[swb-public] README: Welcome & Initial Thoughts

Nex lists at nex.sx
Sun Jan 1 19:20:12 UTC 2017

I will answer inline to the best extent I can, from the experience I
have accumulated working in the field of human rights.

On 01/01/2017 05:59 PM, swb at hacknet.cx wrote:
> Hi
> I've been watching from the sidelines here to see how things develop. Must confess I haven't seen the original source materials from whence this project was conceived so please take questions / comments in that context.
> I have 3 comments / questions so far, the first related to trust, the second related to safety and the third regarding agreed objectives and politics. I hope both that these have and haven't been covered in equal measure already,  although the enthusiasm for this project means that I also haven't read *every* communique that's hit my mailbox.
> Anyway. Comment 1: trust.
> Josh makes a great point, this list will be surveiled by interested parties who do not have the same goals as this list. I would take this further and posit that the list / project will or has already been infiltrated by those parties. How do we as a group obtain /maintain and assure to *customers* that the people involved are trustworthy and have aligned objectives to those seeking assistance. I have seen groups 'crash and burn' as josh puts it on this aspect alone. This is especially true in the hacking scene where people either welcome or fear /despise the Intel services depending on the individual viewpoint.
> Who will undertake vetting of those people involved to provide those assurances and how, especially where typical vetting organisations, government, military,  may be considered the 'opposition' and thus government vetted people may be seen as less trustworthy by nature of their affiliation?

This is a very complicated question, and I think there isn't a "good"
answer in the sense that it will take time to figure out.
One very good question is, for example, would we allow volunteers that
work inside governments?

The general issue of trust will always remain, and I think the only
answer to that is having a layered participation, as I explained in the
original email to this thread, to different activities which require
different levels of trust.

As people show commitment and engagement, and as we perhaps have
opportunities to verify and maybe even meet, they can get looped in
more, and involved in more private projects and conversations.

> Comment 2:safety
> Given the stakes involved, participants in this project could be individually, or collectively targetted both electronically and through other means. Maybe others on the list could highlight any physical threats to individuals that may exist as I'm no expert. How do we go about ensuring the safety of participants from state or other actors seeking to undo the group efforts? What legal support do we have, or can we put in place to protect volunteers from specific targetting?

A degree of harassment can't be excluded in the future if you decide to
publicly associate yourself. Personally, I have never been subject of
anything particularly invasive, except some additional screenings at

I feel this problem very much tho, and I invite people who are concerned
about this to consider participating under pseudonyms and in case of
wanting to get verified, contacting me privately.

> Comment 3: agreed objectives / politics.
> I suspect we've all expressed interest and willingness for different reasons, but with a generally agreed view that we would like to support freedom of speech and expression, support NGOs, the press and others in the face of growing intolerance. How do we go about defining who to support and who not to support, however? As an example I suspect everyone would support a request from MSF for help,  however would that extend to other groups? What would happen if breitbart sought help from the group? Or maybe The Canary (left wing organisation)? What would happen if the White helmets sought help, or a Palestinian organisation? How do we protect the group against fracture along political and ethical lines? Who makes these decisions and what happens if the group finds itself on the "wrong side of history"?

This is a common problem that I have faced when dealing with providing
assistance to people I do not know. Normally, I tend to rely on other
organizations with experience, such as Amnesty or Human Rights Watch,
who would often be aware of particular individuals and organizations. Of
course they might have particular biases, but they are generally a
pretty reliable metric, I think, so in cases of doubt it is always
useful to inquire them and seek for advice.

Also, I think a key component will be to cooperate with existing
organizations that work in the field and provide already forms of
assistance, and who already act as point of contact to people on the
ground. For example Access Now, Frontline Defenders, Amnesty, etc.


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