption sounds fancy, but it really just means writing in code. Current encryption programs apply advanced mathematics to the basic process that all people engage in when creating languages or dialects. Most importantly, the best programs are free and anyone can do it.

Current applications of this technology allow for any person with access to a computer to create encryption so advanced that it cannot be broken by all the computer power in the world. To quote Snowden: “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto-systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”

Due to its strategic importance, states have historically declared cryptographic skill and science to be theirs alone. But in 1991, as an act of resistance in support of anti-nuclear protesters, a coder named Phil Zimmerman released an open-source encryption program called PGP onto the Internet for free. When Snowden released the NSA’s own documents from 2012, they show that the agency isunable to break PGP (and other) open-source encryption even after more than 20 years.

Proprietary software like Microsoft and Apple operating systems impose legal and technical prohibitions on users and engineers that prevent them from viewing the codes that make the computer programs run. Open-source software like Linux or Debian allows for software engineers and users to fully control all aspects of a computer system.

Among other things, open-source programs mean transparent and verifiable software improvements. These improvements are not dependent on a closed group, which could be collaborating with, for example, the FBI or NSA. They are also free to use and distribute. Many countries, including the governments of Uruguay, Ecuador, and Brazil, are now running most of their information technology on open-source platforms.

Open-source encryption programs allow for free access to “end-to-end” encryption. These, as well as encrypted texting and talking phone apps like Signal and Redphone, are becoming more accessible and popular by the year. Free open-source programs — like PGP, OTR, Tor, and Tails OS — offer encrypted document creation, sharing and web research on any modern computer, and their use is increasing rapidly.

The journalists working with Snowden have reconfirmed the security of these tools through action, as open-source encryption has allowed them to effectively hide the documents Snowden leaked to them from governments that desperately wanted to destroy them.

Beyond the primary benefit of keeping organizing information hidden from authorities, using open-source encryption to “shadow” our connections, our work and our transactions from the state may enable us to create a digital liberated zone on the Internet, a form that transcends physical geography.

We can begin to create this by expanding our capacity and moving to make the use of these tools our default, first for radicals and progressive allies, then for communities and nations.

A Call to Cryptographic Arms

Discussion of encryption feels alienating to many folks. A lot of people think it is over their heads or they find the techno-babble obnoxious (the self-described hacktivist who once mansplained all this to you probably doesn’t help). Nevertheless, because the US and other governments are engaging in global mass surveillance, we find ourselves in a situation where encryption is necessary for the security of even basic organizing — it is usually unwise to invite the police to action planning meetings.

Beyond the security aspect, it holds massive potential.

Global South activists in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, and elsewhere are now facing the full repressive capacity of imperial violence — but some of those areas remain at least somewhat shrouded from mass surveillance technology. The US and other neo-imperialist governments are currently interested in popularizing use of the Internet and social media to areas of the Global South who have yet to “go digital” to enable corporate profit in those untapped markets.

In addition to the capitalist motive, the techno-colonial project would bring the entirety of the planet within view of imperial centers of control. This provides us with a window of opportunity where Global North governments are more engaged in expanding their digital empire and encouraging the Global South’s adoption of their technology than they are in unleashing the full arsenal of mass surveillance on their own populations.

It is critical that we exponentially increase the use of encryption in both the Global North and Global South during this period. Growing the use of open source encryption could be the most powerful instrument in securing revolutionary potential for generations to come, as they can enable us to safely communicate across blocks and borders. The tools are already there; all it takes is our foresight, will and passion for freedom to make their use into a reality for all.

Guerrilla liberated zones are highly effective in opening physical prefigurative space in an isolated area. At the same time, they are also limited by that isolation and by barriers to participation in guerrilla war.

Cyber-resistance does not offer the physical space that liberated zones do, but digital liberated zones are not constrained by geography or borders, and the barriers to use of encryption are surprisingly low. The combination of encryption basics with open-source hardware (and perhaps cryptographic currency, like Bitcoin-based Freicoin) has the potential to grow into a network of direct working-class control of the means of communication, production and exchange on a global scale.

This network can be used as a weapon to create a sort of liberated e-zone that is beyond state control despite being physically located within oppressive states. The more resistance is hidden from the state, the more imperialism must rely on its most base method of control: coercive force. Though it is the state’s foundational tool, the naked use of violence erodes the state’s legitimacy.

As the state must increasingly rely on its most violent capacity for control, online liberated zones could facilitate both the desire and capacity for resistance. Human surveillance and infiltration such as the use of informants and agent saboteurs can be highly destructive for individuals and movement groups, but nowadays even these rely heavily on digital information gathering.

As the state becomes blinder, it increasingly becomes more desperate. And when it gets desperate, its moves tend to backfire. Meanwhile, as our vision brightens, so does our spirit. Through cyber-resistance we can strengthen existing liberated zones and prefigure new ones, growing revolutionary values and practice even inside the cities of the attempted panopticon.

