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The New Cyber-Industrial Complex Spying on Us

Pratap Chatterjee, Guardian/UK
WikiLeaks’ Spy Files reveal the frightening scale and ambition of the industry now devoted to surveillance of all our daily lives

We live digital lives now, flitting from Facebook to YouTube, checking our iPhones and BlackBerries, and chatting with our loved ones on Skype. Very few of us worry too much about tweeting our personal opinions on politics or chatting with a new social network “friend” on the other side of the world, whom we barely know and often forget in a matter of a few hours or days.

Yet all these interactions have become fodder for a new industry that secretly vacuums up the data and preserves it forever on high-end servers that hold many petabytes (a million gigabytes) of information. This industry offers new tools to search that data and reconstruct our past, and even our real-time movements via our mobile phones, in a way that could well come back to haunt us.

WikiLeaks has just released the Spy Files – a trove of almost 300 documents from these companies that shine a light into this industry.

… “We all aware of traditional spy stories of intelligence agencies like MI5 bugging the phones of one or two people,” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, told the Bureau. He continued:

“In the last ten years, something else has happened. We now see mass surveillance, where computer systems of an entire country are infected by surveillance programs, where the entire phone calls of a nation can be and are recorded by a company.

“Previously, we had all thought, why would the government be interested in me, my brother? My business is not interesting; I am not a criminal. Now these companies sell to state intelligence agencies the ability to spy on the entire population at once and keep that information permanently. In five or six years’ time, if your brother or someone becomes of interest to that company or the government, they can go back in time and look to see what you said or what you emailed.”
(3 December 2011)

Fox: The Muppets Are ‘Brainwashing’ Young People To Hate The Oil Industry

Zack Ford, Think Progress
Life’s a happy song, but not when Fox Business is singing along. The network is upset that the new Muppets movie, The Muppets, features an oil tycoon as a villain, with various contributors complaining last week that the film amounts to “indoctrination” of young people into “hating corporate America” that borders on “Communist[ic].” Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center agreed with host Eric Bolling that “liberal Hollywood is using class warfare to brainwash our kids” and the discussion rambled on from there. Watch it, via Media Matters:

If any of these talking heads had actually seen The Muppets, they would know that Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) isn’t out to destroy the Muppets because he wants oil, but because he wants only money and despises love. In his rap song “Let’s Talk About Me,” he tells you that all there is to him is that “I got mo’ money.”
(5 December 2011)

How net neutrality helped Occupy Wall Street

Betty Yu, Extra!
Media Justice and the 99 Percent Movement

… On September 17, a thousand people marched to Wall Street, and then hundreds stayed to occupy Liberty Plaza in New York’s Financial District.

Even after a solid two weeks of this Occupation, corporate media largely blacked it out. What coverage there was depicted protesters as drug-abusing hippies (the Fox News spin—Hannity, 10/10/11), or, in the “liberal” version, as directionless naifs with no message (New York Times, 9/23/11). As the OWS Declaration in New York City put it, the 1 percent “purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.”

But grassroots, independent media outlets like Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio, the Indypendent newspapers and public access TV channels, with a combined audience of millions, covered the Occupation from the perspective of the people—the 99 percent. These independent outlets provided a platform for protesters to talk about why they were supporting the Occupation—speaking out about rising unemployment, declining wages, diminishing quality of life, foreclosures, education budget cuts, lack of healthcare and unjust wars, just to name a few.

What elevated the activism to a national and global movement, though, was the sophisticated and widespread use of social media. Independent mediamakers, citizen journalists, everyday people with camera phones were capturing the voices and faces of this burgeoning movement and uploading them to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, mostly within minutes of being captured. Group text-messaging was used to share information and media quickly.

… The democratization of media-making tools, particularly an open and unfettered Internet, has made all this possible. Right now, though, this open access is under threat. Network neutrality is the principle that requires Internet service providers to treat all content equally, guaranteeing a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies.

Since the invention of the Internet, net neutrality has facilitated democratic participation, allowing social justice organizations, cultural workers, citizen journalists, artists and small businesses to create, share and receive information freely. Right now, the livestream of Occupy Wall Street downloads just as quickly as the website of Goldman Sachs. Without net neutrality, small businesses, nonprofits and individuals who can’t afford high-speed services would have their ability to reach a mass audience online severely limited.

The telecommunications corporations that provide Internet connections, like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, want to increase their already mammoth profits by controlling websites, video, content and applications. These corporations want their own sites and services to be easily available to the public, while slowing down access to those owned by their competitors—or by independent groups who can’t afford to pay the gatekeepers’ tolls.
(9 December 2011)

Amazon Launches Christmas Attack on Local Shops

Ryan Tate, Gawker
Apparently concerned that it’s not already doing enough to undermine local physical retailers across the country, announced it will pay customers up to $5 to go into a local store, scan an item, walk out, and buy the same item on Amazon. Please don’t do this cheap, sad thing.
(6 December 2011)