“Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” by Aaron Swartz

July 29, 2017


Aaron Swartz was a computer programmer, writer, political organiser, hacker, and hacktivist of note.  Amongst other accomplishments he founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians, was a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demand Progress; with Virgil Griffith he worked on Tor2web, an early (2008) HTTP proxy for Tor-hidden services and with Kevin Poulsen he created Dead Drop (now known as “Secure Drop”), a mechanism allowing whistleblowers to send files to the media anonymously.  He was prosecuted for making the data in JSTOR, a digital repository of academic journal articles, available to users for free.  He refused a plea bargain that would have seen him serve 6 months in a low-security prison, preferring to make the authorities justify the prosecution.  He faced a possible 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines, for pursuing the hacker belief that all information wants to be free.  Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013. After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. [Thanks to Wikipedia.org for the above.]  He was a champion for freedom, in the best hacker tradition, and nine years ago he wrote the following manifesto.

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for
themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries
in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of
private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the
sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure
their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But
even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future.
Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?
Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to
children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they
make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal —
there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s
already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been
given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world
is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for
yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords
with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.


Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been
sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by
the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or
piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a
ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only
those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate
require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they
have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who
can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the
grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with
the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need
to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific
journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

Guardian help track down “Climategate” whistleblower – what a bunch of cnuts!!

November 25, 2011

This really pisses me off. The Guardian were pro-whistleblowing when it came to Wikileaks – probably because the Guardian found those leaks ethically sound. But when the whistleblowing/leaking is in aid of a cause not close to the newspaper’s heart – like the leaked emails at the University of East Anglia that seemingly expose evidence-tampering by scientists who believe in man-made climate change – suddenly the Guardian wants to assemble a posse or lynchmob to track down the whistleblower and deliver him to Scotland Yard.

I’ve been a Guardian reader for 20 years, and usually I find its campaigns to be defensible even if I don’t particularly believe in them. But this whistleblower/leak/”hacker” hunt leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Get your act together, Guardian… or you’ll lose another once-loyal reader.

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Question: Who is/are “Anonymous”? Answer: No one/everyone.

March 15, 2011

Just read about the “hacker group” Anonymous’ release of apparently incriminating emails from the Bank of America. This story really annoys me. Not because I’m a Bank of America fan – I’m pissed off with the Guardian for describing Anonymous as a “hacker group”.

The Wikipedia article on Anonymous. describes it well – it says:

is an Internet meme originating 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many on-line community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain.[1] It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known.

Anonymous is not a hacker group in the sense you’d usually expect: there’s no organization, no hierarchy, no agreed agenda. Anyone with the required know-how and/or tools can do some cyber-vandalism or cut-and-paste someone’s email, then say it was done by Anonymous.

So who is Anonymous? Everyone. No one. Me. You. Anyone. Please bear that in mind next time you see a report that “Anonymous” did something.

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

December 15, 2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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Top 10 tech tricks we’re sick of seeing in movies

October 27, 2010

This is a pretty interesting article: detailing some of the wonderful moments in film history where some hacker/computer expert can get a computer system to do stuff it ain’t supposed to do, just by pressing a few keys and, no doubt, intimidating the the software with his superior skillz…

I remember some of the stuff on the list, but other details have been driven from my memory by thousands of years of substance abuse.  But never mind: there’s enough listed there to make any half-educated geek to kick his cat about.

One particular moments that’s always stayed with me is in Jurassic Park when the surviving humans need to “hack” (ugh!) the computerized security system to try and contain the rampaging dinosaurs.  The little girl (kids always know more than adults about computer-related stuff, even when the adult is a highly-trained, highly-experienced computer professional) takes one look at the monitors, says “I know this – it’s Unix”, and goes on to fix the electric fences or whatever.  It’s pretty unlikely that a Unix system would have the amazing 3D desktop interface we see on the screens… and it’s even more ridiculous to suggest she can do shit the pros found impossible after looking at the machines for 5 minutes or so.  Please not: I am not claiming that her skillz are impossible; but it’s still a huge heap of doggy doo-dah.

All this crap achieves is to reinforce the opinion that 1) little kids eat highly-trained adults for breakfast; and 2) give that kid a Commodore 64 and a modem and she’ll destroy the earth using the adults’ thermonuclear weapons against themselves.

I much prefer scenarios where AIs become self-aware and decide to wipe out the dangerous virus that is humankind.  Maybe kids can do that too… but chances are that the kid will probably be too busy tweeting about her despicable plan to notice the SWAT gunmen abseiling down to come shoot her in her bedroom.  Kids are too immature and too all over the place to actually do anything major.  Shit like Skynet is much more likely to succeed.  And we can’t threaten Skynet with being grounded and losing its allowance.  FFS.

How to search the internet 4: Understanding search engine results

May 12, 2010

This is the fourth part of my guide on how to search the internet. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here. Part 5, about using “advanced operators” is here.

