Some lessons from history professor Timothy Snyder, a specialist on Eastern Europe and the Holocaust.
* Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
* Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
* Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
* Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
* Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
* Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.
* Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
* Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
* Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
* Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
Katherine Maher speaking on “Privacy and Harassment on the Internet”, MozFest 2016, Ravensbourne, London UK, Oct. 29, 2016.
- Transcription of video on Commons, derived from Mozfest video. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
- Presentation slides on Commons.
- “Privacy and harassment on the internet” on WikiSource
Privacy and Harassment on the Internet
Moderator: So without further ado, let me welcome to the stage Katherine Maher. She is executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The following is a list of individuals known to have been put in danger by their internet activities.
UPDATES (added from the top):
Wu Xiangyang, China, five and a half years in prison (Guardian, the Economist) for VPN service that allows people behind China’s Great Firewall to access websites like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. To all the people who have argued with me about the safety of VPN’s: I TOLD YOU SO. When I was in China, I was able to access Wikipedia, including the Tienanmen Square article, but not Facebook, although a Chinese person did approach me to friend them on FB. This was before Wikipedia was blocked in China. I also used Google Translate extensively for banking and accommodation. For anyone who is wondering whether it is safe to edit Wikipedia while logged out, let me just say that after I made an edit about a human rights violation, from inside a country bordering China, that I was immediately checkusered and blocked, without any sockpuppet investigation, by an admin from China, whose early edits to Wikipedia under a different user name were to a prestigious secondary school in China used by China’s ruling class, and who has apparently been a grad student in the US for the last 12 years. In spite of my inquiries to UTRS, this individual still has checkuser rights, and will not hesitate to destroy a clean block log, which will permanently blacklist you from any future relationship you might have with Wikipedia. (added 1/6/2018)
Ahmed Mansoor, Emirati telecommunications engineer, in UAE prison for unspecified social media comments. (Aljazeera, BBC, ABC); 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (Amnesty international) see Wikipedia UAE Five. Via EFF’s “A Grim Year for Imprisoned Technologists: 2017 In Review” which also names imprisoned open source software developer Dmitry Bogatov, (no Wikipedia article), of Moscow’s Finance and Law University who ran a volunteer Tor relay, Egyptian software developer Alaa abd el-Fattah, and Canadian-Iranian open source coder Saeed Malekpour, imprisoned when he visited Iran to see his dying father, now in prison for 10 years. (Added 12/28/2017.)
Osama Al-Najjar, 25 year old from UAE, objected on Twitter to the arrest of his father as one of the UAE 94. He remains in prison in Abu Dhabi seven months after completing his sentence. The UAE 94 are Islamists with ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood which is banned in the UAE. Added 11/29/2017.
Naima Al-Matrood, Saudi internet activist, she was sentenced to six years on prison on 10 November 2017, “violating public order by creating two social networking accounts on Twitter and Facebook to demand the release of some detainees”, arrested in Dammam (eastern Shiite region) but tried in the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh (central Sunni region). Identified by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) which objects to trying activists in courts like SCC that handle “terrorism” cases. GCHR has offices in Copenhagen and Beirut; it is a non-profit. Added 11/29/2017.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (“Mother Mushroom”) from Vietnam, sentenced to 10 years in prison after posting to Facebook about a toxic waste spill. On Nov 27, 2017, another critic of the steel mill spill, Nguyen Van Hoa was given 10 years. Added 11/28/2017.
14 Saudi Shiites from the eastern provinces, using Facebook and their Blackberries to photograph and/or send photographs of demonstrations. Tortured to extract confessions and sentenced to death. Some or possibly all underage juveniles. Added 8/6/2017.
I note in passing that Khartabil’s wife Noura Ghazi is a human rights attorney in her own right, and comes from a family with a history of defending civil rights. The article I wrote for her on simple.wiki back in March 2016 has gotten over 160 page views in the last 3 days, so people are turning to Wikipedia for information about her, but she still has no article of her own on the English or Arabic Wikipedia.
