Activist’s death puts internet freedom on the agenda

January 15, 2013


Byron Clark

Internet commons activist Aaron Swartz has died by suicide several weeks out from a trial that could have seen him facing 35 years in prison and over a million dollars in fines. Despite being only 26 years old when he died, Tim Burners-Lee, inventor of the hypertext technology that makes the World Wide Web possible, commented that “we have lost a mentor, a wise elder”. Like Burners-Lee, Swartz had made important contributions to the sharing of information though modern technology, helping to develop the Real Simple Syndication (RSS) standard which allows users to subscribe to ‘feeds’ from websites, making the consumption of news and other information easier and facilitating ‘podcasts’ as a new form of distribution of audio content to subscribers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Who watches the watchmen? Kim Dotcom and the GCSB

October 20, 2012

Kim Dotcom

Joel Cosgrove

The Kim Dotcom affair is an intriguing one. As interesting as Dotcom might be as an individual (see Mega Conspiracy: Kim Dotcom, SOPA and Capitalism in the Feburary 2012 issue of The Spark or online) the issues swirling around him and the wider ramifications of the behaviour of the police are even more important.

The arrest of Dotcom on January the 20th of this year was as much media stunt as anything else. More than 70 police (including the Armed Offenders Squad) with helicopters swarmed Dotcoms mansion. Much was made of his fleeing into his electronically locked safe room with a loaded shotgun. It was only later on in the piece that it was revealed that unidentified plain clothes police scared him into retreating into his safe room and that there was a shotgun within a gun safe on hand (technically close to him though).

Dotcom stands accused by the US government of using the MegaUpload site to engage in the largest series of copyright infringements in history. He was denied bail soon after due to fears from the crown that he would flee to Germany (which currently has no extradition treaty with the US, as opposed to New Zealand, which does). Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the US government so afraid of Jacob Appelbaum?

September 18, 2012

Julian Assange was set to speak at the The Next Hope hacker conference, New York in 2010:

“Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance” he began “I am here today because I believe we can make a better world. Julian, unfortunately, can’t make it, because we don’t live in that better world right now, because we haven’t yet made it. I wanted to make a little declaration for the federal agents that are standing in the back of the room and the ones that are standing in the front of the room, and to be very clear about this: I have, on me, in my pocket, some money, the Bill of Rights and a driver’s license, and that’s it. I have no computer system, I have no telephone, I have no keys, no access to anything. There’s absolutely no reason that you should arrest me or bother me. And just in case you were wondering, I’m an American, born and raised, who’s unhappy. I’m unhappy with how things are going.”

This is how Jacob Appelbaum introduced himself to the world. Appelbaum’s life is now defined by his defence of anonymity and for privacy in a social environment that is rapidly becoming more interconnected and less private. Read the rest of this entry »

Urewera four – fight the imprisonments of Iti and Kemara

May 25, 2012

Byron Clark

The crown has decided not to retry the Urewera 4 on the charge of Participation in an Organised Criminal Group. The group were originally threatened with charges under new terrorism laws after being arrested in a series of raids on October 15, 2007. 13 others were arrested but charges against them have been dropped. The only charges the state could make stick were minor firearms offenses against Tame Iti, Rangi Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

“The whole case should never have gone ahead.” Commented Ana Cocker from the October 15th Solidarity Group, adding that the firearms charges should also be thrown out. “The charge of Participation was laid specifically in order that the crown could use the illegally obtained evidence. The crown needed to justify Operation 8 and their invasion and spying on Te Urewera, by bringing convictions at any cost” said Crooker “Nothing in this case has been about so-called justice, it is all about criminalising dissent and halting aspirations for Tuhoe autonomy.”

On May 24 Iti, Kemara, Signer and Bailey were sentenced on the firearms charges. Signer and Bailey were sentenced to 9 months home detention while Iti and Kemara were sentenced to more than 2 years in prison. Along with other people and organisations we support their immediate release.

Queer Avengers: Protesting and the Law Workshop (Wellington)

April 16, 2012

The Queer Avengers are holding a workshop that is open to all activists on protesting and the law. Kate Scarlet from the Wellington Community Law Centre will be giving a talk on exactly what the laws are surrounding protest, and your rights as a protester.

Topics include:

- Your right to protest, including freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful expression and association.
- Filming the police.
- Arrest – covering what you have to do, what is resisting arrest and use of force by you and the police.
- Search and seizure.
- Rights after arrest.
- Youth & the police.
- What can happen if you do commit an offence.
- Complaining about the police.

Everyone welcome, please pass through your networks! Free entry, but koha welcome. Venue has lift access if needed. If you have any questions, please email:

6pm Wednesday April 18th, Wellington Peoples’ Centre, Lukes Lane

Social networking sites: Why are they censored?

February 28, 2011

Marika Pratley (Wellington branch of Workers Party)

Julie Tyler was threatened with serious misconduct by Burger King for posting the comment “Real jobs don’t underpay and overwork like BK does” on a friend’s Facebook page. This event highlighted the limitations of democracy on the internet and social networking sites. It also brings to question limitations on freedom of speech in general – for example – in the workplace.

This is not the first time that workers or activists have faced censorship on social networking sites. In 2010 individual profiles and groups were shutdown by Facebook for expressing support for organisations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In 2011 Egypt’s entire internet services were shut down by the government in an attempt to prevent communication between organisers and to stop democratic protests from taking place.
Read the rest of this entry »

The implications of the Terrorism Suppression Act

February 20, 2011

Jared Phillips, Co-ordinating editor, The Spark

Public meetings have been held in New Zealand’s major centres to build opposition to increasing state power being used against activists and oppressed groups. Early this year the Workers Party and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Solidarity Campaign hosted one such forum in Christchurch with a focus on the implications of the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA). Five speakers – Michael Knowles, Valerie Morse, Murray Horton, Paul Piesse, and Michael Walker – explored the local and international dimensions.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Search and Surveillance Bill: A Threat to Our Civil Rights

April 22, 2010

Cameron Walker, Published in Craccum 19 April 2010

National Day of Action against the Search and Surveillance Bill: April 24
On Saturday 24th April there will be protests around the country against the Search and Surveillance Bill. The Auckland protest will start at 2pm, opposite the Town Hall, Queen Street.

The Search and Surveillance Bill is a law currently being debated by the New Zealand Parliament. According to its supporters, such as the National and Labour Parties, it is necessary because New Zealand’s laws relating to search and surveillance powers are currently spread across a large number of statutes and it would make things much easier for the Police and other state agencies if they were all put in one statute. However, the Bill not only does this but also creates a number of new powers for state agencies to monitor, search and detain people. The Auckland Council for Civil Liberties refers to it as ‘perhaps the greatest single expansion of state powers of entry, seizure and surveillance in New Zealand history’. Bizarrely the new powers are not just granted to the Police but also 70 other state agencies, including the Pork Board and Work and Income NZ (WINZ). At its first reading in Parliament only the Greens voted against it. Read the rest of this entry »


March 22, 2010

Don  Franks

Well done the three antiwar activists from the Ploughshares group, and the jury who found them not guilty of burglary and intentional damage in the Wellington District Court. The not guilty verdict relates to charges laid when the men deflated one of the domes at the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim two years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

University uses state forces against activists

October 21, 2009


I/we call on Victoria University to lift the trespass notices on Heleyni Pratley and Joel Cosgrove.

(Organisation/title/institution for identification purposes only)



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers