EFF Points Spam Email Machine at Senate Register of Copyrights Bill

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Boaty McBoatface? See here. 

Backstory

The US Senate is considering a bill that would make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee.  A version of this bill passed the house unanimously a couple years ago. The backstory here is that it’s largely an historical accident that the Copyright Office is in the Library of Congress.  Nevertheless the Librarian of Congress appoints the Register of Copyrights.  This was fine for many years as libraries and copyright holders were generally in agreement on scope of an authors copyright protections.

That all changed in the internet age as library organizations became increasing hostile to copyright protections. Formerly staid organizations like the American Library Association or  Library Copyright Alliance began to file Amicus briefs opposing copyright holders in far afield cases like Viacom v. YouTube or BMG v. Cox.   I suggest that anyone interested in digging deeper examine the copyright amicus briefs filed by the following organizations:  American Library Association, Library Copyright Alliance and Association of Research Libraries.  Especially those briefs written by Jonathan Band (A Google funded scholar naturally).

As Librarians have become uniformly ideological and hostile to robust protections for authors it has become imperative that the Register of Copyrights become independent of the Library of Congress.  Especially after the current librarian Dr. Hayden forced the last Register of Copyrights to resign by restructuring her job so it mostly covered point of sales in the Library of Congress gift shop.  

I shit you not.  You read that correctly.   If there was ever a case for a constructive termination lawsuit…

But it is worse than it looks.  Specifically the Register of Copyright was forced out because she made the mistake of noting that the Google/FCC land grab “unlock the box” would invalidate  private contracts between copyright holders and broadcasters.

In the wake of this shameful episode the House of Representatives quickly passed Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, (H.R. 1695) 378-48.  As close as you get to bipartisan consensus these days!  The bill has been languishing in the Senate, but recently there is new momentum to get the bill through the Senate.

The EFF’s Google Funded Cyberturfing

And right on cue Google funded EFF has sprung into action with a round of misleading propaganda that savages the former Register of Copyrights, AND a webform lacking any meaningful safeguards to prevent robo-spamming of US Senators. Readers of this blog will know that this leads to cyberturfing, the automated sharing of messages to create the illusion of grassroots opposition.   This blog, the Times of London and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung all covered the outrageous cyberturfing of the EU parliament as the EU considered updating EU copyright laws.

The EU spamming campaign was conducted by Open Media a Canadian group that is funded by Google and directed by former Google Canada Policy Director.   We half jokingly referred to it as a Canadian hybrid cyberwarfare attack on the EU parliament. Apparently that was no joke. We understand the EU has since launched an investigation.  The Open Media campaign used webforms almost identical to those now being deployed by EFF. These webforms lack any safeguards to prevent multiple messages using automation.

After the controversy generated by the Google funded spam, it’s shocking to see the EFF deploy the same tools against US Senators.  Recently I was contacted by an ethical hacker, who wished to assist us by demonstrating how easy it is to disrupt democracy when webforms lacking safeguards are employed to message politicians.  Here is her simple demonstration. Using a widely available browser plug-in, she sent 20 messages to 2 senators in 2 minutes.  The automation was slowed and restricted to a single browser tab to not rouse suspicion (and annoy the retiring Senators Heller and Flake).  But with 50 tabs this simple program could spam all 100 senators a dozen times a minute.  Watch video:

EFF could prevent this by adding a few simple things:

Captchas
IP geolocation verification
Email verification
Phone verification

And then allow only a single submission from each, IP, email or phone number.  The fact EFF doesn’t employ these simple features suggest they don’t care the forms can be used for automated submissions.

Finally, remember who we are dealing with here. It’s always more awful than you think with these folks.  This is not the first time the EFF has exhibited such contempt for democratic institutions and processes.  Just read the EFF’s ur document, A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace by their founder John Perry Barlow.  From the very beginning the EFF has explicitly rejected the authority of duly constituted governments. They even reject the fundamental idea of The Enlightenment, consent of the governed, seeking to replace it with the ‘voice of liberty.’ Whatever the fuck that means. These are dangerous people. They must be called out on these tactics and investigated.  At the very least their tax exempt status should be revoked.

Russian hackers? It’s EFF and Google funded brethren undermining our democracy.

 

 

About Dr. David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.