Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Swedish swashbucklers Spurn Secret Spying

Over in Sweden, their Pirate Party (the mother of all the other ones), Piratpartiet, Has been busy working on some pending legislation over there. Or rather, working on bringing attention to it. Over the last two weeks, members of the group formed a petition, and sent out a newsletter about the laws, which are set to vastly broaden the scope of government communication interception, as well as not requiring the group who would be conducting the surveillance, the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to obtain a court order before commencing. Instead, it would be under the authority of a parliamentary committee.

In the two weeks since they started this work, the issue has now gone from an almost unheard-of piece of back-door legislation, to the source of major controversy in Sweden. To quote Rick Falkvinge, head of the Piratpartiet:

“We've been networking heavily, talking to people, organizing rallies, petitions, written and distributed newsletters, etc. A lot of this has taken place outside the eyes of the traditional media, in a social network context, just like we're good at.

Our work went so-so; we staged a rally in several locations across the nation that got 2 minutes of coverage in every news broadcast that night, but the break came about 2 weeks ago when we posted a newsletter about all the pipeline big-brother laws this spring at the same time as we started a petition. It wasn't necessarily the petition that made or broke the push; I like to regard it as the small effort that pushed past the tipping point.

If you're interested in reading the newsletter and understand Swedish (or have a decent translator), it's here.

Anyway, influential bloggers all over the political spectrum picked up both the petition (which does not mention us) and the newsletter (which is very tied to us) and started repeating the message. Within the first day, people from the top brass of the far-right liberal youth league as well as the party leader of the far-left communist party (who's in parliament) had signed the petition. Some youth league organizations also decided to back it as organizations, and repeated the message on their own front pages.

We're not given credit - we chose to not push our name, but rather the message - but everybody links to our petition and repeats the words of it, and right there at the petition footnotes is "Created by Christian Engstr?m, Piratpartiet et al".

Two weeks later, today, editorials all over Sweden are up in arms about the impending legislation and it's starting to get mainstream media coverage as well. Some are calling the law "Lex Orwell". We're not attributed in mainstream media, but the blogosphere is aware of who's been pushing the issue and who hasn't.

Politicians are feeling the pressure and are starting to backpedal, going defensive instead of visionary.”

Well done to all those involved in getting the word out. Legislation like this only manages to curb one thing – civil liberties. There are many things that are getting pushed through in the name of combating terrorism, and since per2peer is often linked to terrorism nowadays (see one of my first pieces here)

It could be said that yet again Swedish politicians are, if not buckling under the wishes of the US government, at least trying to emulate them. One can only wonder what would have happened if someone had done this in the US when the PATRIOT act was being introduced.

ben Jones

Other links
'Big brother' surveillance makes waves in Sweden (English, TheLocal.se)

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