I think the Internet is potentially one of the greatest tools to promote human freedom and access to ideas and knowledge. I think it also is potentially one of the greatest tools of Big Brother for surveillance and censorship. For this reason I was particularly interested in the two-part series on the Cypherpunks on Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow program. The RT network recently released an uncut version of Assange’s Cypherpunk interviews, which I also viewed with great interest.
The first part is more than an hour long and the second part is two hours long, and my guess is that most people who view this post won’t have the time or the interest to watch them in their entirety. But I am posting them anyhow, for whoever might be interested, and also am linking to them in my Documentaries menu on the right.
The Cypherpunks are a loose movement whose goal is to promote individual privacy by providing encryption that would allow people to prevent unauthorized people, including government agents, from reading their private communication. Assange interviewed three notable Cypherpunks—Andy Muller-Maguhn of Germany, a member of the Chaos Computer Club, a hacker organization; Jeremie Zimmerman of France, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, which advocates for free circulation of knowledge on the Internet; and Jacob Appelbaum of the USA, an independent computer security researcher and a participant in the Tor project to create on-line anonymity systems.
They drew a frightening, but (I think) true, picture of the ability of governments to collect and record every electronic transaction by every individual—e-mails, credit card purchases, Google searches, bank deposits and withdrawals, telephone calls—while themselves operating behind a veil of secrecy.
Applebaum gave an example of a man indicted for posting information on the Internet in violation of a secret law whose text he was not allowed to see. The judge was allowed to see the law, and the man was acquitted, but presumably the loophole in the law was tightened up. I have to write “presumably” because there is no way to know.
Muller-Maguhn said that just as the invention of the printing press made everyone a potential reader, the creation of the Internet has made everyone a potential writer. Anyone, not just professional writers who are able to please professional editors, has the means of writing out what they think and know, and communicating it to the world. This is valuable and important, and it doesn’t matter that only a little of the writing is of high quality.
These three, and Assange himself, are more libertarian than socialist. Assange said the three basic freedoms, from which all other freedoms flow, are (1) freedom to communicate, (2) freedom of movement and (3) freedom to engage in economic transactions, and the third may be the most fundamental. He may have been playing devil’s advocate when he said the latter, but I don’t think so.
I came across these videos on This Day in Wikileaks, a daily blog with daily news and commentary about Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. I have put a link to it on my Links menu on the right.
I have put a link to Assange ‘The World Tomorrow’ —Cypherpunks uncut version, the Digital Journal version of the interviews, on my Documentaries menu on the right.
Click on Digital Journal: Cypherpunks Part 1 and Part 2 for the original 25-minute broadcasts.
Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow was broadcast by the RT (Russia Today) network. It was started by the Russian government for its own purposes, and for that reason should be regarded with skepticism, but it also provides information and ideas not available through the established U.S. TV networks. In the same way, the Voice of America is an agent of the U.S. government, but provides information to Russians they might not get from their domestic broadcasters. When I was younger, I never thought I would ever make this comparison, but times have changed.