Internet For The People
Internet For The People: To Love Or To Hate
At the height of the cold war, with the world mired in the Cuban crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam catastrophe, Internet was conceived under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Defense to become a tool of survivors of the nuclear war. The concept was that there sure would be a nuclear war someday and that somebody must survive and hopefully be American. Internet was supposed to help people communicate over damaged and broken communication lines. Constructing Internet was a part of preparations for the "day after", together with fall-out shelters that my generation, conceived at about the same time, remembers vividly from our elementary school days, regardless if we spent them in the U.S., or let’s say Croatia (which at that time, of course, was a part of the Socialist Federative Republic Yugoslavia). There, in the dissolution of Yugoslavia, now all grown-up and mature, the thirty years old Internet, born to war, became a remarkable tool of peace building.
The use of Internet to connect peace and human rights activists in post-Yugoslav societies, whose communication lines were cut off by their war-monger nationalist governments, was a natural role for Internet to fill: this is what it was designed for. It was designed to make communications possible in the event the regular phone communication would not work. When we make a phone call, there is a need of uninterrupted copper wire connection between us and the person we call. When we send a message over the Internet, that message searches and ultimately finds its way to the intended receiver. That’s very simplified, but essentially it says that if there is no communication lines open between Serbia and Croatia, but if they are both connected to Internet, then Serbs and Croats will have no problems communicating (Appendix A). In Bosnia the problem was deeper, because Sarajevo was entirely cut off from communication lines (Appendix B). There Internet alone could not help. But Internet in combination with satellite uplink worked just fine.
Not So Cold War
During the siege of Sarajevo, Zamir Transnational Net (described in Appendix A), provided communication link between peace and human rights activists in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, but the ZTN was working like a stand-alone BBS island with no bridge to the rest of the Internet. That bridge was provided by Sarajevo Pipeline (Appendix C). By interfacing one ZTN conference to World Wide Web and a majordomo list, suddenly ZTN participants could send their messages to anybody and receive messages from anybody with access to the Net. At one point, both the Time - Pathfinder and Der Spiegel listed the link to Sarajevo Pipeline, and my name with it, placing me squarely in Sarajevo. Of course, I’ve been in New York all that time. In the on-line world our geographic location becomes irrelevant, I realized.
On-line everybody speaks the same language (English) and everybody seems to be just a few clicks of the mouse away from each other. This is most evident in the IRC and Java chat rooms. You can "be" in the same room in the on-line world with people who may as well really live thousands of miles away from you. That solid-world distance is not noticeable on the Net. Sometimes the top level domain name of the sender’s e-mail address reveals his/hers general solid-world location (like .ba stands for Bosnia, .hr for Croatia, .si for Slovenia, .mk for Macedonia and .yu for Yugoslavia), but if the sender uses some of the web based free e-mail accounts like Hotmail, he/she can be anywhere in the world. It is still possible to determine the geographic location of the computer to which the sender logged on to send you that message by reverse lookup of the IP number, that shows in the full listing of headers of the received message, but most people don’t do that, instead spending time on-line comfortably chatting with perfect strangers.
On-line world offers that kind of security, that the worse think that can happen is that somebody can send you an angry message. In the solid-world of the face to face contact there is arguably more danger, since shouting, fists, knives and guns can be used as communication props - the equivalent of shouting in the on-line world is (much more benign) writing your message IN CAPITALIZED LETTERS. Of course, somebody can send you long attachments or even viruses to hurt you, but the sender can never hurt you physically. When we communicate on-line, we are always facing our own computer screen. Our machine serves as a barrier between us and the others. The anonymity, security and uniformity of the on-line communication allows us to concentrate on the problem not on the person, gives us an unlimited group space to cooperate within while minimizing communications side-trackers and offers an informal atmosphere in which our real interests are more easily expressed, providing an ideal medium for conflict resolution, reconciliation and civil society rebuilding (Appendix D, Appendix E, Appendix G).
With its ability to - unlike a phone-call - address many people at once, Internet can communicate messages of love and peace as well as of hate and war in the way older types of propaganda - films or posters - did, while still preserving the personal nature of the message. The anonymity and security that on-line communication provides, serves perfectly well not only reconciliation and civil society reconstruction projects, but also all sorts of hate-mongers who use it to distribute their poison around. There are examples for both ends.
A Very Hot War
Internet is a remarkable tool of democracy, at least in the developed countries where a large number of citizens have access to it. The wealth of information available and easily accessible, the rapid exchange of opinions between people from various backgrounds, living on the opposite sides of the planet, the transparency of ideas and opinions presented: never before in the history were so many people involved in the process of opinion making as there are today, and primarily due to the technology of Internet. On the other hand, never before in the history was the divide between those who have and those who have not been so profound: people who use Internet form a distinct global community with its language and culture - it is like this planet became a home to two different intelligent species - those who have access to Internet, and those who have not.
