Reflections on Censorship, Occupy Wall Street, and the 99%

By now I’m sure we’ve all heard about Union Square, Washington Square Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other city sites that have been marched on; we’ve all seen the video clips circulating on the Internet, read about the original July call put out by AdBusters, and the supposedly unintentional or accidental censorship of emails and Tweets with the Occupy Wall Street phrase or hashtag. It does seem ridiculous that with the Occupy movement spreading to Washington D.C., the White House lawn, Los Angeles, Detroit, and banks and other corporate institutions everywhere, Twitter is currently trending #PeopleWhoAreOverrated and #moviebands.

Vibe, on the other hand, is overrrun with messages from Anonymous, the hive mind, bagpiper, and other similarly (un)identified individuals updating each other on Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy movements springing up around the country and worldwide.

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anti-censorship in network infrastructure

With AntiSec—and attendant censorship countermeasures—in full swing, Telex seemed like an appropriate subject.  In a nutshell, Telex offers a response to online censorship by placing anti-censorship technology into the Internet’s core network infrastructure, rendering it easy to distribute and difficult to detect and prevent. Governments tend to use firewalls in their network to block traffic or access to forbidden sites. Telex is different from previous anti-censorship systems in that it operates within the infrastructure at ISP points and non-blocked portions of the Internet, as opposed to network end points.

This “end-to-middle” proxying makes the system robust against censorship countermeasures. Furthermore, it emphasizes evading detection so that a censor may be circumvented without being alerted, complementing proxy and relay services like Tor. Telex employs and repurposes deep-packet inspection in its anti-censorship measures. Telex also does away with individual encryption keys or IP addresses that need to be communicated to users in advance, since the censor can block the system if it discovers this information. Telex is described, in short, as a “state-level response to state-level censorship” (Telex.cc).

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Tricksters, 50 Days of Lulz, Effecting Change.

On June 26th, LulzSec faded back into the woodwork, ending their hacktivity with “50 days of lulz,” in which they leaked internal data from AOL, AT&T, the FBI, gaming forums, NATO bookshop, and navy.mil, among others. The leak marked the end of the Lulz Boat’s “planned 50 day cruise,” leaving its 6-member crew to “now sail into the distance, leaving behind–we hope–inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere.  Anywhere” (LulzSec).

This begs the question I’ve been dodging forever: does spectacle, ultimately, constitute impact? What did X, Y, or Z actually do? Apart from gathering numerous followers, supporters, and participants, LulzSec’s antics have impacted the way organizations view cybersecurity, drawing statements from NATO and prompting the Obama administration to propose stricter anti-hacking laws. (This is one year after the Australian government proposed that DDoS and script hacks be termed “cyber-terrorism” following Operation Titstorm, so that their import could be easily recognized. Notably, these attacks were performed in response to ISP-level censoring measures proposed by the government that year.)

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