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I wish we didn’t have to write this. I wish we could take this week to reflect and grieve. But some politicians are wasting no time exploiting tragedy and manipulating our emotions to push their political agendas. To remain silent right now would be irresponsible.
The attacks in Paris and Beirut have all of us looking for answers. What can we do to stop this violence?
But while people around the world are grappling with that question, U.S. government official are instead seizing the opportunity to renew their attacks on our most basic freedoms, even though they know it won’t make us safer from attacks.
Specifically, government officials in the U.S. and Europe are pushing to ban strong encryption technology. They want every type of Internet security to have a “backdoor” so that governments can access literally everything. Here’s the problem: weakening encryption will actually make us all less safe. Even if you trust governments to never abuse this system and only use it in the most extreme circumstances, once a backdoor exists, it can be used by anyone who can find it, including criminals, other governments, and yes, even terrorists.
Fortunately, we’ve done a mountain of work over the last year educating the public and fighting this kind of misinformation, so more people than ever before know what’s really going on.. Security experts agree that putting backdoors in encryption technology and letting the government collect even more of our personal information won’t prevent attacks like the ones we saw last week.
The battle lines are being drawn, but some powerful voices have been listening and are weighing in on the side of freedom and logic. The influential New York Times editorial board just came out swinging with the headline: “Mass surveillance is not the answer to fighting terrorism.”
The details from Paris and Beirut are still emerging. The latest evidence suggests that the attackers were using totally unencrypted SMS messages. The facts haven’t stopped politicians and pundits from demonizing encryption, but the reality is that it’s still not clear exactly how this happened, or how it could have been prevented.
But what is clear is that now is not the time to make hasty decisions and rush to pass laws we’ve barely read. That path has failed us. Now is the time for informed, thoughtful, discussion about the causes of this violence and the real solutions to address it.
Weakening the encryption that protects our hospitals, power plants, airports, and personal information isn’t going to make us safer.
Collecting a giant haystack of data about hundreds of millions of innocent people is not going to stop the next attack.
We need real answers and solutions, not politicians scrambling spin this terrible situation to grab more power.
These decisions about encryption and mass surveillance will determine the type of world our children and our children’s children will live in. We shouldn’t let them be made for us by opportunistic politicians or violent attackers.
Yours for freedom and a better world, -Fight for the Future
Early this morning, the government of New Zealand released the final negotiated text of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP.)
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said, “Now that we can read the final TPP text, it’s obvious why it was kept in total secrecy for so long: this agreement is a wishlist for powerful special interests and multinational corporations. The Intellectual Property chapter confirms our worst first about the TPP’s impact on our basic right to express ourselves and access information on the Internet. If U.S. Congress signs this agreement despite its blatant corruption, they’ll be signing a death warrant for the open Internet and putting the future of free speech in peril.”
Fight for the Future has been at the forefront of a massive coalition of groups that oppose the TPP, and has organized a wide range of high profile actions against the agreement. As an organization that works to protect the Internet, many of our concerns focus on the Intellectual Property chapter, which reads as if it were written directly by by lobbyists from Hollywood, the record indsutry, and big pharmaceutical companies (because it was.)
Here are several sections of grave concern based on our initial read of the final released text. There are undoubtedly other serious issues in the TPP that will be surfaced as technologists and experts read more deeply.
Article 18.26: Term of Protection for Trademarks Increases the minimum protection for trademarks to 10 years, forcing countries to follow the U.S. model on this rather than make their own trademark policy based on the public interest. This will limit technological innovation and could curtail affordable access to medicines or other basic necessities.
Article 18.37: Patentable Subject Matter Allows for the patenting of “new methods of using a known product,” which essentially allows for unlimited patents from Pharmaceutical companies and will block affordable access to medicines and medical procedures and prevent innovation of better and more affordable healthcare procedures.
Article 18:28: Domain Names This undermines anonymous online expression by requiring governments to keep a public database of real names and addresses associated with country code top level domain names, (such as .us, .au, .ca, etc). This is dangerous especially for the ability of opposition groups in repressive countries to voice their concerns online without fear of violent retribution.
Article 18.63: Term of Protection for Copyright and related Rights This is one of the most egregious pieces of the deal. It forces the most draconian parts of the U.S.’s broken copyright system on the rest of the world without expanding protections for fair use and free speech. This section requires countries to enforce copyright until 70 years after the creator’s death. This will keep an enormous amount of information, art, and creativity out of the public domain for decades longer than necessary, and allow for governments to abuse copyright laws to censor online content at will, since so much of it will be copyrighted for so long.
Article 18.68: Technological Protection Measures This section attempts to make it a crime to circumvent any “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) locks on a device, even if you own it. It could criminalize people who unlock their phones in order to use accessibility software, for example, or make it illegal to circumvent DRM on a computer in order to use Linux.
