The magazine Palabra Created in the mid-eighties in the South East of Mexico, CIACH publishes a monthly magazine La Palabra broadcast in the indigenous rural communities, it organizes discussions in communities and also disseminates information on the Net. Ostensibly, even if no contact directly with the Zapatista rebellion, the CIACH supports its claims and participates in the process of asserting political, cultural and social Indians. He maintains regular contact and association with the”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. A commitment to it being now a target of the authorities in the tense situation in Chiapas.

  • The role of CIACH
  • Indian rights
  • Resumen Informativo
  • Palabra the Internet
  • With civil society
  • Funding and perspectives
  • Contact

The role of CIACH

Located almost at the end of the long narrow street Flavio Paniagua as far back from the main avenue that connects the Parque Central in San Cristobal de Las Casas in his local market of India, the current offices of CIACH are both close and back to the center of the city… Close enough not to feel too far away from the heart of the colonial city around key locations that ensures the future of the region, far enough away as to enjoy a certain peace of mind essential to the work.

In What made ​​these offices the monthly La Palabra (speech), distributed in thirty municipalities of the State of Chiapas in the central region of Altos around the colonial city and tourist center of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in La Selva and valleys where now lives a large part of the Mayan Indian population, and the north of the state.”In recent years, information has become a strategic area for the government and the army, says Elizabeth Polito Barrios, head of CIACH. More than ever, they intend to control it. As long as in the source distribution. They have their own version of the current state and they impose by whatever means. This ensures the”loyalty” of the major media – newspapers, radio and television – but also, and even worse, by intimidating the independent media that do not comply.” In short, the Centre has an independent certainly not the favor of the authorities, like many other actors of civil society Chiapas. The CIACH is defined as”a media open to the outside and serving the people and Indian and peasant organizations in the region”. It’s objectives? Informed of what’s really going on in Chiapas, “bringing in communities and grassroots elements that help in the analysis of reality” and “help raise people’s participation in making decisions that concern”. The government has the will to suppress the attempts to change data in the region. In particular, when they come from the Indian communities themselves. All independent organizations that want to give voice to the excluded are viewed by the government as obstacles to be swept or accused of all evils. Evidenced by the smear campaigns that the organizations most claims have been victims in the media when it is not harassment or even open repression…

Modestly but continuously, with ups and downs, the work of CIACH is therefore to cope. To participate, against all odds and from his work on information, self-organization of rural Indian communities and the articulation of popular movements independent. Meetings for analysis and discussion are organized in villages or with representatives of farmers’ organizations, or Indian human rights. From the themes developed in La Palabra – land distribution, marketing of coffee, elections, etc.. – And experience that each organization or individual can have, participants try to understand their social, political and economic and increase their ability to act on it.

Indian rights

The situation is not rosy every day for the campesinos (peasants) in Chiapas, especially for Mayan Indians, the majority in this part of the state where the work CIACH. Majority but obviously forgotten in the distribution of wealth in the region. And, for more than five hundred years! Very rich in natural resources (wood, oil, water, livestock, tourism…), the Chiapas only benefits a minority of Chiapas braced on their privileges. Today, however, following the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and despite the impasse in the peace process and the deterioration of the situation that tends to prevail, most of the Indians of this region of Mexico continue to brag their “Ya basta!” (that’s enough!).”Earth, education, food, health, shelter, freedom, democracy, justice… that’s what we were refused, that is what we demand.”

In 1985, when the center was established, its leaders had first intended to coordinate efforts in the field of information from many sectors of society in turmoil. Teachers, peasant movements, indigenous associations, students… each group at the time realized its own newsletter. All with the same goal: to circulate among the members an alternative to the official version information and prevent almost systematic repression suffered by independent organizations. These bulletins were still by force of circumstances sectoral and geographically limited. Students from San Cristobal had their own magazine and were the main players, the peasants of the northeast of the state not only by them spoke to the press releases sent, etc.. The CIACH was then formed with the idea to provide each organization a common space of expression and information, where one could find information on all the players and where the links between them would be favored…

The first steps were laborious. Without a lot of ways, the few volunteers began to buy, read, codify and classify systematically all the newspapers and news magazines sold in Chiapas. Besides the specific contribution of each of the independent organizations in the region, information was gathered and made available to all popular sectors of Chiapas, organized outside government institutions.