So you’ve used Google or some other web search engine, following the tips I’ve given you in this little series, and you’ve been confronted with “results” that don’t actually seem to be any help whatsoever. And it’s true, often Google comes across as an incomprehensible joke designed to make you feel bad. But don’t fret: Google (and its kind) really don’t want you to run screaming; they want you to use the results to find what it is you’re looking for. Unfortunately, this may involve having to learn a thing or two about how Google works. It may be scary-looking at first glance, but really Google want you to find their results pages easily to comprehend. They want you to return to Google.com every time you want help in finding what you want. It can be a rather intimidating interface the first time you look at a results page: but it is all pretty simple really. You just need to know how to understanding the reams of info Google throws at you. Hopefully, this 4th part of my guide will make it all seem far easier.

First thing first: very often Google will offer you a list of sponsored results that may give you what you’re looking for; but if you click on a sponsored link you will be putting money in Mr Google’s pocket and chances are that link will be useless. Forget the sponsored links: go for the meat and potatoes in the list of real links.

Look at the search results; very often you will find other kinds of info alongside those results. Stuff like:

Suggested spelling corrections: Google may think you typed in your query incorrectly. If you’re no good at spelling, this can be a life-saver. But if you know damn well you typed your query correctly, forget this option;

Dictionary definitions: Are you actually searching for the word/s you mean to search for? Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. Think about it. Spelling can be a right tricky operation;

Cached pages: Google carries a huge number of pages that are not currently up to date. Maybe one of those cached pages may contain the info you need. Worth checking if regular searches are turning up sweet F-all;

Similar pages: Often Google won’t find a page that contains the precise info you want, but it has algorithms to turn up similar results. Have a look at them, you’ve nothing to lose really…;

News headlines: A webpage dealing with your query might be hard to find, but it’s often easier for Google to find news stories on related material. And these news stories may well include links to more relevant info. This can save you a bunch of time searching for that little nugget of info that will give you what you want. Remember: news stories are updated frequently, whereas a static page may never be more relevant. Use those options;

Product search: You want to know something about a particular project name. So search for that project name, add a bit of info on what the product can/is meant to do, and see what turns up. This approach works a lot more than you might think;

Translation: So what you want isn’t available in your mother tongue. But it may well be out there for speakers of other languages. Just think: if you are looking for info on a product released by a Portugese company, what makes you think that info will be in English? Search Portugese sites, using Google’s Translation feature or the other translators offered by search services. These translators are often pretty crap; but at least it’ll give you a good idea of what’s what;

Do book searches: Useful info may not yet be available in articles, but books often contain useful stuff. So it can often be a good idea to do a book search;

Cached pages: When a web page is undergoing a lot of changes, clicking on a Google link to a page might take you to the latest version of that page, which may be missing information that was presented some time before. Sometimes, these changes can happen frequently, so a Google link will not take you to the info that the search results first suggested.

Fortunately, Google will often cache an earlier version of the page. So, let’s say a particular page yesterday contained the info you want; but you go to today’s version of the page no longer holds that info. A problem? Not necessarily. Next to the Google link to the updated page will be a link to a [i]cached[/i] version of the page; basically, a version of the page that Google downloaded and cached before the important info was removed. So you click to navigate to the cached page, and you will find the info as it was before it got removed. Google’s system of caching certain pages helps ensure that the history of the web is respected to a certain extent.

If you want to download a version of a page that existed longer ago (several weeks, or months, maybe even years) you can go to [b]The Wayback Machine[/b] at archive.org. This is a project to archive internet sites the way they were in the past, so the current generation’s “now now now” attitude doesn’t drive the history of internet sites into oblivion. [b]The Wayback Machine[/b] doesn’t promise to archive the internet of the past forever; but it is a very useful project that has a multitude of potential uses. Archive.org, like most such projects, is run by volunteers and is always in need of financial support, as well as more practical support such as providing servers. I’d advise anyone who finds such projects very useful to contribute even just a few dollars.

There’s a lot of info on how to understand Google results, and how to configure the way Google works to it gives you the info you want and hopefully protects your privacy, here: http://www.googleguide.com/category/understanding-results/http://www.googleguide.com/category/understanding-results/. I really advise anyone who’s seriously into using Google as best they can to check out this info. Google really is one of the best resources available online… and it’s free! Let’s make the most of it while we can! Before the goddamn Man tries to take it away from us!

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DEFCON 17 talks and presentations released online

November 30, 2009

I don’t know how long this has been up – I only just noticed it – but audio and video files of talks and presentations at this year’s DEFCON are now available for free download.  For those who don’t know: DEFCON is the USA’s premier hacker’s conference, held every year in Las Vegas.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to attend – the Atlantic Ocean is very wide and deep and I’m allergic to water – but I’ve been able to enjoy the talks and presentations via audio or video thanks to the fact that the DEFCON organizers create each year an archive of presentation media.

DEFCON 17 took place at 30 July-2 August, but they’ve only just got round to posting links to the archive.  But that’s okay: I get to enjoy the con without having to travel to the USA (wide and deep, remember?); and, most importantly, without having to fork out any money.  Free downloads, y’know?

Various well-known security and internet characters take part every year.  Famous names in 2009 include Bruce Schneier, Dan Kaminsky and Jason Scott.  I particularly enjoyed Jason Scott’s talk, “That awesome time I was sued for two billion dollars“.  There are fun talks, heavily technical demonstrations… the whole kaboodle.  I strongly recommend checking it out if you’re in any way interested in computer security and the hacker culture.  It is free after all!

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