We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Decentralised Web Summit: Is this the future? I hope so…

Is a decentralised web the way ahead? Is it even feasible? I certainly hope so, but I cannot imagine governments will make it easy. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the summit today.

Islam versus cat photos

I know, I’m busy today, but I absolutely love this Daily Mail headline:

Senior Saudi cleric bans taking photographs of cats in a bid to stop people trying ‘to be like Westerners’

Thank you Instapundit.

In the great conflict between Islam and human decency, it is easy to forget that often the bad guys feel overwhelmed and overrun by the opposition too.

The West is, as I write, being flooded with potential terrorists. All it takes is for a tiny few of these Muslims and/or their progeny to take seriously what their horrible holy writings say and we face a potential fight to the death. Calling Islam a “religion of peace” is, for the time being anyway, not working very well. It only seems to embolden the terrorists. But would the rulers of the West describing Islam more accurately be any sort of improvement? Maybe. But, that would be to tell terrorists that they are right about Islam. (Which they are.) That would be to tell Muslims that they are obliged by their religion to be as nasty to the rest of us as they can contrive to be. (Which they are.) That would be to tell Muslims that if they don’t want to behave like that or think like that, they should stop being Muslims. (Which they should.) Problems, problems.

But meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the great abomination that is cat photos is overwhelming everything that Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh considers to be right and proper. It must be stopped! People pointing out what a bucket of evil nonsense the Koran is, that he can handle. That he is used to. But cats! People taking pictures of cats! The horror!

Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh is never going to win this one.

LATER: Actually, I don’t think anything was said about cat photos on the internet. Simply taking photos of cats (and various other animals) was itself forbidden. I have taken the liberty of correcting this posting, originally entitled “Islam versus cat photos on the internet” accordingly. Apologies for the mistake. Apologies in particular to commenter “the other rob”, whose comment about the internet is made a bit of a nonsense of.

Just taking photos of cats will be even harder to stamp out.

Facebook and Tor

I enjoyed this tweet. Regulars might recognise the name.

Never has a reshuffle been so aptly named

The daft old beardy has been at it a day and a half now and the only person he’s managed to actually eject is the shadow Culture Secretary. No, wait, I’m wrong – news just coming in – Pat McFadden is also out!

Who?

Never mind. Some poor schmuck dim enough to once think a career in politics would be a good idea, sacked by a man who looks as if he would be happier if their roles were reversed. OK, Jeremy Corbyn will eventually finish reshuffling. It may happen while I am writing this post. I do hope it is soon. Much longer and he will be in danger of shuffling off this mortal coil himself. The results of the reshuffle will not rejuvenate either Mr Corbyn or the Labour party.

In one of the science fiction author Larry Niven‘s short stories it is mentioned that when teleportation booths were still very new, some naive people put the booths inside their houses. It didn’t take that many house clearances by teleporting burglars before people realised that might not be wise. I thought of that story when I first heard that Jeremy Corbyn was likely to be elected leader of the Labour party. Some have attributed his success to an imprudent decision by Ed Miliband to lower the cost of becoming a supporter of the Labour party to a paltry £3, which encouraged far-left entryists and not a few malicious Tories to vote for Corbyn. However that was only part of it – Corbyn also won among longstanding party members. The main factor in his victory was, as in Niven’s story, a technology whose consequences were not yet properly understood. That technology was social media. Facebook and Twitter were where the idea of joining the party as a supporter and voting for Corbyn, the outsider, the joke candidate, the perennial loser given a chance out of pity, went from snowball to avalanche. When the existing members saw the avalanche building they, too, were caught up in the excitement. Suddenly the quasi-revolutionary hopes of their younger days seemed possible once more.

I don’t think this conjunction of factors will ever happen again. Political parties the world over are quietly upping their membership fees, instituting probationary periods before a new member gets to vote on the leader, and deciding against open primaries. The example of the UK Labour Party has shown them the need for a wall between your house and the teleportation booth.

Oh, the horror of the darknet…

The New Scientist Christmas number carries an interview with Carmen Weisskopf of the Swiss group Bitnik who carried out an automated random shopping expedition on the anonymous (or anonymous-ish) ‘darknet’. A place that official propaganda would have us believe is a Mirkwood full of hidden horrors.

What about trust? Has the bot been scammed yet, and paid for good that haven’t been delivered?

