Thursday, 3 January 2019

10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Creeping Fascism in 2019

Freedom House has released its annual "Freedom on the Net" report, and the results were not encouraging. What it found was a rise in what it calls "digital authoritarianism," a trend in line with the general drift towards authoritarianism across the globe.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in the world's fourth largest democracy today, is the latest in a line of "elected" leaders with autocratic tendencies that include those from some of the world's formerly greatest champions of democracy. Nearly all of these electoral campaigns have included the use of social media to spread propaganda and hatred. He has, after only hours in office, targeted minorities and is purging government contractors who don't share his far right extremist ideology. It will only get worse.

Bolsonaro used WhatsApp extensively during the campaign. A study of 100,000 WhatsApp messages paid for by the Bolsonaro campaign showed that more than half were lies. No matter the country, the deceptive messages are the same. Demonize your opponents. Blame the left for the world's problems. Equate minorities with terrorism. Use religion as a prop. Bolsonaro did all of this. He even accused George Soros of trying to interfere in the campaign, a favorite dog whistle of the American and European far right.

Autocrats have various measures to repress internet freedom. They use "fake news" as an excuse to curb internet freedom and silence their opponents. Sometimes they even jail their critics under this ruse. Egypt, always creative when it comes to new ways to oppress its citizens, passed a law over the summer that requires all social media users with over 5000 followers to obtain a media license. (It should be noted here that Egypt has the third highest number of journalists in prison.) Forcing websites to register with the government has become commonplace in oppressive countries, too.

Meanwhile, government accountability, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, internet freedom, and the right to collective bargaining, hallmarks of democracy and human rights, are all under attack in democracies everywhere.

Autocrats across the globe have succeeded in scapegoating minorities, immigrants and refugees, leftists, workers parties and trade unions, journalists, atheists, feminists, LGBT, Jews and Muslims, and "the elite" (an attack on intellectuals and entertainers while conveniently excluding corporate executives), for deteriorating living standards that are, in fact, the result of neoliberal policies. Somehow, the world has eaten it up.

George Satayana once said, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." The world nearly destroyed itself not even a century ago, yet here we are, facing the same dangers that brought human civilization to its knees to face the proverbial firing squad.

Here are ten ways to fight creeping fascism:

1. Read a history book. Read many, from the classics to modernity. Learn from the mistakes of history, which repeats itself over and over and over again because people don't learn about the past.

2. When finished reading those books, lend them to your friends and family, so they, too, may educate themselves.

3. Learn how to spot propaganda. Fake news is one kind of propaganda. Slogans, flags, and political rallies are also propaganda. Be wary of state or party sponsored television channels such as RT, PressTV, or Fox that report "news" that benefits one side only or demonizes the opposition. If an article or news report demonizes an entire group of people, it's propaganda.

4. Say no to belief in conspiracy theories. Social media has given rise to a whole new level of insanity when it comes to what people will believe.

5. Recognize that the threat of fascism is real. Too often, people say, "it can't happen here." It can. It does. It is, in Brazil, in Turkey, in the United States and Hungary and Philippines and Poland and India and across the whole world.

6. Vote if you can, but be informed. Ignore candidates who dehumanize others, use racism or bigotry to stoke fears, or talk about overriding constitutional laws that they don't like. These kind of social issues are a mask for policies that benefit the candidates and their friends, not the country. It's propaganda. Don't fall for it.

7. Don't be afraid. Standing up for what is right takes courage, effort, and sacrifice.

8. Trust journalists. The reason autocrats demonize journalists is that they are the gatekeepers of truth. They report reality. But you also have to be able to tell the difference between a journalist, an opinion columnist, and a talking head who is hired to say the news on air but has no real journalistic background.

9. Follow fact-checking organizations or projects to combat fake news like "Fato or Fake" or Comprova, two Brazilian groups consisting of people with the training and backgrounds to vet news stories, investigate claims, and set the record straight. Beware of fake fact-checking groups and fake election monitoring groups.

