Build More Organic Internet And Stand Up To Corporations

Build More Organic Internet And Stand Up To Corporations

 August 27, 2022      

Internet access has become such a necessary tool for participating in society Organic. That it has been declare a human right by the UN. Alas, it is a human right not grant to 60% of the world’s population.

To bridge this gap, big corporations such as Facebook or Google portray. Themselves not only as service providers, but also as internet providers. Facebook, for example offers free internet access in disadvantaged areas of India. Or at least access to a small part of the internet. Considered basic (including access to Facebook, of course).

At the same time, Facebook has the ambition to connect the world. To understand intelligence and make intelligent machines, and even to cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime.

The platform is making a new map of everyone in the world. While experimenting with the possibility of manipulating people’s feelings through the curation of their news feeds.

Towards An Organic Internet

In a previous article, I described community networks that provide alternative networking solutions to megaprojects such as Facebook’s free basics. Offering internet access to refugees or communities outside the reach of traditional internet service providers.

These DIY networks could be seen as organic, they are created by local communities. Reflect local culture, and the data they use can be generated and consumed in the same place. DIY networks can also bring people together, face-to-face, instead of keeping them online all the time.

Artists and activists have been experimenting with different types of networks. Such as Library Box, an e-book sharing network, and the Can you hear me? installation of temporary antennas pointing to the US embassy in Berlin, broadcasting anonymous messages from nearby pedestrians.

Yet we need to explore the important reasons why such networks should also be promote. As infrastructure for hosting local services, built and used by local communities.

The Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin is a good example of a place where DIY networks design to operate outside the internet.

Neighborhood Academy Organic

Activists from the Neighborhood Academy have create a place inside the garden that aims to transfer the principles of organic and collaborative farming to the realm of networking.

The Neighbourhood Academy is a self-organised open platform for sharing knowledge, culture and activism. Its founders, Marco Clausen, Elizabeth Calderón Lüning, Åsa Sonjasdotter and the Foundation Anstiftung came up with the idea of a local wifi network accessible only inside the garden.

They collaborate with the Design Research Lab to build the organic internet, a local network attach to a physical construction, Die Laube (The Arbor), which hosts workshops, seminars and assemblies.

The founders wanted a way to record and share all the information exchanged during the gatherings of different activists, artists, architects and researchers from different fields and parts of the world who attended the academy. The local DIY networks make the productions available to those, and only those, physically present within the garden space, and the digital space becomes an integral part of the garden’s identity.

For the designers at UdK, who have been involved in the project, this pilot is an opportunity to build hybrid spaces, and turn them into toolkits that will make it easier for technology to be appropriated by others.

Alternatives To Global Social Organic Networks

DIY networking promotes physical proximity and inclusiveness. Tangibility and playfulness is another important aspect of the network: it is always there, hanging from a tree.

These projects also require local people to take care of them, build trust, and make collective decisions around functionality and use. A DIY network can be even turn off from time to time.

The projects are based on principles of replication, not growth: others can replicate the same idea in a different place by buying the cheap hardware a Raspberry Pi, wireless router, external hard disk and battery and using self-hosted software for local services. No investments in bigger servers are need when more people join, and there are no uniform rules about design.

Defending The Commons

Community networks such as,, and are gaining more and more attention as the the other way to build connectivity. While local DIY networks like the one in Prinzessinnengarten appear as a valuable complement, rather than a replacement, to the normal internet for location-based interactions.

But the right to share and more generally the right to common faces significant political and legal threats. For example, in the case of network infrastructures, the EU Radio lockdown. Directive will make it difficult to use alternative software on internet-enabled devices. Civil liability legislations discourage the sharing of internet connectivity.

In light of these circumstances, the first European commons assembly met in November 2016. With more than 100 commons activists from 21 countries across Europe participating.

The goal of the assembly is to develop policy recommendations for collectively managing all forms of commons. From basic resources such as water and energy, to knowledge, and network infrastructure.

As mega-corporations like Facebook dominate our lives more and more. We should do all we can to protect the commons and connect with our local communities. DIY networking is just the start.

Thailand Restricts Internet Freedom, Cyber Activists Work

Thailand Restricts Internet Freedom, Cyber Activists Work

 August 27, 2022      

On June 9 2017, a Thailand man was sentenced to 35 years in jail for sharing Facebook posts. The crime: he allegedly defamed the king. This harsh sentence is just one example of Thailand’s increasing repression in the digital sphere. Since the 2014 coup, the Thai military junta has take a hard stance toward online critics and dissidence.

In May, authorities threatened to shut down Facebook if the company failed to remove content deemed inappropriate. Facebook, which did not comply, has not been shut down. At least, not yet.

