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Flickr Filtered in Iran,UAE: Resistance February 17, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Information policy, Middle East, Political Technology.
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Internet users in the United Arab Emirates and Iran discovered some time ago that their access to Flickr, the popular social networking-photo archive site had been blocked yet again, for the third time. In the UAE, the major Internet service provider, Etisalat, is the responsible party. But dedicated photojournalists and ordinary users alike may have a new technological countermeasure, a free Firefox extension called Access Flickr that is the brainchild of Hamed Saber, an Iranian with a technical bent, an ingrained opposition to Big Brother, and a belief that “no one has the right to censor anything for me”.

In a Global Voices interview with Sami Ben Gharbia, Saber said that he was unaware of any similar Firefox extension specifically designed to circumvent censorship. The idea was to create something similar to Tor, but more accessible. Saber says that the tool is “so simple.. not sophisticated and powerful like Tor.” It sounds easy enough:


This extension just substitutes some parameters in HTTP request header
before sending it, and after receiving the response, again it
substitutes some other parameters in the HTTP response header. The
source code is not encoded, and the extension is open source, anyone
can read the simple source code!

Source: globalvoicesonline.org

Other forms of resistance to internet filtering in Iran ( Filtering Country Study) and the UAE( Filtering Country Study) are spearheaded by the Open Net Initiative. Because the technology is simple, the obvious solution for the censors is to block the extension- and what will Saber do if that happens?

He’ll just develop another “bypassing way.”

With people like Saber in the world, we can all take heart. We are , collectively, smarter than they are.

Related Link: Freedom for UAE Flickr Users Petition UAE

Tags: vs | users | Filter | Extension | Community | Citizens | access | United Arab Emirates | Technology | saber | Middle East | Iran | internet | hamed | Flickr | Africa


Stevens Bill: Banning Wikipedia? February 16, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries, Political Technology, U.S. Congress.
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The Congressional response to the problem and the pseudo-problem of online predation via social networking sites has reached a new nadir. Ted Stevens introduced Senate Bill 49 last month . The putative legislation requires that “any school or public library that gets Federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well.

Here’s the newest from Sen. Ted Stevens, the man who described the Internet as a series of tubes: It’s time for the federal government to ban access to Wikipedia, MySpace, and social networking sites from schools and libraries

Source: computerworld.com

The new bill is closely related to DOPA ( HR5319) a bill that passed the House. But Marianne Richmond, among other commentators, rightly states that the bill goes well beyond that previous piece of censorious legislation. One part requires that sites distributing adult content excise the adult content from the homepage and to publish a warning on the homepage. The real menace comes in title 2, the subsidies section. This section also appears to require that schools monitor the net activities of students when not supervised by faculty.Such a duty would cause no end of headache and heartache for parents, school administrators, and teacher, even if , as would probably be the case, the more onerous duties were removed through a series of court cases. Who needs this expense? Who wants to generate this much confusion?

Seekr Search Engine Follows the Political Money December 14, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Government Transparency, Political Technology.
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If you’re a regular visitor to our site you noticed sometime last week, on the left side of our home page, our latest widget – we’ve dubbed it Sunlight Seekr. It’s the first step to a one click search engine that culls through multiple databases. We put it up last week to play around with it and it appears to be working just fine so today we are going public with it. At the moment it does a simple search of five data sets: our own Sunlight Foundation and Congresspedia sites, The Institute on State Money and Politics and Center for Responsive Politics sites for state and federal campaign contributions, and GovTrack.org. Type in the name of an individual, corporation, and zip code and see what pops up.

Ellen Miller, The Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation follows political influence and money, in the name of greater transparency in government operations. One of their labs projects is worth a look. As described above , this little search engine can be used to research campaign contributions and other materials from five database. Search by zip code, company name, or individual name, and you will get some useful information. Among the results I got by entering my zip code was a list of the top campaign contributors in my area, both corporate and individual.

The Sunlight Foundation excels at making information available to the public, and in rendering publicly available information truly accessible. This search engine is in beta, and requires free registration at the Sunlight Foundation site. The site appears to work on a script, so you will need to disable popup blockers. Just click on the information bar “Options” button if you are using Firefox 2.0, or something similar. I haven’t tried Seekr with Internet Explorer.

Tags: Seekr | Responsive | Congresspedia | working | widget | VISITOR | sometime | Site | sets | search engine | search | Popup | pops | noticed | multiple | latest | going | federal | dubbed | DATABASES | data | CULLS | corporation | CONTRIBUTIONS | CODE | click | campaign | Browser | appears | sunlight | Politics | Internet Explorer | institute | Foundation | firefox 2.0 | Announcing | APIs

Another hand recount of votes in Washington : Reichert -Burner race refuses to die December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Political Technology, Seattle Politics, U.S. Congress.
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King County Elections officials today [MON] are scheduled to start preparations for a hand recount in the congressional race between Congressman Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Darcy Burner. And as KUOW’s Derek Wang reports, the results will not change the outcome.


The last election for governor in Washington state occasioned an historic vote recount involving hundreds of ballots and it reversed the outcome of the race, giving the nod to Christine Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi. The Nov 7th election has brought about another recount, this time in the close race between incumbent (and victor) Dave Reichert and his surprisingly effective Democratic challenger, Darcy Burner

The ballots to be recounted come from two precincts from the King County municipality of Issaquah. The Seattle group, Voters for Democracy in America, is requesting a hand recount of some 925 votes because they don’t trust the transparency of the electoral process, and believe that the computers and software that’s used to count and tabulate the votes, is secret, according to Hannah McFarland, the group’s director. King County maintains that a rigorous internal audit failed to reveal any irregularities. The audit was performed the day after the election. Since Reichert won the election by over 7,000 votes, the recount cannot change the election outcome. As of this writing, the citizen’s group is willing to pay for staff costs, but disputes a $10,000.00 fee for security costs, which the county says is mandatory.

Tags: Reichert | Kuow | Darcy | software | scheduled | results | Reports | Recount | Preparations | officials | CONGRESSIONAL | Challenger | Wang | Vote | Seattle | McFarland | elections | derek | DEMOCRATIC | dave | county | congressman | burner

Venezuela :Voters fear new biometric technology December 2, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Political Technology.
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The electoral authorities say electronic fingerprinting is necessary to avoid fraud.

The opposition says this will allow the government to see how each person votes and could stop people voting against Mr Chavez for fear of reprisals.

Natalie Malanarich, BBC

The Venezuelan presidential elections are on December 3rd, and the country is deeply divided on the subject of Hugo Chavez. The divide, according to this story, is not simply a division of rich and poor, since their are plenty of people who have made money tagging along with the Chavez poor people’s revolution. Both sides have some stake in voter turnout, but it is highly likely that fears of surveillance will potential turnout of Chavez foes more than of his proponents, although both sides would stand to lose if voter records were used for reprisals, no matter whether the left or the right instigate them. And here lies a cautionary tale. Certain kinds of political technology, no matter how perfect in themselves, will cause suspicion and perhaps affect turnout in direct proportion to the intensity of the divisions among the parties, factions, and members of a polity. And for that reason alone, good precautionary democracy demands that we not fall into the trap of using technologies of identity just because we can.

Tags: Chavista | VOTES | says | opposition | neighbourhood | divided | Venezuela | chavez