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This is the introduction from the new book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet (2012), based on discussions Julian Assange had earlier this year with fellow hackers Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann.

“This book is not a manifesto. There is not time for that. This book is a warning.

The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.

These transformations have come about silently, because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.

While many writers have considered what the internet means for global civilization, they are wrong. They are wrong because they do not have the sense of perspective that direct experience brings. They are wrong because they have never met the enemy.

No description of the world survives first contact with the enemy.

We have met the enemy.

Over the last six years WikiLeaks has had conflicts with nearly every powerful state. We know the new surveillance state from an insider’s perspective, because we have plumbed its secrets. We know it from a combatant’s perspective, because we have had to protect our people, our finances and our sources from it. We know it from a global perspective, because we have people, assets and information in nearly every country. We know it from the perspective of time, because we have been fighting this phenomenon for years and have seen it double and spread, again and again. It is an invasive parasite, growing fat off societies that merge with the internet. It is rolling over the planet, infecting all states and peoples before it.

What is to be done?

Once upon a time in a place that was neither here nor there, we, the constructors and citizens of the young internet discussed the future of our new world.

We saw that the relationships between all people would be mediated by our new world, and that the nature of states, which are defined by how people exchange information, economic value, and force, would also change.

We saw that the merger between existing state structures and the internet created an opening to change the nature of states.

First, recall that states are systems through which coercive force flows. Factions within a state may compete for support, leading to democratic surface phenomena, but the underpinnings of states are the systematic application, and avoidance, of violence. Land ownership, property, rents, dividends, taxation, court fines, censorship, copyrights and trademarks are all enforced by the threatened application of state violence.

Most of the time we are not even aware of how close to violence we are, because we all grant concessions to avoid it. Like sailors smelling the breeze, we rarely contemplate how our surface world is propped up from below by darkness.

In the new space of the internet what would be the mediator of coercive force?

Does it even make sense to ask this question? In this otherworldly space, this seemingly platonic realm of ideas and information flow, could there be a notion of coercive force? A force that could modify historical records, tap phones, separate people, transform complexity into rubble, and erect walls, like an occupying army?

The platonic nature of the internet, ideas and information flows, is debased by its physical origins. Its foundations are fiber optic cable lines stretching across the ocean floors, satellites spinning above our heads, computer servers housed in buildings in cities from New York to Nairobi. Like the soldier who slew Archimedes with a mere sword, so too could an armed militia take control of the peak development of Western civilization, our platonic realm.

The new world of the internet, abstracted from the old world of brute atoms, longed for independence. But states and their friends moved to control our new world — by controlling its physical underpinnings. The state, like an army around an oil well, or a customs agent extracting bribes at the border, would soon learn to leverage its control of physical space to gain control over our platonic realm. It would prevent the independence we had dreamed of, and then, squatting on fiber optic lines and around satellite ground stations, it would go on to mass intercept the information flow of our new world — its very essence even as every human, economic, and political relationship embraced it. The state would leech into the veins and arteries of our new societies, gobbling up every relationship expressed or communicated, every web page read, every message sent and every thought googled, and then store this knowledge, billions of interceptions a day, undreamed of power, in vast top secret warehouses, forever. It would go on to mine and mine again this treasure, the collective private intellectual output of humanity, with ever more sophisticated search and pattern finding algorithms, enriching the treasure and maximizing the power imbalance between interceptors and the world of interceptees. And then the state would reflect what it had learned back into the physical world, to start wars, to target drones, to manipulate UN committees and trade deals, and to do favors for its vast connected network of industries, insiders and cronies.

But we discovered something. Our one hope against total domination. A hope that with courage, insight and solidarity we could use to resist. A strange property of the physical universe that we live in.

The universe believes in encryption.

It is easier to encrypt information than it is to decrypt it.

We saw we could use this strange property to create the laws of a new world. To abstract away our new platonic realm from its base underpinnings of satellites, undersea cables and their controllers. To fortify our space behind a cryptographic veil. To create new lands barred to those who control physical reality, because to follow us into them would require infinite resources.

And in this manner to declare independence.

