Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Thu Oct 5 08:09:17 CEST 2017

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From: info <info at xnet-x.net>
Date: Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 5:11 PM
To: xnet-news at listas.xnet-x.net




failures in the use of digital tools in Catalonia’s rebellion *

The battle presently being fought in the streets and polling stations in
towns and cities throughout Catalonia before, during and after October 1,
in which a diverse civil society has come together in huge numbers, putting
their bodies and knowledge in the service of the shared goal of defending
what is considered to be real democracy, has also had a crucial
battleground in the case of the Internet.

*September 7, 2017*

On September 7, 2017, the Constitutional Court declared the referendum in
Catalonia illegal. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-politics-
catalan-referendum-law-court-source-idUSKCN1BI2TE) Thenceforth, the Spanish
government embarked on legal, police, and administrative persecution of any
“device or instrument that is to be used for preparing or holding the
referendum”, including ballot boxes and papers which were now criminal
objects. Websites, apps and tools related with the referendum were closed
on the Internet.

Independently of whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision of the
Spanish courts to ban the referendum, the closing of many regular Internet
spaces can be viewed, in a great number of cases, as a grave violation of
freedom of expression—and especially freedom of political opinion—which is
protected in international treaties and by Article 11 of the European
Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (http://www.europarl.europa.
<http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_es.pdf#page=11>) on
“Freedom of expression and information”. While some websites, apps and
domains belong to the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia and were tools
directly linked with organizing the referendum, many others were of private
individuals or associations, and basically reflect political opinions. It
is clear that one thing—arguable or not—is banning a referendum and quite
another is *blocking, while they were at it, the right to express one’s
political opinion *that the referendum should be held.

In the last few days, Catalonia has been the testing ground of what we have
always denounced or, in other words, the fact that the space of the
Internet has yet again been subjected to a state of exception which
“democratic” governments wouldn’t dare to apply to physical space because
this violation of rights would immediately be visible. Proof of this is
that many of the shut-down websites belong to associations with physical
premises but no authority has risked ordering that these centers should be

Internet access is essential for the exercise of our freedoms and should be
considered in itself a fundamental right #KeepItOn.

*If we let the space of the Internet become the first casualty in the
curtailment of basic rights, we can be sure that the next step will be to
limit those rights in other spaces as well.*

*September 13, 2017*

On September 13 a court order shut down the web page *referendum.cat
<http://referendum.cat>* (http://www.catalannews.com/politics/item/catalan-
Thus began a game of cat-and-mouse between the Spanish government (with its
state repression) and the Catalan government.

Some citizens published the referendum web code in Github. After this,
clones of the website began to appear, created by volunteer citizens in
domains with names like *piolin.cat <http://piolin.cat> *(where *piolin*
refers to Tweetie Pie, painted on the boat accommodating Spanish
police)*, **referendum.ninja
o marianorajoy.cat <http://marianorajoy.cat>*, while alternative sites were
also made available by the Generalitat itself.

The police operation continues with domains being shut down and access
blocked to all these sites as well as many other web pages with opinions
about the referendum, including those of associations, sports clubs and
private sites. All of this was occurring against a background of
politicians being arrested and presidents of civil society associations
being charged with sedition.

*In ten days more than 140 websites were blocked. *The project OONI by Tor
includes a non-exhaustive list of affected domains and information on the
type of block (https://ooni.torproject.org/post/internet-censorship-

As part of this state operation, the *Guardia Civil raided the headquarters
of **Top Level Domain **.cat*, confiscating IT equipment and data, and
detaining one of its IT staff. This disproportionate measure, which is
unprecedented in the European Union, implies the possibility of opening the
way for something we have been struggling against for years, namely *domain
managers being held responsible for content*.

The UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Internet
Society, the Electronic Founder Foundation, and many other organizations
like our own have condemned this blocking of websites and the inordinate
digital repression carried out by the Spanish government just days before
the referendum was held, which meant that there was no chance to establish
their validity, suitability and legality because they left no time to do so.