Beyond that, while it is interesting to have a martyr to the open source cause, this does nothing to propel forward the work that Kartabil was doing, in particular with #NEWPALMRYA. I note that there is now a memorial fund for continuing this work, but no one seems to have stopped to think of the implications for any people working on such a project. Khartabil is not the first martyr to the enemies of the middle east’s non-Islamic cultural heritage. Palmyra’s 81-year-old director of antiquities, Khaled al-Asaad, died horribly and his body was publicly displayed for days. I know firsthand the WMF’s cavalier attitude to volunteer safety, as I myself have been doxed repeatedly by Wikimedians in a position of authority, who had absolutely no excuse for doing so, other than believing they could get away with it. It’s time to tighten up the privacy policies and enforcement before we find ourselves with more Bassels.
Sina Dehghan, Iran, “interrogated”, promised to be freed if he signed a confession; after he signed, he was sentenced to death. Accused of using LINE instant messaging application to make critical comments about Koran and Islam. In 2015, LINE (WP article) announced that it added end-to-end encryption, however in 2016 was given an ultimatum by Iran ‘to cooperate in censorship or face blocking’. Via JWF. Added 4/13/2017.
Merzoug Touati, Algerian blogger, imprisoned after an interview with an Israeli official over Skype. From JWF, lots of other sources in French. added 2/10/2017
Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain, Twitter, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), opposes war in Yemen https://www.rt.com/news/372069-activist-rajab-bahrain-released/
Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Iran, Facebook, wrote an unpublished short story about stoning, JWF, &c. &c. added 12/28/2016
Mohamed Tamalt, Algerian blogger, imprisoned under Algeria’s cybercrime law after a poem on FB about president Abdellaziz Boueflika, died in a coma after a 3 month hunger strike. JWF. Guardian. Abdelaziz has limited speech and mobility due to health problems and is represented publicly by his deputies. Reported 12/11/2016.
Souad al-Shammary, سعاد الشمري Saudi Islamic scholar and women’s rights activist, imprisoned at Jiddah’s Briman prison on October 28, 2014 without trial, released January 29, 2015 at the same time Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman granted general amnesty for a large number of prisoners. Co-founded (BBCNews, the Guardian) Free Saudi Liberals Network with Raif Badawi, who is still imprisoned. For some reason this two-year-old story is re-emerging now. ABC, World Religion News, short profile on Front Line Defenders, The New Yorker, Middle East Eye, Al-Arabiya (2014), Pravda (in Russian, re-tweeting from AP Nov 2016). New York Times and WaPo, (Nov 2016 republished from the AP) arwiki (same person?) Added 11/19/2016. This is curious, as of 4/18/2017, a number of these articles, including ABC News, Washington Post, and New York Times have been scrubbed. Mission accomplished? Ah, but it says she threatened to sue Sheik Adel al-Kalbani [link] [link] [link] after Al Kalbani prayed that Suad lose the use of her hand and her eyesight.
Majed Al-Anizi, ماجد العنزي Saudi YouNow “يو ناو” video blogger, details and timeline unclear, arrested sometime before Abu Sin, probably October 2016. Saudi Gazette, al bawaba, al Arabiya English. Video of a conversation with an American named Katie went viral on Snapchat السناب شات , raising a very big buzz on social networking sites, especially Twitter (Ar) HuffPo. Added 10/23/2016
Abu Sin, أبوسن screen name of a Saudi Arabian video blogger, who faces three years in prison after appearing in video chats with Californian Christina Crockett @christinac842 Arrested while livestreaming from a car. Video of arrest: (police car appears at about 7:00). Guardian, Saudi Gazette, and multiple others. Released on bail 10/6/16. Added 10/5/2016.
Nahed Hattar, ناهض حتّر , ناهض حتر Jordanian writer, arrested August 2016 after posting a cartoon to Facebook, killed in Amman on his way to court. BBCNews, Jordan Times, al-Rai and al-Jazeera (Arabic language) , Article 150 & 273 & 278 (Ar), of Jordanian penal code. https://twitter.com/clifferdson/status/779981072545161217 (added 9/25/2016)
Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, Farsi: رویا صابری نژاد نوبخت a British/Iranian, arrested at the airport when she went back to Iran to visit her parents in 2013, imprisoned in Evin Prison, after she posted on Facebook that Iran was “too Islamic”. JIMAC, Guardian, Jimmy Wales Foundation, Independent, MEN. Article on Farsi WP. (Added 8/24/2016).