No. And this shows the level of trust that is there. The people who sell on these markets are used to trusting people online, and want to get a good rating. Even the Swiss police who seized the ecstasy bought by our bot were surprised at its quality compared to that available on the streets.

Honesty is not a product of fear of the police and state surveillance – shock. Not of course news to anyone brought up before the 20th century, nor in any of the many present-day societies where official power is the leading source of corruption.

Samizdata quote of the day

The United Nations is truly an amazing organization. Dictators and authoritarians from around the world can work together to solve their common problems, like how to keep their own citizens under control. A solution to this serious problem has been found, Cyberviolence against women is the new justification for the police state. Terrorism just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Max Michael

The EU’s Memory Holes

The European law gives individuals and institutions the right to demand that search engines such as Google must de-list postings containing ‘outdated’ or ‘irrelevant’ information. The Euro authorities insist that this cannot be construed as censorship, since the material will not actually be removed from the internet – it will simply not be linked to by Google and Co anymore. When plans for these regulations were first announced in 2012, the European Commission’s vice-president said: ‘It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history.’ That sounds like rewriting history. If material is not listed by search engines, it is effectively invisible to most online and ceases to exist as public information.

No, no, say the authorities, of course we are not banning this controversial book! We are simply ordering all libraries and bookshops to remove it from their shelves and websites forthwith. You will still be at liberty to read it – if you can find a copy anywhere, or even spot a reference to its existence…

Mick Hume

Hollywood vs. Google

Ok is this not like watching a Godzilla movie?

The news story I recently wrote about a corrupt attorney general conspiring with the MPAA to take down Google has certainly caught the interest of our readers. Although the emails that Google recently obtained did contain some new information, many details of the conspiracy have actually been publicly available for a while. The Sony hack late last year revealed several emails that mention a strategy for movie studios to take on Goliath. It becomes clear from reading a few emails that Goliath is in fact a code name for Google.

Grab some popcorn! This is going to be fun, the vast monsters clash and lays waste to Los Angeles! What’s not to like?

Samizdata quote of the day

Everything on [the Internet] is changing minute by minute, and the idea of establishing a level playing field, as if all bandwidth is homogeneous, is just ludicrous.

George Gilder

In 2001 Ken Layne said: “We can fact check your ass!”

At the very dawn of the blogosphere, Ken Layne gave voice to what became a war cry heard across the internet: “We can fact check your ass”… and being American, he was not referring to examining the veracity of donkeys.

And that continues to be true, with that ethos is being applied by sites such DeepFreeze (dealing with Gamergate) and of course Guido (who has a category of his own in the sidebar). The internet never forgets, but it sure helps to have those memories nicely collated.

Self defence

I am certain it comes as no surprise to Samizdata readers that States are interested in penetrating your computers and stealing private communications without bothering about the legal niceties of search warrants issued by judges whom they do not own. But some things come as a surprise to even those of us who watch such things. I had not heard of this particular attack before. Spoofing, in conjunction with other attacks to pin down the real source while the spoofer gets in, have been around awhile. Some were dependant on analysis of the generated packet sequence numbers to allow a complete hijack.

None seem as practical as the web page substitution technique discussed in this Wired article. It is somewhat technical but useful reading if you want to keep up with what the enemies of liberty and rule of law are up to. Even more importantly, the article shows there are ways of keeping the bad guys out of your computers. The method may not be as satisfying as dropping a nuke on the SOB’s, but hey, you work with what you got.

GamerGate is far more important than, well, games…

This evening I went to a well attended informal meet-up in Islington of #GamerGate supporters. This proved to be very interesting indeed, hearing what by any reasonably definition were ‘libertarian’ views about tolerance and objective truth being widely trumpeted, but being agreed on by people from a broad section of the political spectrum. I listened to a thoughtful self-described left-winger deliver an angry critique of the Guardian, not just their contra-evidence based reporting of #GamerGate, but also the deeply intolerant culture being propagated there. It appears such folks are not just shocked by what they see, they are serious pissed off by the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ doing it. The very rationally argued animus was palpable.

It seems clear to me that over the eight months #GamerGate has been going on, it is now leading diverse people to re-evaluate long standing social and political views and alliances. An articulate young lady I spoke with said she has lost friends over this, and now saw certain people very differently. Even if #GamerGate was over tomorrow (fat chance), there has clearly been a tectonic social event, and the aftershock is going to be felt for quite some time. New and very spontaneous networks are forming and it will be interesting to see where this leads.