Resumen Informativo

Soon, however, was felt the need to publish this information in order to increase accessibility. Thus was born the first publication of CIACH the”Resumen Informativo” (Summary Information), a monthly manageable than fifty pages printed in a thousand copies, sold or distributed within a large network of grassroots organizations more or less Consolidated: peasant and indigenous organizations, such as the Central Independiente de Campesinos y Obreros Agricolas (CIOAC), the Union of Unions”are Pajala Kactic”, the Committee Defensa de la Libertad Indigena (CDLI), the Consejo of indigenous representatives in Los Altos de Chiapas (CRIACH )…, teacher union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación…), sector workers of hydroelectric power, student associations, promoters or” Pastoral” of the Catholic Church in the diocese of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, development NGOs or human rights organizations, research centers, etc..

The edition of Resumen Informativo was divided into eight parts, each them with a descriptive summary of the facts of the past month in one of eight areas of social life in Chiapas. The current agricultural union, urban, educational, political, economic and religious there was treated in detail in conjunction with events related to the Mexican border with Central America and the lives of Guatemalan refugees in Chiapas. The opportunity therefore for managers or members of many grassroots organizations to learn from information previously inaccessible due to cost, distance and lack of independence of the mainstream media…

Each new issue of Resumen Informativo was also an opportunity for readers to”take stock of the ins and outs of the news of the region and establish links between different issues”. And it is precisely to emphasize this aspect of his work, along with business writing and editing, CIACH organized from the beginning, periodic workshops and decentralized to”regional scan” for all the popular actors of social life in Chiapas. Workshops, to ensure the”memory”, also came out on a new quarterly publication:”The Review of Regional Workshops trends”.

In the early nineties, against a backdrop of economic crisis and a reflux movement social area facing repression, CIACH experienced a slump of three to four years and went to cease operations of writing and editing. Only continued to be provided by a team employee, but now reduced to a minimum, the job classification of information and maintaining the center.

Palabra the Internet

Today, CIACH found a high level of activity. The interest aroused by the news of Chiapas and the future of the Zapatista rebellion abroad brought him new ways. And, more than ever, information literacy is one of the central issues of the imbroglio Chiapas, both in rural than in urban India and the rest of Mexico. The monthly Resumen Informativo the eighties has been replaced by La Palabra, shorter, more illustrated than its predecessor and still pulled a few thousand copies. Next to this periodical, the CIACH publishes from time to time, on its own initiative or on a proposal from the outside, various documents: a detailed chronology of the conflict in 1998, full text of the agreements on indigenous rights signed by the government and the Zapatista rebellion in 1996, assessing the impact of Chiapas in the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), selection of news of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), etc..

Since 1996, the daily information, and analysis of cross CIACH is only intended only to residents of Chiapas. It is now the turn of Mexico or the world via the Internet.”It is also a way for us to qualify the idyllic image of the country that the government intends to promote outside our borders, confirms Elizabeth Polito Barrios. Many groups in Mexico and elsewhere are demanding of our synthesis and use it to weigh on some international decisions that affect the field. They also denounce their government to human rights violations which are daily victims in favor of the Indians Zapatista rebellion: intimidation, imprisonment, militarization, repression… These actions are very important to us.” They are about two thousand correspondents to receive direct or indirect in the world of synthesis CIACH – daily or weekly – via e-mail. In early 1999, a web page was opened on the Internet and allows permanent access to the information collected.

With civil society

The current activities of CIACH and its links with civil society in Chiapas vary the rhythm of the news. From early 1994, when the Zapatista Indian uprising in late 1996, when the suspension of negotiations between insurgents and authorities, the CIACH was an active member of the Coordination of civil associations in Chiapas for Peace (CONPAZ). Essentially representative of an urban population tends to favor the Chiapas indigenous rebellion and order to ensure a political solution to the conflict by peaceful means, the CONPAZ touched all areas dear to its members: humanitarian assistance to indigenous communities displaced by the conflict, community development projects in the rebel regions, organization of Indian women to voice their demands equality, etc…

Thanks to the means of international solidarity, important in the early years of the uprising, the CONPAZ also provides Much of the work of logistics related to different phases of the negotiation process between Zapatistas and government: accreditation of observers from civil society, protection of the delegation of the EZLN, oganisation of human chains (“cinturón los de la paz” ) as security cordons around the table of the negotiations…

Within the CONPAZ, staff CIACH specifically assumed responsibility for the work of information in pursuing its usual work of writing and editing, but also taking into support relations with the press. The CONPAZ but did not survive. Subject to internal wrangling over the distance to be against the leaders of the rebellion, a victim of its success, the news knocked and redoubled the curiosity of the authorities, the association, upon dissolution, gave way to to Other attempts at coordination point.

Today, CIACH regular contact with the association”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. On the occasion of the various elections in Chiapas (July 1997 parliamentary, municipal, October 1998), the CIACH also serves as a relay to the association”Alianza Civica”, specializing in the observation of elections and the reporting of irregularities within communities. Past two years, the staff of the Information Centre has also participated in the Commission’s efforts for community reconciliation (CORECO) which includes, besides the Centre, an organization of human rights, NGO development and Alianza Civica. The goal is to resolve conflicts within and between communities that divide the natives. Work is being done by the verbal confrontation between opposing parties and a flat common causes of social and political divisions.