Our secure communications, leaks and skill-shares could eventually create a chain reaction of interconnected revolutionary upsurges on the scale of the “Arab Spring” of 2011. But instead of being based in popular control of public space alone, they will now also be prefigured in the collective control of a truly liberated space, from the means of communication to the totality of society.


i A note on terminology: While we say cyber-resistance here, more accurately we are talking about cypher-resistance. Cyber refers to anything digital, while cypher is a process that can encode any language, encryption is a general term for that process, and cryptography is the scientific study of the two. Sometimes the root crypto is used to modify other words as well, such as “crypto-currency.”

Ben Case is an organizer and activist from New Jersey and is a PhD student in sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is co-founder of the University of Pittsburgh’s Student Anarchist Graduate Association and is a member of the Organization for a Free Society.

J. Armstrong is a secure communication specialist and movement trainer. He has run encryption trainings for radical organizers and professionals from five continents, working with direct action movements, formerly incarcerated people, sex workers, veterans and revolutionary organizations. He is a member of the Organization for a Free Society.

Bill Gates: Only Socialism Can Save the Climate, ‘The Private Sector is Inept’


Bill Gates explains why the climate crisis will not be solved by the free market.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, billionaire tech magnate Bill Gates announced his game plan to spend $2 billion of his own wealth on green energy investments, and called on his fellow private sector billionaires to help make the U.S. fossil-free by 2050. But in doing so, Gates admitted that the private sector is too selfish and inefficient to do the work on its own, and that mitigating climate change would be impossible without the help of government research and development.

“There’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems,” Gates said. “Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.”

Gates even tacked to the left and uttered words that few other billionaire investors would dare to say: government R&D is far more effective and efficient than anything the private sector could do.

“Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area,” Gates said. “The private sector is in general inept.”

“When I first got into this I thought, ‘How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget?’ And I was worried: ‘Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that?’” Gates told The Atlantic. “But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these ‘Centers of Excellence.’ They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

In making his case for public sector excellence, the Microsoft founder mentioned the success of the internet:

“In the case of the digital technologies, the path back to government R&D is a bit more complex, because nowadays most of the R&D has moved to the private sector. But the original Internet comes from the government, the original chip-foundry stuff comes from the government—and even today there’s some government money taking on some of the more advanced things and making sure the universities have the knowledge base that maintains that lead. So I’d say the overall record for the United States on government R&D is very, very good.”

The ‘Centers for Excellence’ program Bill Gates mentioned is the Center for Excellence in Renewable Energy (CERE), which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF, which operated with roughly $7.1 billion in 2014, is the source of one-fourth of federal funding for research projects at over 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 schools, nonprofits, and businesses.  The NSF has even funded research by over 200 Nobel laureates, including 26 in just the last 5 years alone. The NSF receives more than 40,000 proposals each year, but only gets to fund about 11,000 of them. Bill Gates wants this funding to be dramatically increased.

“I would love to see a tripling, to $18 billion a year from the U.S. government to fund basic research alone,” Gates said. “Now, as a percentage of the government budget, that’s not gigantic… This is not an unachievable amount of money.”

As evidence around the world shows, the U.S. doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be a green energy juggernaut — it can simply look to currently-existing examples in countries with socialist policies — like Germany and China, for instance — on how to become a leader in green energy. And according to Bill Gates, the rest of the world will follow the lead if the biggest countries set the bar.

“The climate problem has to be solved in the rich countries,” Gates said. “China and the U.S. and Europe have to solve CO2 emissions, and when they do, hopefully they’ll make it cheap enough for everyone else.”

This past July, Germany set a new record by generating 78 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, beating its previous record of 74 percent in May of 2014. Germany generated 40.65 gigawatts from wind and solar energy, 4.85 gigawatts from biomass, and 2.4 gigawatts from hydropower, for a total of 47.9 gigawatts of green energy when total electricity demand was at 61.1 gigawatts. Over the past year, Germany decreased its CO2 output by 4.3 percent. This means greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are at their lowest point since 1990.

But in terms of raw investment, China’s $80 billion green energy investment is more than both the U.S. ($34 billion) and Europe ($46 billion), combined. And those investments are already paying dividends. While coal is still China’s biggest source of electricity, the world’s biggest polluter aims to have its use of fossil fuels peak in 2030, and trend downward after that. Additionally, China’s solar production outpaces all other countries combined.

Between 2000 and 2012, China’s solar energy output increased dramatically from 3 megawatts to 21,000 megawatts. And its solar output increased by 67 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone. In 2014, China actually managed to decrease its CO2 emissions by 1 percent, with further reductions expected in the coming years.

China also powers more homes with wind energy than every nuclear power plant in the U.S. put together. China’s wind output provided electricity to 110 million homes in 2014, as its wind farms generated 16 percent more power than in 2013, and 77 gigawatts of additional wind power are currently under construction. China’s energy grid is currently powered by 100 gigawatts of green energy, and aims to double green energy output to 200 gigawatts by 2020.

Bill Gates wants the U.S. to be an additional green energy leader, and expresses hope that there may still be enough time for the U.S. to take green energy investment seriously, and that the public sector can be instrumental in preventing a 2-degree increase in global temperatures.

“I don’t think it’s hopeless, because it’s about American innovation, American jobs, American leadership, and there are examples where this has gone very, very well,” Gates said.

Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact Tom via email at


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