Scott Richards, سكوت ريتشاردز , a British/Australian in Dubai, arrested after raising money on Facebook for blankets for a refugee camp in Afghanistan where 100 children froze to death. BBC, Time, the Independent, ABC (Australia), the Telegraph, Grunaid. Richards’ wife is allowed to bring him money once a week so he can buy water. Refugee camp donations here. Ar: BBC HuffPo Added August 19, 2016. Released on bail 23/Aug/2016. Charges dropped Sept 2016 https://7days.ae/charity-case-scott-richards-dubai-dropped
Nazimuddin Samad, নাজিমুদ্দিন সামাদ। Bangladesh, criticized Islamicism on Facebook, hacked with a machete and shot to death. The Guardian. #NazimuddinSamad. Amnesty International. BBC News. One in a series of attacks. CNN. (Added 4/7/2016)
Esraa el-Taweel اسراء_الطويل , Egyptian activist and photojournalist. Disappeared, discovered in prison, wrote a letter detailing conditions for women in prison that was smuggled out, then released. Charges included “spreading false news through her social media account”. Prison letters published by her sister on FB at “اسراء الطويل فين – Where is Esraa Eltaweel“. (added 1/28/2016)
Hossein Ronaghi حسین رونقی, Iranian blogger in prison and denied medical treatment. (added 1/26/2016)
Sattar Beheshti ستار بهشتی was an Iranian blogger who died in prison after posting to Facebook. (added 1/19/2016)
Samar Badawi سمر بدوي, Saudi activist for voting and driving rights, sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, and former wife of Waleed Abulkhair. It is thought she was accused of Tweeting from Waleed Abu al-Khair’s Twitter account. Released the next day, on Jan 13. Added Jan. 12, 2016
Vadim Tyumentsev, Вадим Тюменцев 5-year jail term in Russia for posts on YouTube and Vkontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook.
Color of Burma’s new army uniforms compared to Aung San Suu Kyi’s longi
Chaw Sandi Tun jailed in Myanmar/Burma after a photo appeared on her Facebook page comparing the color of the new army uniforms to Aung San Suu Kyi’s longi. (She says her FB was hacked, IME not at all surprising to have some external interference to FB in Asia.) H/T JWF. Added 12/31/2015. [Image on right]
Igor Sychev, Игоря Сычева ethnic Russian blogger from Kazakhstan Казахстан
who moderated an unnamed social networking site that published a poll on whether the region should join Russia. Sentenced to 5 years in jail. H/T JWF. Added 12/31/2015.
Hamid Buyabes, Hamid Turki Buyabs حامد تركي بويابس editor in chief رئيس تحرير of the Kuwait people’s newspaper جريدة الشعب الكويتية jailed in Kuwait for comments about Saudi Arabia on Twitter, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – ANHRI. H/T JWF. On February 7, 2017, according to ANHRI, acquitted of the “state security” charge, fined 10 thousand dinars (33 thousand and four hundred dollars) over the case of “misusing the phone”. Added 12/31/2015.
Nadia Vera, activist with #Yo Soy 132, was murdered, on July 31, 2015, along with photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, who had taken a controversial photo of a political figure, Yesenia Quiroz, Mile Virginia Martín, and Alejandra Negrete. Added 12/5/2015.
•Sara al-Drees (ar:سارة الدريس) jailed in Kuwait. Twitter. Bio at International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Arabic Wikipedia. Simple English Wikipedia. H/T Jimbo at Jimmy Wales Foundation. Added 11/27/2015.
•Four individuals in Hong Kong believed disappeared by China: Gui Minhai, Lui Bo, Cheung Jiping, and Lam Wingkei . They are associated with a bookstore and publishing house that produces books critical of China, and are listed here because of China’s lack of internet access.
•Anonymous photographer in Venezuela, per Jimmy Wales’ speech at Wikimania 2015.
This individual had to leave the country after they started receiving threats, also threats to their family. This individual was not politically active, but was only uploading photographs.