Funding and perspectives

The problem of the functioning of CIACH remains crucial. The team needs resources to ensure its daily editorial (salaries, office rent…), purchase and maintenance of equipment, but also for printing the numbers La Palabra, dissemination and their discussion within organizations and independent villages of Chiapas.”At the moment, even if our international correspondents and local associations who can pay us in exchange for the palabra or information that we provide, our aim in the short term can not be profitability, says one member. If at the beginning, we have benefited from the logistical support of any local organization, today we depend almost exclusively on subsidies from foreign NGOs, Canada and Belgium… The urgency for us is the strength, peace in Chiapas, the improvement of living conditions of Indians and their participation in democracy building. Otherwise, we will see. I do not know of any independent media that have reached break even…”

Financially, it is clear that the CIACH directly benefits from the attention generated beyond the borders of Mexico by the news of Chiapas. But it could also be the victim. While in the past, there was no plethora of initiatives in the field of activity covered by the CIACH, the current conflict between the federal army and the Zapatista rebellion has attracted a lot of people in the south- is Mexican, many journalists and social workers… with their own projects in information. The result is confusion among the initiatives in the presence and, consequently, the potential weakening of CIACH. Its members know and are aware of the benefit that could draw the authorities. Fragile and financially dependent on the outside, the Centre has however decided to continue its choice: retain its independence vis-à-vis government authorities but also vis-à-vis the EZLN, and continue its”information work in favor of popular demands for Chiapas Mexico and a fairer, freer and more democratic.”

Bernard Duterme

Journalist and sociologist, he is currently responsible for relations with Mexico and Latin America within the NGO and Brotherhood Mutual. Author of”Indians and Zapatista. Myths and Realities of a rebellion on borrowed time” (1998).


CIACH – Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas, AC
Calle Comitan 6-B, El Barrio Cerrill
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas – Mexico
Tel / fax (967) 813-64.

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When the internet was in it’s infancy, then we were all pretty much equal online. Of course initially it was only the lucky ones who could get connected mainly through schools, Universities and colleges. Then the technology started to appear to allow some basic home access and we all started saving up for 14.4k modems to connect our home pcs. In the mid-90s things started to snowball and more and more people became connected. The average user was still likely to be an academic or computer geek but even that profile was changing quickly.

Nowadays of course, it’s unusual to find someone who hasn’t been online at some point. Many of us arrange our lives and research crucial decisions by using the internet. Those of us living abroad, use it to stay connected with family and friends. There is no doubt that it’s the most incredible advance in communication since we learnt to speak and write. The world has become so much smaller due to the internet, and it’s common today to have virtual friends from all across the planet.


But things have also changed for the worse online in some aspects too. As I mentioned when the internet first appeared, everyone who could get online would find pretty much the same thing. That however is rapidly changing and most of us experience a rather customised version of the internet. Across the world many countries are implementing their own filters and restrictions on their internet access. From the Chinese who filter anything pretty much anything they deem to be unsuitable, usually anything critical of the state, to rulers following a more religious than political agenda. Many supposedly enlightened democracies are also following this route. Australian have already tested an extensive content filter (which fortunately didn’t go that well) and the Icelandic Government are intending to block all internet pornography – read about it here.

Whether or not you agree with these various blocks and filters, everyone should be aware of the dangers that this presents. The internet has developed because it is a vast open network accessible to all, the more people block, restrict and filter it’s content – we will be left with our own personal, edited version of the internet. Slowly and surely across the world, more and more sites will become accessible and lines of communications will be closed. We will no longer have access to everything but merely the sites that our particular country feel is suitable. Of course you’ll always be able to access more of the web in the USA than Iran, but there the risk is more commercial than pure ideology.

It is sad to see now that many countries who’s citizens could benefit most from the internet are already trying to shackle it. The internet could be one of the great economic miracles of Africa, but even now many countries are monitoring and filtering what you can do online. Equality on the internet was what we expected for all, but slowly it seems to be slipping away from us.

There is hope of course, as mentioned there are many, many ways to bypass such restrictions like these.

Of course everyone knows that the internet is based on communication and cooperation. In fact the infrastructure itself is built up on a huge network of shared routers, switches and hardware – your web requests can take a huge variety of routes to reach their destination. As for bringing people together, probably nothing in human history has had such a profound effect particularly on geographic boundaries. It sounds a cliche to say that the ’world is a much smaller place’ but it is also a very true saying!

