digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.

22.6.07

Blogs, the laws of the USA, and why Fiji is really crying


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The New Zealand press

In my June 19, 2007 post, I quietly mentioned the unreported story of an alarming change in the rhetoric of Fiji's anti-military blogs from defamatory to violent. As of today, the New Zealand press is starting to pick up on this. Michael Field, who was recently ejected from Fiji, penned a story appearing on Stuff this morning. Here is an excerpt:

A Fiji internet blog has called for attacks on tourists and has provided recipes for making Molotov cocktails and bombs. Fiji's military, which staged a coup in December, has been trying to close down blogs but one of the oldest, Why Fiji's Crying (WFC), has survived and in its latest set of postings calls for guerrilla war.Following the expulsion of New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green last week, WFC has published an appeal to Fijians to destabilise the country by striking at weak points...
[Blog calls for attacks on tourists in Fiji, Stuff, June 22, 2007]
In a similar piece, the tvnz.co.nz site references the same post from WFC.
A Fijian blog is calling for attacks on tourists to the island nation. The author says driving tourists away would cut revenue flowing to the Bainimarama regime. The website suggests targets like tour buses and resorts. The blogger says Fiji is already economically unstable and wiping out the country's main industry will be the final nail in the regime's coffin.
[Fiji blog calls for tourist attacks, tvnz.co.fj, June 22, 2007]
Why is Fiji crying?

So that you are free to draw your own conclusions, here is an excerpt from the WFC post that has prompted most of this discussion.
Strike at your enemies weak points. The most obvious weak point of the regime, its jugular, is its inability to protect its outer networks and the failing economy.

Tourists are still coming to Fiji, think of how you can stop that. What assets can you focus on within the tourist industry that will send the message back to their home countries that Fiji is not a safe destination at the moment ? Tourist tour busses ? Tourist Bure’s ?

If you want to make Molotov cocktails, think about how you will access the fuel and the motor oil without attracting suspicions. Think about a safe location where you can prepare your materials and keep them hidden. Do not keep the materials at the house of any of your members. Keep them at a safe hideout. A hidesite away from any of your homes. You can also keep all your plans and documents at that site. It is a safe point where all your materials are safely stored away so that no one can link you back to the materials. When you need to go on the operation you can then go and pick up from the hidesite and move out.

Try to operate in two teams. One team as your strike team and the other as your "overwatch". That means you can split your force into two teams on operations. One team is to provide route security to ensure that your intended escape route is safe and the other team is to do the attack.
[Fijians - destablise the country, WFC, June 19, 2007]
The very next post qualifies this tactical advice with the statement, "have some faith and patience, and remember that physical resistance is the last option - not the first." For me, this call for patience does little to warm the chill left by images of fire-bombed buses.

Even more disturbing is the juxtaposition of this call to arms with the fanning of the decades-old flame of racial hatred in Fiji in another June 19, 2007 post at WFC.
(Chaudhary) by his 5/12 coup, was really hoping that Fiji will be his, under his control, a place he would like Fijians and the rest of the world to know as “little India”, the Fijian Island paradise lost to the hands of a man who is living out his whole life to “Indianize” Fiji.
[Mahen Chaudhary angered by Frank, WFC, June 19, 2007]
The result of these posts on WFC is a heady mix of uttering threats, inciting violence against innocent civilians, hate crime, and quite frankly, terrorism. Based on the WFC's stated goal of destabilizing the economy by driving tourists away, the authors of these posts may actually have no intention of having anyone carrying out these acts - the threat is sufficient. However, the fact remains that the act of publishing these posts violates several criminal laws in many countries around the world, including the United States.

The laws of the USA

Why are the laws of the USA significant to Fiji bloggers? Why not talk about the laws of New Zealand, Australia, or at least those of Fiji? The answer is simple. Because San Francisco based Wordpress and San Jose based Google (the owner of Blogger and blogspot.com) are American companies. "So?", you ask. Well, when you violate American criminal law on a server on American soil, you may get the attention of American law enforcement.