•Niloy Chakrabarti, whose pen name was Niloy Neel – the fourth Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death by Islamists – was killed August 7, 2015. Before his death, he had requested police protection. Two suspects have been arrested, one of them out on bail after being charged with attempted murder of blogger Asif Mohiuddin in 2013.
This is the original piece (below), as of May 2015. Updates are added at the top.
Samira Salih al-Nuaimi – lawyer and human rights activist. In 2014 she used Twitter to criticize the Islamic State for destroying mosques and shrines. Kidnapped and tortured for five days, then executed by firing squad.
Raif Badawi – blogger, created website Free Saudi Liberals, jailed in 2015 for “insulting Islam through electronic channels”.
Waleed Abulkhair – Raif Badawi’s attorney. Imprisoned.
Hamza Kashgari – jailed for Twitter posts about the Prophet’s birthday. Released in 2013.
Iman al-Qahtani – female Saudi journalist who covered the 2013 trial of Saudi dissidents Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamidin. In Saudi Arabia, trials are not public, and women are not allowed in the same meeting room with men (this is prohibited “mingling”). Last message on Twitter, while trying to leave the country, saying she had been subjected to a travel ban. Disappeared in 2013.
Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani – Saudi dissident (ACPRA). Imprisoned.
Abdullah al-Hamid – Saudi dissident (ACPRA). Imprisoned.
Mohammed al-Bajadi – Saudi dissident (ACPRA). Imprisoned.
Matrouk al-Faleh – Saudi attorney for ACPRA’s Abdullah al-Hamid and his brother Issa al-Hamid. Imprisoned.
Abdulaziz al-Hussan – Saudi attorney for ACPRA’s Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid. Exiled in Indiana. Twitter.
Ananta Bijoy Das – Bangladesh, secularist blogger. Hacked to death by four attackers in masks.
Avijit Roy – blogger. A Bangladeshi-born US citizen. Stabbed to death.
Washiqur Rahman – Bangladesh, atheist blogger. Hacked to death.
A group of Ethiopian bloggers – jailed. Twitter.
Austin Tice – American freelance journalist missing in Syria. Twitter.
Ghazi Beji and Jabeur Mejri – Tunisia. Posting nude cartoons of Mohammed. Beji escaped to Europe, Mejri released from prison in 2014.
Philip Blackwood (New Zealand), U Tun Thurein and U Htut Ko Ko Lwin (Burma) – imprisoned for posting an image of Buddha wearing headphones to promote Buddha Bar. Facebook.
- Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi
- Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim
“Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun reported in June in Moscow that former US Justice Minister Ramsey Clark had confirmed that one of the bishops had been treated in a clinic in Ankara and later returned to the abductors. The Turkish security forces know where the bishops are, says Hassoun.
“In December 2015, reports circulated that both bishops had been killed. In October 2016 news reappeared, according to which the bishops lived in Rakka. A Syrian clergyman, who has been involved for years in the liberation of abducted Christians in Syria, confirmed this message from the Catholic News Agency (KNA).
“But even in this case, any evidence such as photos or personal explanations of the abducted are missing.” [Source]
Most of these were originally published in Dhaka as books, and sold at book fairs by the authors, many of whom were associated with the Mukto-Muna secularist bloggers’ website. Since the writers have all pretty much been either hacked to death or driven into exile, these should all be eligible for Banned Books Week, if Bangladesh ever gets around to having one.
