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Technology

New Technology for Digital Democracy 176

Posted by michael
from the sit-down-strike dept.
An anonymous reader submitted this interesting software request/editorial piece. The idea of digital demonstrations is still more or less in its infancy; various methods have been tried but none have proven to be perfect. Slashdot recently covered one presentation about digital demonstrations given at H2K2 [grep Dornseif] - the slides are online. The writer has glossed over some technical details, and the theoretical system he describes doesn't meet all of Dornseif's criteria for a digital demonstration which mimics physical ones (which seemed pretty well thought out at H2K2), but it's certainly an interesting idea nonetheless.

Votester, A New Tool for Digital Democracy and Digital Demonstrations
by Anonymous

The Problem: Free-speech and right to assemble are threatened

Peaceful public assembly, free-speech and even civil-disobedience are essential to maintaining the balance of democracy in the USA and worldwide. Yet as recent public demonstrations have shown us (for example those against war, the IMF and the World Bank) in our modern-day society it is increasingly difficult, ineffective, and even dangerous for citizens to exercise their democratic rights to assembly and free-speech.

  • Many nations do not allow open public dissent at all, and the penalties for participating in demonstrations are severe. In several cases, international governing and policy-making bodies have deliberately selected such nations for their meetings, in order to prevent demonstrations.
  • Even in democratic nations such as the USA, peaceful demonstrators are often violently harassed, attacked, detained, arrested and imprisoned by police.
  • The police are more organized and equipped than ever before with tear gasses, irritant sprays, stun guns, rubber bullets, water cannons, body armor, etc.
  • Demonstrators can now be arrested and prosecuted as "domestic terrorists" if they participate in civil disobedience or their actions are deemed a threat to "national security."
  • The mainstream media provides only scant, token coverage of large public protests and civil unrest, often whitewashing out incidents of police brutality, human rights violations, and violations of the right to free-speech and assembly.
  • An increasingly large percentage of the world population (especially in developed nations) is over the age of 50 and cannot safely participate in public demonstrations due to the physical fragility and health risks associated with aging. They simply cannot risk getting beaten up by the police. In other words, the majority of citizens cannot safely assemble and demonstrate.

The Solution: Votester, a new tool for Digital Democracy

What is needed is a new technology that enables all citizens to safely and peacefully assemble, exercise their rights to free speech, and perform civil disobedience if necessary. This can be accomplished using an innovative application of open-source, peer-to-peer (P2P) technology on the Internet, which we call "Votester." Votester does not exist yet. It is the hope of the authors that one or more groups of technologists reading this document will be inspired to create versions of it and make them freely available to the general public.

Votester enables peers to automatically send recurring email messages and/or HTTP requests to a set of addresses associated with a digital demonstration. The rate at which messages/requests are sent by each peer to each address is determined by either (a) a function of the number of people in the digital demonstration, or (b) the peer-owner's individual preferences.

The Votester function mentioned in (a) increases the number of messages and requests sent per peer, per unit time, proportionally as the number of peers in the digital demonstration increases. In other words, the number of parties endorsing a digital demonstration is used as an implicit measure of its legitimacy and thus allows for the digital demonstration to be "louder." This prevents Votester from being used to harass individuals on a small-scale, while still enabling it to be used for large-scale protests. As the number of peers in a digital demonstration increases, the number of email messages and http requests received per unit of time by the targets of the demonstration can become large enough their organizations and IT infrastructures are overloaded. For small digital demonstrations, Votester results in the equivalent of letter-writing campaigns. For large digital demonstrations - such as demonstrations that attract hundreds of thousands or millions of participants, Votester results in significant inconvenience or even denial-of-service for the targeted addresses.

For example, to protest the policies of the World Bank and the IMF, parties could run copies of Votester on their personal computers around the Internet. They could join a group called "World Bank and IMF demonstration." Members of this group would all receive a set of email formletters, email addresses and HTTP addresses. These might include addresses for the World Bank, IMF, politicians, corporations and even media organizations. Their peers would periodically send out the email formletter(s) to each address, and/or issue HTTP requests to any URLs included in the demonstration as well. The rate at which their peers send out messages and requests is determined as a function of the number of participants in the demonstration group: If more peers participate, each peer is allowed to send more messages per unit/time. For small scale demonstrations each peer might only send the email message once per week, but for large demonstrations each peer might send the email message once per day or even once per hour.

Votester provides a number of additional useful features to users:

  • Peers report their activity to other peers in the digital demonstration, thus all peers can see the statistics of demonstrations that are taking place. Relevant statistics are included in email messages sent by peers for particular demonstrations. For example, an email protesting a policy includes information about the protest, stats about the number of peers involved in the protest and the number of messages sent by them.
  • Peers also provide a directory of current and proposed protests, and a means for users to join protests, leave protests, post messages to discussion groups, propose new protests to the community, manage protests they start, and send announcements to protest-participants.
  • Votester peers may send email messages via their owner's email accounts and/or via built-in sendmail capabilities and/or via public email servers on the network.
  • Votester peers have dynamic IP addresses that change each time they are launched.

Benefits of Votester

It's legal. In the USA democratic system, it is not illegal for a citizen to send an email containing their opinion on an important issue to others in the society. Even if they send their email more than once, this is legal. It is also not illegal for a citizen to visit a Web page repeatedly. Since each Votester peer only sends a few messages (such as once per day, or once per hour, etc.) no individual peer can be considered to be engaging in illegal harassment, hacking, denial of service, etc. Rather it is only the totally decentralized, emergent activity of the entire group that results in large volumes of messages and requests being received by target addresses. Therefore no individual is liable. (Please Note: We are not lawyers and the legality of these claims still needs to be evaluated and established by professional lawyers, and no doubt they will be challenged by governments and others if and when Votester is deployed.)

It's non-violent. However annoying Votester may be it is not comparable to violent demonstrations in which property is damaged and/or humans are injured. Votester demonstrations are peaceful, they are simply email and HTTP campaigns. All that is exchanged is information.

It's safe. Participants in digital demonstrations are not physically at risk. They can make their opinions known without getting beaten up, tear-gassed, pepper sprayed, etc. They can also protest without getting arrested.

It's effective. Digital demonstrations get noticed - they may actually cause enough inconvenience to target addresses that they can't help but notice them. They also cannot effectively be blocked by the police, so they last longer and can accomplish their objectives with fewer obstacles.

It's open. Anyone can participate in Votester demonstrations, including people who for reasons such as age, disability, ethnicity, economic status, etc. would not feel safe participating in physical demonstrations, or simply do not have the time or money to travel to a remote location and risk several days of detention etc.

It's unstoppable. Digital demonstrations are hard to block. Since messages come from dynamic IP addresses all over the network, targets have no effective way to shield themselves from them. They cannot anticipate the IP addresses that messages will be received from, and even if they block particular addresses, new parties are always joining and the IP addresses of participants change dynamically.

Conclusions

It is our hope that someone reading this will be inspired enough to create an implementation of Votester, and that they will release it as a free, open-source tool for the public. We believe that creating Votester will be an interesting project in its own right - for it presents a number of technical, social and user-interface design challenges that are worth solving. In particular, in order for Votester to succeed, it must provide strong anonymity protection to users, it must also facilitate a sense of community such that users can easily locate and participate in demonstrations of interest to them, finally it must be immune to attempts at hacking or misusing it so that it cannot be used for harassment by small groups and it cannot be blocked or manipulated by various parties.

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New Technology for Digital Democracy

Comments Filter:
  • This is so easy to filter.
    The PTB don't need to send out the police to deal with the demonstration, they just turn off their mail server for the duration and continue ruling the owrld.
    • Re:Filter. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ConsumedByTV (243497) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @03:11PM (#4351085) Homepage
      The concept allows for a broad type of interactions. You cannot stop 100,000 web requests from seperate ip space without *you* causing a DOS on yourself. What is the difference between real traffic and this? Nothing they are both legitimate clients. The same will go for mail. ftp. etc.
      • Re:Filter. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Directrix1 (157787)
        Give me a break. A digital demonstration will never get noticed as much as a physical one. Geeks, if you want something done get off your ass and get up there. Anyways, this sounds dangerously similar to eMail bombing someone, which I'm sure won't get you noticed in a positive way. Oooh, just annoy them to death. Sure, exact letter repetition gets you noticed. I know I open up every copy of the Nigerian money scam I get (*sarcasm folks*). Anyways, this story is boring. I'm moving on.
        • Re:Filter. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ConsumedByTV (243497)
          In your opinion did the ebay dos of latter days not get onto the news? The papers? The court system?