We all probably know people who speak regularly using the internet, my own mother speaks using Skype and video chat to my sister who now lives on the other side of the planet. They chat like people meeting in a coffee shop not in the sense of mother and daughter who haven’t seen each other for many months. Distances are not really as important, you can chat with a friend in minutes using a variety of inexpensive and instant methods. Decades ago a phone call to Australia would have to be planned and booked in advance, it would also have been very expensive.

However with all the positive news, it is unfortunate that there’s another side that’s growing on the internet primarily due to commercialism. The problem is that although the internet fits neatly into a nice open global model of no restrictions, no boundaries – commerce doesn’t quite work like that. Multinational companies rarely have a single price for a global market, instead varying their prices in order to maximise profits. Charging a high price in country’s who are able to support those levels and lowering in less affluent countries. This works fine where physical boundaries are in place, I might know that goods are much cheaper in China but I can’t go and buy them there very easily. The internet removes many of these boundaries particularly when combined with a reliable and inexpensive international delivery service.

Many people buy from a web site based in one country and get the goods delivered by courier to their home country. I bought several Nintendo Wiis from the French Amazon many years ago when you couldn’t buy them in the UK. But the companies don’t like this, especially when they’re supplying a service or digital product. Why would I care if I download an electronic book from New York or London? It wouldn’t matter to me, I’d go for price – which is why the company is likely to restrict access in another way in order to protect it’s margins.

So what is happening is that if I need access to a product like Pandora which is based in the United States or the BBC Iplayer from the United Kingdom. It will only be accessible if I’m actually based in the same country otherwise I’ll get blocked. So I need to change my iPad’s IP address to a UK one to watch the BBC and then back again to listen to Pandora. Slowly but surely electronic walls are being built to keep us back in our place.

Fortunately the internet’s fundamental structure makes this difficult, ideas are shared and walls are there to be torn down or avoided. If anyone find’s a route around these blocks the information soon finds itself into the public domain. Currently there are numerous methods available for bypassing these restrictions – most simply by using a proxy or British VPN server. Therefore if I was based in the United States and I wanted to watch the Hurling on Ireland’s national broadcasting company – all I need to do is connect via an Irish proxy to watch RTE.

For those of us of a certain age, the web represented something pretty exciting. Sure the technology was incredible, I can still remember the moment I used IRC (Internet Realy Chat) for the first time. I spoke for about 10 minutes with a welder from Detroit, mostly rubbish and stuff about the weather but it did blow my mind. Of course now only a few decades later, that really does sound kind of pathetic – people speak to each other all over the world without a second thought. Perhaps some of the magic has gone, but communication has to be a good thing – we will hopefully learn that there’s not much difference between us all.

internet-prices (1)

In those early days, the web was controlled by geeks – it wasn’t easy to use. You could search for stuff sure, but you needed Archie to search for files, in fact it’s often cited as the Internet’s first search engine. Or if we wanted document we’d fire up Gophur, which kinda worked pretty well when there were only a few thousand sites to search. It was quirky, exciting, controlled and developed by Geeks – and to be honest a wonderful place to be.

The internet now, is much more accessible, in a way that our young people probably can’t comprehend. You don’t have to fire up a Telnet session with the right parameters to do anything anymore. Video and multimedia streams content to any devices you require – it’s all interconnected like this. Switch on your mobile phone, click or press a few buttons and you’re sorted. It’s called progress and it’s of course no bad thing. What is worrying is the way the internet is being segmented on your location, your ability to pay or even your politics or religion.

Now big business is moving in, and they are starting to implement various economic profit maximisation techniques. Your location will control what you can see, want to watch the BBC News Live Online? Well you can’t unless you’re in the UK or use a proxy.  One of the most annoying is price discrimination where a company will try and maximizes profits by segmenting it’s markets. So a company will not offer a single product but a specific one to each individual market. Which is why you’ll find people asking – how to get netflix outside US – here by the way – simply because the version of Netflix they get is vastly inferior!

Further Information:

Quick IP Address changer –

UK proxy service –

My Egyptian Saviour

June 14th, 2015

I’ve been travelling for just over 8 months now, some two thirds of the way through my year of travelling. I promised myself this trip, I wanted to see something of the world before the responsibilities of growing up finally caught up with me. I had seen siblings and older friends postpone such trips and then the sadness that it might after all not be possible when jobs, kids and mortgages started to create their barriers.

It’s not that I didn’t want those things too, but I have always been pragmatic and realised that I was no different – I wouldn’t be able to run away from my responsibilities – the trick was to run away before I got too many. There have been many times in my trip that I thought to cut short my trips, stories of misfortune, worries about money, frustration and tiredness have all tempted me to go home. But of course, the main danger has been homesickness, normally when faced with some extreme alien scence and experience.  This was probably my lowest point, my nadir.