10. Be smart online. Use SumRando VPN and Messenger for online anonymity so no one can see what you do online. We live in dangerous times. Spying on people is big business. Governments with bad intentions can see what you say and who you say it to. VPN encryption provides a layer of protection against prying eyes, and our secure messenger app makes your communication secret. It even allows you to set self-destruct messages and destroy the messages you sent to other phones.


Update: Further reading on the Bolsonaro campaign: 


WhatsApp itself wasn't paid, but the administrators and the bots were paid for by the campaign. Those groups spreading the propaganda weren't his followers. They were automated bots. Truly fake news. https://feed.itsrio.org/computational-power-automated-use-of-whatsapp-in-the-elections-59f62b857033

Of the top 50 images circulated by 347 WhatsApp groups during the election campaign, only 4 were real. https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/lupa/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Relat%C3%B3rio-WhatsApp-1-turno-Lupa-2F-USP-2F-UFMG.pdf

Then there is the problem with the purchase of personal data so the campaign could spam people with the propaganda. Another expense paid for by the campaign.

Not to mention the pro-Bolsonaro businesses who were on board with buying millions of dollars worth of mass text messages that led to WhatsApp taking legal action against the companies and to the banning of 100,000 WhatsApp accounts, including Bolsonaro’s son. https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/10/empresarios-bancam-campanha-contra-o-pt-pelo-whatsapp.shtml


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

He knows when you've been bad or good...

We have been thinking about the American phenomenon of Elf on a Shelf, a recently established American Christmas tradition of placing a toy elf around one's house so that children think an elf is watching them and reporting their behavior to Santa Claus.

It's a pretty disturbing trend if you really think about it. I mean, is the North Pole a surveillance state or what? Is Santa a dictator?

We're making a list of Santa's transgressions and checking it twice:

He watches your every move.
He uses indentured servants to make his products.
He has minions to spy on you in your home (Elf on a Shelf!)
Citizens of the North Pole don't get to vote.
He's ruled the North Pole for...well, forever, we guess.
He punishes you if he doesn't like his behavior.

We'll tell you this: we don't want some elf watching everything we do. Fortunately, no elf is going to be able to watch our online behavior because we are using SumRando VPN. Even Santa himself can't crack its encryption.

Privacy is a human right, Santa. Don't put us on your naughty list because we are helping people execute their human rights in countries where dictators surveil their citizens and block information or lines of communication from them. Why not prove you are the nice guy everyone thinks you are and give some subscriptions to SumRando VPN for Christmas?

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Lies, lies, lies




What incredible, vomit-inducing propaganda coming out of MBS's Saudi Kingdom. That a state-run media channel could lie so blatantly is testament to the perpetual state of cloudiness that Saudi citizens must endure when it comes to Truth.

The Saudi news channel claims MBS was awarded Time's Person of the Year, when the reality was that Jamal Khashoggi and other hero journalists, together called "The Guardians," were presented on four different covers. MBS is Mr. B.S.
 
The world of authoritarian propaganda is treacherous. If you control the information, you control the people. Using outright lies is a part of the dictator repertoire. Censorship and blocking the internet is another. Is Time blocked in Saudi Arabia? We don't know. But if MBS is going to lie about who's on the cover, the lie can be enhanced by blocking the truth from the Saudi people.

Fortunately, there is a way to circumvent the lies on the internet. If a site is blocked, you can use a  VPN. We have had a million people across the globe download our VPN in 2018 alone, including tens of thousands of Saudis who are interest in the truth, not the lies of the MBS regime. (You can download it free here.)
 
