Showing posts with label Internet War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet War. Show all posts

April 7, 2018

Teachers Open Their Mouths and The Threats Commence~~OnLine Culture Wars~~


There is a red light flashing in professor Albert Ponce's cubby-sized office. The light comes from an old-fashioned answering machine. 
Lately, he doesn't like to listen to the messages by himself. When he presses play, it's obvious why. Here are a couple of messages:
"Albert Ponce, you are a piece of s*** f****** gutter slug that needs his neck snapped, OK? Call me if you need me. I'll do it for ya.
"F****** race-baiting f****** piece of trash."
Ponce teaches political science at Diablo Valley College, a community college in California's East Bay. It all started in October when he was invited to give a public lecture on campus in an area he specializes in: race and politics. 
In the speech, which was filmed, he called the United States "a white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative, capitalist system." He also mentioned Karl Marx in passing, praised civil disobedience and referred to a white supremacist in the White House. The result: attacks on Facebook and threatening voice messages and emails.
Colleges are meant to be a home for free inquiry. But these days, not all professors feel that freedom. Across the country, in the past year and a half, at least 250 university professors, including Ponce, have been targeted via online campaigns because of their research, their teaching or their social media posts. Conservative professors have been attacked from the right and the left, both with equally dire language.
Some have lost their jobs, and others say they fear for their families' safety.

Professor Albert Ponce received death threats after giving a talk on white supremacy in the United States.
Anya Kamenetz/NPR
Ponce says his ideas, in context, are "not controversial at all" in his circles of academia. For example, when he talks about white supremacy, he says, he is talking about a system of power, not about individual white people. 

