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You Against the Government’s Tools

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Our father’s generation fought the Cold War with spies, our grandfather’s generation fought the Vietnam War with soldiers, but the internet war must be won by well-trained hackers.

Julian Assange calls the events in Catalonia an “internet war.” The Spanish government has raided Catalonian government offices, arrested government officials, frozen telecommunications links, and censored hundreds of internet sites. The government has refused to accept that secession is happening, and that the people of Catalonia are tired of Spain’s reckless abuse of their tax dollars. Catalans contribute 21 percent of the country tax revenues, but don’t receive their fair share of government services. So in order to stop the bleeding of their tax dollars, they have taken the bold step of secession from Spain. Other parts of the world, such as China and Venezuela, have also faced oppressive government internet restrictions and similar retaliations for voicing opposition to government bureaucrats.

This internet war has grown in many of these non-English countries to an unlimited extent because most computer programming languages are English-based. For many non-native English speakers, learning computer programming and implementing the tools to navigate around oppressive government restrictions is almost an impossible task. This emboldens these countries’ public officials to continue to legislate more restrictive laws to a populace that isn’t equipped to navigate around those laws.

The following is a computer program written in Java, one of the most commonly used languages:

public class CallingMethodsInSameClass

{

public static void main(String[] args) {

printOne();

printOne();

printTwo();

}

 

public static void printOne() {

System.out.println(“Hello World”);

}

 

public static void printTwo() {

printOne();

printOne();

For most native English speakers, you might not understand the words in context, but you will be able to recognize every word used. However, a native Spanish speaker wouldn’t recognize the language and wouldn’t be able to use these codes without learning the English language to some degree. This extra barrier can further restrict their ability to defeat the government’s restrictions and leads to a compliant citizenry unable to react to defend themselves against oppression.

PyBasico, a company that I have recently invested in through our Young Entrepreneur Program, is working to develop Spanish-speaking internet activists. The founder believes that teaching code in Spanish will allow other Latinos like herself to overcome the obstacles of an oppressive government regime. In this day and age, every citizen must be prepared to be well-versed on digital tools, which can counteract any government’s attempt to restrict the freedom of information.

For Catalans or other internet activists, through censorship circumvention, it is almost always possible to evade government restrictions by relying on intermediary computers, outside your country, to reach blocked services for you. Tactical Technology Collective and Front Line Defenders have developed a useful toolkit called “Security-In-A-Box.” The site is translated into multiple languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Arabic.

For more non-technical internet activists, through paid promotions on Facebook Ads Manager, Google AdWords, or any other online advertising tool could be a very simple and cost-effective way to promote your discontent with government restrictions. For citizen-based campaigns, I’ve promoted ideas for $25 on Facebook that ended up being shared with the tens of thousands. Facebook and Google Ads are significantly cheaper when they are more engaging and relevant to audiences. If you are promoting censorship circumvention to only audiences who speak the Catalan language on Facebook Ads Manager, it is almost guaranteed that your engagement levels will be higher and significantly cheaper than any other advertisement targeting Catalans.

Government officials use many of these tools to protect themselves and to influence public opinion. These tools shouldn’t be limited to simply those in power, but be used by every citizen to influence and circumvent government intrusion. Despotism can only develop when weapons are expensive or difficult to make, but when internet tools are readily available, private citizens have a chance to quell the despotic nature of government.

The internet war, unlike Vietnam or the Cold War, is a war between the common people and the government. It has more in common with the French or American Revolution, where the common people have an equal chance to update the definitions of liberty and equality.

Private citizens’ and businesses’ support of internet freedom is one of the best ways to force governments to comply. Each individual must do their own part to help train each other on the tools needed to fight oppressive government restrictions. For native Spanish-speakers, who might not want to be involved with a training program like PyBasico, there are numerous non-standard programming languages that have been developed in Spanish such as Latino, Pauscal, and Qriollo. We must all be concerned with this internet war. The best ways to fight against it is to invest, train, and mobilize individuals capable of counteracting oppressive government regimes.

Ebonique Boyd has founded Good Management & Investments, a company dedicated to serving underserved communities by creating new and unexpected paths to wealth. Her company just started testing the Young Entrepreneur Program for high school students and college gap year students.

 

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