The scene is from the main train station in Cairo, where I arrived fed up, hot and utterly bewildered.  The day had started badly when I got on the wrong bus and found myself in the middle of nowhere, my fellow passengers seemingly gloating at my misfortune and inability to decipher the arabic numerals on the buses.  Then at the station it got worse, normally there was a friendly face around who could speak English but the station was devoid of such help.

Nearly half an hour was wasted standing in completely the wrong queue for obtaining a ticket down to Luxor.  It was then I stood there confused thinking why was I bothering, why didn’t I just get a cab to the airport and grab myself a flight home.  I’m not sure how far I was from it, but I suspect pretty close when a friendly English speaking voice brought me back from my day dream.  Mohammed was a star, he wasted an hour of his day assisting me, just a really good guy, even refusing an offer of ‘baksheesh’ after it was all over.  He came into my life, saved my trip and then dashed off to his lectures at the local university – hopefully he wasn’t late !!

From that point things started to get better, reclining in the lounge of the Winter Palace in Cairo with my laptop and there wifi connection I got more help.   I found this video on Youtube which showed me this IP address changing software

It sounds fairly trivial but after purchasing a trial account, I was able to access my online banking (previously blocked due to my location), watch an episode of the Simpsons using my Hulu account and watch my local news from back in Colorado. In truth between Mohammed’s kindness and a piece of geeky computer software my resolve was fortified and my trip was back on. From that evening strolling through the stunning temple of Karnak I never really felt lonely again.

Further Information

There’s a story in the press released last year of a truly horrible crime which in some senses defies belief. In Syria, a young girl has been stoned to death for a crime which in the civilised world is an everyday part of life.

The girl reportedly called Fatoum Al-Jassem was found guilty of opening a Facebook account, which was deemed immoral behaviour. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were responsible for this atrocity, ruling that joining the social networking site should be classed as the same as adultery – which carries the death penalty.

The social networking site is actually banned from most of the areas like Syria and Iran anyway by the ruling governments. Their objections to the site are not so much moral but because they are used to communicate, organise and protest. Many young people still do use the site though by using proxies or other similar methods as a facebook unblocker , just like this video demonstrates.

The ISIS is a pro-Al Qaida jihadist group that lots of people are worried is taking an iron grasp over parts of Syria.
The group was formed in April 2013 and grew out of Al Qaeda’s affiliate organisation in Iraq. It has since grown into among the principal jihadist groups fighting government forces in Syria.
It took over AlReqqa after rebels overran the city in March 2013. It was the very first provincial capital to fall under rebel control.

You can read more about this story here.

In Afghanistan, people have become very disillusioned with the wide scale rigging which has been reported in all the previous election campaigns so have decided to fight back.  Many of the more tech orientated voters have taken to social media in order to highlight some of the issues.

It’s an important step forward in a country that has been blighted with corruption since the Taliban were ousted from power.  There are many videos being circulated widely in Afghanistan using social media, of problems during the election process.  All of these are being studied by the Election Complaints Committee who welcome such reports.

There have been a variety of subjects of these videos – ballots being stuffed very quickly, reports of harassment of voters, and even voting slips strewn across the pavements.   Of course the election process there is not perfect but being able to highlight these issues is a huge step forward for the democratic process.

Imagine the difference – twenty years ago, these ballots could be quietly fixed in favor of whoever had the most money and influence.   There would be little more than rumors and innuendo about the validity of an election.  But now thanks to social media, there will be proof being distributed to all areas of the country.  Any cheating will be very visible through sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The video is above and clearly shows vote rigging in operation for the candidate Ashraf Ghani.  Fortunately the internet is fairly open and uncensored there and people are able to share such information fairly freely using the established social networks , they can use tools like this if required to bypass a Facebook block for instance.

Although the cheating is still going on both the methods and the benefactors are clearly visible in video evidence like this.    The effect of social media can only be beneficial to the democratic process overall.   There are many countries where it’s not possible to distribute this much evidence using the internet unless they change their IP address (method here) to bypass such blocks


I’m not sure how it’s being received and many Westerners may find it quite incredible but South Korea have just mandated a new law that will affect all teenagers under the age of 19.   It states that an application called ‘Smart Sheriff’ should be installed on all their smart phones and communication devices.

Not surprisingly, the application developed through the South Korean government is designed to monitor and block inappropriate web sites and offensive content.  It is being portrayed as a benign application designed to protect children but of course as with most of these sort of initiatives it doesn’t quite stop there.   Smart Sheriff is a complete surveillance application capable of much more and actually works with a variety of other functions too.


