Working with young people in the shadow of the riots.

Given that we don’t have any big party donors, or unions to bank roll us here at the Pirate Party I do have day jobs as well. One of which is working with teenagers on creative projects. All of you who think this is soft bleeding heart liberalism are welcome to come and take a workshop sometime. It would challenge the most hardened of party whips.

Despite all the positive research in this area, who knows how much difference it really all makes. At the end of the day all we can ever do is use the skills we have to the best ends possible. I do know I have taught 1000s of young people over the years. 

Today I have been working with some teenagers in Rossendale. It has been good to find time to discuss with them what has happened in the riots. I have seen an awful lot of people, many on social networks, many involved in politics, talking about young people. But few of us actually seem to talk with young people, outside of the obligatory press opportunities. 

The teenagers I talked to were shocked and worried about what happened in Manchester. And were well informed. They wanted it not to kick off in Burnley. They had views about the areas they live in. And some wanted to take out chavs with a bar for attacking Afflecks. I think I’ve managed to persuade them that this is not a good idea. 

But in all honesty how the hell am I supposed to do this with any authority when adults are suggesting the same thing? When adults are investing in baseball bats. Are shouting with approval for people being taken out. Are calling for violent means whether its by vigilantes or the state. Please make my job easier. 

Once we’ve picked up the literal pieces we need to pick up the pieces in a larger sense. I don’t think anyone knows the definitve answer how to do that right now, whatever they say, whether Mail or Guardian reader. It won’t all be drama workshops. It won’t all be discipline. And anyone who thinks you can do the former without the latter hasn’t ever worked with me. But I do think that talking with, rather than about, young people is a place to start.

Statement from Loz Kaye- Leader Pirate Party UK re the alleged LulzSec arrest

Statement from Loz Kaye- Leader Pirate Party UK re the alleged LulzSec arrest 

"I hope the press does not jump to any hasty conclusions about the arrest of an alleged LulzSec member, particularly given the recent "Hackgate" revelations. The truth is that until governments start addressing the underlying anger at attempts to police and censor the web, online attacks will only continue, despite individual arrests."


Industrial Strength Censorship : What Sarkozy’s ‘Civilised Internet’ Looks Like

One of the things that fascinates me about the Internet, is that there are many webs. In our English speaking corner it is easy not to be connected to the Francophone network. This, I suppose, reflects our tendency in UK politics too, we are all to eager to focus on trivia from the US when in fact significant events are unfolding closer to home- in this case just across La Manche.

On June the 15th it was revealed that the French government is planning a decree to censor and block web sites to such a degree that commentators have described it as “industrial scale”. The ministries of Defence, Justice, Interior, Finance, Health and Digital Economy will have sweeping powers which will not have to be sanctioned by any judge. In fact it is difficult to see what part of public life is not covered by these organs of the state. 

To make bad worse, this came to light as part of an amendment to an already existing law on ‘electronic commerce’. It is a classic case of the devil being in the details, and the way the affair has been handled it would seem that the French government was intent on burying such controversial measures in the midst of complex paragraphs. 

One of the key problems that PC INpact have highlighted is the loose definition of what constitutes ‘electronic commerce’. As they put it, the way is phrased “all the web is electronic commerce”. The grounds for ministers acting to block content are also similarly alarmingly broad, it can be when content has:

"undermined or that there is a serious risk of undermining the maintenance of order and public security, the protection of minors, protection of public health, and the preservation of interests of national security and the protection of the physical wellbeing of consumers and investors". 

The content owner will have just 72 hours to respond. If they do not, the host server will have 72 hours to respond, after which the ISP can be required to block. It goes without saying that this would cause chaos in the French tech world.

The French Pirate Party have quite rightly decried this as “a serious attack on the freedom of expression and communication of the citizens of the country”, and pointed out that it is utterly incompatible with the recent UN report recognising the fundamental role that the Internet plays in freedom of speech.

