Stories from Quick Reads and Digital Activism
As the world watches Russian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists occupy Ukrainian administration buildings, cities, and even an entire peninsula, a group of Ukrainian hackers is fighting back by launching an invasion of their own.
Since this summer, Ukrainian hacker Yevgeniy Dokukin and his group of fellow computer pros calling themselves Ukrainian Cyber Forces have carried out “Operation Bond, James Bond,” in which they leaked web camera and security footage from Crimea, separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, and even government offices in Russia. Dokukin and the Ukrainian Cyber Forces have been leaking videos from cameras for months now, including a video supposedly from a separatist base in Donetsk.
A few weeks ago, Dokukin and his allies took up new weapons in their cyberwar: printers. In a series of Facebook posts, Dokukin has explained how, after accessing private WiFi networks, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces were able to print documents on vulnerable networked printers in various offices in Crimea and separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, and were now trying to do the same in Russian networks.
— MustLive (@MustLiveUA) December 8, 2014
#UkrainianCyberForces have begun occupying networked printers in Donbas and in Crimea.
As Dokukin told RuNet Echo, he sees the wasted ink and paper in Russia as a variant on Ukraine’s own “economic sanctions” aimed at its neighbor. The messages appearing on these printers vary, but they share a common theme:
Якщо ваш мережевий принтер передасть “вітання Путіну” чи надрукує “Слава Україні!” та інші цікаві надписи, то знайте, що він під нашим контролем.
If your network printer passes along “greetings to Putin” or prints “Glory to Ukraine!” or other interesting messages, then you know that it is under our control.
Not all of Dokukin’s printer messages were meant to be confrontational. Recently, the Ukrainian Cyber Forces accessed an open network printer in Canada—an especially strong ally of Ukraine throughout the ongoing crisis—and printed the message “Thanks for supporting Ukraine!” in English.
As Russia increases its support of information warfare, including slick redesigns of its news agencies and propping up fake Ukrainian news sites, Ukrainian Cyber Forces are taking the trolling and information war to their opponents—and their offices—more directly.
Vero Flores Desentis, blogging for Mujeres Construyendo (Women Building), reflects on Internet users’ behavior regarding the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa and rubs salt in the wound of those of us who use cyberspace for worthy causes, and calls us to an in-depth examination of our conscience: are denouncing and indignation on the Internet enough to make a change or do they just represent a simple catharsis? Thus, the author points out the duality of Internet denunciation regarding the events in Ayotzinapa:
Creo que es un tema que duele a la sociedad, y duele mucho. Lo que me sorprende es la dualidad de la denuncia social. Por un lado, cada vez tenemos más acceso a plataformas que nos sirven para denunciar o para establecer públicamente algún posicionamiento frente a un tema, y cada vez somos más las personas que las utilizamos. Y estas denuncias son una herramienta muy poderosa de denuncia social sin duda. Pero por otro, la denuncia ahí se queda, no hay un eco de ejecución que realmente ayude a disminuir los casos que lamentablemente siguen sucediendo.
I think this is something that hurts society. What amazes me is the duality of social denunciation. On one hand, each time we have more access to platforms that allow us to denounce or set publicly some position about a given topic, and each time more people use them. And these condemnations are a very powerful tool for social denunciation. Burt on the other hand, the denounce just stays there, there is no echo of carrying out that really helps reducing the cases that, unfortunately, keep coming.
Vero adds that just as in other disturbing cases, social networks channel our outrage about Ayotzinapa, although making it public doesn't change the situation. To change something, we must act outside the cybernetic world, changing our actions.
You can follow Vero Flores Desentis on Twitter.
Some renowned journalists in Mozambique have accounts on various social networks, but they do not believe in their potential to influence decision-making, government action or social participation among others. However, the government itself has recognised their utility by creating accounts on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. Here are three recent examples where social networks have knocked on the door of accountability and governance in Mozambique.
1. In November 2013, a letter by Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco circulated on Facebook criticising the method of government used by Armando Emílio Guebuza, President of the Republic of Mozambique. As a result, the author of the letter was summoned to testify before the Attorney General on May 26, 2014.
2. When the Confederation of Economic Associations (CTA) offered a Mercedes Benz S350 to the President of the Republic, José Jaime Macuane, a university lecturer at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, immediately wrote a post on Facebook explaining that the act violated the Public Probity Law. The issue made the headlines of various newspapers and was discussed all over the country for over a week, even once the Mercedes had been returned three days later.
3. To promote citizenship, transparency and active participation by citizens, Olho do Cidadão (Citizen's Eye), which is led by Fernanda Lobato and Tomás Queface, developed digital platform Txeka to allow citizens to participate directly in observing elections on October 15 via SMS, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and email. This culminated in the creation of a situation room, comprising various civil society institutions and academicians, as well as a partnership with STV – an independent television channel – which hosted the broadest real-time coverage of the event, using the information sent by citizens via the Txeka channels.
In spite of the fact that in Mozambique, just 4.3% of the population has access to the Internet, the citizen reporter's perspective is valid and useful. Debates on social networks can influence government actions to a certain extent.
The Two Project has just launched, a collaboration between Israeli Jews and Arabs to connect their cultures through the language of poetry. Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages of Israel. Six years in the making, the project is an offshoot of a recently published book, Two: A Bilingual Anthology (link is in Hebrew).
This site is a part of the Two Project: a bilingual cultural project focusing on the literature and poetry of youth. Its aim is to create a convergence of dialogue between the two vibrant cultures of Israel, in Arabic and Hebrew. [The project presents] a new generation of writers and readers, who because of language barriers, culture, politics, and physical boundaries are not familiar with what goes on in the modern literary scene of their neighbors.
