Political Action

EFF Asks Appeals Court to Break Through Five-Year Logjam in Megaupload Case

Deep Links - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:38
Lawful Users Still Waiting for Return of Files After Government Seizure

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), on behalf of its client Kyle Goodwin, is asking a federal appeals court to break through the five-year logjam in the Megaupload.com case, and help lawful users who are still waiting for the return of their photos, videos, and other personal files after the government seized Megaupload’s servers.

Megaupload was a popular cloud-storage site when the FBI shut it down in January of 2012 looking for evidence of copyright infringement. Agents seized all of Megaupload’s assets during their search, locking out customers from their accounts. Goodwin, a sports videographer, lost access to video files containing months of his professional work.

For five years, the U.S. government has continued pursuing a criminal case against Megaupload and its owners. But the data stored by millions of customers—including obviously lawful material like Goodwin’s sports videos—have languished on servers that sit disconnected in a warehouse.

“Mr. Goodwin, and many others, used Megaupload to store legal files, and we’ve been asking the court for help since 2012. It’s deeply unfair for him to still be in limbo after all this time,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “The legal system must step in and create a pathway for law-abiding users to get their data back.”

In a petition filed today with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, EFF, along with the firm of Williams Mullen and attorney Abraham D. Sofaer, argue that the court should issue a writ of mandamus to the trial court, ordering it to act on Goodwin’s request and create a process for other users to retrieve their data.

“We’re likely to see even more cases like this as cloud computing becomes increasingly popular,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “If the government takes over your bank, it doesn’t get to keep the family jewels you stored in the vault. There’s a process for you to get your stuff back, and you have a right to the same protection for your data.”

For the full brief filed today:

For more on this case:

Contact:  MitchStoltzSenior Staff Attorneymitch@eff.org CorynneMcSherryLegal Directorcorynne@eff.org
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Categories: Political Action

Platforms: A commons-based approach to global collaboration

Creative Commons - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:19

CC’s community grew up around the licenses, but over the past decade it has evolved into a powerful and diverse movement of interests and areas of work including open policy, open education, access to research and data, and cultural sharing. While those communities grew naturally, CC has never had a model for collaboration, shared goal-setting, and mobilizing action. The new network strategy, for the first time, creates a simple structure to enable global collaboration and action.

The Global Network will identify and collaborate on a series of shared interests and priorities, which we have called Platforms. A Platform is an area of work, a space for individuals and institutions to organize and coordinate themselves across the broad network. It’s open to anyone inside and outside the Creative Commons Global Network to support, share experience and collaborate on its goals and objectives. Through Platforms, we want to initiate strategic collaboration between network members that will have worldwide impact.

We are using the opportunity of this Global Summit to open the conversation about designing Platforms in several ways. On Friday, just after the opening, we will host a session called Programs for the New CC Global Network: How Can We Work Together? (Friday 13:30 – 15:00), where we expect to talk about the future work our community would like to be engaged to work in the future and have a big picture conversation about it. On Sunday (13:30 – 15:30), there will be a session called A Platform for Big Thinking about CC, a follow up session to the first, where we expect to think really big about the Future of the Commons, both in terms of challenges surrounding CC but also the Digital Commons.

Then, we will have specific sessions on Platforms related to the Open Education Platform (Friday 15:00 – 16:50), Copyright Reform (Saturday 15:30 – 18:00) and Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) (Sunday 13:30 – 15:30). And, strongly connected with this community-driven effort, we also scheduled a specific session on Building a culture of appreciation for the new Global Network (Saturday, 16:00 – 17:30) where we expect to open a conversation about requirements, needs and tools we would like to see to make our community strengthen and grow healthy and diverse.

While participating in the Summit, and especially leading sessions, please keep in mind the possibility of establishing a platform around a shared issue of interest. We have prepared guidelines for people interested in proposing a platform.

The CC Summit is an exciting opportunity for global collaboration and action. Summit participants will begin to share their goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics and lead a global conversation towards a stronger commons and community through an open invitation that starts at Summit, but will continue through the year, and beyond.

The Summit is the beginning of this conversation as well as the beginning of a big experiment in working together. By proposing a platform early on, you can join this early phase of testing how platforms will function. If you have ideas about CC platforms, please share them on social media using #ccplatforms hashtag and in our Slack. We would be very happy to see a broad range of platforms being discussed. Join us.

The post Platforms: A commons-based approach to global collaboration appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Access Now and EFF Condemn the Arrest of Tor Node Operator Dmitry Bogatov in Russia

Deep Links - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 14:14

This post was written in collaboration with Amie Stepanovich at Access Now.

On April 6, Russian math instructor Dmitry Bogatov was arrested in Moscow and charged with “preparing to organize mass disorder” and making “public calls for terrorist activity” due to a gross misunderstanding about the operation of the Tor internet anonymization service. Bogatov is accused of authoring a series of online posts published to the sysadmins.ru discussion platform on March 29 under the username “Ayrat Bashirov.” One post called for protesters to attend an unsanctioned, anonymously organized demonstration on April 2 with “rags, bottles, gas, turpentine, styrofoam, and acetone.” Another post linked to the music video for Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” described by investigators as “a video recording with insubordination to the legal demands of the police, and mass disorder.”

The posts appear to have come from the IP address of a server located in Bogatov’s home, but this server is a part of the Tor network—an exit node that routes anonymous traffic from all over the world and makes it appear to have originated from that computer.

There is considerable evidence that Bogatov did not post the content at issue. According to a Global Voices report, “Surveillance footage shows Bogatov and his wife leaving a supermarket four minutes before one of the posts was made on March 29. Given that the supermarket is half a kilometer from their home, it is unlikely that Bogatov could have made it home and posted online within four minutes.” Additionally, “Ayrat Bashirov” has continued posting on the forum and has even exchanged messages with an Open Russia journalist explicitly denying that he is Bogatov.

Tor exit node operators mistakenly accused of crimes committed from their exit nodes is nothing new. This is one of the reasons that EFF cautions against running an exit node in your home in its Legal FAQ for Tor Relay Operators. In the past, law enforcement has always backed down once it had become clear that they had the wrong party.

But rather than acknowledge their mistake, the Investigative Committee (the main federal investigative committee in the Russian Federation), appears to be doubling down. When a judge initially ruled that the charges against Bogatov were not serious enough to justify his continued detention, the Investigative Committee added the second, more serious charge of inciting terrorism. Days later, the court upheld the additional charges, formally arrested Bogatov, and ordered that he be held until his trial date on June 8.

The arrest comes in midst of an online crackdown related to anti-corruption protests in cities across Russia on April 2. The protests have resulted in the arrest of hundreds of individuals, including Leonid Volkov, who was arrested for having livestreamed the protests. Volkov was detained for ten days, and as a result was unable to attend RightsCon, where he was scheduled to speak about Russian surveillance systems.

As global organizations working to defend human rights, Access Now and EFF condemn Dmitry Bogatov’s continued detention and the detention of others by Russia or other governments for exercising their human rights or facilitating increased internet security. Put simply: running a Tor exit node is not a crime and Tor exit node operators should not be treated like criminals.

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Categories: Political Action

Adobe Puts an End to Indefinite Gag Order

Deep Links - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 13:36

In a newly unsealed case [.pdf], a Los Angeles federal court ruled that Adobe could not be indefinitely gagged about a search warrant ordering it to turn over the contents of a customer account.

This is important work by Adobe. Gag orders almost always violate the First Amendment; they prevent service providers from notifying users that the government is requesting their sensitive data and from being transparent about surveillance in general. And yet, providers receive indefinite gags with frustrating frequency. In most contexts, the government must do little to justify these gags and instead relies on rote invocations of national security and the sanctity of investigations.

The Adobe gag was issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2705(b), the same law Microsoft is challenging as facially unconstitutional because it allows for indefinite gags.1 These arguments are also at the heart of EFF’s long-running national security letter (NSL) lawsuit, which was argued in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last month.

Thankfully, the court in Adobe’s case recognized the serious harm to free speech these gags represent. It held that orders barring companies from notifying their users about government data requests are both prior restraints and content-based restrictions on speech subject to strict scrutiny. That’s a very high bar. The court found that the indefinite gag order imposed on Adobe fails strict scrutiny because the government could make “no showing[] that Adobe’s speech will threaten the investigation in perpetuity.”

The government’s attempts to save the Adobe gag order were nearly identical to arguments it made in our NSL litigation. It claimed gags don’t even implicate Adobe’s First Amendment rights because the company only wants to speak about information learned from the government, and that an indefinite gag was OK because Adobe could simply come to court when the need for a gag had passed. But on point after point, the court rejected these arguments. The First Amendment requires gag orders to be narrowly tailored, and Section 2705(b) orders and NSL gags come nowhere close to meeting that standard. As the court put it, “the fact that the speaker cannot know when the restriction's ‘raison d'etre fades’ effectively equates to no tailoring at all.”

While the appeals court in our NSL case doesn’t have to follow this court’s lead, we think any First Amendment arguments that can be deployed against 2705(b) orders are doubly effective for NSLs. That’s because the FBI can issue indefinite NSL gags without even going before a court, as Section 2705(b) requires.