But in today's highly polarized political climate, almost any statement about race or diversity can prove extremely controversial. Here are a few examples:
  • Josh Cuevas, an associate professor in the school of education at the University of North Georgia, came under inquiry from his congressional representative after getting into an argument on Facebook about President Trump and voter turnout.
  • Eve Browning, the chair of the department of philosophy and classics at the University of Texas, San Antonio, was targeted, as was her entire department, when a student surreptitiously recorded a disciplinary conversation that touched on his negative comments about Islam.
  • Laurie Rubel, a professor of education at Brooklyn College, published a National Science Foundation-funded research paper about race and mathematics education. Rubel tells NPR that she was looking at how to support high school math teachers who teach in hypersegregated urban schools, in part by being critical of the concept of meritocracy. The on-air take of Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld was: "A math professor ... claimed that merit-based education is ... a tool of evil whiteness."
  • George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of politics and global studies, was placed on leave and ultimately resigned from Drexel University in Philadelphia last fall after tweeting, "all I want for Christmas is white genocide." "White genocide" is a white nationalist conspiracy theory; Ciccariello-Maher says he meant to be satirical. People on the right don't have a monopoly on threats to free speech or academic freedom. Campuses like the University of California, Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, have become national flashpoints with sometimes violent responses to conservative speakers.
And professors have sometimes been subject to attacks and harassment from the left. Bruce Gilley at Portland State University in Oregon, for example, was attacked online and over the phone when he published an academic paper titled "The Case for Colonialism." His paper on colonialism, he tells NPR, argues that "there is a wealth of evidence ... that shows quite overwhelmingly positive benefits in terms of democracy, public health, human rights."
He calls the response "a mass global mob." The article was withdrawn after threats of violence were made against both him personally and the editor of the journal that published it, Third World Quarterly.
Experts who study the spread of hate speech online say there is a difference in patterns of online harassment between the right and the left. Attacks from the left tend to originate from within campus communities. Thousands of self-identified academics, for example, signed online petitions calling for Gilley's article to be retracted. 
On the right, though, a network of outside groups and sites has mobilized against academics. Their views range from libertarian to conservative to white nationalist.
Sites such as The College Fix and Campus Reform pay student reporters to contribute stories titled: "Meritocracy is a 'tool of whiteness,' claims math professor" (Campus Reform) or "History professor calls for repeal of Second Amendment" (The College Fix). 
Jennifer Kabbany, editor of The College Fix, told NPR that the site's purpose is to train future journalists, not to foment hate. "The College Fix has publicly denounced any vile emails that a professor might get," she said. "I'm sorry if professors received that kind of backlash." In reference to Ponce, of Diablo Valley College, she added, "It appeared the lecture was not balanced and didn't do academic inquiry and debate justice."
The College Fix is run by the Student Free Press Association. The association has had Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' son listed on its board of directors and is funded by an anonymous conservative donor fund.
Campus Reform is a project the Leadership Institute, a conservative think tank. Professor Watchlist, which lists more than 250 professors who advance what it calls a "radical" left-wing agenda, is maintained by Turning Point USA, an on-campus group that has been labeled "alt-right."
Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist did not respond to requests for comment.
The Red Elephants is a pro-Trump "alt-right media collective" founded in November 2016. Founder Vincent James Foxx has reportedly denied the Holocaust and been accused of urging violence at rallies. The site posted an edited video of Ponce's talk on YouTube with commentary calling it "Marxist, Communist, disgusting rhetoric that they spew in these classrooms to indoctrinate these children." It used the video to kick off an initiative called "Film Your Marxist Professor."
The administrator of the "Film Your Marxist Professor" Facebook page, who gave his name as Aaron Burrtold NPR via Facebook message: "We receive around 10 submissions per day. Our goal is to stop the anti-white and anti-American rhetoric that is being spewed on college campuses all across the country."
From these specialized sites, content travels to alt-right media sources like Breitbart and Infowars and neo-Nazi sites like Stormfront, and then, sometimes, to Fox News and the New York Post, CNN and other outlets.
Meanwhile, harassment is coordinated out in the open on anonymous, uncensored forums like 4chan, 8chan and Reddit, where self-identified "trolls" uncover and post people's personal information, known as doxing, and try out strategies of attack. Cuevas at the University of North Georgia obtained screenshots of the 4chan forum on which people were fabricating social media posts in an attempt to paint him as anti-Semitic and racist or, alternatively, as pushing anti-Trump views onto his students.
"Their stated goal was to get me fired," he says, but he fears that is not the worst of it: "Georgia had just passed the campus carry law [for firearms], and what worried me was a lone nut case."

Flyers for Ponce's talk about white supremacy in the United States sit next to a flyer for Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group.
Anya Kamenetz/NPR
Ponce says he sees a fresh wave of abusive calls and letters every time a new media story hits. He has gotten letters in the mail, emails and Facebook messages, and his colleagues and administrators have gotten calls and emails. He has found his personal information on a Hungarian right-wing website and gotten calls from South America. He, like other professors, has called the police, but the messages keep coming.
Most troubling, he says, are "the real threats against my family" and "pictures on the Web of my 9-year-old daughter."
He and his wife are trying not to park their cars in the same places every day, peek out into the street at night and warn their daughter not to touch the mail.
Hans-Joerg Tiede of the American Association of University Professors says no matter what side you're on politically, it's clear that academic freedom is under assault, as it has been many times in the past.
"There have always been instances of faculty being targeted in particular for what they say, for what they teach," says Tiede, a former computer science professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Anti-communist academic blacklists go back to the 1930s, and professors were targeted for taking desegregationist stances in the 1960s, he adds. The difference is that momentum builds very fast, and it doesn't take time to reach far-flung destinations. The AAUP has been tracking this latest wave of targeted harassment and issuing recommendations for policymakers. 
Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College, is among scholars who say the rise of the Web and social media have given right-wing groups new means for targeted harassment and for spreading their ideology.
"With the rise of the popular Internet, everybody's an expert," she says. "White supremacists really saw that as an opportunity."
In contrast to the sometimes-violent confrontations on campus around speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos, NPR was not able to find a case of an online harassment campaign, targeting a professor for his or her work, that resulted either in violent threats being carried out or in any legal action against the perpetrators.
What concerns experts like Tiede is the potential chilling effect on researchers, especially untenured graduate students and adjuncts, who might fear broaching any topic that could touch off a firestorm.
But as this pattern of behavior becomes better known, professors like Rubel and Ponce are no longer keeping quiet. They are fighting back. Rubel responded by posting many of the foul voicemails and emails and messages she received on Twitter and Facebook and by collecting statements of support from colleagues. "I think they messed with the wrong person," she tells NPR.
For his part, Ponce, who does not have tenure, and his colleagues are urging the board of governors of his community college's district to adopt a resolution in support of academic freedom, making clear that the colleges will stand behind its scholars no matter how provocative their work, as long as they are grounded in research and evidence.
"In a democracy, these places of higher learning should be the spaces where we engage in a rigorous scholarship, not necessarily an ideological one," Ponce says. College, he says, is the place for a quest for truth, not merely opinion.
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March 29, 2017

