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[liberationtech] Jacob Appelbaum's Ultrasurf Report

Brian Conley brianc at
Fri Apr 20 01:59:07 PDT 2012


On Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 12:16 PM, Catherine Fitzpatrick <catfitz at
> wrote:

> Jacob Appelbaum's agenda doesn't seem to be entirely altruistic here with
> this Ultrasurf report.
> Do his intentions matter if his research is sound?

> There's a lot going on -- first, there's the desire of him (and his
> supporters) to attack the US government and "DC Lobbyists" merely for what
> they are, which is a hated government with a disliked Internet Freedom
> program, which has put him under investigation for his involvement in
> WikiLeaks (his buddies at the State Department notwithstanding). Second,
> there's the desire to attack any competitor of Tor, especially a competitor
> that adheres to the idea of proprietary versus open source software. These
> are religious matters.
Oh yes, that's right, Jacob and Tor *hate* the US government, which must be
why they have agreed to take what appears to be well over 2 million dollars
from the likes of the Broadcast Board of Governors, DARPA, and other US
government funding sources...

oh and of course this is quite transparent...

> In other words, when a person who runs a competing open-source software
> solution, who has his reputation largely wrapped in it, goes and publicly
> attacks a proprietary software solution as inferior and even harmful, and
> attacks a software used by a government that has him under investigation,
> it's ok to question where he is going with this.

See above. Also, we should applaud any sound research into the failings of
*any* software, proprietary or otherwise.

> There is the added dimension of the pornography issue -- Appelbaum's slam
> on Ultrasurf for blocking porn distracts from the fact that Tor is
> notoriously used for viewing pornography, including illegal child
> pornography. And there's the fact that Appelbaum has published his critique
> just as yet another criminal case involving the use of Tor for illegal drug
> sales is being publicized:

Don't you find it strange, if the US government is so concerned about the
*potential* illegal or "nefarious" uses of Tor, that they continue to be
one of the largest single donors/sources of funding? I think if you want to
have a critical discussion of Tor's advantages/disadvantages, benefits etc,
it would be far more interesting, at least to me, to have a discussion
around whether or not "software/technology" really is agnostic,
particularly if said software/technology can only be developed with the
quite cynical application of large amounts of state-sponsored funding, when
everyone is quite aware that any given state's goal is *never* "liberation"
but instead hegemony. It's a question I often find myself wondering about,
though I have no good answers at this point I must say.

> There is no reason to take his concerns public, as the notion that "users
> need to be warned" isn't sufficient, as most users couldn't read a blog in
> English anyway, and most users don't care about anonymity, which they lost
> to their ISP anyway. They care about trying to access blocked sites, and
> perfection in this effort isn't required.
This is, uhm, hilarious. Of course the very *IDEA* of "liberation
technology" must include transparency and attempts to inform all users
wherever and whenever. If you are so concerned about the readability, well,
perhaps I could point you to where, over a number of
weeks, we organized 200 volunteer translators via crowd-sourcing. Its
really not difficult to locate translation online into almost any language
these days, if you are really motivated.

Also what an ignorant, un(der) informed, un(der) educated user "cares
about" is not really relevant. The point of liberation technology should be
to create the potential for users to rise above the limited scope currently
provided by so-called "proprietary technology" which has as its goal
profit-making first, and responsibility to users second.

I really don't understand why this is so hard for you to grasp....?

> So this report seems a hostile, politically-motivated attack on his part.
> What's important in the fight for Internet freedom are the following
> principles of non-coercion:

Thanks, I'm glad you are the authority to inform all of us collectively
about the important principles of the fight for internet freedom....

> o no one should be forced or brow-beaten into using open-source software;
> proprietary software is ok to use. If your opensource software is
> demonstrably better, it will sell itself without you having to artificially
> level the playing field with constant ideological attacks

This was in no way an "ideological attack" but as Jake laid out, quite
clearly research-based. Ultrasurf has an interest in killing such research
so as to preserve their market share, lets remember proprietary tech =
profit-making first, not user safety.

> o no one who produces proprietary software solutions should be bullied
> into having to discuss their flaws openly or be forcibly outed as to their
> flaws; it merely helps give ideas to authoritarian governments and doesn't
> really help users.

He's not bullying them, in fact it seems like he really doesn't care
whether they discuss it, you know in the USA we have something called
Freedom of Speech, perhaps you've heard of it? I guess you are opposed to
the existence of wikileaks/global leaks as well?

> o if you don't like proprietary software, you don't have to wage a jihad
> against it, you can make your own opensource software that is supposedly
> better

your use of "supposedly" smacks of your own ideological bias and agenda...

Anyway I look forward to continued reasonable discussion of this, based on
logic and demonstrable facts, rather than ad hominem attacks and agenda
pushing from any side...


> o pluralism is the best defense against authoritarianism, not everyone
> being forced to go to "the best" circumvention tool or "the ISP that
> secures your privacy". It's precisely when the market is open with a
> variety of options that authoritarian is undermined
> o software does not have to be perfect to largely achieve its goal -- 1/99
> binary thinking is a killer of freedom
> o people have the right to be wrong about software -- an open society
> requires that right to be wrong and to float contrary hypotheses even if
> they are incorrect, politically or otherwise
> o you don't have to be technically capable to criticize software that
> profoundly influences all of us as we increasingly move our lives on line.
> My thoughts:
> Catherine Fitzpatrick
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Brian Conley

Director, Small World News

m: 646.285.2046

Skype: brianjoelconley

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