At least 16 Saudi journalists were in prison as of December 1, in what the New York Times has declared The New Normal. More than 250 journalists were jailed worldwide in 2018 alone. Now, more than ever, is it imperative for journalists to take precautions to protect themselves online. First step, always always always use a VPN. Second step, secure all communications with a safe messaging app. Third step, transfer all documents using a secure file transfer app

R.I.P. Jamal Khashoggi and the hundreds of other journalists who have lost their lives in pursuit of truth. You are our true Guardians.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Persbericht. Fógra. Announcement.

Amsterdam
What could be more exciting than Amsterdam?

Red brick houses, picturesque canals, springtime tulips, world-class art, exotic nightlife, a SumRando VPN server...

Yes, that's right, we have added a server in Amsterdam.



Dublin
But the luck of the Irish is with you, too because we have also added a server in Dublin. Two beautiful cities in one go!

As we grow across the globe - nearly one million accounts created in 2018 alone - we are able to expand our privacy tools to provide even better VPN service for you. We own all of our own equipment, so you never have to worry about third parties interfering with your online privacy and security.

Amsterdam and Dublin join our existing servers in Sweden, Spain, New York, Hong Kong, Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, and Singapore. And coming soon - Portland, Oregon.

Bonus: if you subscribe to our platinum plan, not only do you have access to the Android and Windows apps, but you are granted access to OpenVPN Config files for iOS, MacOS, and Linux. Now, for a limited time, get a year of unlimited VPN data, access to all of our servers, and those OpenVPN Config files for only $20.18.

Visit www.sumrando.com and start your download today!

Friday, 24 August 2018

I read the news today, oh boy...

You'd think they'd be headlines.

Russia shuts down Telegram

Cameroon blocks the internet from English speaking population

India cuts access to the internet for 177th time in five years


But they aren't. Oh sure, sometimes a major world newspaper like the New York Times mentions them. But are they discussed by the shouting heads on Western cable news channels? The American CNN seems to talk of nothing but the tweets of their president. The BBC is not much better about its own political Yoricks. In many African countries, they aren't allowed to talk about these things at all, and in others, the political soap operas dominate the conversation.

Yet, the entire world is facing a sort of existential crisis when it comes to the very freedoms we all agreed human beings should have when we joined the United Nations. Granted, the internet was not invented when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, but then again, most people in the world did not even have televisions and we seemed to figure out that television was a part of free speech and such. We use the term "internet shutdown," but that is a generic term that encompasses many actions. A shutdown can range from blocking a single website or app to creating an alternate country- or region-wide intranet to cutting off access to the entire internet. We should add to that the issue of net neutrality, a sort of "evolved" version of an internet shutdown that makes it seem like it's all in the name of "business" or "jobs" but it's really just another means to control information and political power. It's all the more dangerous when telecommunications are controlled by only a few corporations with a large dollar stake in who is in power in a government.

Let's be real. An internet shutdown is censorship, no matter what form it takes.

And here we are, a small company from Africa, shouting into the darkness, with little name recognition and limited resources to do something about it compared to the Microsofts and Googles of the world. We do what we can.

The large, well-funded American organizations who fight for causes like ours have recently been busy with their own declining internet freedoms and creeping authoritarianism. They are getting a taste of the poison we have been dealing with in large doses since the internet started to spread in the
"developing countries." The EU countries are trying to figure out just what GDPR is and if it goes too far or not far enough in privacy protection. Those Western countries we looked to as ideals for freedom of speech and press are fighting the same authoritarian impulses that Africans have known since before they were born.

What has the internet done to us all?

 Do you ever wonder if people ran around at the time of Gutenberg acting all crazy like this?

So what we are doing here is providing some tools to fight censorship and trying to call attention to the missing headlines. These tools are open to the whole world, but we focus our attention on countries where oppression is severe and where people may not be able to afford a VPN subscription. When we're blocked by a country, we find solutions to make it work for the people there.  We have millions of users across the globe, but especially in regions like the Middle East and Africa where censorship is normal.

Why not try us out? Download SumRando VPN, Messenger, and STASH at https://www.sumrando.com.