Adobe’s fight should demolish another of the government’s arguments in our NSL case: that providers don’t want to speak out about gags. Adobe promises to notify its customers about government data requests in all cases unless “legally prohibited from doing so.” And it goes one step further, stating upfront that indefinite gags “are not constitutionally valid and we challenge them in court.” Following through on this promise gives lie to the unsupportable claim that providers don’t care to speak out on these issues.

Here’s hoping the days of indefinite gag orders are numbered.

  • 1. Section 2705(b) allows a court to issue a gag “for such period as the court deems appropriate.” There’s an interesting split of opinion on whether that language allows for indefinite gag, or whether the word “period” implies a finite limit. The court in Adobe’s case determined that periods can in fact be indefinite, which led to its First Amendment ruling.
Related Cases: Microsoft v. Department of JusticeIn re: National Security Letter 2011 (11-2173)In re National Security Letter 2013 (13-80089)In re National Security Letter 2013 (13-1165)
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Categories: Political Action

How activists are confronting ICE's terror

Socialist Worker - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

Christopher Baum reports on initiatives by immigrant rights and social justice organizations to stand up to the Trump administration and its deportation machinery.

Protesters take to the streets to protest deportations in Minneapolis (Fibonacci Blue | flickr)

FEAR IS flooding through communities around the country as the Trump administration escalates its war on immigrants. But so is anger--at politicians who are willing to tear families apart and immigrant authorities who victimize some of the most vulnerable people in society.

From the opening days of his presidency, Trump served notice that he would intensify the policies that have scapegoated and terrorized the undocumented under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

There's been no let-up since. April brought news of the first deportation of a youth protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by Barack Obama. Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, was abducted in Calexico, California, and transported to Mexico, even though he has DACA status.

Trump's persecutor-in-chief, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, took the opportunity of a reporter's question to claim that young people protected by DACA aren't being targeted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)--but then issued a bald threat against all the undocumented: "Everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported."

Days later, Sessions' Justice Department issued a letter to Chicago threatening to revoke a $2.3 million federal grant if the city didn't abandon its promise to protect the undocumented as a "sanctuary" city. The statement included the sickening lie that undocumented immigrants are responsible for Chicago's "skyrocketing" murder rate.

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BUT IN Chicago and other cities around the country, immigrant rights organizations and all those committed to social justice are working to develop ways to confront the Trump attack and defend people who come in its crosshairs.

There is profound fear as ICE goes to war--but also a determination to establish community defense networks, educate people about their rights, pressure local officials to stand by their sanctuary promises, and mobilize large numbers in support, solidarity, and protest.

In an interview with SocialistWorker.org, Voces de la Frontera co-founder and Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz outlined her organization's efforts in this direction in Wisconsin, giving an overview of the kinds of actions many communities are taking:

The general strategy centers on locally based organizing with a focus on sanctuary policies, whether in schools or in local government, and rapid-response, anti-deportation work.

We're doing a lot of training about what people need to have in place when a deportation happens, but not just for a situation like that. Temporary custody rights for minor children, the financial forms and power of attorney are all part of know-your-rights materials so that people don't sign away their rights.

We're setting up a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline, and we've been asking folks to volunteer to be part of a local rapid response [network], so that if we get a call about something, we can send people out to verify that it's real and connect up with the families--so that we can lift up those cases and aggressively resist the kind of mass deportation program that Trump is trying to set up.

Another part of our organizing has been getting religious institutions to agree to provide physical sanctuary. That's something we've been engaging with churches on for many years.

The anti-Trump resistance needs to learn about the experiences of Voces and other organizations to better confront the ICE war on immigrants.

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THE INTENSIFICATION of the war on immigrants is truly frightening.

According to the Washington Post, between January 20 and March 13 of this year, "Immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration [compared to the same period in 2016], with newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding."

The targeting of "otherwise law-abiding" undocumented immigrants is by no means a new development under Trump. But according to the Post, the number of immigrants arrested without any criminal record has "more than doubled" compared to 2016, so clearly Trump has made a bad situation much worse.

The increase in immigration detainers--nonbinding requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local law enforcement, asking them to keep arrested immigrants in custody beyond their normal release date in order to give ICE agents a chance to get hold of them--is also striking.

The Post found "a 75 percent jump from the year before," although noting that many of these detainers "were issued in areas that do not necessarily comply with ICE requests." Nonetheless, the drastic increase in detainers shows that ICE is eager to take full advantage of Trump unleashing federal authorities.

While the number of immigration arrests has gone up sharply compared to 2016, the number of deportations is actually slightly lower--so far. There are various reasons why this might be so, but in any case, the Post reported that "the number of non-criminals deported is higher this year."

The numbers only tell part of the story, of course. ICE has never been renowned for its humaneness, but under the Trump administration, the agency seems determined to set ever-higher standards for cruelty.

Take, for instance, the story of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an Arizona mother of two who had been convicted in 2008 of using a fake Social Security number to obtain employment, but had been allowed to remain in the country since, provided she checked in annually with ICE to have her case re-evaluated.

At her annual check-in in February, Garcia de Rayos was arrested and deported--for no other reason than that she had this one nonviolent felony on her record.

Or there's the case of the unnamed woman who was arrested by ICE agents at a courthouse in El Paso, Texas, where she had gone to seek a protective order against her abusive partner.

SocialistWorker.org has reported extensively on these and other incidents and on the role they play in the Trump administration's overall immigration strategy.

It should be clear that the administration is eager not merely to expand the scope of ICE's activity, but to do so in a way that maximizes fear and uncertainty among immigrants in every community. The objective is to create the impression that no undocumented immigrant is ever safe.

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IT HAS been suggested--for instance, in a Guardian article published on April 3--that immigrant rights activists may be inadvertently helping Trump to achieve this goal by stoking fear and uncertainty.

While it is true that a poorly thought-out plan of action could raise false alarms and sow confusion, no one should lose sight of the fact that we are facing a genuine emergency. Pretending otherwise in the name of avoiding panic is no solution at all.

Instead, immigrants and their supporters need to respond to the heightened and very real threats from ICE and the federal government with concrete initiatives and community defense networks.

In many cities, such responses are already underway, but everywhere, we need to organize to extend their reach and effectiveness.

Know Your Rights
One of the first steps being taken in many communities is to help vulnerable members to know their rights if confronted by police or ICE; know how and where to seek legal assistance; and make family preparedness plans if different members are detained or deported.

Several advocacy organizations have prepared materials that can be used in community campaigns. Look online for the Immigration Defense Project, which offers a variety of documents, including know-your-rights posters and flyers in more than a dozen languages; and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), which also has know-your-rights materials and very useful guides for schools and for family preparedness plans in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

The ILRC makes an important point that all activists should recognize in its "Guidance for Schools":

Undocumented immigrants may be hesitant or fearful to come to a public event intended only for immigrants without legal status. Therefore, make sure the event is welcoming to all families who are interested in immigration updates. U.S. citizen families may attend to educate themselves and pass on information to their immigrant friends and neighbors.

Accompaniment Programs
One tactic increasingly favored by ICE under the Trump administration--as we know from the case of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos--is to apprehend the undocumented when they show up at ICE facilities for mandated check-ins.

A tool to combat this tactic is to organize community members to accompany immigrants to their check-ins. In addition to showing solidarity, such efforts may reduce the likelihood of detention. If nothing else, they can ensure that individuals who are apprehended don't simply disappear without a trace.

One recent success story--and a reminder of the powerful effect that a strong and vocal public presence can have on ICE's behavior--involves New York City activist and undocumented Trinidadian immigrant Ravi Ragbir.

Since 2011, when an order for his deportation was stayed, Ragbir has been required to check in annually with ICE to learn whether the stay will be extended. Before his check-in in March, concerns grew Ragbir might be detained and deported--not least because of his role as an organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC.

Hundreds of people, including several city council members and at least one state senator, came together to accompany Ragbir to his appointment at the Javits Federal Building in Lower Manhattan and hold a rally nearby.

Despite initial indications--such as the unprecedented barring of his wife and ministers from the hearing--that this would be a more hostile proceeding, Ragbir emerged with a new check-in date. Initially, the reprieve seemed brief, but Ragbir was later informed that his next check-in date won't be until 2018.

It isn't difficult to imagine a very different outcome if Ragbir's supporters hadn't turned out in force to send a message to ICE that they are watching.

Solidarity Demonstrations
Accompaniment actions often provide opportunities for larger demonstrations as well.

These mobilizations are important not only in showing solidary with immigrants and demanding the release of detainees, but in pressuring local authorities to declare sanctuaries for the undocumented and adopt other pro-immigrant policies, and to protest the collusion between ICE and local law enforcement.

The effectiveness of protest in the struggle against Trump's immigration policies was made clear in the first weeks of his presidency when the unprecedented mobilizations to airports to challenge Trump's Muslim travel ban put pressure on the courts to block it.