          Money is what matters.
          When people block the whitehouse they used to stop the flow of communication, the flow of governing, now they do not. Cash still flows. The governing goes on. To be effective one must stop the flow. The form it takes now is the internet. It is time to use this medium that has brought back the ability to have civil disobedience.

          I am a part of the activist community. I am also a geek. I think people all bring a trade to the table. So if you have the ability to bring computers to the activist table you should do so.

          I suggest you get yourself a copy of "electronic civil disobedience" by the critical art ensemble.
          • Yeah well, doing this sort of thing will just be classified as terrorism at some point anyways. And chances the gov't will just bring up random nodes (or participants) in this p2p network thing to trial in order to scare people off from future usage. It won't work. Anyways, you couldn't trust a tool like this too anyone. I don't know why its even being discussed.
            • This tool exisits. Many like it exsist.
              They have only been stopped when the people running it were total jackasses, they got what they deserved.

              This is not terrorism. If it was then that is the role you take on when you use it. Change the law through action be it direct action or passive gradualism.

              It will work. This is going to change the face of things. If you think it can be stopped read my comment about how it doesnt have to be run out of U.S.A..
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Of course you can shut down as much of the web as you want to. Governments can simply walk into NAPs with guns pointed and tell them to shut down...shut down the entire NAP or go to federal prison.
  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueGecko (109058) <benjamin,pollack&gmail,com> on Saturday September 28, 2002 @02:40PM (#4350988) Homepage
    ...or does this sound like a Distributed.net-style of spam? I am not kidding. Maybe it's necessary in some countries to get the message across, but are we sure this is the only option? The potential for abuse here is utterly insane...
    • It isn't spam. This isn't an ad. This is people mailing opinions in. This is people connecting to websites. To ftp servers.

      This isn't the only option but it is a safe way to convey a message. By safe I mean from physical abuse.
  • by Gruturo (141223) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @02:45PM (#4351004)
    What if somebody hacks into votester's security protocols and (ab)uses thousands of systems to Ddos/spam the hell out of whoever they don't like?

    Really, this looks like you are knowingly installing a Ddos zombie on your box, which is just waiting to be cracked and abused.

    Not trolling.... sincerely worried.
  • "none have proven to be perfect"

    More like, not worked. The first step to making a political point is to show up. And calling this a "digital demonstrations" doesn't make it any less a DDOS.

    1 Alpha 7

  • by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @02:49PM (#4351021) Journal
    Votester enables peers to automatically send recurring email messages and/or HTTP requests to a set of addresses associated with a digital demonstration. The rate at which messages/requests are sent by each peer to each address is determined by either (a) a function of the number of people in the digital demonstration, or (b) the peer-owner's individual preferences.

    On first reading, this seems like it would be less effective than the flooding demonstration found in the slideshow from the link up top. The slideshow details basically a flood attack designed to essentially produce the "slashdot effect" to the website--this method just floods them with emails.

    The /. method has the problem that the more bandwidth the target has, the less effective it is (and with demonstrations, it's likely we're going up against bigger purses). This e-mail deal seems way too easy to block and therefore does not solve the outstanding complications of the other.

    I applaud their efforts (and to some extent success--consider Lufthansa), but since we're not anonymous in the digital world like we are in public, I think it'd take radical approaches to be effective. Of course, with the DMCA and it's broad verbiage, at what point is a digital demonstration an illegal digital riot? Imagine a few boxen on a webserver designed to filter out repeated protest e-mails--if the implementation mentioned above were improved enough to get past these filters, would that be breaking a security system?

    • First we are not anonymous in the public world. "Show me your papers" ruins that.

      Second it isn't the slashdot effect in bandwidth.
      It is the webserver unable to handle requests reguardless of bandwidth availible. (ask how if you still dont get it)
  • Free voting at the press of a button? Sounds utopian and egalitarian, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

    With electronic democracy, public apathy would skyrocket. It might have some interest at first, but soon enough people just would click yes to boring bill HR13213 no matter what it contained just to get voting out of the way! How often do YOU really think and mull over the issue when you click that poll over to the right on slashdot? CowboyNeal for President? That would be "cool," but in all seriousness, that's probably what would happen if voting restrictions were relaxed.

    A voting system that actually works requires voting qualifications. If we let the trolls mod slashdot, it would go right down the drain. When the Founding Fathers set up our government, only the richest 10% of white men could vote due to property qualifications and so forth -- we're not a "democracy" -- we're a Republic. Soon, it was extended to more white men, then eventually women could vote, and eventually nonwhites were allowed to officially vote without any harassment.

    Nowadays, the only roadblock to voting is registering and showing up, and people could care less. Most high schoolers and even college students cannot even distinguish between Republican and Democrat political views, and about half of all voters practically vote randomly when they're at the ballot box!

    Are people like that fit to run the country because they're entitled to? Absolutely not! People that ignorant should not be allowed to vote, and ever since we removed all restrictions, this country has turned into a cesspool welfare state -- though we're still not as bad as Europe or Canada.

    Forget easy access to voting -- something should be done to make it HARDER to vote. Heinlein didn't have a bad idea with military service requirements to vote, but that's not entirely practical -- instead, we should re-instate a poll tax of $400. If you aren't willing to pay hard cash for your rights to vote, then you shouldn't be able to vote. I honestly don't want apathists running the government anymore.
    • Re:Bad idea (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mage Powers (607708)
      So wait a sec here, if you restrict people that can vote to people that can blow $400, will those people put thought into it? I don't think so, I think people that can throw $400 away will go vote randomly because they can.
      • ...people that can throw $400 away will go vote randomly because they can.

        The number of people that can afford to throw $400 away is much less than the number of people who can save up $400 for a cause they deem worthy. The few rich are outnumbered by the many in the middle class.

    • Re:Bad idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Planesdragon (210349)

      Forget easy access to voting -- something should be done to make it HARDER to vote. Heinlein didn't have a bad idea with military service requirements to vote, but that's not entirely practical -- instead, we should re-instate a poll tax of $400. If you aren't willing to pay hard cash for your rights to vote, then you shouldn't be able to vote. I honestly don't want apathists running the government anymore.


      That's a bad, bad, BAD idea. The rich can vote on a whim. The poor simply can't afford to vote.

      A better idea would be either service of some kind (military, non-military government, or charity), a minimum level of education, or [my favorite] a test.

      If people, at the voting booth, have to pass a rather simple competency test, that'd screen out those that don't have a clue.

      Or, we could have an "informed choice" law, that provided unbiased evaluations of each canditate's views. Or maybe just hvae an electronic reader that gives each candidate for each position five hundred words to express why they should be in office.

      Hmm....
      • > That's a bad, bad, BAD idea. The rich can vote on a whim. The poor simply can't afford to vote.

        I'd take it one step further - $400 doesn't buy you a vote to elect a Congressdroid, $400 buys you a vote on a bill.

        And at $400 per vote per bill, all of a sudden my vote counts as much as Hilary Rosen's.

        Seems to me that under such a system, we'd have the DMCA repealed in a week, and there wouldn't be a goddamn thing Jack or Hilary could do about it.

        > A better idea would be either service of some kind (military, non-military government, or charity), a minimum level of education, or [my favorite] a test.

        I really like the idea of competency testing for voting even under our present system (I adopted this when I heard someone - seriously - advocating color-coded ballots for a municipal election so the illiterate couldn't be "discriminated against" because they couldn't read the candidates' names), so I'd combine both approaches. A competency test, and a $400 fee, per bill.

        To prevent ballot stuffing by Jack and Hilary, it's still one vote per voter per bill. RIAA can still spend megabucks on a PR campaign, but they have to convince the Soccer Moms and Joe Sixpacks to spend $400 of their hard-earned money to enact the CBDTPA -- and that's gonna be much harder sell than convincing them to spend nothing to vote for "the guy with the better haircut because my favorite celebrity said to." (Or spending a few tens of kilobucks per Senator to be rewarded with a snort of coke from between a pair of plastic tits.)

        One might even buy voting credits with tax dollars. Pay $40000 in tax, get 100 voting credits ("vote credits" would probably be cryptographic keys encrypted with the voter's public key) for that year.

        I suppose the system could be defeated, by, say, RIAA and MPAA buying enough Congresscritters to introduce the same bill, every day, over and over again until the $100K/year (~200 votes/year) geeks finally run out of voting credits, but I'm gambling that the Copyright Cartel are like cockroaches, in that they wouldn't like to be forced out into the open like that.

