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Since Yahoo bought Tumblr a few weeks ago, much of Tumblr’s user base has been much less than thrilled. Although a good amount of the frustration has had to do with layout changes or distaste for being advertised at, a trip back through the tag archive turns up a lot of angry but nonspecific complaints that generally appear more paranoid than reasoned.
This morning though, when The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed that the NSA (i.e. the US military) has direct access to Yahoo’s servers, Tumblr users’ uncritical mistrust of the corporation that bought their community was suddenly justified (to get a sense of the PRISM program’s implications for Tumblr users, check out AllThingsD’s analysis of why Tumblr was such a good purchase for Yahoo, which now reads like the script to a KGB-themed nightmare). If the NSA program had been leaked two weeks earlier would the Tumblr sale have gone through?
When we started LegalizeHeroin in 2010 we chose to do so on Tumblr because of the freedom and ease with which a massively diverse, intelligent, and bold array of views were meeting en masse (the simple-to-use-interface was also a factor).
Our mission has basically been to catalog and understand the effects of prohibitionist drug laws; to do this we naturally communicate with people who are victim to (i.e. break) these laws. For this reason, the apparent ability of the US government to monitor (and share) the details of our digital interactions is an attack not just on our Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures, but more importantly our First Amendment right to free speech. As a voice that is in direct opposition to what is effectively a police and military policy of the US government, how can we possibly speak freely when the military has full access to our communications?
The rhetoric used to justify the war on terror is not very different at all from that used to inaugurate the war on drugs, and indeed these wars are conflated now more than ever. If the US government were to exercise anything close to the same fervor in pursuing the drug war as it does in hunting terrorists, the extraordinarily low bars that have been established as the standard for designating a terrorist threat would be cleared without a second thought
Consider, drug lords are a security hazard: cartels clearly threaten the stability of our neighbors and traffic dangerous drugs into our country. Is it really so inconceivable that data from Google or Yahoo might be used to hunt their leaders?
If we are serious about apprehending drugs lords don’t we have to monitor drug traffickers in general?
If we are serious about apprehending drug traffickers then don’t we have to monitor drug distributors?
If we are serious about apprehending distributors then don’t we have to monitor dealers?
If we are serious about apprehending dealers, don’t we have to monitor drugs users?
If we are serious about apprehending drugs users, don’t we have to monitor anyone who associates them?
It seems preposterous, but this is precisely the logic that the DOJ cited to justify the seizure of Verizon’s entire data bank. To date most American (as well as foreign) citizens have (presumably) avoided scrutiny due to the relative rarity of terrorists. If, however, there were to be only a very minor pivot in priority on the part of the NSA – or if other agencies, say, the DEA, were allowed access to the data - it is very easy to see how the entire population could be subject to far more invasive forms of surveillance.
The obvious solution for wary dissenters is to use networks that are not monitored, although it must be pointed out that preventing opposition voices from using near-universal networks such as Google is itself a clear attack on free speech.
Tumblr has, to date, been an outstanding channel for unique and unfettered dialogue. The unfortunate timing of its acquisition by Yahoo all but guarantees a chilling effect on the robustly democratic spirit of conversation the platform has fostered.
Last year we took a break during June; as you may have noticed it’s the same deal this time around (except without a polite note ahead of time).
There will likely be sporadic updating/roundups in the coming weeks, but don’t hold us to it. Expect Regular programming to resume towards the end of June/early July.
Thanks for reading!
As you probably know, Tumblr was bought up by Yahoo this week (Legalize Heroin is a tumblr site if you hadn’t realized). A lot of folks have feelings about the acquisition, some positive, most not. We aren’t really qualified to offer a worthwhile opinion, but we do know that COOL SHIT happens here. So we’ll take the opportunity to shout out some of the excellent content being produced/shared by our fellow tumblrers:
Adam Isacson (of WOLA)
Border Fact Check
Fuck Yeah Drug Policy
Letters To My Country
The Political Notebook
Project on Government Oversight
Schools Not Prisons
If you feel we’ve been neglectful, please yell at us.
This week in the drug war:
Argentina found itself in a catch-22…
…the OAS spat some serious truth…
…a large round of clinical trials found that ketamine basically punches depression in the dick…
..an incredibly promising set of studies suggest that hepatitis c may be all but bagged up…
…some clever saint came up with an innovative/completely illegal way to make Papa John’s worth ordering…
…the king asshole mayor of Toronto was filmed smoking crack…
…The Guardian won pun of the week credits: “Cannabis: Colorado’s Budding Industry" (forgive them, it’s a good article)…
…Illinois got set to legalize medical marijuana…
…and finally, a modern-day Philadelphia Story cometh.
Opinion and Analysis and So On:
”Austerity’s Drug of Choice”
“Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD”
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