There have been effective local actions since. In Portland, Oregon, in March, for instance, on March 26, ICE agents, acting without a warrant, apprehended DACA participant Francisco Rodriguez Dominguez from his own home and threw him in a detention center.

By the following afternoon, thanks largely to an e-mail campaign, local organizers had gathered several hundred people for a rally to protest the detention. Rodriguez was released on bond later that evening.

Sanctuary Spaces
The concept of sanctuary is traditionally associated with churches, and groups such as the New Sanctuary Movement are working to reinforce and build on this history to create safe spaces for vulnerable community members.

But sanctuary doesn't need to be limited to houses of worship. In some communities, efforts are under way to encourage people to make their private homes available as sanctuary spaces.

For instance, soon after Trump's inauguration, an organization in San Diego called Mi Casa es Su Casa reportedly attempted to establish such a program. It isn't clear yet how successful the effort has been, but this suggests another possible avenue for community defense.

There is also a growing movement at universities across the country to establish sanctuary campuses.

One of the leading examples of such an effort is Rutgers University in New Jersey, where students, faculty and staff have long defended the rights of undocumented students. In 2013, for instance, activists led by then-Rutgers undergraduate and DACA participant Giancarlo Tello successfully lobbied for the passage of a bill making undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition.

In the wake of Trump's election in November 2016, a coalition of Rutgers students, faculty and community members, along with labor and immigration advocates such as New Labor and Movimiento Cosecha, petitioned the university's administration to declare Rutgers a "sanctuary campus," protect the identities of undocumented students and bar ICE agents from campus.

Rutgers President Rob Barchi has so far refused to use the word "sanctuary," instead referring to the university as a "safe haven for immigrants." Nonetheless, his administration has responded to the pressure by articulating, in much clearer detail than it had before, concrete policies on protecting the rights of vulnerable students.

Activists continue to urge Barchi to do more and explicitly declare Rutgers a sanctuary campus, but the gains already achieved are a testament to the effectiveness of mobilization in support of immigrants on college campuses.

To help guide students wishing to organize or strengthen sanctuary movements on their campuses, the student-led Immigration Response Initiative at Harvard Law School, along with Movimiento Cosecha and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical program, has created a useful Sanctuary Campus Toolkit.

Community Responders
One of the more ambitious but effective initiatives is a community-wide "rapid response network" to be called into action when ICE carries out a raid or other action. One such network has been established in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network.

The aim is to gather a large enough pool of community members that responders are available at short notice at any time, day or night.

Tasks for a city- or region-wide network include: verifying reports of raids; summoning legal aid; observing and recording ICE activities to ensure that agents know their actions are being documented; showing solidarity with ICE targets and defending them if possible; and trying to ensure that the civil rights of targets and detainees aren't violated.

In cases where community members are apprehended, responders can follow to see where the detainees are taken, so their families can be notified and legal aid can find them more quickly. Other networks have set themselves the task of trying to ensure that family members left behind are properly cared for and taken to a sanctuary space.

A lot of organizing needs to go into the rapid response networks, but activists say demonstrations and political forums are a place to enlist support.

Bridget Broderick, a member of the International Socialist Organization in Chicago and part of the city's May Day Organizing Coalition, points out that May Day offers an important opportunity to initiate community response networks.

"One thing that the May Day Coalition formation in Chicago has been discussing and beginning to organize is a rapid response network for May 2, in defense of workers and students and any community members who may face reprisals for going out on strike, taking the day off work or not going to school," Broderick said, explaining that the coalition considered the possibility of "flying pickets" that can be deployed as needed within the community.

"It's not just the work on May Day that's important," she added. "It's really what that can generate in terms of people becoming active."

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THE ORGANIZING work that will be needed to build and maintain these initiatives is ongoing, and there are other ideas for efforts, including 24-hour hotlines to report ICE actions or provide legal advice and text message and/or e-mail alerts warning of police or ICE actions.

Communities in some cities and regions have been able to build on existing organizations, such as Voces de la Frontera, Movimiento Cosecha or Make the Road New York. But there are also groups coming together for the first time to take steps to build community defense. The urgent need is giving rise to action.

As Broderick says, "People should sign up, organize in their neighborhood, do what they can. That's what it's going to take to take on Trump."

Categories: Political Action

A crumbling political order in France's election

Socialist Worker - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

Alan Maass analyzes the outcome in the first round of voting in France's presidential election--and the consequences for the struggles to come.

Emmanuel Macron (left) and Marine Le Pen

FRANCE'S STORMY 2017 presidential election will continue for two more weeks after the first round of voting on Sunday made history: For the first time, neither of the mainstream center-right and center-left parties that have held power since the Second World War got their candidates into the top two spots to qualify for the May 7 runoff to decide the presidency.

The top finishers were Emmanuel Macron, a banker and head of a newly formed party, who recently served in the incumbent Socialist Party government, but who represents traditional center-right politics; and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN, by its initials in French).

Mainstream commentators in France and internationally were congratulating themselves that Macron prevented Le Pen from claiming another victory for xenophobic right-wing populists to follow on Donald Trump's triumph in the U.S. But their celebrating is both premature and short-sighted.

For one, Le Pen wasn't so far from winning the first round. And her zealously nationalist and anti-immigrant politics set the terms of the debate for the whole campaign. This will continue through the second round, given that Macron's biggest political asset is his young and slick image, which camouflages a commitment to completely conventional status quo politics.

Polls show Macron winning a comfortable victory on May 7, but a long-shot upset can't be ruled out--not after the shocks and surprises of a campaign that consigned the mainstream right-wing party to a virtual tie for third place and the candidate of the incumbent center-left Socialist Party to a woeful fifth, with just 6.2 percent of the vote.

After sweeping into power in elections five years ago, the Socialist Party (PS) is despised for having presided over essentially the same program of austerity as the center-right government before it, while ordinary people continued to suffer stagnating or declining living standards.

Le Pen has exploited these conditions by promising a revitalized economy after breaking with the European Union--and by scapegoating immigrants, especially Muslims.

But discontent with the status quo also fueled the rise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who ran a left-wing independent campaign that was the real surprise of the election. Mélenchon, a former Socialist Party member and co-founder of the Left Party in 2008 after leaving the PS, nearly doubled his vote total from five years ago, climbing to a virtual tie for third with just under 20 percent.

He was the generally acknowledged winner of the televised presidential debates, where he managed to put both the mainstream parties and Le Pen on the hot seat over corruption scandals. Mélenchon put forward a left-wing economic program, with a particular emphasis on environmental justice, that was a stark contrast to the PS's commitment to neoliberalism.

Though Mélenchon fell shy of his making the second round, his strong showing is cause to hope that the choice in future French elections won't be limited to right and further right.

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LE PEN's 21.5 percent of the vote in the first round was a decline for the FN from its showing in the 2014 elections for European Parliament and national voting in 2015 for local and regional offices.

Still, the party can boast about making the presidential run-off for a second time--the first was in 2002 with the campaign of Marine's father Jean-Marie Le Pen--and to judge from the mainstream media coverage in the U.S., Marine Le Pen is now considered a mainstream candidate, rather than a far-right extremist.

This is the culmination of her efforts to change the image of the FN from the party of her father that embraced openly fascist themes. Marine Le Pen engineered her father's expulsion in 2015 after he repeated one of his most notorious comments of earlier years--that the Holocaust was a "detail of history."

In particular, the FN of Marine Le Pen has banished open anti-Semitism and has even appealed for Jewish votes. Since a dominant theme of the FN now is Islamophobia, it isn't such a stretch courting votes from staunch supporters of Israel. In fact, as Mathieu Desan wrote at Jacobin, the younger Le Pen now poses as a defender of republican values in terms that wouldn't be out of place among the mainstream parties.

But the "new FN" isn't so very different from the old one. For instance, while Marine Le Pen got her father expelled from the party he co-founded, her presidential campaign was bankrolled by a 6 million euro loan from Jean-Marie.

And the new republican image is definitely for the TV cameras, not for the party's base supporters. As Jim Wolfreys wrote at Jacobin:

More than eight out of ten FN sympathizers describe themselves as racist, three-quarters have a negative view of Muslims, over half express "very strong" anti-Semitic views, and a third neither consider Jews to be fully French nor object to the phrase "dirty Jew." Indeed, anti-Semitism among this hard core of the FN electorate has increased under Marine Le Pen's leadership.

The reason for Marine Le Pen's success in the 2017 election isn't better public relations, but mass discontent with the French political system. As in the U.S., masses of people yearn for an alternative to the economic and political status quo, and the FN is filling the vacuum with its nationalism and racist scapegoating.

The stage was set for this by the disastrous reign of the Socialist Party since François Hollande's victory in the last presidential election five years ago.

Rather than take action on their vague promises to confront inequality, Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls continued and even intensified neoliberal austerity. And the PS has been at the helm of a drastic increase in state repression, especially following the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.

In this authoritarian political climate--the Hollande government has extended a state of emergency for more than a year and a half now--it was easy for Le Pen to set the terms of the election debate.

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MACRON'S CAMPAIGN for the presidency emphasized that he was an outsider to the political system--he has never held elected office and served in the PS government only briefly --but politically, he stands squarely with the establishment parties.