The Government of Cameroon Has Cut Off The Internet to All Since 01/17/17

Wednesday marks 73 days since people in northwest and southwest Cameroon have had no access to the internet — at all. And it doesn’t look like it's coming back anytime soon. 

On Jan. 17, the government of Cameroon shut down the internet in two regions of the central African country. Courts and schools in the two regions have also been on strike for the duration.
The blackout has affected everything: ATM machines no longer work; students can't gossip on Whatsapp; and businesses have folded up as they're no longer able to operate online.

The shutdown has targeted Bamenda and Buea, two regions which are home to most of the country's English-speaking minority. Citizens there have long said theyre marginalised by the central government in Yaoundé, the French-speaking capital. 

“The Anglophone problem" dates back to the end of colonialism in the 1960s. 

What's known as Cameroon today was once under control of both British and French colonialists. After independence, a series of referendums were held and the country went from being a two-state federation to having a centralized government with 10 semi-autonomous administrative regions. 
But Anglophone Cameroonians say it's far from a case of being separate but equal. Although English and French are both official languages, language remains a barrier in getting often lucrative state jobs, state funding is skewed towards Francophone regions and official documents and activities that should be bilingual are frequently in French alone. 
Over the decades, several civil organizations and caucuses have formed amid calls for the state makeup to be reviewed. Some activists are campaigning for a return to a two-state federation; in recent years though others have gone further, calling for the anglophone-phone regions to splinter and form independent states.

The internet shutdown came after a surge in protests by English-speaking Cameroonians against the government last year. Throughout the last three months of 2016, the government faced a series of protests from lawyers, teachers and students. The marches were triggered by the presidential appointment of French-speaking judges to courts in the Anglophone region. Aside from operating in a different language, English-speaking regions still operate under the English common law, as opposed to French civil law which the appointees were trained in. 

Judges went on strike. Teachers soon joined them, saying the prevalence of French-speaking teachers in classrooms — who spoke limited English — was hampering students' progress.
While discontent has simmered in the background for decades, by December they bubbled over into violence. The government responded brutally. Incidents of soldiers brutally assaulting students flooded Cameroonian Twitter. Several prominent government critics were arrested, including a senior judge. They have yet to be released. 
Paul Biya, the autocratic ruler who has held power for 35 years, soon after claimed the internet needed to be shutdown for "security reasons."

Cameroonians have responded creatively by setting up internet “refugee camps" where the data is always flowing. 

To get online, residents in the affected areas have been forced to travel for tens of kilometers to get to Francophone areas where there's still connectivity.
But in Buea, known as "Silicon Mountain" for its booming tech start-ups, a group of techies have come together to set up a "refuge," Quartz reports. They’ve rented a room in Bonako, a village bordering the French region, bought portable modems and hooked them up to generators, creating an oasis for struggling start ups. 

But there are also fears such repression can cross borders.