      • Not only can the rich vote while the poor are disenfranchised, but rich organizations can sponsor those voters who will vote in their interest.
    • agoraphobia (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Unordained (262962)
      No, this post has nothing to do with agoraphobia. However, it does relate to your most interesting comment about the right to vote. Your point is, I assume, that you'd really rather that votes only be cast, and counted, if they are backed by a true wish to make a difference.

      I can understand your frustration with the voting system. I think, though, that your feelings about it can be better channeled by looking at the following problems:

      -Not everyone would have the money to vote. Not everyone is fit for military service. (etc.) Imposing any restriction besides registration would imply a class-level difference, between those who can afford to vote, and those who cannot. I'd really rather not live in a country where only the (even mildly) rich may vote -- the laws have an effect one everyone's lives. As such, I'd even rather children be allowed to vote. And tourists. And anyone else who (at least for a short while) must live under the laws of the land. If the jurisdiction of law is going to be based on land-borders, votes should also be defined purely by land-borders.

      -It's not apathy that is the root of the problem. It's not that people don't care about the issues; it's that they've already made up their minds ahead of time. I come from a rather (D) family, by girlfriend from a quite staunch (R) family. In both cases, I've observed people who will go to the voting booth because they care about the issue, but would willingly 'vote down the line' (check the box at the top saying you agree with said party on all issues.) We need to educate people to care about issues rather than grand theories. I grew up in europe, where there are quite a few more parties available to vote for. Here, you rarely have more than two choices: and two choices cannot possibly represent, accurately, all the different combinations of voting preferences of the american people. But they do. Because people here refuse to deal with individual issues. And that, I think, is even worse than apathy.

      -Not being able to distinguish between (D) and (R) shouldn't surprise you: in europe, they're both considered centrist movements, compared to all other available political parties. You don't see here campaigns by neo-nazies or communists. The anarchists are barely represented. Independent? What does that mean? So really, no, the two aren't that different. If you see them as radically different, then you just have an extremely narrow vision of the political spectrum. Open your eyes.

      -Representation is a problem: would it have mattered if I had voted (D) in the last presidential elections? No, because the deciding factor wasn't the state I'm in -- only in Florida did every vote count (that is, obviously so.) If we had a more direct approach, where 'popular vote' were actually the vote that counted, perhaps people would be more inclined to vote, no?

      -Apathy isn't surprising: consider slashdot. Most of us are pissed off that our congresscritters (what a fond name) won't listen to us. Shouldn't they be listening? If they're not, and our votes don't really matter, then we're not left with much but civil disobedience. And with recent laws, that's not nearly as safe as it used to be. Check around -- police violence is a problem, and it's stifling even our ability to hold protests outdoors. Check the videos available from indymedia, raisethefist, etc. of protests, say, at the presidential elections? I hadn't even seen those on television ... but it did happen. And it was shushed. People were beaten for complaining about what goes on. Are you surprised there's apathy?

      I'm sure others can add to this list. I'm all for democracy -- fair democracy. Democracy in which people feel empowered to make a difference in how their country is run, how their lives will be changed by the powers that be. If they don't feel they have that, it's useless. Lobbyists, people like our families, who vote based on how their parents (and churches) vote ... those are the people who will run our lives. If it takes electronic voting to reach out to those who think the system doesn't work, then do so! Make sure they know their vote matters, whatever it takes.
      • If we had a more direct approach, where 'popular vote' were actually the vote that counted, perhaps people would be more inclined to vote, no?

        Maybe, but keep in mind that the Electoral College wasn't established merely because communications of the day were slow. A true popular vote for president was perfectly possible even in the 18th century.

        The Electoral College was instituted very deliberately, because the founders wanted to ensure that the opinions of large, populous states didn't completely swamp the interests of the less populous states. That notion was more powerful and more obvious when the number of Representatives was smaller; at this point the 435 House votes still enable California to outvote the rest of the western U.S. put together, and give Florida a really hefty chunk of political clout as well.

        Still, the system as it is does give midwestern farmers, for example, a stronger voice than they would have in a purely popular vote, in which the opinion of the residents of New York City or Miami would crush them. It's possible that the Electoral College system does a slightly better job of balancing the preferences of different kinds of Americans than a popular vote would.

        In the cast of the last presidential race, I believe every counting of the ballots showed that Gore won the popular vote. However, if you looked at a map of the U.S. cities with each city represented by a red (Bush) or blue (Gore) dot based on the way they voted, you would see the nation absolutely covered in red, except for the dozen or so largest cities, which were blue.

        Should the major population centers be able to make all the decisions, riding roughshod over the wishes of small town USA? OTOH, is it right to devalue the vote of a New Yorker just because there are a lot of them? Also, does the Electoral College system really do what it appears to? An analysis of the system based on measuring the power of a vote by its probability of "swinging" an election says it does not. Other models say it does.

        I don't know the answers to the questions, but many people seem to think that it's just blindingly obvious that the Electoral College is stupid.

        I think it's not that simple.

        • I'll agree with you -- it's not as obvious as I may have seemed to think it is, that the electoral college has outlived its time. It's also not going away -- if I remember correctly, it'll take a 2/3 vote on the part of the states to change the system, and that would require the states who consider themselves beneficiary of the said system to give it up, which isn't likely.

          Balancing the voices of the voters is, I'll admit, a complex task. Your presentation quite accurate. Could we accept, perhaps, a system in which votes are cast with a value of '1' per person, but make sure that in cases such as rural states (no offense meant) the specific problems of the area will be taken into account? I think that's what our congress is for, and local government. On a national scale, I'd tend to think that a person is 'worth' a person, not otherwise. On the local scale, I'm very much for these people who would otherwise not be 'as represented' getting their way. But I'd rather not think that, because of the way the system is built, my vote only matters 3/4 as much as the vote of someone in [name another state.]

          Then again, even if I do get the 'right' person elected, thanks to my well-counted vote ... there's no guarantee, as I said, that the elected official will actually side with me on enough of the issues for me to be satisfied. Switzerland has had quite a few referendums (for the larger stuff, 'smaller' law is handled by elected officials) and I'd say I rather fancy that system. But as stated by the parent, not everyone cares (at all) to vote on individual issues. We'd have a lot lower turnout (my guess) at per-issue votes than at elections. But it's still more people voting than in the house and senate (if anyone cares.)

          All considered, it doesn't matter -- they're not changing the system. Bah.
          • Could we accept, perhaps, a system in which votes are cast with a value of '1' per person, but make sure that in cases such as rural states (no offense meant) the specific problems of the area will be taken into account?

            Do you have a proposal for such a system? The system is already heavily tilted toward the populous states, with regard to presidential elections at least. Presidents can already afford to almost completely ignore the voters in, for example, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

            Personally, I think if you're going to change it, you need to change it in the opposite direction, to further strengthen the votes of people in these small states. I think the electoral college would do a great job, except for one thing: A state's votes are voted as a bloc. This means that a tiny majority of Californians, for example, has a huge effect on the national election. If electoral votes were allocated proportionally by the states, rather than voted as a bloc, the squabbling in Florida in the last election would have been over the allocation of one vote, rather than 25.

            Just as a bit of history, it's worth remembering while thinking about such things, that the founders never intended for the President to be a popularly elected office at all. They left it completely up to the states to decide how to allocate their electoral votes -- a state would be perfectly within its rights to have the state legislature choose (as the Florida state legislature was threatening to do) and not involve the people at all.

            It's also interesting to remember that the states' representatives to the U.S. House and Senate also weren't necessarily to be elected directly by the people, and many states did have their state legislatures choose these representatives for a while. I often wonder how this country would be different had that not been changed. Clearly, the states would have retained far more power than they now have, and the federal government would be far, far smaller than it is, since the U.S. congress would be directly under the control of the state legislatures.

    • The poster obviously hasn't read a single sentence of the the slashdot story, just the headline. Groan.

      The post goes on a rant about VOTING but the article is about digital protests.

      As for Voteser, amusing idea. I doubt it would be successfull, and it's too similar to a DDOS. I give it a big thumbs down.

      -
    • Re:Bad idea (Score:2, Insightful)

      Are people like that fit to run the country because they're entitled to? Absolutely not! People that ignorant should not be allowed to vote, and ever since we removed all restrictions, this country has turned into a cesspool

      He has a point, just look at our president.
    • Most high schoolers and even college students cannot even distinguish between Republican and Democrat political views

      What is the difference between Republican and Democrat political views?

