Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Posts Tagged ‘social networking

CYXYMU and “the nuclear option”

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There’s been enough said about the specifics of the Facebook/Twitter/LiveJournal outage last week connected to attacks on Georgian blogger “CYXYMU.” net.effect offers a detailed analysis of the politics involved, but I’m not so sure of Evgeny Morozov’s belief that this represents an effective step forward in the silencing of dissent. Read the net.effect piece, but consider the following as well –

1.  Are sites like Facebook, et. al., really going to generate “terms of service censorship” to delete users who become targets of cyberattacks due to free expression? I’m not so sure. There are certainly enough people who can identify (and amplify) when such considerations go into effect, and I’m not convinced that explicit censorship wouldn’t reverse the explosive growth of these sites, or open up an angle for new competition. Then again, maybe that’s simply achieving the same effects…

2.  When you attack a site with 250M users, like Facebook, you’re naturally going to attract undue attention to a situation that otherwise wouldn’t have been given another thought. I’m not convinced that won’t lead to greater political blowback at some level for Russia (even if in no way connected to the attack), even if it’s something as simple as a more aggressive cybersecurity policy (remember, there’s still an ongoing debate between the U.S. and Russia about cybersecurity).

3.  Why assume a static architecture? “Terms of service censorship” would be easy, certainly. But I’m not so sure that this attack hasn’t just handed over a new set of creative ideas – not to mention funding – on how to make the platforms more robust. A big maybe. But there’s clearly a public good issue that works to the advantage of folks like CYXYMU. Even with “terms of service censorship,” attacks like these – because they inflict damage on the network as a whole – are still likely to focus efforts on how to protect the network as a whole, which ultimately benefits individual cyber-dissenters. Imagine for a second that this were an actual military attack against an entire city, just because that city was home to one vocal individual. Even if you kicked that individual out, wouldn’t the chance of a future, similar individual be incentive enough to improve your defenses against a similar attack?

Written by Mark

August 9, 2009 at 9:58 pm

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Three more for Thursday

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1.  U.S. military considers banning social networking technologies, due to security concerns (Wired Danger Room). Watch out for that pendulum. Leads one to wonder how much of the security problem is purely due to the technologies, and how much is due to things like architecture, data structures, and organization.

2. About 70% of Nigeria’s bandwidth lost in an undersea cable cut (BBC).

3. The MS-Yahoo! deal doesn’t include Yahoo! China. Not that it matters, in terms of China’s search market (The Register).

Written by Mark

July 30, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Facebook ’round the world

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Over at O’Reilly Radar, Ben Lorica has an updated analysis of Facebook’s global growth. Among the findings:

  • Europe is now home to a third of all Facebook users, with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, and Germany driving growth
  • Facebook remains a smaller social networking platform in Asia, but has seen rapid recent growth in Indonesia and the Philippines
  • Turkey is a surprising leader – home to 69% of all Facebook users in the Middle East and North Africa, and behind only the U.S., UK, and Canada in total number of Facebook users

Out of curiosity, I went back to the page for the “Alliance of Youth Movements,” a group affiliated with the State Department’s public diplomacy efforts, to find out whether the worldwide “March Against Al Qaeda” had a date listed yet. Still “March, 2009 – exact date to be determined.” Not keeping my breath held.

Written by Mark

March 9, 2009 at 9:37 pm

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Monday roundup…Google vs. closed information societies, virtualizing the Great Game, Asian MMOs, and, yes, more robots

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1.  The director of Google Earth / Google Maps connects objections to these programs to “closed information societies,” naming “…China to some extent and in Russia and legacies of that in places like India.

2.  SimAfghanistan. The McNamara legacy lives on…with better visualization techniques, I’m sure.

3. Via Wired’s Danger Room, a Navy-sponsored report from Cal Poly on “Autonomous Military Robotics:  Risk, Ethics, and Design.” The report alludes to the potential for “asymmetric response” to the increased use of military robots, but misses what I think is a central question:  is the “man-in-the-loop” (or “tele-operator,” in the lingo of this report) become a legitimate military target for the opposing side? If so, does that not risk loosening the ethical barrier against “total war,” considering that many of these tele-operators may be on U.S. soil? The technology is moving too fast here to focus solely on the ethics of American use of military robots. Rather, the U.S. should take advantage of its lead in this area to drive an international convention defining the use and limits – the law of war, if you will – for robots as they exist today and might exist in the next five years.

4.  Four of the top five massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) are Asian, in terms of revenue. The other one is, of course, World of Warcraft…and rounding out the rest of the top ten are other Western efforts. GigaOm speculates that the most popular MMORPG in this group is not WoW, but likely one of the Asian games – possibly China’s Fantasy Westward Journey

5.  In tangentially related news, South Korea announced a four-year, $25B (shared by the government and telecom operators) effort to upgrade Internet service to 1 Gbps, which GigaOm notes is 200 times as fast as a U.S. DSL connection. Korea has always been a fascinating lab to watch the development of “wired society,” from social networking and VoIP technologies (watch the video) to national plans for robotics and treatments for web-addiction. The aforementioned video asks why several Korean technologies – such as a forerunner to MySpace – went largely unnoticed outside Korea, and offers a partial answer in culture. I say partial, because it speaks to a dynamic between code and culture that still isn’t well understood.

