Autumn 2017: the email message was simple and to the point… "Could you update the electrohippies pages on the FRAW site, they're not working!"
Reformat page content, update a few of the bum links, add a little bit to replace that which no longer exists. Job done.
Thing is, the reasons why we first evolved the electrohippie collective are still there, and if anything they're more pressing, but the players have changed.
No longer is it states who lead the charge against the 'free thinking' Internet community; it's our old friends, corporate security companies.
Again, the US has led the way here. It has radically privatized its intelligence and security apparatus, involving companies – such as Booz-Allen-Hamilton, or 'Blackwater' (which keeps changing its name after each scandal, first to 'Xe Services', and now 'Academi').
Now, going one step further, companies are entering the scene who deliberatly act for corporations and states in order to carry out mass web-based surveillance, and then use that information to mount defensive or offensive media campaigns to influence public opinion – such as Palantir Technologies (notable due to their crusade against Wikileaks, as well as their work various Western spy agencies) or Cambridge Analytica (notable for getting Trump elected using their digital voodoo, which, after all, is no mean feat!).
At the same time, the pressure on civil society groups working on the public interest use of the Internet has never been greater.
It's not just that many states are now trying to criminalize certain aspects of 'Net usage directly – such as the resurrection of the crypto-wars, or the pressure on people using file sharing services. The growth of active intellectual property systems, the greatest emanation of which is likely to be "The Internet of Things" (or 'TIT' as we call it), represents a ceding of control over our everyday lives and possessions to remote, corporate interests.
At the same time all these systems are gathering yet more data about individuals, and that richer data content allows companies such as Palantir and Cambridge Analytica even more nuanced abilities to influence our daily lives via the mass media.
For example, just do a search for "Employment Vetting Background Checks", and you'll find a growing list of 'recruitment' agencies who now offer to check a persons entire Internet and other digital histories for any 'undesired' viewpoints or actions.
Let's put this another way; if you need to apply for a job in the near future, would the knowledge that you looked at this page affect the outcome of the recruitment process?
Never has the need for people to develop their 'digital tradecraft' to avoid the debatable aspects of corporate surveillance, as well as to protect their free expression and communication on-line, been greater.
In our view, as 'The Internet of Things' is deliberately forged to secure corporate interests in the 'real' as well as the 'digital' domain, that need will only grow.
the electrohippies are still here, and were still researching new ideas, training digital activists and supporting on-line actions. However, in the current environment, there's little chance that we could once more publicly emerge to carry out actions. For those of us who still work in IT (and even some civil society groups!), knowledge of a persons participation in the electrohippie collective would certainly have negative consequences.
Yes, we're still here, and yes we're still working for a free Internet that functions in the public interest – but you won't know it's us.