    • It occurs to me that proxy voting might be a better form of representative democracy than the current approach.

      If every citizen could vote on every matter, most people wouldn't. But they could select a proxy to vote for them. They could switch to another proxy whenever they liked. Proxies would have one vote for each person who selected them.

      There would be no such thing as "throwing your vote away" by voting for an unpopular political party. Each proxy would have one vote per person they represented. And on issues where you felt strongly, you could vote directly, rather than letting your proxy handle it.

      This kind of change should encourage more diversity in political thinking, and might even restore some faith in the political process. That might lead to less apathy and more intelligent proxy selection.
    • Re:Bad idea (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by DEBEDb (456706)
      How about a progressive poll tax? A millionaire thus needs to part with as significant portion
      of his assets as a poorer person.
    • Are people like that fit to run the country because they're entitled to? Absolutely not! People that ignorant should not be allowed to vote, and ever since we removed all restrictions, this country has turned into a cesspool welfare state -- though we're still not as bad as Europe or Canada
      Yeah, let all those IT people who've lost their jobs rot in hell and die. What the hell is wrong with a welfare state? With all these IT people being fired by dumbass MBAs who look out for their own jobs first, Odd Todd [oddtodd.com] is just the loudest voice. All the people with jobs want aggressive capitalism with minimum taxes, and the people without jobs want a welfare state, right now the US is too close to aggressive capitalism.

      Right now you might be looking at your high tax bill, but when your boss decides to downsize you due to "Feng Shui kaizen employment strategy", THEN you'll be panicking looking at your welfare credits and hoping to God that you didn't cash in your unemployment insurance.

    • I only vote randomly (and against the incumbent) for judges as I believe that is a spot that should be shaken up.
  • So the whole idea is to use up all the bandwidth available by some company you don't like, or crash their servers by sending too many people to their Web site, costing them potentially thousands of dollars?

    No, I don't see a lawsuit coming...
    • So who are you going to sue?
      The person that made the remark go to blah.com?
      The tool that allows peoples computers to all be a part of a digital demonstration?

      Each person in this network would have to take responsibilty for their own node, so who are you going to sue?

      Also again with the bandwidth rumor.
      One person on a modem can take down any webserver, mail server, and/or ftp server without exceeding the normal (perhaps even less than normal) bandwidth quota.
      • They would start by going after the site that served as the director of the votester protest (the criminal complaint will probably include conspiracy to commit crimial mischief, conspiracy to commit theft of services, and probably a couple of other conspiracy charges) and then you pick a few random nodes that were a part of the protest and sue them into oblivion while they also face a few choice criminal conspiracy counts themselves. After this happens once or twice do you think anyone would use this tool again?

        Of course we have not even begun to plumb the depths of fun that could be had with RICO laws and other tools that can be used against large criminal conspiracies. You really need to start talking to a lawyer kid, before you find yourself needing a lawyer to keep you out of jail and out of debt to the targets of your vandalism for the remainder of your productive lifetime...
        • This could very well be true.
          They could go after the site that is a public forum where people meet and decide to start pounding with (valid) requests.

          Perhaps you will sue them. Perhaps you will sue a few nodes.

          Then think of the effect.
          People start to hide their nodes more effectivly.
          They do it from wireless networks around their city.
          They do it from public places that provide internet access.

          Perhaps. I doubt those things will happen with the current trend of computer users. I have utter disdain for most computer users now. They feel they have no power and that just isn't true.

          Your right people would be sued. If that would be a success remains to be seen. People get arrested and sued over protests all the time, it goes with the terrority. Most people that protest have nothing other than their freedom to have taken away from them, the poor, the disadvantaged.

          So yes people will use it.
          You cannot stop a distributed network.
          Once its out it will not go back.
          These networks already exsist.

          Also: Why are you so centric of one justice center? Do you think that these networks cannot be run outside of the west? Do you think all the networks of this type have been in the good ol' U.S.A.?

          Think again kid.
        • Of course we have not even begun to plumb the depths of fun that could be had with RICO laws and other tools that can be used against large criminal conspiracies
          Whoa, dude, even most lawyers don't know about RICO laws. Dude, I'm impressed. So, Mr Hotshot lawyer, how can the President be forced to allow the people that have been arrested in the US for being "suspicous muslims" to see their lawyers? Technically from my viewpoint, the cops have kidnapped some muslim people, should they now arrest themselves or what? Does this mean your Constitution is dead? If so, then what's the point of being a lawyer at all? Maybe lawyers will go the same way as the dot bombs?
  • Having a place for people to BMC(bitch moan and complain) Is useless as many such places already exist. The form of protest is not what should be changed, but rather the government's which are inhibiting ones right to assemble. Sitting in secret and BMC'ing is not going to accomplish anything. OTOH if a system was devised to assist people in better organizing protests and increase protester turnout, change might occur. 500 or 1000 people rallying is a nuisance, 100,000 people rallying is a cause for alarm. If the government constantly has to call in the national guard to control assemblies, it is going to get expensive both in terms of money and in that countries international standing.
  • God forbid we get up form our computers to work for something we believe in. E-mail campaigns don't work because they're easy, anyone with the slightest interest can take five minutes to forward a form letter. Handwritten letters, phone calls, and LIVE protests show that people are willing to give up free time, get arrested and spend time organizing, thus showing that the issue is more than just a passing interest.

    What gets more press for your cause, e-mailing the IMF or trying to shut-down DC by sitting in the streets? It doesn't matter what you delieve in (right, left, whatever), effort and personal sacrifice gets the word out, sitting at home on your ass does not.

    • It's amazing how uncreative political protests have become in this country. Enter street, sit down, chain arms, repeat. Stay at home, mail letters, complain, repeat. Ever notice that neither of these involves going to statehouses and talking to or yelling at legislatures? They do let you into those things, and for free no less. Sure, you get arrested for disturbing the peace, but that's a lot more satisfying thing to have on your arrest record than parading without a permit.

      The place where people should be focusing their efforts is at the mechanics of government, not venting at society. And yes, we need a clearer separation between protesters and revolutionaries so that thousands of homeowners and parents can have their voices safely heard without the risk of arrest, and thousands of fearless college students can have something truly positive to do that will land them in jail, rather than just throwing a concert.

      -What else can you do? Write for papers! They really don't have any money to spend on content these days, and love to print long, interesting editorial pieces. With smaller, more specific papers you are almost guarenteed to be printed. That way, you will be read by far more people than by commenting on slashdot, and your piece will be cited by lazy high-school students for years to come.

      -Give speeches. Most city council meetings have open-floor sections, and your council member is far more likely to have an ear of someone who has an ear of the president than you do.

      -Get arrested for something memorable and dramatic, like being beaten by cops or hijacking the satellite TV video (but not audio) signal during the state-of-the-union address to display images of victims of american emperialist policies.

      -Talk about these things with people you don't know, constantly. Talk to the people behind the counter at your supermarket, the people on the street, and generally being an information source for anyone and everyone who is willing to give you the benifit of 30 seconds. Discuss, don't give speeches.

      -Send annonymous bomb tips. Shuts down just about anything, and fast. Just remember that you can and probably will be tracked down unless you cover your tracks meticulously.

      -Cut out the middleman and get state referrandums passed. You need several thousand signatures to get something on the ballot, but just think of the voice that gives your cause. Did medical marajuana have a chance of being taken seriously before getting on the ballot in California? Not really, but now...

      -Hang signs from freeways and billboards. (you can guess what state I'm in). No, it's not legal, and they will eventually be taken down. But they will be seen by literally thousands of people per hour on their way to work. And really, whose voice deserves the audience, one of frank political discussion or one urging the purchase of a AT&T wireless services?

      Join Calperg, Massperg, the Christian Coalition, or any other organization that you believe is aligned with your political goals, and donate one night a week to bettering mankind. Campaign finance reform really needs people.

      -Be creative! Why did these people join hands to shut down Washington when many of them could have parked their busses? 500 dollars isn't unheard of for a car that has just enough life left in it to drive to downtown. That wouldn't be as effective as, say, a leafletting campaign, but it would at least be more than throwing a concert in a park.

      -Finally, stay goal focused. If you want to stop one nasty timber company from logging, you can chain yourself to their equipment and park a bulldozer in front of their gate. If you want to stop the spread of the timber industry in the northwest, you need to help draft and push through legislation in the logging towns that limits the company's powers to exert emminent capitalism. If you want to stop Wells Fargo Bank from exploiting the gullibility of elderly patrons you can either smash their windows down, or start up an education campaign that targets the aged, along with legislation that prohibits such arrangements.