Written by Mark

February 2, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Facebook and a new form of opposition in Egypt

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Samantha M. Shapiro has an exceptional piece in this Sunday’s NY Times Magazine on Facebook’s role in organizing an opposition youth movement in Egypt. Shapiro also brings to light the attention paid by the State Department’s public diplomacy arm to Facebook, including this December summit featuring the Obama campaign’s new media team. 

You can find the Facebook group created by the State Department, the “Alliance of Youth Movements,” here. It gets even more interesting. The first thing listed in the group’s description is “THE MARCH AGAINST AL QAEDA,” scheduled for March in 20 locations around the world, including Baghdad, Mumbai, Cape Town, Beirut, Bahrain, and an unnamed site in Saudi Arabia. Its precedent is the “One million voices against FARC” group that inspired a protest of one million+ in Colombia last February, the largest so far against a terrorist organization. 

The Colombia and Egypt examples offer hope for technology-driven efforts in “civil society 2.0” and “dorm room diplomacy.”  But it still seems a hope fraught with ambiguity. Shapiro’s best sentence is at the end of her article on Egypt:  But what does it mean to have a vibrant civil society on your computer screen and a police state in the street?

Written by Mark

January 26, 2009 at 1:24 am

YouTube and the Vatican

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As reported by the LA Times and others, the Vatican launched a YouTube channel on Friday, with a goal of  evangelizing the “digital continent.” There’s an inkling of social media savvy in the announcement – Pope Benedict XVI called upon “young people” to “announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm” – tempered by concern over the addictive, anti-social qualities of cyberspace, a concern similar to those articulated by Nicholas Carr, among others.

But Vatican City’s still missing the point.

Why YouTube? According to the LA Times piece, the Vatican is seeking to both “expand the reach of the church and exert greater control over its image.” You need only look to any number of marketing ventures, not to mention experiments like the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s efforts at blogging, to understand the goals of reach and control are in fundamental conflict. If it wants to expand, the Vatican has to cede some measure of content control and creation to its proselytizers – imagine, for the sake of argument, a set of online tools that would allow Catholics to assemble a “neighborhood Mass,” similar to the parties you could put together using the Obama campaign’s online kits.

This won’t happen, of course. It requires the Vatican to change its nature as a rigid hierarchy, built on a doctrine that has no room for vigorous debate … and as long as that’s the case, the Vatican will continue to play catch-up with Pentacostalism, Islam, and (in Europe particularly) non-belief.

You’d think someone might have figured this out, after the Gutenberg press and that Reformation business.

Written by Mark

January 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm

China battles Internet porn, social networking and the military, a new U.S. CTO?

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Seen around the Net on a cold Saturday morning:

1.  Tech.Blorge calls attention to a Chinese crackdown on online pornography and notes the connection to government fear of social unrest in a slowing economy – especially in a year which will mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. There’s probably something to that. There was a line of thought in the late ’90’s that pornography was major factor in driving advances in ICT, user adoption, and the democratization of content production…all challenges to regulation, even with thousands of censors.

2.  Wired’s Danger Room has a piece on the U.S. Strategic Command’s use of social networking to gather expertise in support of the shootdown of a dying spy satellite last year. There’s a sentence about “…how social networks helped planners navigate around the national security bureaucracy…” … which leads to …

3.  GigaOm is citing a BusinessWeek report that Cisco Systems’ Chief Technology Officer, Padmasree Warrior, is on the “short list” for a new “U.S. CTO” position. It’s still unclear exactly what role this position would entail. Is the intent to define a “technology policy,” akin to an industrial strategy? If that’s the case, where would the line be respective to, say, the Department of Energy, the Defense Science Board, FCC, DARPA / HSARPA, and the White House’s own Office of Science and Technology Policy, to name a few? Or will the position be designed to corral the CTOs in place across various Federal departments and agencies to implement change in anachronistic bureaucracies – a sort of follow-on to Vice-President Al Gore’s efforts in the ’90’s, with the citizen-access features that figured so prominently in the Obama campaign? The latter seems more likely, and it’s probably the reason the District of Columbia’s CTO, Vivek Kundra, has also made the short list. Update, post-Inauguration:  I was reminded to check change.gov whitehouse.gov, which describes the CTO’s responsibilities as:  “…to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.” The first part – ensuring “safety” remains confusing, despite strong recommendations for it. Would this replace the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications?  And would the NSA continue to be involved as proposed under the Bush Administration?

Written by Mark

January 17, 2009 at 5:03 pm