US watchdog Freedom House found last year that governments curbed social media communications in 24 countries last year, up from 15 the previous year. 
African governments been increasingly using blackouts as a tool to crush dissenting voices. This week a Tanzanian rapper was arrested after a song criticising the government went viral. And partial or complete internet blackouts were order in Gambia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon in 2016. Officials in Zimbabwe also hiked the cost of internet cell data after protests jumped from social media to the streets. 

For now, most Cameroonians are calling on the government to begin implementing three simple measures. 

1. Bring back the internet
2. Free all the arrested
3. National Dialogue

December 23, 2014

Internet went Silent in North Korea and Now is Back on Again


(Reuters) - North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, a U.S. company that monitors Internet infrastructure said.
New Hampshire-based Dyn said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government was not involved in any cyber action against Pyongyang. 

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyber attack, which he blamed on North Korea, "in a place and time and manner that we choose." 

Dyn said North Korea's Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline.

"We’re yet to see how stable the new connection is," Jim Cowie, chief scientist for the company, said in a telephone call after the services were restored. 

"The question for the next few hours is whether it will return to the unstable fluctuations we saw before the outage."

Meanwhile South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North, said it could not rule out the involvement of its isolated neighbor in a cyberattack on its nuclear power plant operator. It said only non-critical data was stolen and operations were not at risk, but had asked for U.S. help in investigating. 

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Tuesday the leak of data from the nuclear operator was a "grave situation" that was unacceptable as a matter of national security, but she did not mention any involvement of North Korea. 

North Korea is one of the most isolated nations in the world, and the effects of the Internet outage there were not fully clear.

Very few of its 24 million people have access to the Internet. However, major websites, including those of the KCNA state news agency, the main Rodong Sinmun newspaper and the main external public relations company went down for hours.

Almost all its Internet links and traffic pass through China, except, possibly, for some satellite links.

"North Korea has significantly less Internet to lose, compared to other countries with similar populations: Yemen (47 networks), Afghanistan (370 networks), or Taiwan (5,030 networks)," Dyn Research said in a report. 

"And unlike these countries, North Korea maintains dependence on a single international provider, China Unicom."


The United States requested China's help last Thursday, asking it to shut down servers and routers used by North Korea that run through Chinese networks, senior administration officials told Reuters.

The United States also asked China to identify any North Korean hackers operating in Chinaand, if found, send them back to North Korea. It wants China to send a strong message to Pyongyang that such acts will not be tolerated, the officials said. 

By Monday, China had not responded directly to the U.S. requests, the officials added. 

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday it opposed all forms of cyberattacks and that there was no proof that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hacking. 

North Korea has denied it was behind the cyberattack on Sony and has vowed to hit back against any U.S. retaliation, threatening the White House and the Pentagon.. 

The hackers said they were incensed by a Sony comedy about a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which the movie studio has now pulled from general release.

Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, said of the outage in North Korea: 

"There's either a benign explanation - their routers are perhaps having a software glitch; that’s possible. It also seems possible that somebody can be directing some sort of an attack against them and they're having trouble staying online."

Other experts said it was possible North Korea was attacked by hackers using a botnet, a cluster of infected computers controlled remotely.

"It would be possible that a patriotic actor could achieve the same results with a botnet, however the President promised a proportional response," said Tom Kellermann, Chief Cybersecurity Officer at Trend Micro.

"The real issue here is that nonstate actors and rogue regimes will adopt this modus operandi in 2015. The use of destructive cyberattacks will become mainstream."

China is North Korea's only major ally and would be central to any U.S. efforts to crack down on the isolated state. But the United States has also accused China of cyber spying in the past and a U.S. official has said the attack on Sony could have used Chinese servers to mask its origin.

(Additional reporting by Meeyoung Cho in Seoul; David Brunnstrom and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Ben Blanchard and Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing; Jeremy Wagstaff in Singapore; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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