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Internet Freedom & Network Vulnerability

NPR published an article today about the Internet’s vulnerability to government crackdowns. The discussion focuses on other countries, particularly those marked by political dissent and upheaval, and by totalitarian regimes. Of particular interest were those apps/websites (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Skype, etc.) that governments either restricted or pressured into exposing/turning in activists. The overall conclusion was a tendency toward less free access to the Internet – “The report’s scope covers the experiences of some 88 percent of the world’s Internet users. And of all 65 countries reviewed, Internet freedom in 34 — more than half — has been on a decline over the past year.” The authors cite increased surveillance as the common first step, and the whole article has ominous overtones in light of the Trump ascendancy.

http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/14/500214959/internet-freedom-wanes-as-governments-target-messaging-social-apps)

I know this topic aligns more closely with last week’s discussion, but I’ve been hearing helicopters outside for the last week and it’s starting to feel ominous. When my Internet connection started flickering, and then when it went out for a few minutes, i thought “Oh, they’ll pulled the switch.” Knowing what the cables in my backyard look like (someone once cut them on purpose as some kind of retribution for my neighbor and the whole building was cut off for days), it’s much more likely that (a la Blum) a squirrel was chewing a wire. But how hard would it be, if things get really bad, for them to shut down every IP address in Brooklyn and cripple resistance?

Interestingly, I’ve seen more guides for user encryption circulating Facebook, like this one published to Medium (https://medium.com/@kappklot/things-to-know-about-web-security-before-trumps-inauguration-a-harm-reductionist-guide-c365a5ddbcb8#.xwfu8n794). This stuff seems important, but in the face of a real crackdown, as we’ve seen in our readings, they could simply disable the Internet in problem areas.

I don’t really know here I’m going with all of this – I’m just trying to think through the last week’s gloom and reflect on what’s possibly coming.

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