In fact, Macron was most associated previously with various business-friendly reforms, including changes to French labor laws, which have been the source of several recent eruptions of mass protest.

After the presidential runoff come elections for the National Assembly in June. Traditionally, the winning president can count on a victory for his party in these elections, ensuring a legislative majority.

But in this case, Macron will be competing for National Assembly seats with a newly formed political movement called En Marche! It will probably do well, considering the disgust with the mainstream parties, but a majority of seats is highly unlikely. That means the next government will rely on a coalition that could bring the PS back into government alongside the mainstream center-right party.

PS leaders are certainly banking on that. Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who ran for the party's presidential nomination and lost, abandoned the PS candidate Benoît Hamon and supported Macron during the election campaign.

After the vote on Sunday, Hamon and the rest of the PS called on supporters to vote for Macron, and the candidate of the center-right Republicans, François Fillon, did the same. All seem to be envisioning themselves with a role in the next government.

This is why the media's premature celebration of Le Pen's expected defeat is short-sighted, too.

If Macron does become president, he will try to carry out policies that are identical to those of the discredited mainstream parties. And if his En Marche! doesn't enjoy an unprecedented landslide, the Macron government will likely be filled with a combination of PS and Republican hacks who earned the hatred of voters during their reign in the last two governments.

Macron's "outsider" status will evaporate--and his "victory" can lay the groundwork for Le Pen to have an even wider hearing for the coming elections.

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BUT LE Pen and the FN aren't the only outlet for discontent with the status quo in France. Mélenchon's strong showing in the first round shows there is potential for a left-wing alternative.

Last spring, amid the continuing state of emergency and depressing climate of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim scapegoating, there was an eruption of mass protest against the government's determination to drive through a revision to France's Labor Code--exactly the kind of labor law "reform" that Macron has championed.

The upsurge gave rise to the Occupy-like "Nuit Debout" (Up All Night"), nightly demonstrations in the Place de la République in Paris--followed by workplace action and a general strike at the end of May.

The outpouring of class resistance--which at its high point united union workers with younger low-wage workers, students and the unemployed--showed in concrete terms the alternative to the FN's politics of despair and hate.

Mélenchon relied on this very different spirit of dissent in the election. His ambitious proposal for reform of the political system to reduce the powers of the presidency provided a stark contrast with the increasing authoritarianism championed by every party on the spectrum from the PS to Le Pen.

Some of Mélenchon's political weaknesses showed through during the campaign. For this election, he chose to start a brand new political formation, called France Unbowed, rather than be the candidate of the Left Front coalition he headed in 2012. The result is that he isn't answerable to other forces on the left.

Mélenchon is particularly weak on one of the most important political issues in France: Islamophobia. At the very moment when anti-Muslim propaganda is being used to drive through draconian restrictions on democracy, Mélenchon has supported a ban on wearing "conspicuous religious symbols"--none-too-subtle code for the Muslim women's head coverings--in schools.

This was one of the few issues where Le Pen was able to score points against Mélenchon in the presidential debates. When Mélenchon tried to criticize her for supporting a ban on the hijab worn anywhere in public, Le Pen was able to point out that left republicans like Mélenchon supported the ban in schools.

What Mélenchon was able to do during the election was articulate a clear left alternative to the neoliberalism of the Socialist Party government.

The enthusiasm for the campaign can be touchstone for Nuit Debouts. But at the same time, the left and social movements must rise to the challenge of fighting for the rights and demands of those scapegoated and oppressed by the far right and the political mainstream alike.

A left that can turn the tide in France must be an alternative in every way to the fear, hate and despair of Marine Le Pen and the FN.

Categories: Political Action

Tufts nurses are ready to fight

Socialist Worker - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

Chris Morrill reports from Boston on the impressive solidarity on display for nurses at Tufts Medical Center during a one-day strike in response to stalled contract talks.

Nurses at the Tufts Medical Center picket to demand a fair contract

SOME 700 registered nurses and their allies picketed Tufts Medical Center in Boston on April 12 to protest stalled contract negotiations with management.

The sound of chants like "We care, we heal, we want a better deal!" and "What do we want? Safe staffing!" rang off the concrete awning of Floating Hospital and boomed down Washington Street. The roar of the picket line could be heard all the way down to the Tufts T station, competing with the clanging and chiming of train cars.

"I've been working here 30 years. I've never seen solidarity like this," said Rosemary, a nurse in Tufts' ambulatory department.

The 1,200 registered nurses (RNs) represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) have worked on an expired contract since July 30, 2016. Nurses say that after two dozen bargaining sessions with management demanding cuts and refusing all compromises, along with ongoing understaffing and low pay, they have had it.

An escalating campaign by Tufts nurses and their union over months reached a fever pitch March 30 when the nurses voted by 95 percent to authorize a one-day strike. They set up the picket line on April 12 to educate the public and flex their collective muscle in front of management.

Workers and officers from unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Verizon strikers' IBEW 2222, and hotel and foodservice union UNITE HERE joined the protest. Cheers rang out every time a fire truck screamed its siren or an MBTA bus honked its horn in support of the nurses.

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SOLIDARITY AND resolve were palpable on the line.

Eileen, a case manager, leaned on a crutch as she limped along the snaking procession. She just had knee surgery on both knees less than six months ago. The picket strained her; it was the most amount of walking she had done since the operation. But there was no way she was going to miss it.

She works on a complex case floor and handles many of the growing number of heroin abuse cases brought to Tufts. She cares for every patient to the best of her ability, but there is always pressure from management on the nurses. "We're constantly being asked to discharge, discharge, discharge," she said.

That management pressure is symptomatic of staffing levels that nurses say are driving many to action. "This hospital is so understaffed. That's the real issue here," said Deb Sullivan, the MNA's lead negotiator and staff organizer for Tufts RNs. "These nurses work, and they don't know when they can go home."

"They're kept beyond their shifts. There are cases where they can't eat, they can't drink, they can't go to the bathroom for up to 10 hours at a time," she said. "The people we're asking to take care of are so uncared for themselves. No one's taking care of them."

Danielle, a young nurse who works in an intensive care unit (ICU), has experienced Tufts management's understaffing first hand. "It makes for an extremely stressful day for starters, she said. "And then not only are you stressed out, but now you're thinking 'I'm letting this patient down that's counting on me.'

She added, "They're not following ICU staffing laws. I've seen them underrate patients' acuity when it should be one [patient] to one [assigned nurse]." As Massachusetts state law requires, an ICU must have one nurse for every two patients or one nurse for every patient if that patient's condition, known as acuity, demands added care.

When hospital management violates safe staffing policies and laws, many nurses fill out an "Unsafe/Unsatisfactory" grievance form that the union receives. "It's no distortion to say that there are literally hundreds of these forms" from over the past few years, Sullivan said.

Research studies have found an increased risk of patient mortality when nurses are assigned to more than four patients at once, the limit nurses are asking for in medical surgical units. At Tufts today, nurses report these units often have as many as six patients assigned to a single nurse.

"The hospital is refusing to give these nurses the tools, meaning the staff, the people, to adequately care for the patients, and they've been doing it for probably the last six years, easy," Sullivan said.

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OTHER ISSUES are further stirring nurses' indignation and resolve.

According to the union, Tufts nurses are the lowest-paid among all the city's teaching hospitals. They say this makes the staffing issue worse, as many new nurses only stay at Tufts long enough to receive the needed skills and experience.

"I've been here 20 years," said Narissa, an ICU float nurse. "I've seen people waiting and waiting for a raise that never came. We shouldn't have to wait any longer. The young shouldn't haven't to go through the same."

The nurses and the MNA are also fighting to protect the pension for senior nurses and end a two-tier retirement system between new and senior nurses put in place from the 2005 contract.

The solidarity on the line made steps to cross that age gap nurses say management has used to divide the workplace. Most nurses on the picket line were over the age of 40. But younger nurses have also joined the fight.

"We're fighting as new nurses for safe staffing and for our future," said Danielle, surrounded by a cohort of fellow young nurses who had joined Tufts right out of nursing school. "We're fighting for our fellow nurses today. And senior nurses are fighting for us, to make sure we have a pension like they had."

According to a statement released after the picket, Tufts management says it remains committed to coming to a negotiated solution with the nurses through "thoughtful and constructive dialogue" and to reach "consensus on contract terms that support our nurses and ensure the long-term financial viability of our Medical Center."

Management and the union have agreed to a contract extension until May 22. Six negotiation sessions with a federal mediator remain. However, as the May 22 deadline approaches, consensus is reportedly far off. As Deb Sullivan says, a strike is regrettable, but appears likely.

"Anything substantive, anything that really matters, they are not giving to us, not having in-depth discussion about, and they are seeking concessions on every front," Sullivan said. "I think that the hospital needs to hear. They need to really listen to what those nurses out there were saying, and what the fact those nurses out there means."

As the picket concluded in a rally, the voices of hundreds of Tufts nurses pulsed with a single chant. It was their message to Tufts management, their proposed cuts and their continued unsafe staffing: "Not this time. Not this time."

