Why we need to radicalize.
Berty was born in Paris, France 🇫🇷 but is growing up in the shared custody of contributors around the world. Not by accident — we’ve been making a conscious push for geographic decentralization from day one. Freedom from surveillance is an unalienable right, not bestowed by one government or societal norm.
Maybe it’s in our blood. Human rights have long been the keystone of the French people’s expectations of (and tolerance for) its government. This has played out in walkouts, demonstrations, and, famously, violent upheaval.
“Land of strikes”? Yup. Sorry but not sorry.
We’re seeing protests across the world that share the urgency of access to fundamental human freedoms, from Chile to Hong Kong to France to the United States.
Many of us are giving enormous time and energy to Berty because of how strongly aligned we feel with those fighting for these rights.
From our point of view, the situation is taking an alarming turn and we wanted to share with you a vision, which leads to debate, but which will have the merit of preparing “for the worst”.
The quiet spread of anti-surveillance crackdowns
Anti-censorship efforts are under immense strain as governments deflect media attention to public health and safety efforts.
We’ve been watching. In addition to developing a protocol and a secure messaging application, Berty Technologies monitors the legislative or technical apparatus deployed by governments against citizens.
We analyze the evolution, official or unofficial, of the means allocated to the surveillance and control of citizens by governments.
And what we are observing today is extremely serious.
The French National Assembly recently passed a law entitled “Global Security” which hides a true arsenal of the dictatorship in the name of security.
We can only assume that its passage late on a Friday night was not timed to catch the media’s notice.
Excerpt from a summary provided by digital rights watchdog LQDN :
“Article 21, which authorizes the live transmission of images filmed by police and gendarmerie pedestrian cameras to a command center - thus facilitating their automated analysis, such as facial recognition. Article 22, which authorizes the police to monitor our cities, streets and demonstrations with drones. Article 24, of course, which prohibits us from denouncing police violence”.
In other words, we, French citizens, have no choice but to be monitored throughout the urban space and subject to facial recognition software in the context of an increased need to monitor abuses of power by police (customary and increasing for several years in the repression of movements such as the “ZAD” or the “Gilets Jaunes”, but also in the treatment of young people in the suburbs).
No more witnesses.
We know that this law shouldn’t be accepted by the Senate, as it violates the constitution and the human rights guaranteed therein. The current political chaos is therefore the critical moment to fight for these rights, or else find them swept under the rug in the name of security.
However, the hour is so serious, it is necessary to guard against this “movement of thought” on the part of the current politicians.
We cannot wait for this dystopia to take place before deploying technical parries to these tools of dictatorship.
Why do we need to radicalize the fight against surveillance and censorship?
I’m writing this article today.
Tomorrow, will I be under suspicion for having authored it?
What if I were simply prevented from posting, from sounding the alarm on a liberticidal law that reduces the rights of citizens?
We’re talking about France because it’s the climate we know, but governments on every continent are manufacturing their own brand of censorship Kool-aid, trusting that a tired and frightened population will drink it without question.
Surveillance: At the top of your government’s guest list
If there is to be surveillance, it must be that of the elites and the governors elected by the people. And it must indeed be radically transparent and uncompromising.
Freedom of expression, investigation, and access to information have been the fruit of our elders' many struggles. We owe it to ourselves to uphold these values and this vision for as long as possible. We are and will continue to do so in our way, by providing the needed tools to face future challenges.
Elsewhere, we are seeing a resurgence of cases where a government decides to cut Internet access entirely during a social movement in order to stifle its momentum. Iran is the latest example. On November 16, Iranians saw “A historic cut by its magnitude and sophistication,” according to Doug Madory, an expert from the Oracle group.
(In a discussion of these events, we can’t neglect the work of the Telecomix collective, who in 2011 provided bridges to the Internet for people in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.)
Yesterday, November 29, Radio-Canada reported on this increase and provided some figures:
The NGO Access Now, coordinating a campaign for free Internet access, counted 196 outages in 25 countries in 2018, after 75 outages in 2016 and 106 in 2017 - an increase partly due to better detection. Nevertheless, the strong trend is upward.
Conversely, we fully expect it, and will soon be “spamming” it with artistic-preventive campaigns, à la You don’t have to be a bad boy to protect yourself from surveillance.
(Have an idea for a campaign, or already participating in one? Please give us a heads up.)
So now, what to we do? What do you mean by radicalizing?
At Berty, we don’t like violence. We like code. We’re anti-surveillance extremists, and we’re using technology to fly over the privacy barriers erected by those in power.
We think people need these tools as soon as possible, and here’s how we’re keeping this mission in the crosshairs:
Messaging over networks the government can’t shut down with a free open source app using peer-to-peer and autonomous networks to provide secure communications even if mainstream networks are shut down or under surveillance.
An indestructible news feed that can withstand censorship and all forms of suppression. An official “feed” for journalists, witnesses, and activists who can post content (written, audio, video) and get this information instantly distributed throughout the network.
To sum up, now is the moment to get moving, because our rights are under a type of threat without recent precedent.
Our best strategy may well be in preparing for the worst.
Keep your eyes open and your spirits high.
📰 Sources & media links :
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