Whilst opening the eG8 recently, President Sarkozy called for a “civilised Internet”. Now we can see what he means in practice, and to me it smacks more of barbarism. We must not let him set the agenda for the web, for the sake of France, but also for the rest of us. The Pirate Party have consistently warned that moves to web blocking and digital exclusion in one field will open up the possibilities for governments to apply it in other areas. Measures like the Digital Economy Act are the thin end of a truly unpleasant wedge.

Eyewitness account of police violence in Catalunya Square

From Kenneth Peiruza in his own words, via Pirate Party International:

After some people rang me to tell me that police was pushing away
protesters from Catalunya square, I moved there and I could see
thousands of people protesting in the outer area of the square, a few
hundreds still inside the square.

There was a massive police action, they took every tent, food, tables,
computers… EVERYTHING! and they threw it into rubbish-trucks.

The people inside and outside the square was protesting in a peaceful
way, and some of the ones in the outer side, tried to run inside.

Some of them achieved it, most of them got severely beaten by riot
police.

They used gun-balls, sticks and a lot of bad mood… I even saw a young
girl being beaten 4 times after she stopped running into the square…
10m in front of me.

No policeman had it’s ID number on the uniform, this is clearly illegal,
and the computers had been kidnapped or destroyed, which is constitutive
of personal information stealing, which is punished with up to 7 years
in jail by Spanish laws…


Again, there was no way to use phones or internet from the square, as
usual these days, and of course, Barcelona’s city council cams are still
unavailable.

Around 12:15, a group of around 20 started running into the inner side
of the square, and this got the attention of the Riot police. Some of
them tried to chase those guys (they got hardly beaten), and at that
moment, around 6000 people started running into the middle of the
square.

Riot police regrouped and started retreating, at that moment, TV
transmissions were shut down and they showed advertisement…

G8 vs the Internet

G8 vs the Internet

German Pirate Party servers raided by police

I would like to add my condemnation to that of Sebastian Nerz and Rick Falkvinge, amongst others on yesterday’s police raid of German Pirate Party IT Assets. A French investigation into an attack on the IT infrastructure of the energy group EDF resulted in German authorities disconnecting and then confiscating the German Pirate Party’s servers. This had the effect of partially crippling the party two days ahead of state elections in Bremen. The party itself was not the target of the raid and is instead an innocent victim of these actions by the German Authorities. “[T]he investigations are not directed against the Pirate Party, the scope and damage is enormous. Two days before state elections in Bremen, our homepage and much of our communication infrastructure [has been] paralysed,” - Sebastian Nerz (Leader of the German Pirate Party).

I note also that the action was aimed at PiratenPad, an online tool that Pirate Party UK also uses for preparing documents and press releases. This raid had the potential to disrupt our communications, and therefore hinder the work of a UK party registered with the Electoral Commission.

I am in full agreement with Rick Falkvinge, the former head the Swedish Pirate Party in his suggestion that “Doing this to a democratic party - Germany’s sixth largest, actually—two days before an election is nothing short of a democratic sabotage”.

I would congratulate the German Pirate Party for having acted swiftly to re-establish their online presence, and am thankful that voters will again have access to information about the party before the vote the state election on Sunday in Bremen. The power to ‘remove’ a website from the Internet however temporarily, especially that of a Political party is one that should not be used except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Loz Kaye Leader Pirate Party UK

Future of Electoral Reform in the UK

On behalf of the Pirate Party, I would like to thank the voters that turned out to cast their ballots in the national referendum on whether to change the electoral system to the Alternative Vote. The outcome is not what The UK Pirate Party or I had hoped for, even if it is what we had come to expect over recent weeks.

Our failure, both as a party and as individual campaigners, was to not properly inform voters of the choice in front of them, or indeed why it mattered at all. The same criticism applies equally to the No campaign.  On 5th May I was still explaining to people on the doorstep that they were going to be asked to vote in a referendum in addition to casting their council ballots. It is a sad day when, after months of campaigning on an issue as vital as electoral reform, voters were still unprepared to answer a simple yes/no question at the ballot box.  