A version of this article originally appeared in Spare Change News.

Categories: Political Action

How is Leninism relevant today?

Socialist Worker - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

Paul Le Blanc is the author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and, most recently, Left Americana: The Radical Heart of U.S. History. In this speech presented in London in February at a conference about the Russian Revolution sponsored by the UK organization Counterfire, he considers the relevance of Lenin and the experience of Russia's Bolsheviks for revolutionary socialists today.

Lenin (center) addresses an audience of soldiers in Moscow in 1919 (Wikimedia Commons)

OVER THE past decade, we have seen the academic-intellectual phenomenon of a striking increase in significant Lenin studies and related studies. Important contributions have come from Lars Lih, John Riddell, August Nimtz, Alan Shandro, Tamas Krausz, Antonio Negri and others.

Why is this happening? Such things would not be written or published if they did not speak to the deepening concerns of an expanding layer of potential readers. They would not be appearing if they were not--to borrow a capitalist term--marketable.

Such works are appearing in a period of ongoing economic, social and political crisis, with a decline in the quality of life generating the rise of protest and insurgency in many parts of the world. While it is hardly the case that a majority among the rising tide of rebels and activists embrace--or even have much knowledge of--Lenin, there are two essential connections.

The most elemental connection is this: At the very heart of the Bolshevik and Leninist tradition is the struggle against oppression. The proliferation of such struggles generates an atmosphere in which there is likely to be a growing interest in the revolutionary ideas and traditions associated with Lenin.

That relates to the other connection: Lenin and his comrades spoke to the most urgent concerns of those who hope to overcome oppression. Following Marx, they developed a profound understanding of the interconnection between the nature of oppression and the dynamics of capitalism, the dimensions of class struggle and the way it can develop into effective struggles for reform and revolution, and how socialists can organize themselves in a way to make this so.

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AMONG LEFT-wing activists in recent years, on the other hand, even the term Leninism has been seen as problematical. For the most part, socialist organizations that consciously strive to follow a Leninist model are quite small and have little influence. But striving to follow this model and actually doing so are not the same thing.

I believe would-be Leninist organizations are unable to follow this model in part because of the very different objective reality in which we are enmeshed and in part because there are fundamental misunderstandings of what Leninism means--if we are referring to the "Leninism" of Lenin, his basic orientation and political practice.

One aspect of the present capitalist reality that we must understand--as Marxists, as Leninists, as Trotskyists--is that our world is quite different from what it was in the time of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

Some things that they emphasized had to do with a very different situation than the one we face. That affects the way I have viewed the Occupy movement, in which I was quite active, the Black Lives Matter movement, and now the amazing anti-Trump upsurge.

Lenin lived in a time when there was a massive international workers' movement animated by a very high degree of class consciousness, with a highly organized and very large socialist (later Communist) component, nourished by a very rich and substantial labor-radical subculture.

That disintegrated under the impact of fascism, the Second World War and postwar developments. Proclaiming the truths of revolutionary Marxist theory in the latter years of the 20th century--as many of us were inclined to do--in the absence of a class-conscious labor movement will have a different impact than what was true in the time of Lenin.

(In a way, the reality of our labor movement, certainly in the U.S., seems to correspond more to that of Marx's time in the early 1860s--very undeveloped and fragmented.)

Today's working-class movement (like the modern-day working class) has been in a process of recomposition.

The Occupy movement involved large, very broad sectors of what were, for all practical purposes, working-class youth. Their protests against the tyranny of the 1 Percent over the 99 Percent resonated powerfully among a majority of the people of the United States--who are, in fact, working class but largely self-identify as "middle class."

The inability of Occupy to cohere around a socialist program was inevitable. Those distressed by this had unrealistic expectations. Within this mass upsurge, however, socialists could be supportive, could participate, could help with practical and logistical matters and could share socialist ideas that some participants would consider further, particularly in the wake of Occupy's inevitable collapse.

Such mass phenomena as the Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-Trump protests are part of a recomposition process of working-class protest, struggle and consciousness-building.

These are among the preconditions for the rebuilding of a working-class movement that can challenge the power of capital and, eventually, bring a socialist future. Instead of being impatient with these developments we should embrace them as part of the process which will allow for greater numbers to consider and draw strength from the insights of Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and other revolutionary comrades.

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WE DO not have a revolutionary party in the United States, although we badly need one, and some of us want to do what we can to bring that into being.

There are groups aspiring to become a revolutionary party--and that often generates problematical dynamics which create serious obstacles to being able to help bring a revolutionary party into being. In contrast to this, there are other groups seeking to contribute to the creation of a revolutionary party, but understanding that they, by themselves, cannot become such a party.

Groups in this category realize that: one, a revolutionary party can actually come into being only when a class-consciousness layer of the working class is prepared to move in that direction; two, there must be ongoing preliminary processes that will contribute to the crystallization of such a working-class layer; and three, the group must join with revolutionaries in other groups, with radicalizing activists who are not and will not be in the existing groups, and with people who at the moment are neither radicals nor activists, and that together--in the future--we will all be helping to forge the revolutionary party we need.

For many, the question of "democratic centralism" gets at the heart of the problem of Leninism. We can define democratic centralism as freedom of discussion, unity in action. But those words can be understood and implemented in very different ways.

For a group viewing itself as the repository of Revolutionary Truth and aspiring to become the revolutionary party, democratic centralism tends to be defined in a restrictive manner. In order to preserve the group's ability to become the unadulterated revolutionary party, a certain orthodoxy is established to which all must adhere, limiting discussion and generating a climate in which disciplinary actions and splits become all too common.

A healthy conception of democratic centralism involves a critical-mindedness, an openness, a political courage that characterized the way in which Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and other such comrades functioned.

Shades of difference and outright disagreements are normal and necessary--especially given the complexity of the realities we face. That understood, it remains a fact that revolutionary socialists need to work together, as a democratic collective, to be effective in advancing the interests of the workers and the oppressed, creating the possibility of revolutionary party, and building a mass socialist movement that can bring revolutionary change.

Understood in this way, I think democratic centralism is a necessity, but it will be very different from what passes for "democratic centralism" in groups having a stilted understanding of themselves.

In 1924, Trotsky wrote: "Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer. That is the principal lesson of the last decade [since the 1917 Russian Revolution]."

Trotsky was contrasting the failures of socialist uprisings in Germany, Finland and Hungary to the success of the revolution in Russia. But in the 90 years since these words were written, it can be asked: "Hasn't the sheer quantity of time changed the quality of this argument? Doesn't a century of revolutionary history discount the tradition of Bolshevism?"

The answer to this is yes and no. It is true that things clearly cannot be just the same as they were 90 or 100 years ago. But certain aspects of the Bolshevik tradition transcend the amazing changes that have taken place over nine decades.

Jean-Paul Sartre once said the continued existence of capitalism means Marxism "remains the philosophy of our time," since we have not gone beyond the circumstances that brought Marx's analyses into being. I think similar points can be made about the Bolshevik tradition.

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IN OUR discussions and debates about "Leninism," we must never forget that the term has multiple and contradictory meanings.

Most people, of course, are not familiar with the term Leninism. Of those who have heard of it, many cannot give a definition.

Of those who could give a definition, there are some who would indicate that it is consistent with the practices and mindset of the bureaucratic-authoritarian and murderous tyranny that arose in Russia, particularly with the rule of Joseph Stalin. There are others who would associate it with the practices and perspectives of various left-wing sects proclaiming themselves to be "Leninist."

A very small number, compared to the others just mentioned, see the "Leninism" of Lenin and his co-thinkers--in contrast to Stalinism and small-group sectarianism parading under the Leninist banner--as representing something important and necessary for the workers and the oppressed.

When some sincere people on the left announce that "Leninism is finished," the "we" who constitute this small number feel compelled to say: "No, Leninism is not finished. It is unfinished." Since it is our conviction that most people do not comprehend what Leninism actually is, we have a responsibility to explain--including why its history and meaning have been partly obliterated and partly distorted.

As with anything like this, there may be information and insights that some of some of us do not have, and differences among us on how best to understand what actually happened in history. There is a collective retrieval process of this historical Leninism that is far from complete, so in this sense Leninism is "unfinished."

There is yet another way in which it is unfinished, and this relates to Lenin's methodology.

Reality is dynamic and ceaselessly changing. There are always new things to understand, new analyses to be elaborated, revolutionary strategies that must be adapted to new situations, new tactics to be learned, and new ways to apply tried-and-true tactics. Our situation is not a duplicate of that faced by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and our efforts to do what they did can only be successful if we are critical-minded and creative in our application of their approach.

This is a point Lenin often made in discussions with comrades in the various parties that belonged to the Communist International. It is truer now than ever before. In this sense, too, Leninism is--and must be--unfinished.

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I WANT to conclude with the words of our comrade Rosa Luxemburg. In her important critique of the Russian Revolution, she emphasized a point that resonates today and has powerful implications for tomorrow's struggles.

"In the present period," Luxemburg wrote, "when we face decisive final struggles in all the world, the most important problem of socialism was and is the burning question of our time," involving "the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such."