Selected writings (Bengali language):
Avijit Roy and Abir Raihan, Philosophy of Disbelief, (অবিশ্বাসের দর্শন) (2011, 2015), published by Faisal Arefin Dipan and edited by Ananta Bijoy Das, both hacked to death by Islamic extremists; Avijit Roy was also hacked to death. Download (ডাউনলোড) ebook ( ইবুক ) PDF (পিডিএফ): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByhjQNt3o4g2SlY3THlVV3FIQlE/view
Avijit Roy, The Virus of Faith, (বিশ্বাসের ভাইরাস) (2014, 2015) Download (ডাউনলোড) PDF (পিডিএফ): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByhjQNt3o4g2aXpHSnpOa2RGQmM/view
Darwin Day anthology, (ডারউইন দিবস সংকলন) (2009) https://mukto-mona.com/Special_Event_/Darwin_day/2009/index.htm
Darwin: the relevance of the twenty-first century and thought, (ডারউইন: একুশ শতকে প্রাসঙ্গিকতা এবং ভাবনা) ed. Ananta Bijoy Das (2011)
Jukti (Yukti) magazine (যুক্তি): Essays on freethought, skepticism and rationalism. (অনন্ত বিজয় দাশ সম্পাদিত অত্যন্ত সাহসী একটি ম্যাগাজিন।) ed. Ananta Bijoy Dash https://mukto-mona.com/project/2007books/yukti/index.htm [Archived]
Ayala, f. J., Am I a monkey? Six big questions about evolution,(আমি কি একটা বাঁদর?) (2010), tr. Ananta Das and Siddharth Vijay Dhar (2011) Download (ডাউনলোড) PDF (পিডিএফ) http://www.amarboi.com/2015/12/jibbiborton-shadharon-path.html
Humaya Azad, Nari (নারী) Nāree “Woman”(1992) Download (ডাউনলোড) PDF (পিডিএফ) Nari – Woman -[Full Book] By Humayun Azad 1992 http://www.mediafire.com/file/h47h7dbcoueszbu/Nari+%5BFull+Book%5D+By+Humayun+Azad+%28allbanglaboi.blogspot.com+%29.pdf
These are only essays that have been covered in the media. There are more secularist essays in Bengali (বাংলা ভাষা) at the secularist blog Mukto-Mona (মুক্তমনা). https://blog.mukto-mona.com/2009/10/27/2884/ For the convenience of anyone trying to navigate the Bengali page, a google translation of this page follows. Note, the links may be a bit funky, since they came through Google Translate; to download an essay you will have to go to the original (Bengali language) site:
Until I saw the tweet from John Lewis, from the floor of the House of Representatives, I had been totally unaware of the “Blood Sunday” episode in the story of American civil rights.
Representatives John Lewis and Katherine Clark were on the House floor, leading a sit-in to protest the lack of gun legislation in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings.
Lewis is no stranger to demonstrations. He was at Selma on Bloody Sunday, marching for the right to vote. When the demonstrators crossed the bridge, they were met by police with clubs.
Lewis had his skull fractured.
It is becoming popular for anti-harassment “experts” to encourage other people to act as “allies”. But are they prepared for what comes next, after crossing the bridge?
If you have never seen this, you need to watch the video of original march here.
Today I woke up today to the news that Shawkan was supposed to be in court again today. Photojournalist Shawkan – aka Mahmoud Abou Zeid – has been held in Egypt’s notorious Tora prison without a trial for more than two years. For taking pictures. The case was postponed yet again, but I finally took the opportunity to go to SimpleWiki and write the first Wikipedia article for Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Arabic محمود أبو زيد) who is known professionally as Shawkan (Arabic شوكان). Alas, the stub I created on Arabic Wikipedia has already been discovered by the majnoon deletionists. (And recreated, amazing grace, by someone on 10/22/2016, now linked internally via Wikidata, and with a new article on eswiki)
Shawkan’s photos have been published in internationally recognized news outlets like Time magazine, Die Zeit, Amnesty International, and Global Voices. His situation has been covered in such impeccably reliable sources as the Guardian, the Independent, Global Voices, ABC (Australia), and of course, Amnesty International, where you can also read about it in French, Spanish, or Arabic, as well as a smattering of local Middle Eastern and African sources. There is even a new photojournalism prize named after him, the Shawkan Photo Awards. And of course a Twitter hashtag, #FreeShawkan.
A letter from Shawkan was smuggled out of Tora prison, detailing the crowded conditions and torture in the prison.
“Tora prison is like a cemetery. It is a place where dreams come to die…I share a cell with twelve political prisoners. We live in a small cell just 3 meters x 4 meters…I have not been charged with a single crime…I am a photojournalist, not political, not a criminal.”
[Update: Shawkan has a shiny new International Press Freedom Award, as well as some press exposure in the NYT. Amnesty International UK sponsored an exhibition Nov. 28. See also Freedom For Shawkan on FB. [11/26/2016]