As Andy Robinson, the founder of the Pirate Party said:
“This story looked for all the world like an April Fool’s joke: Labour’s plan for a massive surveillance programme that would dwarf anything dreamed up by the KGB, brought back to life by its opponents?”
You may not have heard but the Tory and Libdem governments announced the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) on April first.
This must be somewhat frustrating for Conservatives like David Davis and Lib Dems like Julian Huppert both of whom are known to have strong views on reducing online surveillance and now have to work to persuade their own party’s that this is a bad idea.
James Firth – the tech blogger with ears in all the corridors in Whitehall, in fact warned of these proposals warned of proposals along these lines last year. From a political point of view, this is quite interesting as this is largely a piece of legislation that Labour proposed in their third term which Tory’s and Libdems campaigned against.
James Blessing from the ISP Association explained that when this was looked at last, the costs were prohibitive – we’re talking billions of pounds. Personally, I can’t see that this would be a sensible option, given the current funding climate.
First they came for the pricks, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a prick.
Then they came for the knobs, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a knob.
Then they came for the tits, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a tit.
Then they came for the arseholes, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an arsehole.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out (apart from the politicians who somehow managed to get through the above net).
Sometimes, one has to stand up for the rights of people whose views you don’t agree with – proposed legislation might not affect you personally, it might not affect me personally, but it if it could be extended to have a chilling effect on someone we both know, then we should do something about it.
A few weeks ago, I went along to Netroots UK – North West, a gathering of progressive types with a focus on grassroots online activism.
It was a lot more interesting that I expected. I didn’t have any idea what to expect and it turned out to be a mix of workshops and talks from people who’d run massive online campaign sites and what they’d learnt from them and engaging with their communities.
In many ways, one of the most interesting sessions was hanging out with someone from Pat’s Petition and working with them to suggest ways they could improve their campaign. This wasn’t a subject or audience I usually spend a lot of time thinking about. To give a bit of background, Pat’s Petition is a blind lady who cares for very poorly husband who is asking the government to reconsider its plans on carer cuts.
My first reaction on hearing this was to type it into google and see what came up, which I did there and there in the session and I quickly noticed a few areas for possible improvement of their presence – there seemed to be very little background to it online (even though I could hear from the lady there was a lot involved) so I suggested a video of this lady could be valuable.
Another thought was that a lot of these campaigns seem to promote negative emotions – “STOP the cuts”, “Tax David Cameron/Nick Clegg/the bankers”, but the message here needs to be a lot more focused. A lot of the people who wouldn’t usually sign this petition because they’re unhappy about “benefit scroungers” and cheats sometimes unfairly bundle this group of carers into the same group. Why does that happen? Is it because all carers are bad people? Of course not – it’s probably because most people don’t know someone in Pat’s situation and don’t know about all the good work people like her do.
By placing and emphasis on the good things and hard work she does, and “oh wait, also, she’s blind”, the “and what if this was taken away?” question, will hit home with a greater number of people and more people will sign the petition.
I felt I got a lot out of that session in terms of thinking in ways and about things I usually don’t have to.
I also went to a talk with Loz Kaye and Jim Killock talking about digital rights:
Followed by a question and answer session where it quickly became obvious there were several firm Pirate Party and Open Rights Group supporters.
In the evening, I had an amusing moment when I was introduced to a friend of a friend’s friend, “Tim” – some kind of progressive activist who had recently written a book. He had a copy of his book to hand and I had a glance though it. “Tim Gee” – that rang a bell. It turns out that Tim, his dad and my parents had all played music together a lot when I was little. The last he remembered of me was a curly haired 8 year old standing on a home made raft I’d built on a river in south Manchester. Small world!
I think netroots was a worthwhile event to go if you care about online activism and want to get better at it – I think if there were more events in Manchester I’d go to them.
You may remember that a few weeks ago there a big outcry because Wikipedia blacked out for the day because of a proposed American law called SOPA which, due to the US’s federal influence on the internet, would have had a chilling effect on websites you use everyday – Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube would have had to close down, move operations abroad or effectively remove most of their functionality. After the worldwide protests against the proposed act, it was withdrawn.
SOPA was billed as an anti-piracy law and yet did nothing to address the negative aspects of commercial copyright infringement whilst curbing free speech and killing the space that many technology companies (think Facebook, Google), are allowed to operate in.
ACTA – The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – is another similar piece of legislation except that, as this is a trade agreement, it applies to a group of countries. Like SOPA it has been developed on behalf of rights holders collectives such as the MPAA with no thought for the best interests of the citizens of the countries concerned.
One of the most deplorable thing about ACTA has been the secrecy around the agreement right from the get go. It wasn’t until drafts of the agreement started to be leaked onto the internet (ironically, this being one of the kinds of things the agreement will be used to tackle), that we started to get an idea of the scope of the proposed agreement.
ACTA will have sweeping and wide ranging effects, Wired UK Magazine explains things in great detail in a FAQ style article.
Given the secretive manner in which the agreement has been conducted and the completely disproportionate aspects of it regarding the internet and new technology, there has been a good deal of controversy surrounding it.
