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Open Source Bridge - Tuesday Keynote



  • Mozilla (committer level)
    • engineer on firefox spoke briefly--very proud to sponsor all volunteer, all open source conference
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • many others
  • etherpad
  • session notes link on website links to wiki
  • freenode (coordinate food, beer, hacking, etc.)
  • android app
  • lightning talks -- sign up to do a 5 minute talk
Danny O'Brien
  • former activist for EFF
  • advocate for journalist and blogger's rights - Committee to Protect Journalists (
  • half the journalists currently imprisoned are online journalists
  • Free Software: World Domination. Fast. (Linus Torvalds' plan, 1995)
  • Tajikistan -- one of the last places the internet will reach
    • mountainous
    • poor
    • land-locked--surrounded by neighbors with censorship policies
    • difference between rural and urban described as "rural like Yahoo, urban like Google"
  • the real effect of social tools doesn't happen until years after their invention
  • e.g. Thailand--during recent problems, one of the major places people get information is (runs on Drupal)
    • independent news media site
    • not surprising that something like Drupal used for this--cost, flexibility
  • kenya -
    • originally set up to try and map election abuses
    • people can submit info via text message
    • map mashup - software open sourced
  • these examples are how we expect FLOSS to work
  • what's next after world domination?
    • still a huge space of things that could be done by open source systems that aren't being done either by proprietary or floss systems
  • low-hanging fruit
  • encryption for all!
    • free software tends to be better about rigorous security--more interest in using open standards
    • why don't we do more of this by default?
      • TLS provides security for readers and publishers
      • makes simple censorship complicated
        • more difficult to block specific web sites by URL
      • tools already exist--just not being used by default
        • still not the easiest thing to set up TLS on a web site
        • free software is supposed to make the tricky stuff easy
  • minimal data retention
    • we're pack-rats but we're not spooks
    • preset defaults in logging and data capture become ubiquitous
      • how would apache be different if it didn't log everything by default?
      • by having a minimalist approach in terms of data retention in the applications we build we can set standards others use
      • logs are exactly what the government, etc. go after
        • all this data just sits there with no use until suddenly someone's interested in it
    • we control the presets
  • we have default policies, and they are wrong
    • defaults: we don't have encryption, we log aggressively
    • these policies have serious ramifications
  • how do proprietary systems help repressive regimes?
    • proprietary software isn't necessarily gung-ho about helping repressive regimes, but the incentives with proprietary software are screwed up
    • incentives of proprietary software are similar to the incentives of repressive regimes
  • internet and journalists
    • originally the internet pushed power to the individual
    • these days since everything is aggregated, control is pushed back to a small number of entities
    • e.g. Ethiopian journalists pushed out of the country, kept in touch with people via Facebook
      • Ethiopian govt got Facebook to shut down the Facebook page, so the journalists lost contact with their audience
    • e.g. journalist arrested and tortured in Iran--first thing they wanted is the person's Facebook password
      • can see your social network and communications
    • problem is that Facebook REALLY doesn't want anyone to be able to delete their data
  • fixing the incentives
    • we can build software that counters the above incentives
    • we can patch/hack facebook
    • build data liberation tools
    • build floss alternatives (software & services)
      • "Boston Data Lift" (Franklin Street Statement)
      • Free-speech friendly third parties without commercial goals (Dreamwidth)
      • Build distributed, federated systems -- and beyond
    • these are directions open source moves in anyway, but important to push things back out to the edge and let people control their own data
  • what happens if we don't go off in these directions?
    • kyrgyzstan - Stan TV
      • kyrgystan recently had a coup -- tried to stop independent media like Stan TV
      • closed down Stan TV based on accusations of piracy
      • Microsoft came in with a task force and shut everything down based on the fact that they didn't have proof they were using valid Windows licenses
    • Kenya -
      • more advanced than the US in many ways in terms of how they use technology (e.g. micropay service based on mobile phone network)
      • downside? avg Kenyan spends over 50% of their disposable income on mobile telecommunications
        • bottom 75% spends 63.6% on mobile telecommunications
        • HAVE to have a mobile phone to function
      • we need to push the boundaries of open practices to resolve this
    • Thailand
      • Monday of this week--the person who installs/runs Drupal on site mentioned above was arrested
        • violation of computer security laws
        • based on some comments that were left on Drupal that were defamatory to the King of Thailand
        • Thai authorities may not understand the concept of building out a network
    • why is all of this important?
      • the more we spread software of this type, the more the establishment in places like Thaliand will understand how everything works
      • the more we build out federated systems, there IS no central person who can be held responsible
      • free software advocates are either doing free journalism or writing the software that enables free journalism
  • what do you think about locked down app stores like that of apple?
    • when YOU have control over your technology, your incentives match what you need and why
    • when there's an intermediary in the way, the person in control might have different incentives
    • benefits free media to be able to limit these sorts of controls
  • what's the best way to make all the free tools known to more journalists?
    • we're still not very good at making software easy to use
    • journalists have a lot more to worry about than how to install a PGP plugin into Thunderbird
    • i don't have the answer, but i hope this is an extra push to get better at this
    • users depend vitally on the software we write
  • recent story -- student's car got towed, griped online, towing company suing student for disparaging remarks. on the other extreme, there's real hate speech. where does the responsibility lie?
    • knee-jerk reply -- can't solve social issues with technology. but plenty of examples where we do solve social issues with technology.
    • we can improve how free speech is distributed
    • "answer to bad speech is more speech" -- shine a light
    • problem with centralized tools is they're used to keep the weakest members of society from being able to speak


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