Category Archives: Tek+Mek+Bleep

Robots, machines, shiny AI biznizz

My tenth Twitter birthday

That first tweet is, in its own modest sub-140 characters way, rather mid-noughties 😀

I was an enthusiastic early adopter of microblogging, and whilst Twitter was not – certainly in the early days – the best of its kind,* it reached user critical mass fastest, making it the most useful, and helping achieve both stickiness and longevity.

To my mind its ‘real world’ usefulness first properly emerged in 2009 (though it had proved useful in quickly gathering and disseminating information in the aftermath of the murder by Greek police of fifteen year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in December 2008). In February I went to the BrisTwestival, a meatspace meet-up building on local tweetups. In April and May various media organisations, including The Guardian, the BBC and The Times, equipped its journalists with Twitter accounts and sent them forth onto the streets of London to report on the various G20-related protests; among them was Paul Lewis, who would end up securing the eyewitness account and video that blew apart the Metropolitan Police’s fabricated narrative surrounding the death of Ian Tomlinson. In October Twitter users were instrumental weakening the impact of the Trafigura superinjunction.

Since then it has, of course, become the platform of choice for narcissists, stalkers, PR flacks, online bullies and spambots, as well as otherwise perfectly reasonable people driven by the insatiable desire to share pictures of their dinner. So in a way, exactly the same as the printing press.

Anyway, thanks for having me, it’s a handy tool (which is handy because – ironically – it’s full of tools) which I have been able to use to meet new people, learn new things and reach new places.

PS Big up all the brick-wielding old school text-to-Twitter users, 86444 FTW!

*Insert obligatory comment about how I always preferred Jaiku, and Pownce looked nicer, etc here*
Advertisements

More View than Street

Sometimes, Google, you just aren’t very helpful…

Wikipediaphile: Containerization [sic]

I can’t remember why, but I was recently reading up about containerisation (I can’t even blame it on series two of The Wire) – here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the matter…

Containerization (British:containerisation) is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers (also ‘shipping containers’, ‘ISO containers’ etc). Containers are built to standardised dimensions, and can be loaded and unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently over long distances, and transferred from one mode of transport to another—container ships, rail and semi-trailer trucks—without being opened. The system was developed after World War II, led to greatly reduced transport costs, and supported a vast increase in international trade…

I think I may have been interested in the decline of inland ports:

…Effects

Containerization greatly reduced the expense of international trade and increased its speed, especially of consumer goods and commodities. It also dramatically changed the character of port cities worldwide. Prior to highly mechanized container transfers, crews of 20-22 longshoremen would pack individual cargoes into the hold of a ship. After containerization, large crews of longshoremen were no longer necessary at port facilities and the profession changed drastically.

Meanwhile the port facilities needed to support containerization changed. One effect was the decline of some ports and the rise of others. At the Port of San Francisco, the former piers used for loading and unloading were no longer required, but there was little room to build the vast holding lots needed for container transport. As a result the Port of San Francisco virtually ceased to function as a major commercial port, but the neighboring port of Oakland emerged as the second largest on the West Coast of America. A similar fate met the relation between the ports of Manhattan and New Jersey. In the UK, longshoremen’s unions protested the change to containerization, resulting in the elimination of London and Liverpool as major ports. Meanwhile, Britain’s Felixstowe and Rotterdam in the Netherlands emerged as major ports. In general, inland ports on waterways incapable of deep draft ship traffic also declined from containerization in favor of seaports. With intermodal containers, the job of sorting and packing containers could be performed far from the point of embarcation.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: Round one won…

Here’s a nice little message from May First/People Link, the US-based progressive internet network to which the new hosts of the FITwatch blog, Tachanka, belongs. In many ways it is a heartwarming note on which to conclude the recent attempt by the police to silence political dissidents challenging the status quo

We have again provided a protective environment for a website under attack. This one is www.fitwatch.org.uk, a site which monitors and publicizes the activities of England’s Forward Intelligence Team program: a program of demonstration and political activity surveillance.

Last week, student protesters in the UK organized a massive demonstration to protest eduction cuts. 50,000 people marched and dozens have been arrested. Fitwatch has been reporting on the demonstrations and offering support to the movement.

On Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, Fitwatch’s U.S.-based host, justhost.com, received an email from England’s Police Central e-Crime Unit. The email requested that justhost take the Fitwatch site off-line because it was being used for “criminal activity”.

Justhost immediately complied: removing the site and blocking Fitwatch organizers from accessing any of its files. Commercial hosts take sites down for many reasons but blocking an owner of data from accessing it is an action that goes beyond the normal and it is a bizarre capitulation to a police department that has absolutely no authority over this provider.

What exactly did Fitwatch do wrong? It published a story offering suggestions to protesters who might have been captured in videos or photos and are worried about being arrested. The suggestions included tips on getting rid of the clothes you were wearing, seeking legal counsel, etc.

When the site came down, May First/People Link member Tachanka intervened. In less than a day, they had restored a backup of the site to a server hosted with MFPL and had the site live.

But this is wider than the actual story because the implications here are huge. This takes place during a period of very intense movement activity in England with very large, militant demonstrations. There is significant interaction between that movement in the streets and the UK’s large movement of progressive Internet activists. Clearly the government is reacting to this collaboration in the way these governments are most familiar with: repression.

Clearly, as these governments need to begin to understand, repression fails. With the news of the take-down, support for Fitwatch spread throughout England and expressed itself in many ways. This overwhelming reaction was accompanied by a meteoric spike in the site visits: we know because our monitoring system picked that up.

This kind of quick, coordinated response is what we need and what will be needed from now on as government’s attempt to deal with valid, on-point protest with stupid, bullying tactics.

