Russia’s server control: Beyond LiveJournal

Why did LiveJournal’s move its servers to Moscow? Because of a law requiring websites that do business in Russia to store data on Russians in Russia. SUP is a Russian company, so it really had no choice. The authorities may even have ordered it not to tell anyone, though it couldn’t hide the fact.

This is only a small part of what’s happened in that country. Most LiveJournal users haven’t noticed that the same law led to permanently blocking LinkedIn. Apple and Google have agreed to remove LinkedIn from the Russian edition of their app stores. Google has moved its data on Russians to Russian servers.
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The many uses of blockchains

A quick association test: When you hear “blockchain,” what word immediately comes to mind? “Bitcoin,” of course. For many people, the two are one and the same. They aren’t aware of the many other uses for the technology, probably because they don’t actually know what it consists of. It’s not easy to understand, but once you do, a huge range of applications opens up.
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LiveJournal Goes to Russia

As December came to an end, people started noticing that LiveJournal’s servers were now in Moscow. Checking geolocation sites confirmed it for me on December 29. It was a shock to see that my own journal was now hosted in Russia.

This is just the latest step in a long death spiral for LiveJournal. In 2007, SUP, a Russian media company, acquired LiveJournal. Soon the overwhelming majority of its users were Russians. That was a better time for Russia than today; dissenting speech was never completely safe, but LiveJournal provided a platform where people could speak their minds with a certain amount of safety.
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Communication without borders

The Internet has torn down communication borders, in spite of the efforts of governments. It’s easy to send an email message to or have a voice conversation with someone in a distant country. It costs next to nothing to make an international Skype call. Compare that to 1927, when a three-minute call from New York to London cost $75 in much bigger dollars than today’s. If you choose the right messaging system, you get the benefit of privacy. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to eavesdrop on your communications.

The New York Times tells us that millions of people who leave for a new country use WhatsApp to keep in touch with their families and friends back home. Even people with limited assets can get a cheap smartphone and install a messaging app on it.
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Welcome to Techno-Liberty

Thanks for dropping in! On this blog’s grand opening day, most of you reading this probably already know me. For those who don’t, I’m Gary McGath. Some information about me and this blog will stay available on the About page after this post scrolls into obscurity.

The reason for this blog is that I’m scared of what’s happening in the United States and the world. We’ve sunk into a permanent state of war, and for all practical purposes Congress has surrendered its power to declare war to the president. Spy agencies are out of control. What Trump will do in the next four years is frightening to contemplate, but what Clinton would have done is, at best, only marginally less bad.

I believe that our best chance lies in a liberal coalition against both the authoritarian left and the authoritarian right. I mean “liberal” in the old sense of the word, which has nothing to do with Obamacare. To be liberal is to favor liberty, to value the individual rather than the state, to be tolerant of disagreement. My own views are unashamedly libertarian, but by “liberal” I mean something broader, covering free-market conservatism, civil liberties advocacy, and any other position which at least tends toward freedom and open discussion. Many on the left have moved away from genuine liberalism, turning against free speech and open exchange of views. Their new term is “progressive,” which echoes Woodrow Wilson, enemy of every kind of freedom. It has given up any claim to the word “liberal.” Let’s take it back.

This blog is dedicated to an area where people of generally liberal views can come together: the use of technology for freedom. If you’re interested in ways of communicating without censorship or spying, non-governmental ways of creating enforceable agreements, breaking down borders, working around Internet blocking, circumventing monopolistic government controls, or escaping abusive interpretations of intellectual property, this blog will point you at information you can use.

I’m open to suggestions for topics. If you’d like to do a guest post, let me know. This blog will work best if a community builds around it.

Look for a post every Tuesday and Thursday. I’m planning to alternate analyses of broad topics with items on current news. All of this is subject to change as life exerts pressures, of course. This isn’t a source of income for me, unless someone decides to put a lot of money into the tip jar, so other things may sometimes take priority.

Enjoy the blog, and best wishes to everyone for 2017!