      If the protesters wanted to be truly effective at getting the message about IRAQ out, they would have hung a screen over downtown DC and played Apocolypse Now all day.

      Just as a side note, I'm replying to this person not because their comment was wrong or incomplete, but because it was inspirational and needed an amen.

      amen.

  • by Jim McCoy (3961) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @02:59PM (#4351052) Homepage
    The author is basically asking for help in writing a P2P spamming and DDoS tool. Leaving aside the legality of this action (which it quite possible is not, particularly as laws start to come down hard on spammers), it begs the question of whether or not there is any place for a "demonstration" when it comes to digital democracy. If you want to demostrate online then I would suggest that you start by demonstrating a bit of responsibility by recongnizing that just because you disagree with someone does not give you the right to silence them -- this "tool" is nothing more than a tool for a few disaffected mobs to silence those whom they disagree with rather than actually participating in the political processes that have been established to deal with these grievances.

    I would suggest that the authors stop wasting time working on a thinly disguised DDoS tool and instead actually try to see how political speech and democratic ideals can actually fit together. The past few years have seen the emergence of weblogs, community forums, indymedia, and a host of other digital tools for helping people build communities of discussion and distribute ideas and information that can be used to educate and inform. I would suggest that people actually interested in digital democracy seek out these tools and help to make them better.

    There is nothin more immature than a child proclaiming that if people will not listen to what he has to say then he will scream and throw a temper tantrum so that no one else can have a conversation. Grow up!
    • This would not be spam. I can send you an email at mad-scientist.com telling you that I do not like your site. That is legal. This simply makes it possible to make a message heard by using legal channels.

      This type of demonstration is not a child throwing a tantrum anymore than people on the street with signs would be. This is an effective way to produce a result.

      I just hope its the right result (the one they want).
      • You need a tool which automatically sends email for you? Tell your mail tool to "save" the letter when you first write it. Then send it when you wish.

        You can't click "send" and need some sort of new mail program...one which makes you send more mail when more people are protesting?
        But why should more people participating require that you send more often? They'll send what they want when they want.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Ho hum. And the people who staged sit-down strikes for civil rights in the 60's were participating in a denial of service attack as well. If only they had had your wisdom, to just stay at home and be quiet...

      • Ho hum. And the people who staged sit-down strikes for civil rights in the 60's were participating in a denial of service attack as well

        YES!

        The civil rights movement of the 1960s was a willful disruption of society. The fact that it had a moral puprose and a good effect does not change the fact that it was a very basic DoS attack. In this extreme case, two wrongs DID make a right, becasue the second wrong showed how bad the first wrong was.

      • Yes, but stupid little script kiddies trying to act tough DDoS'ing something they have 0% of a clue about is not exactly a good idea either.

        In the 60's when you went to a sit-in it was either

        a) where the lsd was
        and/or
        b) You wanted to make a point

        If 12yr olds could drop out of school to attend just because that's where the action was would that be a useful use of time?

        Similarly anyone can now just click a button to support a "cause" whether the they are willing to invest time into it or not.

        And lets not forget something else. The "master" server is the one sending the spam regardless of the relays.

        That's like saying "Yeah, my computer sent 100000 emails, but my ISP relayed them so its their fault".

        But oh wait thats true. ISP's do get punished for spam already. Ho hum... so much for a co-ordinated P2P spam system...

        Tom
      • And the people who staged sit-down strikes for civil rights in the 60's were participating in a denial of service attack as well.


        What makes those people different from those employing this system is that they were prepared to face the consequences of civil disobedience to show those who were not aware of the nature of the problem or the depth of resistence that there were large numbers of people willing to accept the consequences of their actions to make their point heard. Non-violent protest of the Ghandi/MLK, Jr. sort were noteworthy because the protesters stood up to the attacks directed against them and persevered, this projects seeks to attack free speech and deny a voice to those it opposes.


        Please do not ever again dare to suggest that this project if in any way an equivalent of the brave and noble souls who faced death and imprisonment to demonstrate the depth of their belief, spamming and DDoSing a site while hiding behind the anonymity of the net is in no way equivalent to these earlier protests.


        This is much closer to the work of the "black block" and other pseudo-anarchists who seem to think that destroying property and denying the other side of the argument a voice, all the while hiding their identity and attempting to avoid facing any consequences for their actions, is somehow a valid form of political protest. It is simply vandalism writ large.


        Ask yourself this simple question: if the forces being opposed were to use the same tactics to shut down and overload sites like indymedia or other political web sites would you be equally supportive of their actions? I think not.


        p.s. The people proposing this action should really read up on the laws regarding conspiracy before claiming that participating in such a system would be legal.

    • There is nothin more immature than a child proclaiming that if people will not listen to what he has to say then he will scream and throw a temper tantrum so that no one else can have a conversation. Grow up!


      Tell this to a civil rights marcher. Or how about the founding fathers? The french under Louis XIV? No, when the oppressed and underpriveldged are ignored and marginalized to the point of irrelevance, it's time to change the rules.
    • Meaningful demonstrations in a non-democratic power structure can only occur if there is a disruption of the normal operation of society.

      In a democratic society, demonstrations are important simply because they express the will of the demonstrators. However, it should be clear that there is not even the barest veneer of democracy when it comes to certain issues in this country -- international fiscal policy being one of them (IMF, World Bank, etc).

      In such a situation a demonstration can serve three purposes that I can think of:

      1. It brings people of like mind together, so they can make connections and be more productive in their efforts. This is not an end unto itself, however, as no one will be productive if they just spend time meeting with each other.
      2. It can inform the public about the issue at hand. This hasn't been terribly effective. The corporate media deserves a lot of blame for this, but by no means is that the only problem -- demonstrations aren't a good way to educate. And even an educated public still has to do something -- education is not an end unto itself.
      3. The demonstration can disrupt society, i.e., blocking traffic, causing meetings to be held in remote locations, etc. Sometimes you can disrupt only the targetted people/organizations/events -- but usually not, since the security response will make this difficult. So you are forced to disrupt all of society. The powers that be by definition have a great deal at stake in the functioning of society. While this may be an indirect effort, it is the only effort that actually does anything. It is the only function of a demonstration that is an end unto itself.
      As others have pointed out, DoS has always been the primary method of peaceful civil disobedience.

      And education is not the answer to all political problems. The powers that be are not ignorant of their own actions (as much as some would like to believe that if they knew the results of their actions they would somehow reform themselves). Many people are ignorant, but even as more are educated, it's essential that they do something more with their education than stew. Other suggestions are welcome, though, if you have some great idea. (Personally, I'd like to see more moral attacks on the individuals who are doing the most wrong to the world -- name names, publish pictures, picket their homes, etc)

      I'm not sure this is the most effective civil disobedience proposed, but at least it's an attempt.

  • I find that these types of demonstrations are going to be getting alot of people in trouble if they lack the ability to cover their tracks.

    I met Max (hey Max nice job getting slashdoted!) at Defcon 10 and he has some interesting ideas (and code) to achieve this goal. Many people will attack this and call it "leftist destruction" and "a simple DOS (or ddos)." The fact remains that we lack a clear cut manner of (effective) protest in our world.

    Even in America (TM) we have lost our rights to free speech. We have areas for protest inside a fence, a free speech zone even. People being shot. Protesters and their phantoms of lost liberty have become the evil of the world. In other parts of the world we have people killed for speaking out.
    I personally know Tibetian monks that China would like to kill for simply speaking out against the state.

    We as a whole cannot let this type of totalitarian behavoir exsist unchecked. Be it corperate, government, private citizen. We as a whole (planet) are letting the world fall back into the clutches of fascism under the guise of "freedom."

    This is where the internet comes in.

    Countries, corperations and the common man all rely in someway or another every day on the net. With the tools that Max doesn't provide it (could) allow some of the tech savvy (but not tech savvy enough to write their own tools) to fight back.

    This is a non violent means of accomplishing this goal, that really sets it apart from the rest. No police will even shoot a protester on accident. Imagine that.

    However this type of protest is not recognized as a proper form of policial/economic protest.
    • I find that these types of demonstrations are going to be getting alot of people in trouble if they lack the ability to cover their tracks.

      I have no respect for someone who wants to say something, and then "covers their tracks."