The world’s movement, working through the Internet, is not backing down.

Here are a couple of links:

http://www.fitwatch.org.uk

http://www.thinq.co.uk/2010/11/17/fitwatch-back-after-met-police-ban/

Abrazos,

Alfredo

– —
Alfredo Lopez
Co-Director
May First/People Link
Growing Networks to Build a Just World
http://mayfirst.org

Chair — Information Communications and Technology Working Group
United State Social Forum 2010
http://ussf2010.org

We are all FITwatch – and this time WE won. Let’s make sure we are ready for the next time they come for US.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: A moment of victory – FITwatch blog back online…

In the words of the FITwatch blog team:

We’re backs!

And with a secure server, massive coverage and a clear message that we’re here to stay.

On Monday night we received notification that our site had been suspended due to “attempting to pervert the course of justice” due to our posting offering advice to the Millbank students. Whilst the email requesting the site be closed on the basis it was being used for “criminal activity” came from DI Paul Hoare, from the Police Central e-crime Unit, the authorisation to close was given much closer to home, by acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson. Hodgeson, who was involved in the first Fitwatch case, and has sat through many of our trials and appeals, evidently finally had enough and decided to shut us down.

However, through totally underestimating the power of social media, this pathetic attempt has failed miserably. Within minutes of networking what had happened, people were re-publishing the post anywhere and everywhere. There are now over 100 sites carrying the original post – we haven’t managed to count them all. We have been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity and send massive thanks to everyone who’s offered to help and reposted the information. If we haven’t replied personally, it’s only because we’ve been inundated, and haven’t had time.

This was a real attempt to squash dissent and criticism of the police, as well as attempting to stifle common sense advice to protesters subject to a witch hunt by the right wing press. The solidarity given by so many people has ensured this hasn’t happened, and has shown we can fight back. Even if we were to be arrested and prosecuted now, we would still be grateful to CO11 for the amount of publicity they’ve generated for us.

We’re back, and we’re stronger than ever.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: FITwatch press release on the Met Police taking down website

FITwatch press release concerning the shut down of fitwatch.org.uk by the Metropolitan Police

NEWS RELEASE

For immediate release

15th November 2010

*Police shut down activist website after support of demo students*

Police have shut down an activist website for openly supporting the student demonstrations at Millbank. FITwatch – a direct response to police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) – has a history of challenging excessive police surveillance and breaches of civil rights.

The website was shut down at the request of the Metropolitan police after FITwatch issued advice to students fearful of arrest after the Millbank demonstration. A number of national newspapers made reference to an activist ‘anti-police site’ that urged demonstrators not to panic into giving themselves up.

“Our advice was simply good sense based on the understanding we have of police operations”, said Val Swain, a FITwatch activist. “We don’t want to see students arrested, convicted and criminalised for what was an entirely justified action.”

The Metropolitan police applied to the websites host to suspend the site on the grounds that it was involved in ‘criminal activities’- specifically, ‘attempting to pervert the course of justice’.

“This is an attack on freedom of speech,” said Emily Apple, another FITwatch activist. “The police don’t like what we do. They have seized a flimsy excuse to shut us down, and are trying to silence criticism of the police, and support for political dissent”

*For more information, contact:*

defycops@yahoo.co.uk

Notes for the Editor:

i. The use of the domain name www.fitwatch.org.uk has been suspended following a request to the web hosting company, Just Host, from the Metropolitan police. The Met claimed the site was being used for ‘criminal activities’ following comments made on the blog following the student demo at Millbank. The police stated that the blog was being used in an ‘attempt to pervert the cause of justice’.

ii. Fitwatch published an article on Friday 12th November that contained advice to protesters who were fearful of being identified by press photography, cctv or FIT. That advice has been copied widely around the internet, indicating the support that FITwatch has received on this issue. A copy of the post can be found at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/11/468002.html?c=on#comments

iii. FITwatch contributed to a major story on the police use of ‘protester databases’ in the Financial Times on 17th October 2009.

iv. FITwatch was also in the news in July when the Evening Standard reported on a court victory by three Fitwatch supporters who had successfully challenged the right of police to place attendees at an open public meeting under surveillance. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23860752-protesters-rights-were-violated-by-met-surveillance.do

v. A number of FITwatch activists are currently taking legal action against the police for assault and unlawful arrest

vi. A number of newspapers including the Mail and Independent carried the story of ‘anti-police’ website giving advice. The Independent stated:

“Activist websites have published step-by-step instructions to those who fear they may be identified and arrested in the aftermath of the violence. One anti-police site told participants to destroy potential evidence, including clothing and any distinctive jewellery worn. A contributor urged demonstrators not to panic or give themselves up as a result of the flood of media coverage.”

vii. The last post to the site before suspension was highly critical of the way the police have been capitalising on the aftermath of the protests to defend their own budgets and justify repression of protesters.

WE ARE ALL FITWATCH: Watching the detectives behind the website shutdown

The letter sent to FITwatch’s website hosts was written over the names of Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgson and Detective Inspector Paul Hoare.

DI Hodgson, from Public Order Crime Team in the CO11 Public Order branch of the Metropolitan Police, is in charge of Operation Malone, the Met’s investigation into the events at the Millbank building in Central London last week during the #demo2010 student protests. It would appear that his most high profile work before this was busting ticket touts.

DI Hoare, on the other hand, seems to be a cyber crime specialist working out of the Met’s Central eCrime Unit (PCEU). DI Hoare may be found on business networking site LinkedIn, which helpfully tells us that previously he spent four-and-a-half years doing a similar job at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the half-baked British attempt at an FBI-type outfit.