In this situation of persecution and* very serious violation of rights*,
many people, moved by their convictions and without proper legal advice,
have exposed themselves to risks which could have been avoided in some
cases, and have left their identities at the mercy of a repressive
apparatus that needs scapegoats to justify its actions. The open use of
names among the alleged authors of the first mirror sites has meant that
the authorities are now boasting that they have rounded up the young
perpetrators (as many as 14) (http://www.europapress.es/
20170925193606.html). Some of them face very serious charges like “heading
a seditious organization” which, as everyone knows, makes no sense at all
in a free, open space like the Internet. These are definitely measures that
aim to inflict disproportionate punishment so as to bully and intimidate
citizens in an attempt to discourage their intense online activity. (

One of the most common errors made by citizens has been their frequent use
of servers with few and poor legal guarantees for the client. A case in
point is the insistent use of .cat domains. These come under the control of
.es, and therefore the Spanish state, which shows no concern for civil
rights, in contrast with other generic domains (.net, .org, .com...) with
are overseen by ICANN and other organizations that do respect basic rights.

We believe that it is important to stress that *we shouldn’t need martyrs
to prove that our struggles are just*. We must make every possible effort
to ensure that the people who are struggling for their rights don’t suffer
reprisals. In this regard, Xnet has tried to give an overall explanation of
how to avoid this and other useful information in a Guide (
fundamental-rights-internet/) that seeks to protect people who work with
the Internet from unjust repression. This initiative is part of a set of
actions designed by the lawyers and organizations of #SomDefensores to
defend basic rights.


We have seen a Generalitat that is competent and farsighted in its online
activity but, in particular, we also note that the acceleration of events
in Catalonia has catalyzed the population into a massive use of digital
tools in defense of their basic rights. Unlike similar situations, such as
that in Turkey for example, the Catalan institutions have agreed in recent
days to *cede and share, in a widely distributed manner, responsibility for
safeguarding freedoms*, thus regularizing what we see as the embryo of what
could be a *truly transversal democracy worthy of the digital age*, as some
of us have already proposed in our discussion of the methodology of the
device Red Ciudadana Partido X (https://partidox.org/en/).

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont—thanks also to help from
international experts who have actively and continually been engaged in
providing advice for the defense of rights (people like Julian Assange and
Peter Sunde)—have recommended the use of proxies in social networks in
order to gain access to blocked websites (https://twitter.com/KRLS/
status/909126641145798656). He subsequently announced that IPFS (
https://twitter.com/KRLS/status/911482634789953536) had also been used as a
distributed tool for housing the website giving citizens information about
where they should go to vote.

*September 23, 2017*

On September 23, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia ordered the “*blocking
of websites and domains [giving this information] which are publicized in
any account or official social network of any kind*” (http://www.elmundo.es/
cataluna/2017/09/23/59c69496468aeb8c7f8b45bb.html). This was not just a
matter of a specific list of sites but a general order giving a free hand
to forces of security in ordering Internet providers to shut down websites.

With these new powers, the Guardia Civil blocked the domain gateway.ipfs.io
(https://twitter.com/AlexHinojo/status/911900292152791041) and thereby cut
off connection, not only to the referendum website, but also to all content
from the Spanish state hosted in IPFS through this gateway. The shutdown
extended to websites of nongovernmental organizations and movements
like *empaperem.cat
<http://empaperem.cat>, assemblea.cat <http://assemblea.cat> y webdelsi.cat
<http://webdelsi.cat>* which are in favor of the referendum. This carrying
out of the court order also extended to GooglePlay, which was forced to
withdraw the app allowing people to find information about where to vote.

Nevertheless, *at all times the whole population of Catalonia has been able
to keep informed about polling stations* thanks to continuous *replication*
and *massive use of VPN and anonymous browsing *in order to access sites
that were blocked from Spain. This capacity for *action distributed between
the government and organized citizens* has been the trend throughout the
electoral process, with large-scale use of chats, networks and other tools
that have allowed swift circulation of information circulated on the
micro-scale and among strangers who are working together to deal with
hoaxes, leaks and infiltrations.