It also allows parents to be notified of their children’s location, receive alerts when they attempt to search or access anything with specific banned words.   It’s big brother gone crazy and there is little doubt that the application will be used for much more than just parental concerns.  Most organisations suspect that it will be used as an extensive surveillance network for the government, a view supported by the fact that parents who haven’t installed the application are being harassed in order to install it.

It is of course, an exercise that is doomed to failure as all of these censorship and surveillance methods ultimately to.  Of course, no teenager wants their every conversation monitored by their parents of the government, in fact as a parent the thought horrifies me too!   Most are ensuring they don’t buy new phones, older ones are not covered in the scheme – and others are investing in traditional vpn and encryption devices.  South Korea is a rich country and most students are easily available to afford to buy US IP address to install on their phones and protect their communication although whether the government will attempt to block these too is unknown.

Of course, South Korea however extreme their surveillance measures extend to the population can always point over the border and claim that it could be worse.   However these actions are clearly an attack on free speech and the privacy of their citizens.

James Collins

Author: British Programmes Online



It’s a common tactic especially in the USA, practiced by democratically elected governments when they wish to introduce laws that violate people’s rights.  The trick they have found is to give it a either a nice or misleading name.  The US have many examples of this particularly in the (lack of) privacy area.  Take for example the 2001 Patriot Act – sounds nice and friendly but actually led the way to mass surveillance of internet communications.

So it’s hardly likely that many people concerned with our privacy are slightly wary of the USA Freedom Act which is claimed will reign in the NSA’s data collection powers, specifically the way they collect data in bulk.


So is the Freedom Act really going to restrain the NSA in their mass surveillance efforts, or as many suggest is it actually extending the current situation and extending the possibilities of Government surveillance?  Does it mean everyone is still a target or just those of us who make an effort to protect their privacy.  Some people extensively use thing like vpns and encryption for mundane everyday tasks for example I use a BBC iPlayer proxy just to watch the BBC and nothing more sinister although it will make my communication unreadable because it is encrypted.

Really, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week the N.S.A.’s mobile metadata surveillance program was never really authorized by Congress. But the USA Freedom Act would expand this provision until 2019, and, crucially, it could tweak the language allowing the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance systems to continue, with only minor restrictions.

At first glance, much of what is in USA Freedom seems great: a fresh public promoter for the F.I.S.C. court would raise surveil transparency, and new constraints on majority data collection would appear to reign-in the N.S.A. Sadly, these constraints are negated by a host of new secrecy issues and loopholes.

The bill expands the kind of information the authorities accessibility from landline call data to video chats, VoIP calls and smartphone task. The authorities will nevertheless have the ability to make use of extensive search terms to target substantial parts of the populace, plus they are able to gather a lot more info from contacts “linked” to those goals. Businesses that give customer data over to the authorities will soon be rewarded with blanket immunity from lawsuits when they break their own secrecy deals with customers. The N.S.A. will share info with the F.B.I., which can subsequently use the info for investigations unrelated to counterterrorism. As well as the authorities can block the F.I.S.C. promoter from seeing anything they need to keep secret.

Follow the cash and you will uncover that campaign contributions disproportionately support the members from businesses that profit from mass surveillance. The members of the House who voted for USA Freedom received, typically, more than two times as much cash through the latest election cycle in the defense sector than did.

These businesses possess a monetary interest to make sure Congress doesn’t restrict the government’s skill to gather and analyze huge levels of communications data. Maybe that is why the USA Freedom Act is supported by the Intelligence Community.

Technical Reference 


The Great Cannon of China

April 16th, 2015

China is expanding it’s censorship of free speech from within it’s own boundaries to the rest of the internet.  Perhaps frustrated that it’s very difficult to control access to data on the internet even when you throw unlimited resources at firewalls and content filters, they have adopted a new tactic.  It’s a very worrying one, and although only a few sites have been affected so far it’s entirely conceivable that they could extend this tactic to any other website they wish – perhaps sites that give access to UK and US TV for example like this.


The tactic is much more aggressive and centers around something dubbed the ‘Great Cannon of China’, however although a censorship tool it doesn’t actually block anything.   The ‘cannon’ is used to bring down specific websites using a Denial of service attack.  It essentially works by hijacking legitimate traffic (in this example it was the Chinese Search engine – Baidu) and redirect it towards the offending web site.   The first evidence was directed towards the which is a site which specifically monitors Chinese censorship and provides information on how to cirucmvent them using things like iPad VPNs and proxies.

It’s a very aggressive approach is it’s true and state sponsored, unfortunately it’s a very effective tool.  The reality is that not many web sites are capable of withstanding an attack on this scale, the Chinese monitoring site was completely swamped and unable to cope.   Even when they were able to cope with the traffic on their 4 mirror sites it meant that the bandwidth bills have cost the site thousands of dollars in extra costs.