Scientists in the Manhattan Project discovered that the universe permitted the construction of a nuclear bomb. This was not an obvious conclusion. Perhaps nuclear weapons were not within the laws of physics. However, the universe believes in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors. They are a phenomenon the universe blesses, like salt, sea or stars.

Similarly, the universe, our physical universe, has that property that makes it possible for an individual or a group of individuals to reliably, automatically, even without knowing, encipher something, so that all the resources and all the political will of the strongest superpower on earth may not decipher it. And the paths of encipherment between people can mesh together to create regions free from the coercive force of the outer state. Free from mass interception. Free from state control.

In this way, people can oppose their will to that of a fully mobilized superpower and win. Encryption is an embodiment of the laws of physics, and it does not listen to the bluster of states, even transnational surveillance dystopias.

It isn’t obvious that the world had to work this way. But somehow the universe smiles on encryption.

Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action. While nuclear weapons states can exert unlimited violence over even millions of individuals, strong cryptography means that a state, even by exercising unlimited violence, cannot violate the intent of individuals to keep secrets from them.

Strong cryptography can resist an unlimited application of violence. No amount of coercive force will ever solve a math problem.

But could we take this strange fact about the world and build it up to be a basic emancipatory building block for the independence of mankind in the platonic realm of the internet? And as societies merged with the internet could that liberty then be reflected back into physical reality to redefine the state?

Recall that states are the systems which determine where and how coercive force is consistently applied.

The question of how much coercive force can seep into the platonic realm of the internet from the physical world is answered by cryptography and the cypherpunks’ ideals.

As states merge with the internet and the future of our civilization becomes the future of the internet, we must redefine force relations.

If we do not, the universality of the internet will merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.

We must raise an alarm. This book is a watchman’s shout in the night.

On March 20, 2012, while under house arrest in the United Kingdom awaiting extradition, I met with three friends and fellow watchmen on the principle that perhaps in unison our voices can wake up the town. We must communicate what we have learned while there is still a chance for you, the reader, to understand and act on what is happening.

It is time to take up the arms of our new world, to fight for ourselves and for those we love.

Our task is to secure self-determination where we can, to hold back the coming dystopia where we cannot, and if all else fails, to accelerate its self-destruction.

— Julian Assange, London, October 2012”

How to take up the challenge, then? One way to start is to organise a CryptoParty. We need to bring cryptography into the mainstream.

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Marco Berlinguer from the Transform! network maps here some potential points of rupture in our current form of capitalism. Excerpted from his article over at openDemocracy.

“Let’s put it simply. We are still living in a capitalist society; and in the last twenty years, one major change has been the qualitatively new importance of information, communication and knowledge both in the economy and in society at large. These two frameworks are overlapping, but they do not necessarily coincide which leads to some important problems and tensions worth closer study.

First, where knowledge, information and communication play a central role, the processes of production appear intrinsically and more immediately social. They benefit and rely on flows and networks of production which go beyond the formal boundaries of any specific organisation (not to say single individuals). This gives more prominence to the forces of cooperation and of mutual interdependence and presses any institution to experiment in organisational logics based on openness to the ‘outside’. This, for example, is one reason for the success of open source within a growing segment of IT-industry. More significantly this ‘openness’ is the logic behind the internet itself: an open architecture is its initial conception and the secret of its incredible (and fundamentally unplanned and decentralised) development.

But there is also another aspect of this social nature of production that needs to be noted: in many senses, the flows of production appeared to shift away from the formal boundaries of what is traditionally considered productive work, to spread into society at large. The gargantuan literature in business and media studies about the increasing blurring of the divide between consumer and producer has to do with this phenomenon. But just consider Google’s model of value production – that is, offering for free online services and platforms of social networks, to then exploit the user- generated data and contents in various ways – and here is one emblematic example of this shift.

In any case, the general problem which then emerges is that the social nature of these processes seems to put pressure on any regulatory, governance and accounting system closed within the boundaries of formally isolated organisations. This is well reflected in the proliferation of mechanisms of governance that stems directly from the need to regulate the collaborative action of a multiplicity of protagonists who are autonomous and so not governable by simple authoritative mechanisms. But, more deeply, this configuration also brings people to questioning the adequacy, legitimacy and efficiency of property regimes as we know them, be they private or state mechanisms. The increasing rediscovery of the notion of commons by these movements and many beyond them – has its roots here. Though yet arguably indefinite, it reflects the search for a new conceptual guide in the design of institutional frameworks more attuned to these new relations of production.