In her opinion, "the party of Lenin...grasped the mandate and duty of a truly revolutionary party and...by the slogan "All power in the hands of the proletariat and peasantry" insured the continued development of the revolution. Whatever a party could offer of courage, revolutionary far-sightedness and consistency in an historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky and all the other comrades have given in good measure."

The tragic failure of later years in no way wipes out their inspiring triumph of 1917. It remains for activists of today and tomorrow to revive and complete the work that Luxemburg describes. We must push forward to actually place political power in the hands of the laboring majority, and to actually replace capitalist tyranny with socialist democracy.

The contributions of Lenin and his comrades, critically utilized and developed, will be helpful to those engaging in that task.

Categories: Political Action

Foreign Elections — French Edition

Democratic Convention Watch - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 10:11

On Sunday, French voters will go to the polls in the first round of their presidential election.  There are several key differences between the U.S. and France.  First, the French have more than two main political parties.  Out of the eleven candidates running, at least five represent significant political groupings.  Second, the French president is elected by popular vote.  Third, if no candidate gets a majority of the popular vote (likely based on current polls), there will be a run-off.  Fourth, the center of French politics is significantly further to the left than U.S. politics.  While folks try to put things in U.S. terms, the best way to view it is that the top five is like Donald Trump, John Kasich,  Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and someone to the left of Bernie Sanders, and even the Donald Trump candidate is more liberal on fiscal issues than President Trump.

Of course, what is the same is the existence of the National Front — an organization that Donald Trump loves.  As it’s name implies, the National Front is a xenophobic party opposed to French membership in the European Union and the Islamic influence in France.  It is also pro-Putin.  The National Front typically polls somewhere in the teens.  While this has historically been enough for the National Front to contend for run-off slots (both in Presidential and Parliamentary elections), the National Front is so far out of the mainstream of French politics that it normally loses most of those run-off elections (it only holds two seats in the outgoing French Parliament.)  In this election, the National Front is (again) running Marine Le Pen — daughter of the founder of the National Front and its leader since dear old dad retired.

There are some signs that the far right nationalist views of the National Front are making gains in France.  There is a symbiotic relationship between ultranationalist candidates like Le Pen and Trump on the one side and Islamic fundamentalist terror groups like ISIS.  Each terror attack make the law and order and anti-Islam messages of the ultranationalist sound like the only option that voters have if they want security.  However, that very anti-Islam message feeds into discrimination against Muslims who are native-born citizens.  Young Muslims feeling rejected by their own country then turn to leaders who call for a return to an era when Islam was dominant and promote violence as a means to that end.  When these young people follow through on that call and engage in acts of terror, the cycle begins again.   Given a spate of terror incidents on the eve of the election, the National Front may pick up an extra couple of percent in the first round of the election.

Fortunately, the French run-off system is likely to protect us from the global disaster that a Le Pen presidency is unlikely to happen.  Her polling is around 5-10 percent higher than the norm for the National Front in the past.  In a five-way race that might be good enough for a top two finish, but right now the fifth place candidate is starting to slip back, and there may be four candidates (including Le Pen) who finish between 20 percent and 25 percent.  Any two of the four could make the run-off.

The best chance for Le Pen to win, surprisingly, comes if the moderate-conservative candidate makes the run-off against her.  And the reason is the same as one of the reasons why Trump is in the White House.  The current candidate of the conservatives — Francois Fillon — has been the subject of an ongoing investigation.  In his case, the allegations is he hired his wife to “work” in his legislative office.  Allegedly, his wife didn’t really do any work in the office and this was merely a means to get a second paycheck from his legislative position.  At times, polling about potential runoffs have shown a close race between Le Pen and Fillon.  As in the Clinton-Trump race, those numbers are just close enough that Le Pen could theoretically close the gap in the two weeks between the first round and the run-off.  (Against the other candidates, Le Pen trails by about 30 percent.)

The French elections (which besides the presidential run-off will also include two rounds of legislative elections) is the second European election this year that will see how strong the ultra-right nationalists are around the globe.  Earlier, the Dutch elections ended in a good showing but still not a win for their equivalent of Donald Trump.  Later this year, Germany will also hold elections and the German equivalent of Trump and Le Pen is hoping to win seats in the German Bundestag for the first time ever.  Fortunately, the Brexit vote last year seems to mark the highwater mark for this wave in the UK.  With the issue in the UK now being how to leave — rather than whether to leave — the European Union, the surprise election called by the current government, while potentially seeing more mainstream conservatives in Parliament, is unlikely to result in any substantial seat for the far right.

Categories: Political Action

Tell the DHS: Social Media Passwords Should Not Be a Condition of Entry to the U.S.

Deep Links - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 16:13

New proposals to make U.S. entry screening even more invasive will threaten our privacy, freedom of expression, and digital account security—and you can raise your voice against them.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently considering new procedures to screen certain foreign travellers. Specifically, Secretary of Homeland Security John. F. Kelly said in a congressional hearing that the DHS is considering requiring certain foreign travelers to hand over their social media passwords in order to apply for a visa and enter the United States.

EFF is joining with Access Now and other digital rights organizations to raise your voices against this dangerous proposal. Sign the Fly Don’t Spy petition to tell Secretary Kelly to reject any proposal requiring passwords as a condition of entry to the United States.

Sign the Fly Don't Spy petition.

While you’re at it, email your representatives directly and demand that border agents get a warrant before conducting digital searches.

Email Congress and demand a warrant at the border.

We have written before about the serious privacy risks and Constitutional concerns of border searches, particularly when agents demand social media information. Social media profiles expose not only one’s social network and contacts, but can also provide a detailed map of one’s digital life if that social media account if used to log into other sides.

Requiring passwords and log-in access to social media--whether as part of screening procedures before arrival at the border, or at the border itself--expands border agents’ access to particularly sensitive information like direct messages, and invades the privacy of a traveller’s friends and connections. Such a requirement will chill online speech and association, and undermine the digital security and account protections otherwise available to users.

Want more information about your rights at the border? Check out our in-depth “Privacy at the U.S. Border” report, as well as two shorter guides on your constitutional rights at the border and digital security tips for before, during, and after your border crossing.

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Categories: Political Action

Made with Creative Commons: Available at the CC Summit

Creative Commons - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 14:47
Our new book was released to Kickstarter backers today and will be available at the CC Global Summit and in wide release May 5.

For the last year and a half, Creative Commons staff Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have been writing a Kickstarter backed book about sharing and open business models called Made With Creative Commons.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“When we began this project in August 2015, we set out to write a book about business models that involve Creative Commons licenses in some significant way — what we call being Made with Creative Commons. With the help of our Kickstarter backers, we chose twenty-four endeavors from all around the world that are Made with Creative Commons. The mix is diverse, from an individual musician to a university-textbook publisher to an electronics manufacturer. Some make their own content and share under Creative Commons licensing. Others are platforms for CC-licensed creative work made by others. Many sit somewhere in between, both using and contributing creative work that’s shared with the public. Like all who use the licenses, these endeavors share their work — whether it’s open data or furniture designs — in a way that enables the public not only to access it but also to make use of it.

We analyzed the revenue models, customer segments, and value propositions of each endeavor. We searched for ways that putting their content under Creative Commons licenses helped boost sales or increase reach. Using traditional measures of economic success, we tried to map these business models in a way that meaningfully incorporated the impact of Creative Commons. In our interviews, we dug into the motivations, the role of CC licenses, modes of revenue generation, definitions of success.

In fairly short order, we realized the book we set out to write was quite different from the one that was revealing itself in our interviews and research.

It isn’t that we were wrong to think you can make money while using Creative Commons licenses. In many instances, CC can help make you more money. Nor were we wrong that there are business models out there that others who want to use CC licensing as part of their livelihood or business could replicate. What we didn’t realize was just how misguided it would be to write a book about being Made with Creative Commons using only a business lens.”

The book we ended up writing is so much more than what we set out to do. Made With Creative Commons started as a book about business models, but it ultimately became a book about sharing. Part analysis, part handbook, part collection of case studies, we see Made With Creative Commons as a guide to sharing your knowledge and creativity with the world, and sustaining your operation while you do. It makes the case that sharing is good for business, especially for companies, organizations, and creators who care about more than just the bottom line. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share.

We’re thrilled to announce Made With Creative Commons is now ready for release. It will first be released to our Kickstarter backers April 21, 2017 and print copies will be distributed April 28, 2017 to all attendees of the Creative Commons Global Summit. The book will be officially made available to the public on May 5, 2017 at madewith.cc. You can pre-order copies on Amazon now.

We can’t thank our backers, case study interviewees, and Creative Commons colleagues enough for their support and encouragement. Writing Made With Creative Commons transformed and inspired us. We hope it inspires you too.