      Sure, I have less respect for corrupt public officials who make such things necessary--but the appropriate reaction is to go into hiding / become transient / go public, NOT try and be anonymous.

      For the record, I don't think that "protest" is an idea (or even desirable) method of speech. Better to create a new communication commons, than to make our lowest-common-demoninator form of dissent more efficient.

      The problem is legal, not technical--and legal problems should have legal solutions. Lobby the government to requrire any organization with law-making powers to host (or target to) dissent. Since the WTO is a governmental body, it's paid for by taxpayers and it can spend some effort to help the dissent be clear.

      (Heck, they'd probaby save money if they could simply organize and clarify the dissent, and eliminate the protest rallies.)

      We as a whole cannot let this type of totalitarian behavoir exsist unchecked. Be it corperate, government, private citizen. We as a whole (planet) are letting the world fall back into the clutches of fascism under the guise of "freedom."

      Welcome to the real world. People want to control other people. The protesters demand to be heard. The WTO demands to do their business in peace. "Freedom" is, by and large, an ability to make a choice that often is overruled by social pressure.

      However this type of protest is not recognized as a proper form of policial/economic protest.

      By whom?

      Proper political action is just that--action. It's not "protest."

      Protest is nothing more than an interruption of society by a minority with a percieved wrong. Sometimes they're right; as often as not, they're overblown.

      • Well as much as your respect of my right to anonymous free speech matters to me. I have the right to anonymous free speech. In many cases it is needed to prevent violent reprisials against the protesters.

        You live in a dream world if you think that the US is going to force (or even suggest) that the WTO host dissent speech. Also, just because they could host it doesn't then mean that no one else could protest (but watch if they did that I am sure they would say there is no more reason to hold protests).

        My point is concise.

        Protest is a disruption that will cause change when there is no effective way to punish and stop it.

        Protesting in a political action.
        • I have the right to anonymous free speech. In many cases it is needed to prevent violent reprisials against the protesters.

          What, exactly, makes you think that you have a right to avoid reprisal for your speech? If you say that my wife is a tramp, I have the right to call you on that, either by resorting to your level (I could call you a MS Troll or something) or taking you to court (for slander.)

          You have the right to privacy, sure. You have the right to free speech, sure... but the supposed right to anonymous free speech just encourages irresponsible behavior.

          Protest is a disruption that will cause change when there is no effective way to punish and stop it.

          Protesting in a political action.


          Yes, Protesting is a political action. But protesting doesn't need to be invulnerable to retribution to be effective; the American Revolution can be thought of as a method of protest. There was a very effective method of stopping it that the British were in the course of pursuing, but the Americans managed to make the cost of the war so strenuous that the British reached a point where it made sense to admit defeat.

          Protest, I say again, should be a weapon of last resort. Those opposed to the WTO should be given an easily accessable forum to voice their greivances--one where anyone even mildly intersted can find them out.

          (And, yes, I realize that a 5-second google search turns up 158,000 reponses for "WTO is bad".)
          • The point I make is this: I do have the right to anonymous free speech.

            So take my credit away with my identity. Why believe your wife is a tramp because some anonymous source says so? If I hold that your wife is a tramp in opinion and do not present it as fact you have no lawsuit on your hands.

            This is not a supposed right to anonymous free speech. It is a right. Do not discredit it because you think it holds no merit. It might make you irresonsible but it allows me to critique my society without my employer firing me for my political views. Or my neighbors from keying my car because I feel that they should be able to speak their mind in a non-violent manner.

            You talk about the American Revolution but that is an example of all things I mentioned (in a non digital form) but then it goes above and beyond. This is the first form of revolution, protest. Protest should be first, not violence.

            Not war. However you cannot truly avoid war, you can only sway it into ones favor. So perhaps protest may serve as the sway the people need to see to understand.
            • It might make [me] irresonsible but it allows me to critique my society without my employer firing me for my political views

              Hey, a good argument for anonymous political speech! Woot!

              But I think you should really have a reason to be anoymous, more than just avoiding social repercussions. Business consequences, yeah (what if I want to speak out against the United Way?) but not social ones (if I want to say Albany sucks, I want someone to be able to stop me in the street and tell me why I'm wrong.)

              You talk about the American Revolution but that is an example of all things I mentioned (in a non digital form) but then it goes above and beyond. This is the first form of revolution, protest. Protest should be first, not violence.

              Those who protest are committing a form of violence. Not a real serious one, in a lot of cases not legally violent, but it "violent" in the "disruptive of normal life" kind of way.

              It might just be me, but the idea of "anonymous protest" just kind of defeats the point, I think--and cheapens the worth of a protest.
  • Virtual "demonstration"...

    Sounds more like virtual destruction to me. Whilst there are certainly a lot of things the World Bank and IMF have done that on afterthought seems stupid and contraproductive in terms of reducing poverty, you have to keep in mind that the idea that this is because these organisations are per definition "evil" is an *opinion*. You can say it out loud to anyone you want, write it on banners, cry it on the streets. But for god's sake, what we're dealing with here is essentially a DDOS attack on their servers, intended to disrupt their communications and whatnot. Whatever the cause, how tiny damage it ever causes, it is still a lot closer to terrorism (yes, I know the word has gotten a wee bit too strong lately, but try to get my real meaning here) than demonstration.

    Just because no single person is to blame, it doesnt mean that it's right. The problem, if you are of a political alignment that makes you define it as such, is political and should be dealt with in a political way. Convince the rest of us - and there will be no "enemy" .
  • by realgone (147744) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @03:25PM (#4351124)
    Yet as recent public demonstrations have shown us (for example those against war, the IMF and the World Bank) in our modern-day society it is increasingly difficult, ineffective, and even dangerous for citizens to exercise their democratic rights to assembly and free-speech.
    I don't even know where to begin. That statement shows such an ignorance of U.S. (not to mention world) history that I feel like crawling back under my quilt and calling it an early day.

    Let me be blunt: you are spoiled. To even attempt a comparison between the timid crowd control at IMF meetings and -- oh, I don't know, the entirety of the civil rights and labor movements in the U.S.? -- is naive. To suggest that the current state of affairs is somehow worse is laughable.

    Tell you what -- I'm going to start an counter technology to Votester. It'll be called Cluester. Instead of spamming [pick a boogeyman] with P2P email, it'll bombard pampered activists with copies of Zinn's "People's History of the U.S." And the more people who join in, the more copies we can send out.

    Seriously. Some people need to be reminded there was a world before CNN.

    P.S. - Don't get me wrong; I'm all for civil disobedience where appropriate. I plan to be down in D.C. along with everyone else for next month's march against the U.S.'s Iraq policy. And I recognize there clearly remain a great many opressive regimes throughout the world. But it just hurts my teeth when people don't recognize how far they've come as they survey the distance left to go.

    • ummm... appreciate the past. plan for the future.
      Our digital world now has brought new 'rights' that earlier movements never thought would exist. To settle for the fact that we have alot of physical rights now because of past protesting, doesnt mean we should fight for our digital rights....or any rights left that are being stripped from us.

      I'm sorry. I never buy the: it used to be worse bullshit. Or even better: it could be worse. Never settle.
  • Anything other than each protester repeatedly hitting 'Reload' and/or 'Send' is DDOS and will be dismissed as such, even if nominally legal.
  • Here I was ready to sit down to what could have been a very interesting way to get more people voting by putting the polls online in a safe and secure manner, so that democracy truly could go digital and all it ends up being is some DDOS bullshit aimed at attacking corporate websites because the real life rallies show total apathy and disorganization.

    Really, if you want a "digital democracy", stop wasting time trying to shut down the corporate interests and work on software that the government could feel safe about using to let everyone voice their opinions at the polls.

    My alma mater used a telnet (and now web-based) system to get more people involved in voting and it's translated into a 5-10% rise in voter turnout in the first few years.

    Building a P2P-DDOS is going to do nothing but piss anyone who might have even been on your side off. Work smarter not louder.

  • I'm serious. This is completely ridiculous -- ever since JonKatz stopped posting, Michael has taken the reins of the "Putting Inane Bullshit On The Front Page" carriage and run with it.

    In the name of everything that's holy, someone fire Michael. NOW.
  • What a ridiculous joke. You're going to get on your privately funded, government surveilled connection and bring about rapid change? Be real folks. If you want change you get it by hanging someone from a tree or putting a bullet through someone's head.