Let’s now turn to another aspect: the nature and organisation of work. When we look at the qualities which need to be mobilised and at the forms of organisation of production in these spheres, we observe an increasing importance of attitudes and capacities such as creativity, flexibility, development of information, continuous learning, problem-solving, initiative, communicational and relational skills, decision-making, attention, experiential/practical/”tacit” knowledge. Now, what makes these qualities peculiar is that they are embedded in individuals and are not easily reproducible and controllable through planned command or automated mechanisms. Moreover, they depend on motivations which are not easily reducible to the monetary, as is recognised in the same management literature and experience and as the experience of [Free Culture]-movements widely confirms. The necessity to deal with such a workforce and processes of production has been indeed one of the major sources of the crisis in the Fordist organisation of production and of innovation in management styles. But the puzzle for governance in these productive forces – which reflects a blurring of entrepreneurial and managerial functions and of dependent work – is far from being solved.

However, there is another dimension where the experience of the FC-movements is interesting. There are experiments of a different kind around these problems and these potentials which have contributed to re-framing in a different way complicated problems related to the meshing and mobilisation of different motivations, non-hierarchical division of labour, collaboration and coordination, and so on. And quite interestingly, they have done all this by experimenting with new notions of what constitutes property, working on the basis of a distributional/sharing – rather than exclusive – approach to property, conceiving themselves as producing common resources.

There is, finally, a third cluster of problems which I would like to highlight in this brief and very incomplete map. The increased immaterial and social nature of the processes of production and of products is creating a series of problems in the systems of measures. Economists, policy-makers and the business literature all struggle to define new parameters for the measure of the value of capital, of work, of wealth, of productivity. Such problems are evidently further complicated by the digital revolution, which made it possible that a digital product, once created, can be potentially reproduced “easier, faster, ubiquitously and almost free”; and which, moreover, is subversively creating social practices that are exploring an economy based on principles like, “not scarcity, not rivalry, not exclusivity”, that is something which evidently troubles basic rules both of economy and of the control of the appropriation of value. In this lies another clue that fundamental difficulties are emerging, which point toward what could be called a crisis of the system of value – which, indeed, has many other roots, well beyond this realm.

All this doesn’t mean that these problems are not solvable in principle within a capitalist framework. We can already observe innovative mechanisms of accumulation which effectively deal with these new developments. What is more dubious is that they can be managed without fundamental changes in the institutional framework.”

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Speaking of public education, undoubtedly one of the most significant steps in democratising educational resources in history has been the establishment of the public library system. Unlike schools, libraries promote self-directed learning and are thus less susceptible to authoritarian control. Like mentioned in the above video, file-sharing networks can be seen as a continuation of the idea behind public libraries. They take the idea one step further, though: on the file-sharing networks the available content is not limited by the budget constraints and possible ideological inclinations of bureaucrats.

This video is a recording of a speaker’s corner session at the 2012 World Library and Information Congress in Helsinki on August 15, 2012. Guest speakers include Hanna Nikkanen, a Finnish journalist who’s written extensively on issues around freedom of information, and Anna Troberg, president of the Swedish Pirate Party.

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Europarliamentarians celebrating the death of ACTA.

 

We did it! The European parliament today voted against ACTA by a whopping 478 votes to 39. With the EU countries out, the treaty is now as good as dead. After the death of SOPA, this is another confirmation for the fact that collective action by the Internet community can have genuine consequences for policymaking. However, ACTA and SOPA were just two battles in an ongoing war. Simply blocking legislation won’t be enough in the future. The intellectual property lobby will no doubt be back with new propositions that are bound to be even more detrimental to the freedom of information than the ones we’ve blocked (see the TPP-treaty currently under negotiation, for example). It’s now time for us to go on the offensive and turn the tide of the expanding IP regime around.