The post Made with Creative Commons: Available at the CC Summit appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

NEO AFSC April 21, 2017 Podcast

American Friends Service Committee - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 11:04

We summarize last week’s activities; share next week’s upcoming events; and reflect on our work over the last 47 years in Northeast Ohio and beyond, which ends on April 30. [Length: 44:58]

Categories: Political Action

A Municipal Vote in Providence for Police Reform Carries National Implications

Deep Links - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 21:07

After three years of sustained community mobilization and advocacy, the Providence City Council in Rhode Island voted this Thursday to unanimously approve among the most visionary set of policing reforms proposed around the country to protect civil rights and civil liberties, including digital liberties. EFF supported the proposed Community Safety Act (CSA), and its adoption represents a milestone that should prompt similar measures in other jurisdictions.

Reflecting an understanding of of how many different communities endure parallel—but seemingly separate—violations of civil rights and civil liberties, the CSA aims to address surveillance alongside racial and other dimensions of discriminatory profiling. The ordinance imposes crucial limits on police powers at a time when local police have become the leading edge of mass surveillance, as well as longstanding abuses of civil rights and digital liberties rooted in the war on drugs.

The most notable facet of the CSA is its sheer breadth. It addresses a wide-ranging set of issues in a single reform measure. 

For instance, the Act requires that any collection of intelligence information—whether by electronic surveillance mechanisms or more traditional means—be supported by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. On the one hand, that requirement should be implicit given the First and Fourth Amendments, and the history of politicized domestic surveillance within the United States. On the other hand, relative to the prevailing practice of ubiquitous intelligence collection, the Act’s requirements represent a monumental legal shift.

In addition, the CSA protects the right of residents to observe and record police activities. That right has been vital to sparking a sustained debate across the country about police accountability, but has come under fire. Just this month, a federal appellate court heard oral argument in an appeal seeking to vindicate the right to record police in the wake of trial court decisions in multiple cases perversely holding that residents gain a right to record only after announcing their hostility to police, effectively inviting retaliation or even violence.

The bill also protects Due Process rights threatened by the otherwise arbitrary and secretive inclusion of individuals in government gang databases. In California, for instance, state auditors discovered that the state’s program received “no state oversight” and operated “without transparency or meaningful opportunities for public input,” prompting the state legislature to intervene by passing a new law providing notice of inclusion and an opportunity to contest it.

At the same time, responding to controversy about traffic stops and pedestrian stop and frisks rooted in bias rather than observed behavior, the Act requires that police change their processes for searching subjects. In particular, when seeking to search subjects without either a judicial warrant or probable cause to suspect criminal activity, the Act requires police to inform the subjects that they have the right to decline consent to the requested search. That represents a sea change in policing, given the practice among some police departments to train officers to use deception to induce a subject's consent, ensuring that it is neither informed nor voluntary. 

Similarly, the Act's restrictions on racial profiling and intelligence collection absent reasonable suspicion of criminal activity offer important bulwarks to reinforce our Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as 14th Amendment protections to be free from racial and other forms of discrimination. 

Beyond the CSA’s substantive breath lies a novel theory of change informing its construction. Rather than a discrete reform proposed by advocates and then suggested to community members and groups for support, the CSA represents a concerted attempt to address the intersectional concerns of several communities responding to a common challenge: discriminatory or otherwise unconstitutional police practices. 

While Providence has distinguished itself in the remarkably diverse coalition of community groups that have come together to pursue common cause, the issues to which Providence activists are responding are hardly unique to their city. Ultimately, grassroots groups in every major city across the country might learn something from the coalition to pass the Providence Community Safety Act.

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Categories: Political Action

Las Empresas de Internet de Paraguay defienden la información, pero mantienen a sus clientes en la oscuridad

Deep Links - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 16:01

Es el turno de Paraguay para examinar de cerca las prácticas de sus proveedores locales de Internet y la manera en que tratan la información privada de sus clientes. La edición paraguaya de  ¿Quien Defiende Tus Datos? es un proyecto de TEDIC, la principal organización de derechos digitales del país y es parte de una iniciativa a nivel de todo el continente de los principales grupos de derechos digitales de América del Sur para arrojar una luz sobre las prácticas en materia de privacidad en Internet en la región y está basado en el informe anual de EFF, ¿Who Has Your Back?. (El informe de Derechos Digitales de Chile fue publicado el lunes, y grupos de derechos digitales en Colombia, México, Brasil y Argentina pronto publicarán estudios similares).

La encuesta de TEDIC llega en un momento tenso en la política paraguaya. Después de 24 años de democracia relativamente estable, el país ha pasado los últimos meses atrapados en una batalla política de alto nivel. El actual presidente, Horacio Cartes, impulsó una enmienda constitucional para permitir la reelección. La oposición ve ecos del incremento del poder presidencial que los llevó a la ultima dictadura. Después de los disturbios en marzo que llevaron al asesinato de un militante opositor en manos de la policía, Cartes ha declarado que no se presentará a la reelección. Sin embargo, la mención de la "sombra de la dictadura" sigue presente en Asunción. Los usuarios paraguayos de Internet quieren saber cómo sus ISPs defenderán sus datos en caso de un estado represivo.

Las seis empresas encuestadas por TEDIC - Tigo, Telecom Personal, Claro, Vox, Copaco, and Chaco Communications - forman la gran mayoría del mercado fijo, móvil y de banda ancha en Paraguay. Sus archivos históricos tienen registros privados de los movimientos y relaciones de casi todos los ciudadanos del país. TEDIC, en la tradición de Who Has Your Back (¿Quien Defiende Tus Datos?) , evaluó a las compañías por su compromiso con la privacidad y la libre expresión, y otorgó estrellas basadas en sus prácticas actuales y comportamiento público.

Se evaluaron siete categorías: sus políticas públicas de privacidad, la exigencia de órdenes judiciales para las demandas de datos, si notifican a los clientes sobre las demandas de datos gubernamentales, si se oponen públicamente a la vigilancia masiva y sus políticas de bloqueo de contenido.

La buena noticia del informe de TEDIC es que todas las compañías de telecomunicaciones declararon explícitamente que sólo entregan datos a las autoridades (tanto los metadatos como el contenido de las comunicaciones) en respuesta a una orden judicial legítima. Eso puede parecer un mínimo básico para la protección de datos, pero un compromiso público con el estado de derecho puede ser una declaración importante en tiempos inquietantes. Cada empresa revisada tiene una estrella completa en esta categoría.

La noticia más desalentadora es que los consumidores paraguayos todavía no tienen una manera de verificar - confiablemente - que las compañías están cumpliendo verdaderamente con sus promesas públicas. Ninguna de las compañías tenía políticas para notificar a sus usuarios si son objeto de vigilancia, por ejemplo, incluso si esa orden es anulada o si la investigación finalizó completamente.

El equipo de investigación de TEDIC señala que notificar al usuario sería, realmente, un signo de un compromiso con la privacidad del cliente más allá de los requisitos financieros o legales. La ley de Paraguay no requiere notificación y, en algunos casos, los ISP podrían tener que solicitar permiso legal explícito para transmitir el aviso de vigilancia a sus usuarios. Sin embargo, sin notificación, es difícil conocer el alcance de la vigilancia, o que cualquier persona pueda impugnar una vigilancia que considere innecesaria o desproporcionada.

La transparencia es importante para la supervisión, tanto para mostrar a los clientes cómo a menudo sus gobiernos solicitan datos y si determinadas empresas son más propensos a poner al cliente en primer lugar al responder. Muchas compañías de Internet y telecomunicaciones publican ahora informes de transparencia, documentando el número total de solicitudes que reciben para la vigilancia o retiradas de contenido de agencias gubernamentales o por orden judicial. Estos informes anuales proporcionan información valiosa sobre los niveles de vigilancia y censura del gobierno y sobre cómo cambia la vigilancia con el tiempo. Paraguay tiene su propia entrada en muchos informes globales. Las actividades de Tigo están documentadas en reportes regionales por su multinacional matriz; Millicom. Por desgracia, las filiales locales de telecomunicaciones de Millicom no siguen el ejemplo de la empresa matriz y publican informes específicos de cada país. Esto niega a los ciudadanos paraguayos la oportunidad de rastrear el nivel de espionaje de su propio gobierno, y significa que ninguna compañía en el reporte de TEDIC recibió una estrella completa en esta categoría.

Tampoco tenemos mucha información sobre el bloqueo o filtrado de Internet en Paraguay por parte de las compañías de telecomunicaciones. A pesar de los incidentes preocupantes en el pasado, como cuando un ISP bloqueó una mordaz sátira en línea de un periódico, parece que hay poca comprensión pública de cómo o por quéun ISP podría censurar a los usuarios de Internet. Ninguna de las compañías describe cómo manejarían una orden de bloqueo, si recibieron una, o dieron alguna idea de si litigarían contra ella, o notificarían a alguien que no fuera el tribunal o el departamento gubernamental. Sólo una empresa hizo una declaración pública sobre cómo podría bloquearlo: Chaco Comunicaciones, cuya declaración amenazaba con prohibir el tráfico P2P, los dejó como el único ISP sin estrellas en un mar de medias estrellas para esta categoría.