The most telling part of the result today is that the turnout clearly shows the option presented to the electorate was simply not compelling. The Alternative Vote was not, and is not the preferred alternative to FPTP for most voters.  We believe that it isn’t the best option for the country (as shown by the Jenkins commission). However we felt that it might have been a catalyst for further change; it is now time to look for a more direct and honest approach and properly present the case for change to the British people.

In the absence of an endorsement by the electorate, I feel that it is my duty and the responsibility of the Pirate Party to push in earnest for a more realistic, popular and beneficial alternative. I hope we can do this alongside many other groups and parties. This referendum was, after all a rejection of AV and not a rejection of the need for reform.

Our reception as a party by the Yes campaign was less than enthusiastic. Indeed, our offers of support were rejected on spurious grounds despite my repeated attempts to talk to people high-up in the Yes campaign. It was this kind of timidity that, in my opinion, contributed in some small part to the loss of the referendum. Nevertheless, I would like to present a reconciliatory offer; let’s press forward with a campaign to first inform the electorate about, and then fight for a change to a specific proportional system of representation in the UK.  Something that is well overdue and the very least we owe to the people of Britain.   

What I am suggesting is that we work to offer a real, fair, honest and balanced change to the electoral system- not because it benefits one group or another, not because it papers over other issues in British politics, but because it allows people to express their choices and have their voices heard.

We hope that others will join with us in this endeavour, and we will be contacting like-minded groups. It will be hard work, but worthwhile change normally is.

The Royal Wedding Hangover.

I know that some of my friends have been supping Cava (albeit from Aldi) to celebrate the Royal Nuptials. Others have been quaffing beer and swearing at the laptop or the television. Others again have been dancing on tables in the heart of Manchester just because they can. The great leveller will come tomorrow, I predict a hangover for them all.

Yet the real hangover may well last longer than the bunting clean up. The last 24 hours has seen an attack on British civil liberties, that hardly matches the words of Jerusalem and the National Anthem heard in the Abbey. We have seen an apparent purge of political Facebook sites based in the UK, with no reason given or warning, or comment from Facebook. At the time of writing we are talking about 50 or more sites according to UCL activists. The current list of disappeared Facebook accounts includes Manchester University Roscoe Occupation where I spoke a few months back, and the Rochdale Law Centre who provide free, independent legal advice and representation. 

That these accounts have been targeted is a real concern for free speech. The majority of the sites on the list are focused on the current issue of government cuts in the UK. Having been out talking to voters over the last few weeks, I can say it is this issue that most concerns people I have been talking to. What is all the more bizarre is that as far as I can see is that it is UK specific, for example US Uncut Facebook site is still functional.

Perhaps at the end of the day this should come as no surprise. Facebook has become increasingly irrelevant, and is certainly not where political action and debate is. That rages on reddit and twitter. Facebook has repeatedly shown its contempt for users’ data and privacy, so there is no reason to expect it should act ethically in favour of free speech. The hangover for Zuckerberg is that it is clear that the site is not serious, and has difficulty accommodating serious debate.

So, what Facebook does or does not do will become increasingly unimportant. More worrying are the recent ‘preventative’ arrests, on the face of it taken out to stop the spoiling of the happy couple’s day. Scores of activists were detained preemptively to allegedly stop crime. These include a University professor accused of planning street theatre, and Charlie Veitch whose humour and invective have only enhanced our political life in my opinion. I may not agree with all the ideas and aims of those detained, but I am sure as hell that I support their right to express it.

The precedents laid over the last 24 hours are dangerous ones. Arresting people for crime they may commit in the future belongs in science fiction, not our democracy. If we let this lie, the hangover could be horrible indeed.