This *networked action* by means of which people have, for example,
organized themselves, polling station by polling station, has also been
manifest in physical spaces, for example with regard to protecting the
ballot boxes from police seizure (http://www.ara.cat/tema_del_

For a month, the state security forces and their secret services have been
searching all over Catalonia for the ballot boxes and voting papers.
Although they have raided printers, media offices and headquarters of
political parties and other organizations—sometimes without a court order—*the
ballot boxes were never found, yet they magically appeared in the polling
stations*. The ballot boxes and papers were there—they were
everywhere—guarded by *small groups, autonomous nodes*, and spread all
around Catalonia.

*October 1, referendum day*

Finally, even as the referendum was taking place on October 1, the Spanish
government tried to block, by every means it could, the possibility of
accessing the “universal census” app of the entire electoral register.

The domain *registremeses.com <http://registremeses.com> *where the app was
hosted was immediately blocked. The Generalitat quickly supplied the more
than 1,000 polling stations throughout Catalonia with alternative IPs for
access. We believe that, in this case, it probably would have been better
to work with Hidden Service in order to avoid police harassment and DDoS
attacks by groups opposing the referendum.

Internet connection was also interrupted (http://www.ara.cat/tema_del_
dia/Violencia-tambe-digital-contra-referendum_0_1880212015.html) and it is
not yet known who is responsible. Could it have been Internet suppliers
obeying state orders (although they deny it)?

However, the polling stations still managed to function, almost all of them
routing the smartphones of the volunteers in order to access the Internet*.
In the street, people were chorusing “airplane mode”* so as to save network
bandwidth for people working inside the polling stations. The operation
lasted from 5 a.m.—which is when citizens began filling the streets to
protect the polling stations—until midnight when the vote count ended. All
this was achieved in the midst of violent charges by National Police with a
toll of more than 800 wounded. Despite everything, more than 2,200,000
people came out to vote.


*The citizens and government of Catalonia have learned and are witnesses to
the fact that in the front line of defense of our democracy, digital
resistance depends on our use of technological tools which allow us to
protect our rights autonomously and in a well distributed manner*. We hope
that the Catalan government will never forget this and that its
administration will always resist the temptation of the usual kind of
discourse that criminalizes tools protecting privacy, encryption and
decentralization of the Internet.

Moreover, when repression was massively unleashed in streets and villages
of Catalonia, the social networks and their intelligent use by citizens
were once again used to put an end to the blocking and manipulation of
information by the mainstream media in Spain, and to let the international
media outlets know what was really happening. Perhaps in 2017, many people
were already used to this, but it is also highly possible that there have
never been so many published videos and photographs documenting police
violence as there have been this time (https://twitter.com/joncstone/status/

*Without the widespread use of social networks to testify and inform, the
people of Catalonia would have been totally isolated and crushed with
absolute impunity.*

>From this point of view, what has been happening in the last few days is
historic. This acceleration towards a greater degree of democracy and more
power in civil society is happening spontaneously but the *ignorance of
most people about some aspects of the digital milieu is exposing them to
risks* and, in this regard, this is what we must make, and are making,
every effort to avoid (https://xnet-x.net/en/how-to-guide-for-preserving-

*October 1, 2017 as a beginning*

On October 1, 2017 *the politicians were nowhere to be seen. Only **Unidos
Pode**mos (**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unidos_Podemos*
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unidos_Podemos>*) could be heard
now-and-then, trying to capitalize on our wounded for its ow**n ends. Apart
this, there were only grassroots people organizing and acting*, including
some members of parliament and councilors who are people like anyone else.
Over 24 hours, civil society came together to work for a day in which
people could vote and vote on a huge scale and, furthermore, it didn’t fall
into the temptation of responding to the state’s provocation in the form of
violence, even though hundreds of injured people needed medical attention.
There was happiness, anger and fraternity among the most different people.
It was incredibly moving. There were no slogans, no shouting, so that
people could vote without being coerced in *this display of a valiant,
stirring capacity for organization and desire for democracy.*

*On October 1, 2017 we proved that order is the people and disorder is this



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