Tag Archives: international law

When armies become media: Israel live-blogs and tweets an attack on Hamas — Tech News and Analysis

For decades — perhaps even centuries — journalists have been the primary witnesses to and chroniclers of war, piecing together news reports from eyewitnesses and military briefings. But what if the armies or military forces who were engaged in a conflict took on the role of publishers themselves, distributing their own live reports while the battle was being fought? That idea is no longer science fiction: it became reality when the Israeli Defense Forces started live-blogging and live-tweeting an attack on Hamas guerillas in the Gaza strip and uploading video of their rocket blasts to YouTube.

Social media, once thought of as a tool for bored nerds and marketing gurus, has taken on a whole new role it seems — one that could stand to change the face of modern warfare forever. As BuzzFeed notes in its round-up of Twitter posts from the Israeli army (a sentence I never would have imagined typing even a few years ago), the IDF actually warned Hamas guerillas not to show themselves on the Gaza strip or risk being killed in the attacks that began Wednesday morning, and the official Hamas account responded:

In the hours that followed, videos of rocket attacks on Hamas strongholds were uploaded to YouTube, and the IDF blog carried a minute-by-minute breakdown of what was happening — how many Hamas rockets it intercepted, a strike by the Israeli Navy, and so on. It looked very much like the New York Times live-blog The Lede, except that it was being published by a military force: the front of the website even looks like a traditional news blog or breaking news site, complete with the usual social-media buttons for sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and other networks.

via gigaom.com

Stuxnet Will Come Back to Haunt Us via @NYTimes

THE decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility late in George W. Bush’s presidency marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet. Washington has begun to cross the Rubicon. If it continues, contemporary warfare will change fundamentally as we move into hazardous and uncharted territory.

It is one thing to write viruses and lock them away safely for future use should circumstances dictate it. It is quite another to deploy them in peacetime. Stuxnet has effectively fired the starting gun in a new arms race that is very likely to lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet. Unlike nuclear or chemical weapons, however, countries are developing cyberweapons outside any regulatory framework.

via nytimes.com

I hear politicians and military pundits using the logic of 1950′s warfare to justify cyberwarfare: that when they hit us, we can hit them back. As if a virus were a missile, or a similar physical weapon.

But the metaphor of traditional warfare breaks down when cyber weaponry can’t be controlled – and in fact, aren’t even physical objects. A virus is an idea — not a thing.

Assuming we can control their use, when they are by design, deeply chaotic, is a special kind of naievete. But it’s the kind of hubris we could – and should – expect from the country that first engaged in “preemptive warfare.”

Humans Lose, Robots Win in New Defense Budget

The big loser in the Pentagon’s new budget? Ordinary human beings.

About 80,000 Army soldiers and 20,000 Marines are getting downsized. Half of the Army’s conventional combat presence in Europe is packing up and ending its post-Cold War staycation. Replacing them, according to the $613 billion budget previewed by the Pentagon on Thursday: unconventional special-operations forces; new bombers; new spy tools; new missiles for subs; and a veritable Cylon army of drones.

This is the first of the Pentagon’s new, smaller “austerity” budgets: it’s asking Congress for $525 billion (plus $88.4 billion for the Afghanistan war), compared to a $553 billion request (plus $117 billion in war cash) last year.

The idea of replacing human combatants with machines terrifies me. When the results of war are so disconnected from the actual citizens involved in the decision to make war, what stops us from engaging in military actions? The Vietnam War was eventually ended because of the cold reality of Americans seeing American body bags coming home, but what heartstrings would a broken machine body pull at?

Similarly, increasing the budget for mechanized warfare will only strengthen the grasp of the military-industrial complex, for as the perceived benefits outweight the potential sacrifice of human life, combined with the number of jobs and absurd level of profits to be had from producing these war machines, I can’t imagine the trend reversing anmy time soon. You can’t manufacture humans (per se), but you can manufacture mechanized, remote-controlled soldiers now, apparently.

As the technology becomes more proficient, these tools will undoubtedly become more accurate – meaning, fewer collateral civilian casualties for military strikes – which means they’ll be perceived as safer, leading to a positive feedback cycle. But whereas human soldiers can distinguish between a real enemy and a civilain far more accurately, relying on any number of real-world cues, machines will destroy whatever they’re aimed at without regard for potential errors in judgement. Soon, we’ll start hearing more about “acceptable losses” and “military-civilain death ratios” in terms of these unmanned strikes. And reducing warfare to a numbers game, is, in my opinion, completely unacceptable.

Without the remorse of traditional person-to-person warfare, without the moral restriction on civilian casualty, and with an absurdly high profit margin at work, will our humanity be left behind as we continue to engage in worldwide wars on multiple fronts? Can we really stomach the idea of killing foreigners for our own ideology, when we put nothing of ourselves at risk as well?