Says La Quadrature du Net:

“Strasbourg, July 4th 2012 – The European Parliament rejected ACTA by a huge majority, killing it for good. This is a major victory for the multitude of connected citizens and organizations who worked hard for years, but also a great hope on a global scale for a better democracy. On the ruins of ACTA, we must now build a positive copyright reform, taking into account our rights instead of attacking them. The ACTA victory must resonate as a wake up call for lawmakers: Fundamental freedoms as well as the free and open Internet must prevail over private interests.

Citizens from the Internet and all around the world have won! By 478 to 039 during the final vote, Members of the EU Parliament killed ACTA once and for all. Together –connected through a decentralized communication architecture– we defeated this evil treaty negotiated in secret by a club of private interests and dogmatic civil servants. The ACTA battle demonstrates how crucial our networked public sphere is to the future of our societies and democracies.

Philippe Aigrain, co-founder and strategy adviser for La Quadrature du Net declared: “European institutions must now recognize that the alliance between citizens, civil society organizations and the EU Parliament is at the core of a new democratic era in Europe. European copyright policy must now be built with the participation of citizens.”

La Quadrature du Net warmly thanks and deeply congratulates every citizen, organization, cluster and network who collectively achieved this major victory! Let’s all celebrate and learn from this success, so as to be even stronger for the next battles!

“Beyond ACTA, we must stop this repressive trend which keeps imposing measures that harm the Internet and fundamental freedoms. Citizens must demand a reform of copyright which will foster online cultural practices such as sharing and remixing, instead of endlessly repressing them. The ACTA victory must be the beginning of a new era, in which policy-makers put freedoms and the open Internet –our common good– ahead of private interests.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group.

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Rick Falkvinge goes on to say:

“Six months ago, the situation looked very dark. It was all but certain that ACTA would pass unnoticed in silence. The forces fighting for citizens’ rights tried to have it referred to the European Court of Justice, in order to test its legality and to buy some time. Then, something happened.

A monster by the name of SOPA appeared in the United States. Thousands of websites went dark on January 18, and millions of voices cried out, leaving Congress shellshocked over the fact that citizens can get that level of pissed off at corporate special interests. SOPA was killed.

In the wake of this, as citizens had realized that they didn’t need to take that kind of corporate abuse lying down and asking for more, the community floodlights centered on ACTA. The activism carried over beautifully to defeat this monster. Early February, there were rallies all over Europe, leaving the European Parliament equally shellshocked.

The party groups turned on a cent and declared their opposition to ACTA in solidarity with the citizen rallies all over the continent, after having realized what a piece of shameless mail-order legislation it really was, to the horrors of the corporate shills who thought this was a done deal. Those shills tried, tried hard, tried right up until today, to postpone the vote on ACTA past the attention of the public and the activists.

Alas, they don’t understand the net. And there’s one key thing right there: the net doesn’t forget.

But the key takeaway here is that it was we, the activists, that made this happen. Everybody in the European Parliament takes turn praising all the activists across Europe and the world that called their attention to what utter garbage this really was, that it wasn’t some run-of-the-mill rubberstamp paper but actually was a really dangerous piece of proposed legislation. Everybody thanks the activists for that. Yes, that’s you. You should lean back, smile, and pat yourself on the back here. Each and every one of us has every reason to feel proud today.

[…]

Many of the bad things in ACTA will return under other names. For the lobbyists, this is a nine-to-five job of jabbing against the legislation until it gives way. Just another day at work. We need to remain vigilant against special interests who will return again, again, and again, until we make sure that the legislative road for them is completely blocked. We must remain watchful.”

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The final ACTA vote in the European parliament has been scheduled for Wednesday next week. Despite recommendations from all the parliamentary committees to reject the treaty, the pro-ACTA lobby is still hard at work to convince the parliamentarians to vote “yes” anyway. They’ve now even decided to play the terrorist card. La Quadrature du Net writes:

“This Wednesday July 4th, the European Parliament will have an opportunity to reject ACTA as a whole, in plenary, and destroy it forever. After four years of citizens’ hard work, such a rejection would create a tremendous political symbol of global scale. La Quadrature du Net calls on all citizens to contact Members of the EU Parliament to urge them to reject ACTA, and beyond, to start a process to positively reform copyright law. A strong victory would set the ground for future reforms.