It would be hoped that the Chinese Government will be roundly criticised for this aggressive censorship to countries and sites hosted outside it’s borders.  One of the big problems though is that the UK and US governments have already developed similar internet weapons with the same capabilities, although there is currently no hard evidence that these have been deployed.  Only the larger and popular sites will probably come onto the media radar however, smaller sites swamped by the traffic or the resulting web costs will probably just sink from view and disappear along with whatever opinions the Chinese authorities disliked

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has supported that legislation which will view copyright-infringing sites such as The Pirate Bay will soon be introduced into parliament but will not be passed before the next Budget.

The legislation, first flagged will allow rights holders to really go to court to compel ISPs to block websites which are predominantly for the purpose of copyright infringement.

It is uncertain precisely what kind of copyright infringement will be property for a site to potentially be blocked, or which rights holders can apply to a court to truly have a site blocked.

Who’s who in Australia’s required data-retention argument


There certainly are lots of players in the mandatory information-retention debate. We look at who is for the legislation, and who is opposing it.

“The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill will soon be introduced to the parliament next week, and is anticipated to be referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for review,” the representative said.

“There will soon be adequate time for consultation and for people to make entries throughout this technique.”

The government will want either Labor support or six cross bench senators in order for the legislation to pass. Labor has already flagged that it isn’t convinced the laws will be powerful.

Clare’s comments are like opinions Turnbull made about the then-Labor government’s strategies for a mandatory net filtering scheme in opposition in 2012.

“The Coalition’s opposition to Labor’s proposed filter were that it contained websites not deemed illegal, it impeded the overall functionality of the internet, imposed significant and unnecessary costs on ISPs, and finally will not work.”

Turnbull has rejected suggestions that the government’s suggestion to block piracy sites constitutes a return to web filtering, telling journalists last year that to call it that is “complete BS”.

Jenny Henderson

Check out this Blog

There are lots of tools and software that can help maintain your privacy online.  For many of us this is an important issue, but there are some people who it can actually be a matter of life and death.  Normal web transactions are simple to monitor and track especially if you have access to ISP log files.  The main problem is that the fundamental transport protocol of the web is HTTP and it does most things in clear text.

Which means that unless you do something about it, everything you do online is potentially in the public domain. Every web site you visit, every video you watch or comment you make, will be recorded and will be accessible by anyone with the right access.   If you live in a place where free speech is suppressed then this is especially dangerous, to both your life an liberty.

One of the most important steps you can take to keeping secure online is to use a VPN.  This is a virtual private network and is essentially an encrypted tunnel which ensures everything you do online is protected within the tunnel.  Of course your data will still have to travel through your ISP, there is no way around this.  However the data stored there will be encrypted, there will be no record of what you do online or what sites you visit.

There are some important points to remember though when choosing a service.  First of all, remember a proxy is not a VPN, there is little protection given by using a proxy server particularly a hacked, free one full of viruses, malware and identity thieves.  Secondly the location of the VPN connection is also important, you’d be mad to use a Thai, Iranian or Turkish VPN for example – these countries all routinely monitor network connections.  It’s sensible to use one terminated somewhere with proper privacy legislation like the USA or Europe.  If you want to watch something online which is normally blocked then consider this when making your choice.

Just to explain, if you want to watch something like the BBC iPlayer from outside Britain then you’ll need a UK based server.   If you connect through a UK VPN like this one – , this is because one of the benefits of using a VPN is that your connection will appear to come from the terminating point.

The choice also depends on the way you access the internet, there are different options depending on the platforms that are used.  Most of the leading VPN providers will have versions that work on PCs and Macs but some people use Android tablets, Smart phones or even their TVs to access the web.  In these cases it’s best to look for  the facility to set up their VPN connections manually, this will allow you to use the service on virtually any platform.  In fact it also would allow you to set up the connection on your router too, which will enable all devices to be protected by the VPN and encryption.

Jeff Harris

How to Watch BBC in USA

Much is often made about the how Chinese internet filters and censorship are harmful to free speech, and it is indeed a very valid point.  However it’s not an area that the Chinese authorities will lose much sleep over, after all they’ve been oppressing free speech for decades in all sorts of ways.  The area that is likely to be of concern is that of simple economics.


Make no mistake, the internet is a huge powerhouse behind global economic activity.  In areas like the UK and USA, the contribution to GDP from purely internet based activities is massive – probably too big to accurately assess.  Literally millions of companies, businesses and individuals around the world derive income from online activities.   Originally one of the advantages to doing business online is that your geographic location was irrelevant however this is increasingly not the case.