    If you think going online and whining in some blog is going to bring about rapid change, you're pissing in the wind. The IMF protestors have one thing right - if you want attention you've got to break something. The Bolsheviks had it down even better - if you want real change you have to smash an entire system.

    • > The IMF protestors have one thing right - if you
      > want attention you've got to break something.

      Yes, children who throw tantrums and smash windows do get attention. Of a sort.

      > The Bolsheviks had it down even better - if you
      > want real change you have to smash an entire
      > system.

      The Bolsheviks smashed nothing but a lot of infrastructure and the lives of millions. They just replaced the ruling class with themselves. No matter what slogans the politicians swindle their followers into mouthing, all revolutions have the same goal: kill the rich and take their money.
      [ Reply to This | Parent
      • Actually, prior to the Bolsheviks, there
        was not much infrastructure. Stalin is
        the one who industrialized the country,
        albeit with totalitarian measures and
        terror.
      • The Bolsheviks smashed nothing but a lot of infrastructure and the lives of millions.

        Communism was evil, but so was the system it replaced. The Bolsheviks destroyed a monarchy that was among the most despotic, ruthless, and intransigent in history.

        And they took it all down. Was the result better? History says no. History does say they wiped they obliterated the Romanov royal house.

    • Warning: This is a rant - and not directed entirely at the poster. His original point was that DDOSing over a privately-owned connection in order to smash capitalism was a Dumb Idea and unlikely to effect any change. In that, he's right.

      This rant isn't really directed at him, he's just the unlucky SOB who wrote the following couple of lines,

      > The IMF protestors have one thing right - if you want attention you've got to break something. The Bolsheviks had it down even better - if you want real change you have to smash an entire system.

      ...which I'm going to take out of context, on the grounds that so many people seem not just to agree with the fact they point out, but also think they're the prescription for a good idea, and it's to them that I dedicate this rant:

      So now we know what the protestors are really aiming for. Now we know what their ideal is.

      Hands up, anyone who wants the kind of "change" the former Soviet Union experienced for 75 years before finally imploding and having the kind of "change" it's had for the past 10 years.

      Tell you what. You keep smashing. We - the capitalists you hate - will keep building. We'll keep building the skyscrapers (even after you knock them down), the air conditioning for summer, the heating for winter, the clothes you buy at the GAP, the clothes you buy at Birkenstock's, the $0.99 burgers with the $4.00 lattes (OK, sometimes we fsck up), the refrigerators that store the $10/pound filet mignon so that you don't have to buy your food from McRaunchy's, the communications satellites, the fiber-optics, the cures for cancer, the $50 1.4 GHz CPUs... at least for now.

      (If you really don't want us around, maybe we'll just leave. From whom would you get your computers and clothes and housing and food then? But don't worry about that. For now, we'll keep building.)

      Meantime, it's nice to have you out of the closet.

      • I never in any of my posts endorse left of center politics. I am saying that real changes is brough about by force. The American Revolution is a classic example. Do you think they just asked the Brits to leave? No, the slaughtered them.

        My point stands - you do not get real change by asking for it. You have to take it.

  • While Votester is certainly an interesting idea,(the name especially, inspires confidence) I propose utilizing 900 number technology to choose our political leaders, a la Big Brother or Total Request Live. The elections would more than pay for themselves through the small fee charged for every call, with any surplus given to the winner on a live television show. Frankly I can't see any negatives to the plan.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Civil Disobedience was never meant to be easy. The very definition of such an action is that it is not sanctioned nor permitted by law. If you don't like getting picked on for breaking laws you think are unfair, that's just tough.
  • we will have a way that wealthy people on broadband connections will have a way to spread their political views. At last we have reached an all inclusive democracy. Where do I sign up?

    Honestly, people need to be proactive about their political views, not press a button.
  • "Votester"? What does this application have to do with voting?

    I could see "Protester", and then you'd have an accurate, descriptive name which fulfills your Rob Schnider-esque desire to end every P2P app with "-ster".
  • a majority of the people that would use this technology would use it responsibly, but there would be that %15 that would use it just like another script kiddie DDOS tool, and ruin any chance of anyone else being taken seriously
    there's a lot of ways to facilitate change, but the one thing that they have in common is each person does a little, and the only way large changes come about is by a large number of people. this tool would put a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of a small number of people ( i can see it now :
    protest_leader : dammit, we only have 5 protesters
    protester_1 : hey, let's just change the time unit from M to N
    protest_leader: even better, let's up it to O
    ) and thus a DDOS happens, ruining the credubility of anyone participating in this form of civil protest.
    if you want to change something w/ your digital means, use e-mail/web-pages/chat groups to organize, discuss, and plan. an anonymous spam/HTTP request shows little imagination and commitment.
    better yet, go look up your local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which I used to do as a teenage punk rocker. it's a lot of fun, you get to cook great food, hang out, and make a social difference by giving good food to people that need it. or whatever other group satisfies your political/social idealogies.
    and as nice as the thought of influencing society via negative ( punishment-oriented ) actions against what you percieve to be the offending member/group, it has a history of either being either detrimental to your cause or ( witness the history of Russia and Germany ) spiraling out of control and just becoming another form of control and power, to be fought against itself. sometimes the best thing you can do is to do something that might not be as immediately gratifying, but positively ( growth-oriented ) aligned that shows your opinion and might even cause a small change
  • by legLess (127550) on Saturday September 28, 2002 @05:22PM (#4351439) Journal
    Before I start this rant - thank you for sharing the idea and getting a debate going. Using technology to empower citizens is a laudable goal; perhaps we disagree on method, though.

    Quoth the anonymous one:

    It's effective. Digital demonstrations get noticed - they may actually cause enough inconvenience to target addresses that they can't help but notice them. They also cannot effectively be blocked by the police, so they last longer and can accomplish their objectives with fewer obstacles.

    You have exactly zero proof that this will be effective, and I have a few points you don't appear to have considered.

    Protests and civil disobedience depend largely on appeals to the "good side" of human nature. GandhiThe Mahatma [mahatma.org.in] and his followers were successful by-and-large because the Brits couldn't justify their actions to the rest of the world. Modern mass media played a huge role in Gandhi's success. There was tremendous pressure from home and the rest of the world to stop the brutality of British colonial rule.

    Now, some of this brutality was carefully provoked by Gandhi & Co. specifically to discredit the Brits in the eyes of their own citizens and the rest of the world. Much like the war in Vietnam, once the public saw what was happening they had little stomach for it.

    So what am I ranting about? What we need to learn about this is that the problem with protest is how you spin it in the media. Gandhi knew this, and you should learn it. Unarmed young men getting beaten is a sympathetic image, and impossible to deny. The excuse of, "They walked into my club" (while true), doesn't work as well when the blood is on their faces, but your hands and uniforms.

    Digitally, however, no one gets hurt. Great. But no-risk protests don't work because you only win if the public sympathizes with you, and who's going to sympathize with a bunch of P2P geeks mailbombing Congress? No one - you'll be called a group of anarchist, terrorist hackers trying to interfere with the duties of the government.

    If you were getting the shit kicked out of you on the Capitol steps it wouldn't matter what they called you - you're the one doing the bleeding, so you're going to get the sympathy.

    But your plan entails no bleeding. No risk at all, you say. If Gandhi's followers had all stayed home and written polite letters, even in great volume, they would have gotten nowhere. No risk, no reward.
  • An increasingly large percentage of the world population (especially in developed nations) is over the age of 50 and cannot safely participate in public demonstrations due to the physical fragility and health risks associated with aging. They simply cannot risk getting beaten up by the police. In other words, the majority of citizens cannot safely assemble and demonstrate.

    Are you kidding? The elderly are the ideal people to be on the front lines of a demonstration!

    1. Only the most hardened, jack-booted thug would hit a grandma
    2. "Police vs. the AARP" is a closer match in the arena of public opinion than is "Police vs. Tree-huggers"
    3. Old people bruise more easily, and are thus more photogenic when they appear on The Charlie Rose Show
    4. Old people are less likely to be anally violated while incarcerated

    The real down side of using old people for protests

    1. Not having long left for this world, its hard to get them to care for issues beyond social security benefits and the price of adult diapers
    2. They need frequent bathroom breaks
    3. (This is the real show stopper) Having lived for so long, they've seen it all happen before, and they have the growing suspicion that its all going to happen again and that no one's going to learn from history, so why try fighting?

    I dunno about virtual protests. Like Heinlein said, all authority derives from the threat of physical violence. Virtual sit-ins will just provide more impetus for government-mandated Palladium-like architectures on our PCs and on the network.

