Benjamin Cadon (Labomedia) attended the Internet Freedom Festival, an international convergence of hacktivist struggles in Valencia, Spain, on March 6-10. For Makery, he reports on this year’s trends in defense of digital liberties.
Valencia (Spain), correspondence
More than 1,200 participants from 114 countries came together for the third edition of the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, Spain, on March 6-10, to share experiences, techniques and tools contributing to greater freedom of expression and information, greater respect for differences and equality—especially gender equality, both in attendance and topics from the “southern” countries. Overview of some 200 activities in Las Naves, a co-working space in the Cabanyal district near the harbor. Common agreement: no photos!
In the anti-surveillance toolbox
Many of the IFF workshops focused on privacy protection or bypassing censorship, such as the fresh new initiative Autocrypt, which allows common mortals to easily encrypt their e-mails to avoid prying eyes.
The Leap project presented its latest developments with Bitmask, a tool that facilitates the use of VPN (virtual private network between your computer and a server, such as the RiseUP platform dedicated to activists), and offers a new solution for encrypting e-mails. Concerning operating systems that are particulaly useful to activists, the amnesic distribution of Tails is evolving toward greater accessibility, while better protecting the privacy and anonymity of its users by transiting all its connections through the Tor network. Qube OS makes it easy to departmentalize separate digital identities inside as many virtual machines, so that you don’t end up placing all your bytes in one basket.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 29, 2016
My digital shadow and me
Tactical Tech’s workshop on Me and my shadow exposed and explained concepts related to online privacy in a simple and educational way. The project aims to help people understand and take control of their digital traces, and to know how they are being tracked by data brokers. The website provides information and advice, as well as arguments to convince friends and family to also seriously consider these issues, as privacy protection is not just an individual practice but collective and cooperative.
Holistic approach to security
In the context of general surveillance, activism has become increasingly risky, especially in countries ruled by oppressive regimes, but also on a global scale, due to the harmful actions of individuals or more or less formal groups. Therefore we must use the necessary tools and simulate risk models that take into account the situational context of people who are submitted to them, which can also be revised over time. The holistic aspect stems from a three-pronged approach promoted by an international group of security trainers who have just published a guide to protecting yourself from threats to: your physical integrity and that of your devices; your psycho-social well-being; your personal digital information, communication and content production.
Fighting gender-based violence
The participation of women, trans people and other gender identities in IFF rose this year from 48% to 52%. This is due in part to the organizers’ initiative to make visible the efforts of cyberfeminists in promoting human rights and Internet freedoms. For the activist Spideralex, “The increase in risks and attacks using information technology to control, surveil and censor women and LGBTIQ on the Internet has also translated to a spike in networks working to denounce these new forms of violence, while creating processes to guarantee their security both online and offline.”
In order to achieve this strong presence, a Code of Conduct was drafted ahead of the festival, providing communication guidelines and listing unacceptable behaviors in an effort to denounce any sexism or harassment during the event. IFF also gave equal opportunity to applicants for fellowships and travel funding. Other festival activities gravitated around “allies”, giving everyone the chance to improve their capacity to create secure and inclusive spaces in the technology fields.
— hvale vale (@froatosebe) March 11, 2017
Cyberfeminist March 8
On March 8, IFF celebrated International Women’s Rights Day by showing women’s contributions to developments in technology and Internet freedoms. Among them, the Association for Progressive Communication has for the past decade coordinated the Take Back the Tech campaigns against gender-based violence using IT. Its members also tested out their training program for Feminist Technology Exchange, a platform created in collaboration with feminist collectives such as Luchadoras in Mexico, which produces online TV programs, as well as workshops on self-defense and storytelling.
“As for initiatives dedicated to countering attacks by macho trolls,” Spideralex explains, “Alerta Machitroll, by the Colombian Karisma foundation, has just launched a humorous 10-step program to help trolls self-improve. Tactical Tech’s Gender and Technology Institute and Commlabs by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice are oriented toward activist women and LGBTIQ communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their goal is to train these people in privacy protection and holistic digital security, as well as a more strategic use of IT to advance their struggles and reduce the risks that they encounter.”
“Decalogue to contain the machotroll in you”, Alerta Machitroll, Karisma foundation (in Spanish):
Multimedia theater against corruption
IFF also hosted cultural events, such as a stage production of the play Become a Banker, directed by Simona Levi and Xnet. This collective, which launched the Free Culture Forum, catalyzed creative and participative processes so that citizens could denounce corruption and imprison those responsible for the financial crisis during the Spanish 15-M Movement (or Indignados Movement). In 2012, Xnet launched a crowdfunding campaign to put on trial Rodrigo Rato, the former IMF director who returned to Spain to direct the Caja de Madrid, a bank with public service missions that was alone responsible for a large portion of national losses consecutive to the 2008 financial crisis. The collective later opened a platform inviting leaks from whistleblowers in order to collect evidence and received 8,000 e-mails exchanged between the bank’s top-level bureaucrats, detailing the abuse of social assets and embezzlement of public funds. A new lawsuit sentenced some of the individuals to prison time. The play combined educational video animations with dialogues sourced from the e-mails to tell the story of this public scandal, which unfortunately does not seem to be specific to Spain.