Las dos últimas categorías muestran algunos de los incentivos para las empresas de telecomunicaciones en un mercado competitivo. Tres de las seis empresas ganaron media estrella participando en el debate legislativo sobre vigilancia y neutralidad de la red, haciendo un compromiso explícito con los derechos humanos o contribuyendo a foros internacionales de políticas de Internet como los Foros de Gobernanza de Internet. Esto demuestra que al menos algunas empresas reconocen que la política puede tener un impacto en sus clientes, y quizás sus beneficios.

Pero, al igual que las compañías telefónicas de todo el mundo, las empresas de telefonía paraguayas son reticentes a descartar nuevos usos para los datos personales de los clientes. Ninguna empresa en la encuesta publicó cómo planean utilizar los datos de los consumidores o dio una detallada política de privacidad que sus clientes podrían utilizar al contratar una proveedora de Internet.

Este es el primer informe ¿Quien Defiende Tus Datos? en Paraguay, y TEDIC planea lanzar uno anualmente. El informe de este año muestra a Tigo a la cabeza, pero con muchas oportunidades para que sus competidores se pongan al día. Tigo tiene mucho espacio para mejorar su propio historial. Cualquier empresa que haya decidido comenzar a notificar en caso de vigilancia a sus usuarios, publicar un informe de transparencia o adoptar públicamente principios sólidos de protección de datos podría fácilmente asumir el liderazgo para 2018 y hacer que sus clientes se sientan más seguros contra el uso indebido comercial y estatal de los detalles más privados de su vida.

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Categories: Political Action

Paraguay's Internet Companies Defend Data, But Keep Customers in the Dark

Deep Links - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 16:00

It's Paraguay's turn to take a closer look at the practices of their local Internet companies, and how they treat their customer's private information. Paraguay's ¿Quien Defiende Tus Datos? (Who Defends Your Data?) is a project of TEDIC, the country's leading digital rights organization. It's part of a continent-wide initiative by South America's leading digital rights groups to shine a light on Internet privacy practices in the region, based on EFF's annual Who Has Your Back report. (Derechos Digitale's Chile report was published on Monday, and digital rights groups in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina will be releasing similar studies soon.)

TEDIC's survey comes at a tense moment in Paraguayan politics. After 24 years of relatively stable democracy, the country has spent the last few months caught in a high-stakes political battle. The current President, Horacio Cartes, pushed through an amendment to end his office's constitutional term limits. The opposition sees echoes of the presidential power-grab that led to Paraguay's last dictatorship. After riots in March led to setting fire of the Congress and the shooting of an opposition party member by police, Cartes has now declared he will not run for re-election. Still, talk of the "shadow of dictatorship" continues to hover over Asunción. Paraguayan Internet users want to know how their ISPs will defend their data in the event of a repressive or suspicious state.

The six companies surveyed by TEDIC—Tigo, Telecom Personal, Claro, Vox, Copaco, and Chaco Communications—together make up the vast majority of the fixed, mobile, and broadband market in Paraguay. Their logs hold intimate records of the movements and relationships of almost every citizen of the country. TEDIC, in the tradition of Who Has Your Back, evaluated the companies for their commitment to privacy and free expression, and awarded stars based on their current practices and public behavior.

TEDIC reviewed Paraguay's top ISPs in seven categories: their public privacy policies, whether they require court orders for data demands, whether they notify customers of government data demands, if they publicly stood against mass surveillance, whether they published transparency reports, and their policies on blocking content.

The good news from TEDIC's report is that every telco explicitly stated that they only hand over data to the authorities (both metadata and the content of communications) in response to a legitimate court order. That may seem like a basic minimum for data protection, but a public commitment to the rule of law can be an important statement in unsettling times. Every company reviewed got a full star for this.

The less positive news is that individual consumers in Paraguay don't yet have a way to reliably check that the companies are truly complying with their public promises. None of the companies had policies in place to notify users if they were the target of surveillance, for instance, even if that order was overturned, or the investigation was complete.

The TEDIC research team notes that user notification would truly be sign of a commitment to customer privacy over and above financial or legal requirements. Paraguay law does not require notification, and in some cases the ISPs might have to seek explicit legal permission to pass on notice of surveillance to their users. But without notification, it is difficult to know the extent of surveillance, or for anyone to challenge surveillance they believe to be unnecessary or disproportionate.

Transparency is important for oversight, both to show customers how often their governments request data, and whether particular companies are more likely to put the customer first when responding. Many Internet and telecommunication companies now publish transparency reports, documenting the total number of requests they receive for surveillance or content takedowns from government agencies or by court order. These annual reports provide valuable insight into the levels of government surveillance and censorship, and how that surveillance changes over time. Paraguay has its own entry in many global reports. Tigo's activities are documented in regional reporting by its multinational parent corporation, Millicom. Unfortunately, Millicom’s local telecommunication subsidiaries do not follow the parent company’s lead and publish country specific reports. That denies technology users in Paraguay a chance to track their own government's level of spying, and means not one company in TEDIC's report received a full star in this category.

We don't get much insight into Paraguayan Internet blocking or filtering from the telecommunication companies either. Despite worrying incidents in the past, such as when ISPs blocked an online satire of a newspaper, it seems that there is very little public understanding of how or why ISPs might censor their users' Internet feeds. None of our companies describe how they would handle a blocking order if they received one, or gave any insight as to whether they would challenge it, or notify anyone other than the court or government department. Only one company made any public statement about how it might block at all: Chaco Communications, whose statement threatened to ban P2P traffic, left them as the only no-star ISP in a sea of half-stars for this category.

The final two categories show something of the incentives for telecommunication companies in a competitive market. Three of the six companies gained half stars by participating in the legislative debate over surveillance and net neutrality, making an explicit commitment to human rights, or contributing to international Internet policy fora like the Internet Governance Forum. This shows that at least some companies recognize that politics can have an impact on their customers, and perhaps their profits.

But, like telephone companies around the world, Paraguayan phone companies are reticent to rule out new uses for customers' personal data. No company in the survey published how they plan to use consumer data, or gave a detailed privacy policy that their customers could use when shopping for an Internet provider.

This is the first ¿Quien Defiende Tus Datos? report in Paraguay, and TEDIC plans to release one annually. This years' report shows Tigo in the lead, but with plenty of opportunity for their competitors to catch up. Tigo has plenty of room to improve on its own track record too. Any company that decided to pioneer user notification of surveillance, publish a transparency report, or publicly adopt strong data protection principles could easily seize the lead for 2018—and make its customers feel safer against both state and commercial misuse of the most private details of their lives.

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Categories: Political Action

Help to promote Sanctuary Everywhere

American Friends Service Committee - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 15:54

Spread the message of "Sanctuary Everywhere" by downloading and sharing our signs and social media graphics.

Use them for actions, display them in public spaces, or share them with your networks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. 


Categories: Political Action

Driving community change through campaigning: Open Democracy Project at the CC Summit

Creative Commons - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:59

In the fall of 2016, a small Toronto-based civic tech group convened around a question: What if we could use technology to connect municipal campaigners and enable them to share knowledge and tools in an open resource kit across traditional geographic and partisan divides?

We were motivated by the significant advantage incumbents enjoy as well as an appreciation of the potential impact thousands more well-run, digitally-savvy campaigns could have on our democracy.

At their best, local campaigns are ideal learning environments for skills to drive community change. They can be:

  • Relevant – Issues often directly affect all community members.
  • Independent – In jurisdictions with no political parties, individual candidates must make a direct appeal to voters based on their own track record and ideas.
  • Diverse – Campaigns draw teams of volunteers across professional, class, ethnic and partisan lines.
  • Entrepreneurial – They’re low-resource pressure-cooker environments that form meaningful bonds between community volunteers.
  • Risky – Campaigns are time-limited and election day provides a built-in failure mechanism.
  • Important! Campaign volunteers make our system of representative government possible by helping civic leaders find their public voice and run for office.

Despite the significant role election campaigns play in our democratic system, the process of planning and managing a successful ground campaign remains a mystery to the average citizen.


In October 2016, we founded the Open Democracy Project and launched an Indiegogo campaign that raised $31K – enough to develop the first version of DemocracyKit. Upon release April 25, 2017, DemocracyKit will have a searchable campaign resource library, community directory and campaign orientation with five modules: Explore, Build Your Team, Create a Plan, Choose Technology and Run a Campaign. Documents are stored in Google Drive to facilitate editing by a distributed team of contributors and editors and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) licence.

Your Input

Open Democracy Project is a distributed team and we use the same technology and tactics as the municipal campaigns we’re preparing to serve. Currently, we meet weekly in Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario and have volunteers organizing to launch this summer in Alberta.

We’re in the process of drafting a 2-year strategic plan and are keen for input on how best to structure the organization to allow for growth and partnerships across Canada and abroad.

We would appreciate your input. Please join our Creative Commons Global Summit workshop on April 29, 5 – 6pm.

Workshop Agenda

  1. Introduction to the Open Democracy Project
  2. DemocracyKit walkthrough
  3. Workshop & feedback:
  • Feedback on Mission, Vision, Values
  • Preparing to expand in Canada
  • Preparing to partner internationally

Hope to see you there!

The post Driving community change through campaigning: Open Democracy Project at the CC Summit appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action