Anat Niv, editor-in-chief of Keter Publishing, who is responsible for the anthology, remarks:
The very fact that you are holding a book and reading it in Hebrew, with a text in Arabic script on the facing page, or vice versa, is a very powerful experience. Even if you don’t read Arabic, when reading this book you can no longer remain oblivious to the fact that this is a place where people live and create in two languages.
The account set up on October 27 has attracted about 17,000 followers so far — and a confirmation from the man himself.
Yes it is me
— Walid Joumblatt (@walidjoumblatt) October 27, 2014
Lebanese blogger Mustapha Hamoui quips:
After a three day hiatus after starting the account, the man went on a Twitter storm. To date, he has amassed 666 tweets, all in English, discussing Lebanese and regional politics and other tidbits.
Korean Air Lines vice president has made numerous headlines, both locally and internationally, for her arrogant behavior on a recent flight out. She randomly accused a crew member of serving macadamia nuts ‘incorrectly’ and even she ordered a plane back to the gate to remove the crew member out of the plane. No wonder this sensational story has become one of the trending topics in social media. Among numerous internet jokes, parody photos and even a cartoon by Japanese users, one stood out most would be a game mocking the Airplane nuts fiasco. A Korean web developer, Tai-hwan Hah (@duecorda) made a simple game entitlted ‘Crew Members’ Tycoon’ [ko]. However you play, you get the same result of the crew member being yelled at and hearing the sentence ‘You! Get out of the plane!’ — the very word the vice president allegedly said to the crew.
During the economic and political crisis in Argentina in 2001, people shouted in the streets, “Go to hell, everyone (rulers)!” More than a decade after these events, this popular cry was transformed into a digital tool that allows voters to learn about the political background of their candidates. On Infoactivismo, there is a piece about the project Cargografías (roughly translated as Position-ography):
El objetivo es brindar información a la ciudadanía para la toma de decisiones durante periodos electorales y ser un recurso de utilidad para periodistas e investigadores, quienes a partir de la herramienta podrán construir sus propias historias y apoyar sus proyectos de investigación.
The aim is to give information to the constituency for decision making during election periods and serve as a useful resource for journalists and researchers, who will be able to build their own stories and support their investigation projects using the tool.
The tool allows to analyze the political career of public officers in the last 30 years and document situations that might not be found in a regular Internet search.
Project founder Andrés Snitcofsky explains his intention was to show that many officers who were in office in 2001 are still there in spite of people's complaints. Although the information already existed, until now it wasn't collected in one place. So, Cargografías began with a Google Doc and a group of friends who organized the available information that was available on their own time. That database is now available on Popit.
Political activism is not exclusively reserved for young people and adults. This was demonstrated by Sofia, an 11-year-old Mexican girl who decided to collect signatures calling for the resignation of the president of her country, Enrique Peña Nieto. These are her reasons.
Peña Nieto has not responded as he should have to the families of the missing students, he went to China and he has a house costing 80 million pesos (approximately 5.88 million dollars).
This initiative caused many positive reactions. For example, some decided to sign in order to demonstrate to Sofia and other Mexican children (as well as adults) that having a better country is possible, and to remind those who govern that people placed them there and that the people can remove them. Sofia's mother said:
Yo no tengo idea de cómo se destituye a un presidente. Pero ojalá pueda de verdad llevar esas hojas a alguna parte que ayude a Sofía a sentir que su esfuerzo vale la pena, que lo intentamos a toda costa. Fui incapaz de decirle que no lo hiciera, que era casi imposible. No puedo cortarle las alas. Esta generación viene con fuerza, con fe y determinación, y con un concepto de lo que es decente y justo que ya quisieran muchos para un fin de semana.
I don't know how to dismiss a president. But, hopefully one can take those papers somewhere so that Sofia can feel that her efforts were worth it, that we tried at all costs. I was unable to tell her not to do it because it was almost impossible. I couldn't cut her wings. This generation is full of strength with faith and determination, and with a concept of what is decent, something that many want for a weekend.
The petition was placed on the Change.org platform and already has 10,500 signatures at the time of this post.
Indian alternative news portal Beyond Headlines sheds light on the darker side of India's judiciary. In India, of all people detained in lockups and state prisons there are more people under trial than convicts.
Because of the slow process of the judiciary process, thousands of people suspected or accused of a crime end up waiting for trial for years in cramped prison cells which lack electricity, food and other necessities. About 250,000 men and women in India are currently in jail without having been proven guilty. Their fate or innocence is bound by the course of their trials.
And who and where are all these detainees? These tweets explain:
— Rukmini S (@rukmini_shrini) October 30, 2014
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) September 23, 2014
Freeing the detainees awaiting trial is also not a good option, as Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Shishir Bail write in the Hindu: “Without substantive reforms to the investigation and trial process, early release of undertrials may further aggravate the pathologically low rates of conviction and incarceration in the Indian criminal justice system.”
Mujeres Construyendo (Women building) tries to raise awareness with a message mainly for women. Inequality between men and women is a fact, as confirmed by the Center of Economic Studies of Mexico, where we can see that, in terms of salaries, a woman earns 22% less, but this is just one of the problems they face.
In a short animated video they share on their Twitter account, we can see how two girls are talking, one trying to raise awareness to the other that her word is important and is as valid as anyone else's. At the end, the video gives a series of important messages:
Tu voz te da poder, te hace visible y presente. Tienes derecho a expresarte y a decir lo que piensas y sientes. El silencio es tu decisión, nadie te lo puede imponer.
Your voice gives you power, it makes you visible and present. You have the right to express yourself and to say what you think and feel. The silence is up to you, no one can impose it.
With this compelling message, the team of Mujeres Construyendo claims something that seems obvious in the 21st century, gender equality.
You can follow Mujeres Construyendo on Twitter.