More to the point for those of you attempting to preserve your online anonymity, WFC has given US law enforcement a powerful motive to cooperate with the Fijian law enforcement. It is also important to note that US law enforcement agencies gain far-reaching evidence gathering powers when a criminal investigation is connected with terrorism. This is due to a piece of legislation known as the Patriot Act, which empowers US federal law enforcement to gain access to all records held by Wordpress, Google, and other American online services for any suspects or their alleged associates. This includes their gmail, yahoo, and msn email accounts and all information connected with those accounts.

Does this all sound a little far fetched?

Google does it in India.
Think twice before you let loose your thoughts on Orkut. The Google-run community site, which has become a global platform for sharing personal information, ideas and sentiments and already has nearly 6.6 million registered Indian users (of a total of 49 million worldwide), has entered into a pact with the Cyber Crime Cell of Mumbai police saying it will not only block those 'forums' and 'communities' that contain 'defamatory or inflammatory content' but also provide the IP addresses from which such content has been generated...

"Now we can do away with the process and not just directly ban content but also obtain details of IP addresses and service providers quickly"
[Orkut's tell-all pact with cops, Economic Times, May, 2007]
Yahoo does it in China.
Yu Ling, the wife of imprisoned Chinese dissident Wang Xiazoning, has sued Yahoo for divulging information about her husband's Internet activity, which allegedly led to his arrest and torture.
[Yahoo sued over jailing of Chinese dissedent, CIO, April 19, 2007]
Why wouldn't it happen with Wordpress and Google in Fiji?


p.s. American contract law: Recent content posted to WFC and a few other anti-military blogs in Fiji may violate of both Wordpress' and blogspot.com's terms of service (Wordpress tos, blogspot tos). Wordpress and Google reserve the right to terminate your blog for very little reason if they see fit to do so.

Photos by: carf, MISz "H"

10 comments:

Wilson said...

A well written article which serves to reminds us all that we aren't as anonymous as we think we are ...

Dionisia Tabureguci said...

Yes Chris, I thought this was a very good article that explores this very serious issue. Thanks to blogs such as yours, the average consumer is given more value for money on information than the shallow, sometimes useless stuffs that come out of the media.

thrashor said...

thanks for the kind words.

яεѕιѕт RFC admin said...

Excellent article!!! Some one should alert the local law enforcement authorities here so they can get in touch with the US law authorities in order to clamp down on these terrorist bloggers!!!

Robert said...

Hi Chris. Just a thought, but would the US authorities recognize the current government as lawful? I wonder at what point the US, or any other government would get involved say in Iran right now. My point is that just because they can, doesn't mean they will.

Dionisia Tabureguci said...

Robert...I would have thought that if it concerned terrorist activities, the US wouldn't consider very much if there was a legal or illegal government in place. Maybe shutting down the blogs would be a last resort. They could just monotor it and still know where the postings originated from.

thrashor said...

rob and dionisia: you both have a good point: it is true that the usa's position of the legitimacy of the current regime will certainly dampen their willing ness to help with any investigations. however, if anything could overcome the bush administration's reservations, it's terrorism.

Isis said...

Very good post. Terrorism is only of interest to the US government when it can be used as pretext for furthering their own aims, so they will probably ignore that blog.

From the radical tone, I would not be surprised if there were ties between the 'Why Fiji Is Crying' blog and one of the big governments in the region, if only in the form of having a 'hands off' policy toward them.

On a side issue, it is also interesting that there seems to be a paucity of criticism of the government in Tonga these days.

Peace.

Ricardo said...

Apropos of failing to act because of the (putative) lack of legitimacy of a government, I think that in cases like this the NZ/Australian/US governments might overcome such scruples in the interests of their own citizens who would be prime targets of the attacks, if the statements in the blog were considered likely to lead to concrete action. It's possible that some "big government" might be happy to let nature take its course as a pretext for direct intervention, but I doubt that all the governments concerned would be so sanguine about sacrificing their citizens.

thrashor said...

One interesting theory that is circulating is that the terrorist blog posts are posted by pro-military bloggers. Could this be possible?