Article 18.69: Rights Management Information This section criminalizes basic activities that involve removing a Rights Management marker, even if it’s done in the process of creating something totally legal. For example, cropping a photo that has a watermark on it in order to use it as part of a fair use creation or as part of a political protest. And yes, that does include if you give credit elsewhere (like the description of a YouTube video).
Article 18.78: Trade Secrets Criminalizes the “unauthorized and willful disclosure of a trade secret including via a computer system.” This is clearly intended to stifle whistleblowers and journalism covering the documents they expose – it could criminalize, for example, The Guardian’s reporting on the documents they received from Edward Snowden.
Section J: Internet Service Providers This is one of the worst sections that impacts the openness of the Internet. This section requires Internet Service Providers to play “copyright cops” and assist in the enforcement of copyright takedown requests – but it does not require countries to have a system for counter-notices, so a U.S company could order a website to be taken down in another country, and there would be no way for the person running that website to refute their claims if, say, it was a political criticism website using copyrighted content in a manner consistent with fair use.
Section J makes it so ISPs are not liable for any wrongdoing when they take down content – incentivizing them to err on the side of copyright holders rather than on the side of free speech.
Additionally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s chapter on investments includes intellectual property as a matter that can be included in investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS).
Article 9: Investor-State Dispute Settlement No matter what else is in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this section makes it bad for people everywhere. It allows companies to sue governments — but not the other way around. These legally-binding challenges are decided by arbitrators hired for that case only, and investors have every reason to stack the cases with as many standards violations as they’d like. Intellectual property is just one of the many things that investors can bring suits over, but we could soon see cases of investors suing governments because they think punishments and rewards for copyright or trademark violations aren’t enough to satisfy them. Decisions that impact the future of the Internet should never be made in secretive international tribunals — especially not ad hoc ones.
Fight for the Future is a digital rights nonprofit that has driven more than 130,000 emails and more than 15,000 phone calls to Congress opposing the TPP in recent months, rallied more than 7,500 websites for an online protest, and helped coordinate a letterto Congress from more than 250 tech companies expressing transparency and tech related concerns about Fast Track legislation.
The group made headlines in March when they flew a 30’ blimpover several of Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall meetings calling for him to “Save the Internet” by opposing Fast Track for the TPP, and then parked a Jumbotron on capitol hill to display the viral video they made about the stunt. More recently, Fight for the Future made a splash on the hill when they delivered actual rubber stamps to every house Republican’s office with a mock letter from President Obama asking Congress to “please rubber stamp my secret trade agenda.
Fight for the Future works to defend the Internet as a free and open platform for expression and creativity, and is best known for their role organizing the massive online protests against SOPA, theInternet Slowdown for net neutrality, and the Reset The Net campaign for online privacy, which was endorsed by Edward Snowden.
Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning has written a 129 page bill aimed at reforming the U.S. government’s out of control spying programs.
She provided this bill to Fight for the Future and we are hosting it in its entirety on FreeChelsea.com, along with a petition encouraging lawmakers to read it.
The bill is extensive and addresses many different surveillance policies but its primary focus is abolishing the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is essentially a rubberstamp system for authorizing mass surveillance.
Chelsea has a piece up in The Guardian today explaining why she thinks doing away with the Fisa Court is a critical first step to meaningful surveillance reform.
Today the European Union’s parliament voted 285 - 281on a nonbinding resolution encouraging member states to drop all criminal charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and protect him from extradition to the United States.
Fight for the Future, a leading digital rights group based in the U.S. celebrated this news and released the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director, Evan Greer:
“The battle over mass government surveillance is a decisive moment in the history of humanity, and it’s hard to think of anyone who has done more than Edward Snowden to educate the public about the grave risks that runaway spying programs pose to our basic human rights, the future of the Internet, and freedom of expression.
The European Parliament agrees with the vast majority of people in the world that Edward Snowden is a courageous whistleblower whose actions have made us all safer. The United States government should be ashamed that it continues to criminalize Snowden and torture and imprison other whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning.
We hope that this resolution leads to a binding agreement in the EU that allows Edward Snowden to move to whichever EU country he wants, and we hope he gets an epic party thrown in his honor when he arrives.”
Fight for the Future (FFTF) has been on the frontlines of the fight to end the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs since Edward Snowden first exposed them. They released “The NSA Video,” narrated by actress Evangeline Lilly, and projected it onto the side of a building in Manhattan, leading to more than 440,000 views on YouTube.
The group also ran a “Thank Edward Snowden” campaign where more than 10,000 people publicly thanked Edward Snowden with heartfelt images. On the first anniversary of the original Snowden revelations, Fight for the Future organized the largest online campaign against surveillance in history, Reset the Net. It rallied the participation of thousands of major tech companies, and was endorsed by Edward Snowden himself through a written statement and on a video interview.
Recently, Fight for the Future has lead a series of high profile campaigns in fierce opposition to CISA, a cyber surveillance bill that passed the U.S. Senate on Monday. Edward Snowden also bolstered those efforts, joining FFTF’s reddit Q&A about the bill, and tweeting his support.