“in the strongest possible manner”
“no inclusion of civil society organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, [and] exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in [the] assembly,”
concluding with his intent to
“send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation” and refusal to “take part in this masquerade.”
In Poland there have been mass protests and in Parliament, a group of politicians held up Guy Fawkes masks in support of the protests against the act and as a result, ratification of ACTA has been suspended.
The Slovenian ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovšek-Zorko, said in a statement issued on 31 January 2012:
I signed ACTA out of civic carelessness, because I did not pay enough attention. Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children.
What can I do to stop it?
There are protests around the Britain this Saturday 11th February – the BBC even has an article about them.
If you’ve never been to anything like this, go!
It’ll be fun and you’ll make a difference.
It was protests that finished SOPA and it will be protests from people like you that kill ACTA.
…in Sweden we have the first political party, that, if you like, is allying itself with a particular age group – the Pirate Party.
I don’t think this is true. I mean sure, in Sweden there’s a political party called the Pirate Party, but it’s hardly focused on a specific age group.
Let me explain: actually, there are Pirate Parties in over 40 countries, inspired by the Swedes. In Germany, I was there for the run up to an election which saw the German Pirate Party get 14 seats in the State Parliament. So whilst Sweden was where the movement started and has had some success, (Sweden is represented in the European Parliament by two Pirate Party MEPs), the concept is hardly isolated.
In the UK, we have a Pirate Party. If you’ve read this blog before, you may have noticed that I’m currently the Education Spokesperson and that I contested the parliamentary seat of Manchester Gorton in the 2010 General Election.
I think it’s also worth thinking about the other point that Keri made; is the Pirate Party allying itself specifically with a certain age group? Rick Falkvinge – the founder of the Pirate Party movement – puts forward an interesting explanation:
As Rick says, “it’s a little bit more than that; let us explain” and I hope this post has helped people to understand and clarify the original statement.
I’m very pleased with Michael Gove’s announcement on scrapping the existing ‘Information and Communication Technology’ curriculum. I think this is a great step forward for young people and technology, and has the potential to increase interest in what is a vital area of skills for British youth.
With the launch of ‘Code Year’ and the Guardian’s campaign to address issues with digital literacy, it is good to see the government giving this part of the curriculum the attention it both needs and deserves. Indeed this initiative comes at a great time and with the Raspberry Pi – an affordable British learning computer for exciting young techies – becoming available soon.
With all that said, I am still somewhat nervous about some of the details of this announcement. The omission of a reference to open source software and solutions is disheartening, especially whilst referring to “an open-source world” and a changing and open curriculum. I hope that the Department for Education is aware of the potential positive benefits of looking at open alternatives to proprietary ‘solutions’.
I do welcome the premise and direction. Mr Gove is exactly right when he asks us to:
“Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum. Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch.”
As someone who now works in the technology sector but who suffered from poor ICT tuition at school, I hope that the government is able to deliver on these proposals; it is something that students in the UK deserve, that the economy of the UK will benefit from and something that has been ignored for too long. I have been campaigning for changes like these since 2009, they are very welcome and I am keen to see how they are implemented and developed.
Pirate Party UK
Press contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0161 987 7880
Originally posted on the Pirate Party website.
Tim Dobson – Pirate Party UK Education Spokesperson:
On Sunday I was in Germany watching the Pirate Party movement making history again. The Pirate Party entered the Berlin State Parliament, gaining 14 seats after polling almost 9% of the vote. At the same time the liberal FDP, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, crashed out, with only 1.9%. Pirate Party UK is inspired by the hard work of all the activists that made this result possible and sends its warmest congratulations.
Pirate Party Germany’s success shows our movement’s ideas have a broad appeal and platform. Despite smears from a clearly rattled opposition during the election campaign, the Berlin Pirates showed they have a lot to offer on education, business, representative democracy and social policy. Equally, the people of Berlin have realised that it is about time that their politicians understand the Internet better.
This result shows that the desire for a new politics and digital rights fit for the 21st century continues to grow throughout Europe. As Rick Falkvinge, Pirate Party Sweden founder put it, “We fight for civil liberties together, shoulder to shoulder, and we succeed together.”
I was lucky to get an insight into the Pirate’s campaign from the inside, their innovative poster designs and campaign slogans – ‘Ask your children why they vote for the Pirate Party’, clearly captured the imagination of the people of Berlin.
I had a great meeting with Andreas Baum, one of the 14 Pirates who will be taking up seats in the state parliament. He showed to me their ‘Glazenmobil’, a trailer with a glass wall containing a mock up of a typical front room. Their message was that instead of transparent private lives, there should be transparent politics.
In Britain, where cities are in danger of being left behind in global competition and held back by outdated political masters, the Pirate Party will continue making its case for change. We will be following in our German partners success with new candidates and a more comprehensive policy platform.
Pirate Party UK
+44 (0) 161 987 7880
I have spent all day with the German Pirate Party campaigning, in Berlin.
This is a moment towards the end of the day when we walked up to a SDP campaign point and started talking to all the people they tried to flyer.
Music from Mikuláš Ferjenčík, PPCZ