Last week’s adoption by the “International Trade” (INTA) committee of a voting recommendation against ACTA is extremely encouraging, but the final step ahead is indeed the most important: all the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will cast their vote in plenary on July 4th, 12:00PM, in favour or against ACTA. Citizens of the Internet must unite forces for this unique and historic occasion!

If chances of winning are now high, nothing is won yet. Last week, industry lobbies and the European Commission (responsible for negotiating on behalf of the EU) attempted to influence the Members of the INTA committee, and are already trying very hard to save face. We must therefore win this vote by a strong majority, to make it impossible for the Parliament to go back and stick to blind repression once ACTA is rejected.

As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call free of charge MEPs who are still not clearly against ACTA, along with some guidelines and key arguments against ACTA. Personnalized contacts should always be favoured over copy-paste of templates!

While engaging with the MEPs and their assistants, citizens are encouraged to start an open discussion about the need, beyond ACTA, to reform the EU copyright framework. Our online cultural practices must be encouraged rather than repressed. The voice of citizens, the free and open Internet, as well as our cultural practices matter more than a few industry lobbies’ interests!

“The ACTA debate could mark the beginning of a new era, where citizens organized online have the power to counter the influence of powerful industrial lobbies and short-sighted policy-makers keen on sacrificing our rights, along with the free Internet. By engaging with our representatives ahead of next week’s vote, we can not only achieve a huge victory of tremendous political significance against ACTA, but also help lawmakers understand how Internet and online culture work. Let’s win big on ACTA!” concludes Jeremie Zimmermann, spokeperson of the citizen group La Quadrature du Net.”

Rick Falkvinge has posted some email templates and even provides an email alias that resolves to all the addresses of the parliamentarians.

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We’re now only two weeks away from the final vote on ACTA in the European parliament and the pro-ACTA lobby is stepping up its efforts to push the treaty through. For the first time the lobby has now decided to make its campaign public by setting up a website. This is a clear indication that the anti-ACTA campaign has had an effect on public opinion and, what’s more frightening to the lobbyists, on the opinion of the political representatives. La Quadrature du Net writes:

“This Thursday, June 21st, the “International Trade” (INTA) committee will recommend the rest of the Parliament to either accept or reject ACTA.

For months, many NGOs and public institutions produced analysis and commentaries, showing that ACTA is dangerous for innovation, freedom of speech and privacy online. Hundreds of thousands of citizens took the streets this past winter against ACTA, urging for a reform of today’s outdated copyright regime. This has led to an intense political debate within the EU Parliament. The different opinion reports recently adopted by several committees of the Parliament urged for the rejection of ACTA.

But as the final vote of the EU Parliament gets closer (scheduled for July 3rd-5th), all these efforts could be smashed.

Whereas the draft report of INTA rapporteur David Martin (UK, S&D) recommends the rejection of ACTA, other INTA members have tabled amendments asking either for the adoption of ACTA or for postponing the vote for years, pending an opinion of the EU Court of Justice on the legality of the agreement. Postponing the vote would ruin all chances to have ACTA rejected any time soon, and would pave the way to more repressive policies in the meantime. Citizens must remind Members of the INTA committee that postponing ACTA vote is a tactic of both the EU Commission and copyright lobbies to save face. If the final vote is postponed, the EU Parliament would be seen as playing into the hands of ACTA supporters, renouncing to its political power and its mission to defend citizens.

“Confirmed rumours in the corridors of the Parliament suggest that Thursday’s vote could be held in secret. Such a trick would allow Members of political groups who are officially against ACTA to escape their political responsibility. Important progress has been made in the last months as policy-makers increasingly understand the need to break away from repression and to reform copyright. We cannot allow powerful lobbies and the EU Commission to erase it all”, says Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net.

Every citizen can participate in this final push against ACTA. Our PiPhone can be used to call Members of the INTA committee for free, and tell them to vote against ACTA!”

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Here’s another talk from the re:publica 2012 conference in Berlin. In this one, Rick Falkvinge elaborates on how the Pirate Parties organise themselves in a swarmlike fashion.

 

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