For instance many tech companies, are starting to avoid setting up bases in China and that includes Chinese companies.  Obviously China is a huge potential domestic market but for any company that needs the internet to survive it’s fraught with problems and uncertainties. Many big companies go to great lengths to minimise how much infrastructure is based in China, it’s just too expensive to cope with all the blocks and filters.

Commercial concerns mean that these companies must use VPNs and encryption to protect their intellectual property, yet the Chinese firewall is designed to try and block these for example.   Fortunately they are rarely 100% successful and Chinese individuals can normally find some thing to hide their IP address and route through somewhere like the UK – read this for example.

However hoping from one VPN solution to another isn’t something that a company can easily do and the reality is that most will try and avoid these issues.  As it stands this is a huge negative factor for any business wanting to operate either within or out of China.  Combine this with the reports that many European and American companies have been raided based on using these services, means that there is a long term disincentive to invest in China. Money talks and this is most likely way that the censorship will be reduced in China, however not many people are expecting this to happen.

Further information- Using a UK VPN

Over the years, many observers have predicted that internet censorship at a state level would gradually decrease. After all there are so many economic, cultural and technical benefits to a country that restricting access would seem to be a stupid thing to do in such a globally connected world. However this doesn’t seem to be happening with hundreds of countries as diverse as Russia and Turkey blocking more and more content from the internet based on the most spurious reasons.

Even in countries where we hoped that democracy would prevail in this growing censorship, the trend is for more rather than less – worryingly being demonstrated by one of these countries India. Often the concern is not the number of websites being blocked but the type of sites, which we can see from the latest black list released by India’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

Their list contained sites like, a great resource which can be used to access cached copies of websites. Other sites were merely popular, social media sites like Vimeo and Daily Motion presumably because they too are relatively unrestricted and allow free communication of thoughts and ideas using their sites.

Fortunately as is usual, the many censorship workarounds which route your connection through a US or UK proxy like this, still work perfectly.  There are loads of VPNs, proxy services and security programs like Tor which all work perfectly well too.  In fact implementation of these blocks seems very random with some ISPs even just using DNS restrictions (to redirect the address of a blocked site), this is easy to bypass by using a different DNs server like Open DNS or one run by Google.

Some reports suggest that the ISP  is only blocking the HTTP version and HTTPS works perfectly.  In this scenario you simply use the secure version of the site, in fact there are plugins for most browsers which always redirect to the HTTPS versions.

As often the implementation of these internet filters is very amateurish.   The result is that few with any technical knowledge are actually blocked, creating a two tier society as far as censorship is concerned.

Jimmy Hodgkins

Further Reading

Turkey Vows Twitter Censorship

January 22nd, 2015

The Twitter micro blogging site is popular around the world, however it is frequently threatened in certain countries.  Turkey has already blocked the site several times before and has now told the site it must delete the account of a Turkish Newspaper on it’s site.

The newspaper – Birgun has been criticised by the government because it allegedly shared official documents which detailed a raid on Turkish Intelligence Agency trucks which were heading to Syria.  More mysteriously the raid apparently was undertaken by the military police.


The issue was taken to a local Turkish court who ruled that no media could cover this story as it may compromise national security.  However the information is already out there, so although Twitter and Facebook initially co-operated with the demand – it’s pretty non-ending.  There are of course plenty of people ready to retweet information which the government want to suppress.   Of course anybody can see that it’s completely pointless, you can’t suppress information when it’s been in the public domain even for a few hours – it’s out time to move one.

It looks like Turkey is trying to avoid blocking Twitter altogether, however if this is looking inevitable if they continue on this rather pointless path.   The initial court order when passed to Twitter asked for the removal of the information from over 200 accounts, these requests were passed individually along with threats to delete accounts.   Imagine,  all these Tweets had already been seen by all the followers of these 200+ accounts, plus the publicity probably attracted even more followers.   The amount of people who already knew about the raids was huge, with the potential to spread it by retweets and of course by word of mouth – in summary it was a completely pointless exercise.

Blocking Twitter would have stalled the spread of the information slightly more effectively, combined with the Turkish Governments oppression of the free press.   However this also is doomed to failure as there are plenty of other micro blogging sites plus thousands of other ways to disseminate information online.  This doesn’t even include the thousands of Turkish people who have realised that investing in hide ip software is pretty important when you have a government so intent on censorship in power.

Whether the proposed bill to allow the Turkish government powers to block sites like Twitter goes through, there is no doubt there’s a great risk to democracy in Turkey.  The country has benefited from increased investment from the international community because of the democratic changes.    Turkish journalists and the media are still able to speak out against the Government and their changes at the moment.  However this might not be possible if the current leaders continue down this authoritative path intent on crushing freedom whenever it suits them.

James Carrington
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