Around the Web
Issue No. 002
The war and the cyber, impeding climate doom, working on the web, and a ship underneath the arctic sea.
As I’ve been travelling the second edition of my little collection of links comes a bit later. Though I think Saturday might be a better day anyway. Still trying things out here. But again, quite a lot of links collected.
The War & The Cyber
There still is a technical aspect to the whole thing, too. Just not as people expected. For the last few years, Russia has been known as a cyber state. For one, Russian hacking groups have been accused of breaches again and again. On the other hand the Russian state financed a sophisticated disinformation network, trying to influence political processes all over the world – mostly by propping up the far right. Under current sanctions it has collapsed. At least for now.
While the organised disinformation is in a bad shape, it still invents new forms of misinformation. The fact check, long the hallmark of truth and enlightenment (sorry, git a bit carried away there), is now a tool of misinformation. In this new scheme, «fake facts» are invented to put a new layer of fake upon them and disguise those as a fact check.
Researchers at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub and ProPublica identified more than a dozen videos that purport to debunk apparently nonexistent Ukrainian fakes. The videos have racked up more than 1 million views across pro-Russian channels on the messaging app Telegram, and have garnered thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter. A screenshot from one of the fake debunking videos was broadcast on Russian state TV, while another was spread by an official Russian government Twitter account.
Not old, but suddenly back on the table of conspiracies is the tale that the US maintains biowarfare labs in Ukraine. A wild QAnon appears.
What we, so far, haven’t seen too is the offensive cyberprowess of the Russian state. While their emerged a new Wiper malware on the eve of the war, the war in and off itself has been largely conventional. Bombing civilians, sieging cities. Why? We really don’t know at this point, as Farhad Manjoo writes in the New York Times:
The western sanctions against media outlets such as RT and Sputnik have been exposed as more far-reaching then initially sought. Google published a request by the European Commission to remove all references to content by blocked entities from their search results, YouTube and so forth. The blocks have been widely criticised as ineffective and counter-productive even before this detail emerged.
Doom is mine but I will share it
War is bad. For humans, but also for the planet. Tanks and planes are no cornerstones of green transport. It’s a good time to revisit the piece The climate cost of war, while written about a prospective war in Iran, fossil fuels don’t care where they are burned.
Food markets are in a turmoil, too, as vast swathes of Ukrainian land are used to grow crops. The World Food Programme warns about serious implications for global food security.
The conflict comes at a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs, as a ring of fire circles the earth with climate shocks, conflict, COVID-19 and rising costs driving millions closer to starvation.
Fuck. It. All.
In other dooms:
Carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high last year, as the world bounced back from the pandemic slump and nothing has been learned.
The Amazon is near its tipping point, which would change it from a rainforest to a savannah. With drastic consequences for life on earth.
All this impeding doom still gives way to new ideologies. Green capitalism is sweeping through the political landscape, in Germany represented by a green party which made their biggest gains ever in last year’s federal elections.
The green power grab hasn’t prevented police from denying assembly rights to so called climate camps. Fridays for Future and the Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte are now going to court to ensure those rights for long running protest infrastructure.
What are you looking at?
Police in Germany’s federal states expand their business with Thiel’s Palantir. Following Hesse and North Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria is now working with the dystopia behemoth too. Of course they promise data protection and what have you. Nonetheless, critics say the procurement procedure was tailored to let Palantir win. In February Forbes reported that Thiel invested in a «cyber warfare» start-up, which allegedly hacked WhatsApp. Which is kind of ironic given that Thiel was one of the earliest Facebook investors. Facebook announced that Thiel is stepping down from its board a few weeks back.
Peter Thiel is one of the most influential figures in the Valley, and has long been described as the reactionary outlier in its political discourse. Why that’s not accurate and how Thiel came to power, is the topic of this week’s Tech Won’t Save us episode.
Nearing the end Paris Marx and Moira Weigel discuss how much of Palantir’s might is factual efficiency of the tech, and how much is propped. Given the secretive nature of its operations we can’t now for certain.
What we do know however is that other parts of teched up policing fail again and again. Wired reports how the lives of three Black men and their families were derailed by wrongful arrests based on facial recognition software. Such errors however are not stopping police departments on relying ever more on such software, often leaving victims in the dark about the role it played in their arrests.
World Wide Web
As part of my ongoing quest to absolve myself from too many open tabs I finally managed to read Why are hyperlinks blue? on the Mozilla blog, a fascinating excursion into the history of browsing hypertext.
Another article that has been in the state of «open tab» for too long, is this compilation of links what it means to be of the web and how we as developers can build products that embrace the grain of the web.
The other way of building for the web is to go with the web’s grain, embracing flexibility and playing to the strengths of the medium through progressive enhancement. This is the distinction I was getting at when I talked about something being not just on the web, but of the web.
Laura Maw explores the decaying internet and draws parallels to theories of architecture theory of the horrible. I’ll never look on websites that show signs of decay same way again.
The architecture of the internet is rendered “horrible,” then, partially by the demands of capitalism: In its wake, we find signs of deterioration and ruin. Navigating a landscape of dead sites changes the way we look at living ones; clean, minimalist design only cloaks the evidence of inevitable decay.
All good things are three, but not web3
Let’s start with the good things here. Interest in NFTs in Google Search is collapsing.
Crypto is becoming like any other industry, expanding its lobby influence. Quelle surprise.
Two, literal, crypto bros, Paul and Julian Zehetmayr, have bought LimeWire’s branding and are hoping to return the famous file-sharing platform into the limelight. The relict of an anarchic internet that was once was, is set to become a marketplace for music-related NFTs, backstage passes, and similar commodified crap. In a realisation that the masses don’t care about crypto, they’ll accept fiat currency too.
Molly White has been a guest on this week’s episode of Scam Economy, talking to Matt Binder about the various ways in which crypto and web3 are not the future.
Loose ends in a list of links
To close this issue of, here are some links which didn't warrant their own category:
In Stones can’t talk (german translation) Mirjam Brusius explores the complex relationship on Germany’s history, and how Vergangenheitsbewältigung (or lack thereof) fails Black and People of Color communities today. The piece is very dense, but very recommended.
Carnival celebrations went ahead after the massacre in Hanau, while a vigil to mourn the deaths could not. Antisemites were still allowed to march in the streets. Some can even stand for election. Taking stock of these asymmetries, to say nothing of the endless secretiveness around the NSU murders, the surreal Mbembe debate, or the fact that being left-wing and Jewish means feeling unprotected by a state that claims to do the reverse: might Germany be reaching a grotesque low point in its history? If antisemitism and racism have no space (‘keinen Platz’) in Germany, why do they still claim so much room? Who will set the future terms of historical memory in a country where for large multiethnic sectors of the society, denazification simply never happened?
Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance has been discovered. 107 years ago Shackleton and his crew needed to leave the entrapped ship behind in the Arctic ice shelf. It has now been discovered.
The Smithsonian is giving back its collection of Benin bronzes to Nigeria. The deal seeks to foster future collaboration under the leadership of Nigerian historians. Way to go. Looking at you, Humboldt Forum.
Kony 2012, ten years on. Once the most viral video of all time, the film reads as both a digital relic and a precursor to an era in which footage of conflict dominates the internet.
I’ve talked about Contileaks last week, it seems like the leaks haven’t disrupted the operations of the group for too long.
With that this issue comes to its end. I’ll experiment further in the upcoming weeks, as I already see the mode of «Write down everything once a week» becoming too much work to be sustainable in the long term.
Stay sane, hug your friends, and donate to Cadus.