  • Are these the same minor causing 100% of all the looting/fires?

    When you look at say a G8 summit you see 1000's of peaceful people then a few 100 who are storming around causing shit.

    These same people then retaliate with shit like "The brick slipped from my hand into the mcdonalds... honest, I was protesting like civilized nations getting together!"

    Hey, go get a fucking job you social-elite piece of shit. Not all of us can sit in our parents basement while thinking up ways to be "special".

    Tom
  • It does seem like there should be a way to do something hacktivist-like online... I dunno if this is there yet.

    If there's a large sit-down protest at an event or business, it attracts attention because everyone can see it, and it only inconveniences the target. This method would seem exactly the opposite. It inconveniences everyone, if the DDoS produces a significant drain on the network besides just the target; and it doesn't attract attention, because no one can walk past your email flood and ask you what you're doing and why you're doing it.

    To quote Jim McCoy's comment [slashdot.org],

    I would suggest that the authors stop wasting time working on a thinly disguised DDoS tool and instead actually try to see how political speech and democratic ideals can actually fit together. The past few years have seen the emergence of weblogs, community forums, indymedia, and a host of other digital tools for helping people build communities of discussion and distribute ideas and information that can be used to educate and inform. I would suggest that people actually interested in digital democracy seek out these tools and help to make them better.

    Seems to me that the state-of-the-art in digital democracy is as a means for communication, organization, and education - not as an effective method of civil disobedience in itself, but as a means to effectively organize [yahoo.com] conventional methods of civil disobedience.
  • And in the future, we'll fight wars by running simulators and sending the appropriate number of people into a death chamber.

    An much as we all like "cyberspace", meatspace has some useful properties as well, which allows us to do some things in reality that we can't easily do on the Internet. This plan attempts to mimic the real world in an entirely superficial--and therefore useless--way. I expect it's possible to duplicate something like the dynamic of a live protest on-line, but it will take much more infrastructure than this.

  • ...no individual peer can be considered to be engaging in illegal harassment, hacking, denial of service, etc. Rather it is only the totally decentralized..., ie a distributed denial of service. Wow. I didn't know thase were legal....

    A *real* digital demonstration would be if a group of people each went home, wrote emails to their congresspersons, and sent them off. This would be legal, safe, open, and... probably not so effective. Dead trees are just harder to ignore than emails, and take more work to filter. This is all the more true if those emails are part of a DDOS attack.

    In terms of resistance to government tampering, Publius [cdt.org] or Free Haven [freehaven.net] would be a better way to get your ideas around if people would use them, which many people do.
  • This sounds like a good idea on the surface... some of the comments already out here mention the technical problems. However, someone has already devised an on-line system for taking back our rights...

    Read Jim Bell's "Assassination Politics [antioffline.com]." It's a long document, but thought provoking (and gub'mint provoking) as all hell. Seriously, the author went to jail, and people who toy with implementation have ended up there too.

    The premise is to hold an on-line death-of-some-public-figure/enemy-of-the-people prediction lottery using anonymous digital cash and lots of encryption. It reads like sci-fi, and gets you wondering on plausibility and morality.

    Note to Gub'mint spies: I am not advocating that anyone set up and use the Assassination Politics system... blah blah blah Just thought I'd share a somewhat more extreme example of on-line activism systems. :-)
  • Sure, it's not illegal, but just imagine how incriminating it would *look* (to "them" at least) just to have "Votester" installed...
  • There are many better forms of passive disobedience that get much more results

    how about evading taxes,
    ignoring copyrights,
    blowing off patents,
    using tax havens and other forms of
    hiding assets,

    get your perscriptions on the black market,
    or from other countries that make illegal generics

    keep your kids in home school or private school and out of the system

    use lots of trade and barter whenever possible and never report it to anyone else, and buy anything like guns, pharmacuticals, that you can on the black market.

    can you help smuggle or house an illegal aliean?
    can you help supply guns to families in 3rd world countries that are having their freedom taken away?

    You need to understand that others are trying to controll your life, and unless you are willing to take actions that destroy their power over you, you will be a slave.

    Perhaps this is the problem, you are too willing to protest and make noise, but not willing enough to assert that controll that is rightfully yours.
  • But, who among you, has a better idea for demonstrating digitally?

    C'mon, who amazing /.ers?

    I see nothing wrong with a system that facilitates mass emailings from masses of people. Not too many each.

    Sure make it secure, where it does take an individual to arrange for the email at a certain time. But what is wrong with this?

  • The police are more organized and equipped than ever before with tear gasses, irritant sprays, stun guns, rubber bullets, water cannons, body armor, etc.
    Demonstrators can now be arrested and prosecuted as "domestic terrorists" if they participate in civil disobedience or their actions are deemed a threat to "national security."
    Democracy in the medium and long-term is an unstable form of Government and will collapse. The only reason it survives now is because it's been eulogised by Hollywood and Arnold Schwarzenneger et al.

    Democracy initially allows people the freedom to do stuff, as time goes on people take advantage by performing criminal acts to get money/whatever, the politicians pass laws (Marijuana) that the people can't change so these criminals are tolerated and nurtured. When the criminals become too powerful, the people all of a sudden want a restrictive Government, their freedoms are curtailed (so what if a police dog smells marijuana in my car, does that really give him the right to search?). In a restrictive democracy the people cannot freely protest against Government (at the WTO protests an unarmed student was SHOT AND KILLED) and so resentment builds until a civil war/coup occurs. Perhaps a corporate oligopoly led by Bill Gates and Linus would be more peaceful in the long term?


  • If anyone decides to build this, it would be good to find a different name for it.

    The terms Votester and Vote-ster have been in use for a few years now, and refer to online vote-selling and/or vote-trading services/technologies. There are none currently in existence. But the term was coined to highlight the possibilities and dangers of large-scale vote-selling, or large-scale vote-trading, if voting systems (for public elections) are attached to the Internet.

    I first heard Dr. David Jefferson [compaq.com], Chair of the Technical Committee [ca.gov] for the California Internet Voting Task Force [ca.gov], use this term back in 2000. Here are links to show the term's usage to date .. National Workshop on Internet Voting [ncsl.org] (11 Oct 2000), B.K. DeLong's BrainStream [brain-stream.com] (25 Oct 2000), BBC News [bbc.co.uk] (28 Oct 2000), David Jefferson Presentation [mit.edu] (27 Aug 2001).

    Perhaps using some combination of "protest", "protester", and "Napster" would produce a name more closely reflecting the technology this write-up is describing.

  • It's non-violent. However annoying Votester may be it is not comparable to violent demonstrations in which property is damaged and/or humans are injured. Votester demonstrations are peaceful, they are simply email and HTTP campaigns. All that is exchanged is information.
    Yeah, sure, it's non-violent until a sysadmin figures out what is happening. At that point, whoo boy...

    Maybe now would be a good time to build that bomb shelter I was thinking about...
  • For example, to protest the policies of the World Bank and the IMF, parties could run copies of Votester on their personal computers around the Internet. They could join a group called "World Bank and IMF demonstration."

    I don't agree with this at all. Technical issues aside, it seems more as if the objective is to turn modern democracy into a online media web-poll. It's not that hard to demonstrate that nearly all of the people who pro-actively take part in public debate and make noise in the media are people who want to change something from whatever is already happening, whereas those who agree with the status quo have no reason to protest unless those other protesters really get up their nose.

    It also stinks of laziness, which leads back to the same problem of inactivity. One of the biggest parts of democracy is that you're supposed to stand up for it. Claiming that you might get a finger broken is a poor excuse. It's true that active parcicipation in demonstrations doesn't always work, butbut if people can't even be bothered to leave their home to express their opinion, then maybe it's not worth taking notice of.

    Making the whole participation process automated and easy is just encouraging people to get lazier and lazier. It encourages politicians to take less and less notice of it, and rightly so.

    It's pointless to have a referendum on an issue that results in 95% of people wanting to change something, if 95% of people didn't turn out to vote.. and after a short time, that's what will happen. Naturally that 95% will be trying to claim victory in front of the mathematically challenged majority, but it still means that 95.4% of people either don't want a change or don't care. The whole exercise was meaningless.

    This is the main reason that I don't sign petitions that are waved under my nose, and I don't send form letters that are identical to thousands of others. If and when I have an opinion to express, I'll put some effort in and express my opinion properly in my own words. It might not get read in detail, but at least it'll be visible as an opinion that took some effort to express.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

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