Cyber Repression In Thailand

Thailand’s cyber repression seems to be linked to its troubled history of military coups. At the advent of the 2006 military coup, the Computer Crime Act was passed, authorizing state agencies to block internet content deemed a threat to national security. It encouraged netizens (web users, many of them young) to monitor and report transgressive internet behaviors.

This early effort emerged from alarm about the fact that the country’s two main factions, the red shirts and the yellow shirts, had taken their fight to cyberspace, with the red shirts vocally opposing the coup and questioning the country’s monarchy.

Internet control increased tremendously after the May 2014 coup, staged to facilitate royal secession and preserve elite status quo in Thailand. Hundreds of websites were block during May 2014 alone, and working groups were set up to monitor and analyze internet content.

This heightened control was accompanied by a dramatic increase in lèse majesté charges against critics, dissidents and ordinary citizens. Non-criminal acts such as sharing or liking a Facebook post or chat message that insulted the monarchy became punishable by long jail sentences.

And in 2015, the Single Gateway proposal sought to monitor internet content by reducing the existing 12 internet gateways to a single, state-controlled portal.

The Single Gateway Thailand Policy Under Attack

Against these continuing encroachments on digital privacy, Thai pro-democracy activists and civic groups have waged a courageous battle.

Opposition to the Single Gateway plan cleverly center not on digital rights and freedom of expression (though those concerns were evident in the debate), but on more universal issues, such as e-commerce and the economy.

Some business groups, concerned that the proposal would slow internet connectivity in Thailand, raised alarm that the Single Gateway would discourage foreign investment in the country. Ordinary people, too, resented the attempt to limit internet access.

Thailand’s internet-penetration rate is 42%, and over 29 million citizens go online for entertainment, communication, public transport and food delivery.

Online game players and techies were worry that the policy would affect the speed of online games and expose their personal data. Amid these diverse concerns, three forms of activism emerged.

The Internet Foundation for the Development of Thailand and the Thai Netizen Network created a petition online to gather signatures against Single Gateway, providing information to citizens about the effects of the proposed legislation.

Alternative Discussion Thailand Forums

Alternative discussion forums also cropped up on Facebook and elsewhere. In groups like The Single Gateway: Thailand Internet Firewall, Anti Single Gateway, and Op Single Gateway, people from across Thai society braved criminalization to join the debate on internet control.

An anonymous group calling itself the Thailand F5 Cyber Army utilised a so-called “distributed denial of services” (DDoS) system to wage cyber war on the Thai government. It demanded that the junta completely cancel its Single Gateway policy.

They encouraged netizens to visit official websites (among them the Ministry of Defense, the National Legislative Assembly and the Internal Security Operation Centre) and to repeatedly press the F5 key, which causes the webpage to refresh constantly, overwhelming servers.

The attacks caused many government web pages to shut down temporarily, in part because the sites were technologically outdate.

Coupled with other forms of resistance, this virtual civil disobedience worked. On October 15 2015, the junta announced that it had scrapped the plan.

The Computer Crime Act campaign

But the victory was short-live. In April 2016, the junta proposed to modify the 2007 Computer Crime Act to better tackle cyber threats to national security, claiming it would help develop Thailand’s digital economy.

Activists again geared up for a fight. This time, given the law-and-order frame of the proposed amendment, public criticism of it took a different shape.

The business sector abandoned its concern over the economic effects of internet control to focus on the proposed law’s broad. Threat of legal sanction against violators, anticipating that fear would lead to self-censorship online.

Forums To Discuss The Thailand Impacts

Netizens used online forums to discuss the impacts of the cyber law, including the fact that it was gearing toward increasing sentences. Against loosely-defined cyber law offenders, whose crimes could merely be sharing a Facebook post deemed a threat to the nation’s moral integrity or considered distorted information.

Rights groups such as iLaw and Thai Network of Netizens took to Twitter and engaged. With progressive online magazines to raise public awareness of the issue. They also worked with environmental activists who had already experienced local authorities’ abuse of the Computer Crime Act.

Meanwhile, the F5 Cyber Army continued its attacks on government websites, providing manuals so ordinary citizens could wage cyberwar. And an online petition, which receive more than 300,000 signatures, was submit to members of the National Legislative Assembly.

This time, though, popular discontent went unheeded. On December 16 2016, the revised Computer Crime Act passed in the Assembly.

Cyber Activism And Political Messages

There are lessons to be learn from the very different outcomes of these two similar campaigns against internet regulation. Opposition to the Single Gateway plan concentrated on its likelihood to slow internet speed. The consequences for the economy and everyday conveniences were obvious, even to apolitical citizens and junta sympathizers.

This was a critical breakthrough, because these are vulnerable policy areas for the junta. Thailand’s military leadership derives its legitimacy partly from Bangkok’s middle class. Whose livelihood and everyday convenience depends on the country’s continued economic growth and global connection.