The Internet isn’t just pipes; it’s a belief system (via @Om)

Draconian new anti-piracy laws that are being pushed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives are about more than just an academic debate over different legislative methods for fighting copyright infringement. They make it clear that media and content companies are fundamentally opposed to the way the Internet works. These laws are being promoted by media and entertainment conglomerates as a way to fight what they see as massive content theft, but in order to combat that evil, they are effectively trying to get Congress to take over the Internet — and trample on important principles like freedom of speech as well.

Finally, here’s an aweosme video sumamrizing the insane legislation:

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Take action! This is very, very bad.

Samsung Exec: We’re Coming After The iPhone 5 As Soon As It Lands In Korea

Samsung has been on the receiving end of many of these lawsuits. But according to another unnamed senior executive, “We are taking different tactics since we are quite confident. If Samsung wins in Germany that will give us a big breakthrough and so will other envisioned efforts against such products as the iPhone 5.”

For a short while after this Samsung/Apple madness started, it was somewhat expected that the fight would be resolved amicably based on the highly beneficial and symbiotic business relationship shared by the two companies. Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest customers, which is likely the reason for the South Korea-based company’s tentative attitude during these legal proceedings. But the plan has clearly changed.

Blaming the tools: Britain proposes a social-media ban

It seems totalitarian states like Egypt and Libya aren’t the only ones struggling with the impact of social media and the desire to muzzle services like Twitter and Facebook. In the wake of the riots in London, the British government says it’s considering shutting down access to social networks — as well as Research In Motion’s BlackBerry messenger service — and is asking the companies involved to help. Prime Minister David Cameron said not only is his government considering banning individuals from using social media if they are suspected of causing disorder, but it has asked Twitter and other providers to take down images and posts that are contributing to “unrest.”

Sure, forcing people to stop using social media to communicate probably means they’ll just shut up. Hostory totally suggests people like to stay unhappy and silent for long periods of time.

U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right

A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law.

The report railed against France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws to remove accused copyright scofflaws from the internet. It also protested blocking internet access to quell political unrest (.pdf).

While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report continues:

The Special Rapporteur calls upon all states to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.

Big news for international internet policy. Given the UN has absolutely NO authority over countries’ legal stance regarding internet access, I’m not sure exactly what this will accomplish, but it certainly keeps the conversation moving in the right direction.

Hackers breached U.S. defense contractors

Unknown hackers have broken into the security networks of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and several other U.S. military contractors, a source with direct knowledge of the attacks told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear what kind of data, if any, was stolen by the hackers. But the networks of Lockheed and other military contractors contain sensitive data on future weapons systems as well as military technology currently used in battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weapons makers are the latest companies to be breached through sophisticated attacks that have pierced the defenses of huge corporations including Sony (SNE.N), Google Inc (GOOG.O) and EMC Corp (EMC.N). Security experts say that it is virtually impossible for any company or government agency to build a security network that hackers will be unable to penetrate..

Well, that’s comforting.

Talking Bin Laden on Twitter

This week’s big news is obvious: American forces killed Osama bin Laden on Monday (Sunday for most Westerners) in a raid of his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But you already knew that, and how exactly you found out is the first angle I want to look at. The news blew up on Twitter and Facebook late Sunday night after the White House announced President Obama would be addressing the nation. The ensuing frenzy set a record for the highest volume of sustained activity on Twitter, with an average of 3,000 tweets per second for about three hours. While most Americans first got the news from TV, about a fifth of young people found out online.solis

That led to another round of celebration of Twitter as the emerging source for big breaking news — Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff called the story Twitter’s CNN moment and said Twitter was “faster, more accurate, and more entertaining than any other news source out there.” Brian Solis, a digital analyst at Altimeter Group, described Twitter as “a perfect beast for committing acts of journalism,” and University of British Columbia j-prof Alfred Hermida said it’s becoming routine to see Twitter as the first option for breaking news coverage.

Definitely read the whole Nieman Lab piece, it’s a fascinating post mortem of a single moment captured by social media, and the echo chamber that is our current media landscape.

Spain Asks Google for the Right To Be Forgotten

Google is being hit with a “Right To Forget” lawsuit in Spain as the country’s Data Protection Agency has ordered the Web giant to take down search links on 90 people. According to The Associated Press, Google is fighting five of those lawsuits in Spain’s National Court and in January refused Spain’s request on all 90 of the claims.

The European Union has introduced legislation to protect Internet users’ data online that would also allow for the right to be forgotten, according The Telegraph.

In the EU law, individuals would have to opt-in for companies to use their data. That could mean companies like Google could not use their information in search results unless permission is expressly given. The United States has introduced legislation recently that would follow the EU lead in privacy such as the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in CyberSpace and the Commercial Data Bill Of Rights.

Very interesting debate.  Both sides make very strong arguments.  Maybe this is the kind of thing best left to each nation to decide, but does that really work in this day and age?  Would Google be held responsible for sites that scrape content and repurpose it?  I wonder how on earth they’d go about implementing this effectively.