The junta had more success in its second attempt to limit internet freedom by changing its framing of the issue. By invoking a law-and-order rationale, which has constituted the junta’s source of legitimacy since its seizure of power. The government could argue that the impact of the proposed law would finely honed. Only wrongdoers, not regular netizens, would be punish.

This sleight of hand ultimately enabled the government to criminalize an array of online activities. Handing privacy-rights advocates a major defeat. Next time the junta seeks to obfuscate its agenda with a law-and-order rhetoric, Thai activists will be better prepare.

Networking Path To A More Democratic Internet

Networking Path To A More Democratic Internet

 August 27, 2022      

The refugee crisis has revealed the limitations of the telecommunications market to offer internet connectivity to people in need. As is often the case when the market fails, citizen organizations have stepped in., one of the most successful such community networks. Has come to fill the gap and provide vital internet services to refugees in Germany. This was made possible thanks to an innovative way of using communications technology: DIY networking.

DIY networking is an umbrella term for different types of grassroots networking, such as mesh networks. According to Vice magazine, mesh networks not only allow wifi routers to provide. Signals to wifi-enabled devices, as usual, but also, routers have the ability to connect to and talk to each other. By meshing them, or connecting them together, you are creating a larger wifi zone.

Artists have been looking at these networks as a way to expand and diversify our communication abilities. While questioning mainstream access to internet. In this spirit, Mathias Jud and Christoph Wachter recently used the technology to talk back to the NSA.

DIY community networks have been also used as social tools to reconnect citizens, for example, the initiative in Greece. Sarantaporo has provided a community solution for affordable internet access. But it’s also a revolutionary model for building networking infrastructure. Attracting the attention of academics and institutions.

The Spanish community network even won a European Union broadband award last year. These networks have an important role to play as a counter to the few corporations that dominate the internet, and also as a way to raise awareness of the challenges of privacy, net neutrality, censorship, surveillance and manipulation.

How Does Internet Work?

A wireless router, in essence a special purpose computer, can do more than just connect your devices to the internet. It could host a wide variety of web services, from a simple site to a fully fledged collaborative platform, accessible only to those in physical proximity.

These include a virtual announcement board for a block of apartments, an online guestbook for an urban garden, a file-sharing platform for a workshop, and many more creative uses of self-hosted web applications, like WordPress, Own cloud and Etherpad that anyone can host on a private web server.

These services are accessible through the router’s wireless antenna announcing a network name, a Service Set IDentifier (SSID), exactly as it works when you connect to a free or home wifi. They can appear automatically on a splash page or captive portal when you open you browser as is often the case in airports, cafes and hotels.

Similar Router Residing Internet

If the router is equipped with a second antenna, it can easily connect to a similar router residing in the coverage area whose size depends on the type of antenna and environmental factors.

The first antenna can then be used to allow people with their personal devices to connect. And the second to exchange information with the neighboring router. Each router then becomes a node in a small network: anyone who connects to one of them can access the services offered by, and people connected to, the other as well. As more nodes get connect, larger areas are cover, and a community can be form, initially by the owners of the nodes and eventually by everyone in the area.

Of course, you cannot easily build a whole such network by yourself, but you can build yourself a single network node using cheap hardware such as a Raspberry Pi and free self-hosted software for installing the set of local services and applications of your choice.

The only legal issues appear when you also offer internet connectivity through such a network because of liability issues when it comes to copyrighted content.

Personal Networks Internet

It is perfectly legal, in principle, to operate such a node on its own, attached to your balcony or inside your backpack. This could be your personal network inviting your neighbors, fellow travelers, or any strangers sharing the same public space.

The presence of an invisible digital space can be announce through physical urban interventions. A visible marker on the device itself, a QR code, a poster, even through artistic performances or direct face-to-face communication.

Anyone in proximity can join without the need for credentials or other identification. Except for being there, and without the need of any internet connection.

Examples of successful uses of such personal networks include occupy, here or the Pirate Box. Polylogue allows people in proximity to post short messages and see. Them print live on a piece of paper that as it advances, gets shred on the other end. A sort of hybrid, real-world Snapchat.

Soon it will be possible to build and customize a wide variety of such DIY networks using the MAZI toolkit

Community Networks

Community wireless networks have been under development since the late 1990s by tech enthusiasts. And activists advocating for a more open, neutral and democratic internet. They include a mix of local services, such as file sharing and live streaming and And the provision of internet connectivity. Freifunk, WlanSlovenja,, and many more focus on this aspect.

There are also important differences related to the governance model and the concept of the community itself. Freifunk follows the free internet for all approach and depends mostly on voluntary. Contributions of their members to offer internet connectivity.

On the other hand, places significant focus on the concept of the commons. Implying concrete boundaries and resource management rules. It has developed a unique model in which the network infrastructure, including fiber cables, is treat. As separate from the services they are involve with providing.