One can maybe even argue that Internet is ‘guilty’ for NATO deciding to bomb Yugoslavia. You don’t need CIA or NSA to tell you that the mood on Internet discussion lists, forums, newsgroups, chat rooms and web sites concerned with the situation in the Balkans, was generally supportive of the West taking initiative to stop Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing policies. Today, all the leading U.S. media, non-governmental organizations and non-profit foundations dealing with funding, executing, monitoring and reporting on human rights, press freedoms and democracy building abroad, are connected to and exchange information on the Internet. At some point this Spring, they were all ready to part with their habitual dovish pacifism and accept stopping Milosevic by any means necessary. Since the exchange of opinions on the Internet is a public domain, that trend could not get un-noticed by the State Department and the Pentagon. More importantly, from the point of the Internet as democracy building tool, is that the trend creation was largely helped by people who would traditionally have no influence over U.S. levers of power: random interested individuals around the world who relentlessly posted their philippics against Milosevic.
On March 24, NATO began bombing Serbia, and the Serbian forces in Kosovo accelerated their attacks on civilians and the expulsion of refugees. Within six weeks, over 700,000 Kosovars had fled into Albania and Macedonia.
This real war found its echo in cyberspace. There was an eerie silence from the epicenter of the crisis, in Kosovo itself. The destruction of electrical power sources, NATO attacks on the communication towers, the expulsion of people, the marauding bands of militia - all this shut down regular communications.
Almost all local telephone numbers were blocked, local access numbers for the Internet were not operating and the only way to log onto the Internet was by phoning Belgrade. One journalist who wrote for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting was able to get some information out this way, and a young Kosovar woman achieved brief prominence after her e-mails to a friend in Berkeley were reprinted on CNN and AOL websites. As long as telephone links lasted between Serbia and Kosovo, activists in Serbia called their friends in Kosovo, and put the information out
in e-mails. But as NATO attacks and the expulsions intensified, even these tenuous connections were snapped. Darkness and silence descended on Kosovo.
Internet, Justice, Peace and Democracy
Inside Serbia, the Internet was used extensively during the war. Serbians would turn on the television, witness a place being bombed, and then log into chat rooms to inquire after relatives and friends who might have been affected. As NATO bombing took its toll, the Internet became virtually the only means of communication for Milosevic's critics. But this became increasingly difficult as NATO battered away at the regional system of communications. Extended power outages also made logging onto the Internet difficult. In Kosovo, NATO bombs destroyed the telephone trunk links between the exchange systems, the main intercity link towers on Mount Golesh, the center of the Kosovo Post, Telegraph and Telecommunications in Prishtina, and towers in Southern Serbia.
NATO was determined to destroy Serbia's telecommunications system, regardless of the fact that this would also destroy the sole remaining means of expression (the Internet) open to those who opposed Milosevic. So relentless was NATO in its attacks, that some Serbians felt this was not only deliberate on NATO's part, but an indirect form of propaganda, because it suppressed the voice of Serbian democracy. This helped NATO to portray all Serbs as nationalists, solidly behind Milosevic's wars of aggression, which in turn made it easier to justify NATO's highly controversial bombing campaign. On the other hand, this gave clear mandate to Milosevic’s propagandists to portray NATO as indiscriminate aggressors against all Serbs, and shut down all voices of dissent. One early casualty of the information war was the democratic Serbian opposition, which had used the Internet so effectively since 1996 in its struggle against Milosevic. Not surprisingly, it came under immediate pressure from the Serbian authorities, who closed the offices of Radio B92 and seized its equipment on April 2, ten days after the start of the NATO bombing. Briefly, the Milosevic’s regime took possession of B92 and Open-Net (Open Society Institute) domain names, by cunningly deceiving the U.S. top level domain name registrar NSI (Appendix H - interview with Drazen Pantic, admin contact for both names), enabling regime to filter nearly all opposition, NGO and independent media e-mails. An attack on Internet proved to be an attack on possibility of democratic dissent. B92 still to this day did not regain its original domain name.
In April, it was also rumored that Loral Orion, a satellite company that provided links to the Internet for two major Serbian Internet service providers, would break ties with them in order to comply with a US Presidential Order banning trade with Yugoslavia. This would have almost completely severed all ties to the Internet for Serbia. Twenty Serb non-governmental organizations issued a statement on April 26, warning that by severing Serbia's satellite links, NATO would also deprive Serbian civil society of their last means of expression:
"We, the representatives of the Yugoslav civil society...now have to deal with other problems that could uncouple us from the world and practically forbid our free expression and dissent. One threat is coming from Yugoslav Government agencies and the controlled domestic Internet providers. For them it is important to shut up all independent voices. For NATO it appears important to cut off all dissenting people and groups from Yugoslavia in order to maintain the image of Yugoslav society as if it is totally controlled by the Milosevic regime and made only of extreme nationalists who therefore deserve punishment by bombs. For us who are long time activists of human rights, minority rights, union rights, free press rights, women's rights, peace and democracy activists, it is vital to maintain an Internet connection to the world in order to get information and communicate with people about our situation. We are using the Internet with respect to the etiquette and urge all Yugoslav users to avoid hostile and insulting vocabulary. We also pledge to all our international contact people to exercise their influence on Internet public opinion to avoid aggressive language and hate speech in correspondences to people in Yugoslavia. PLEASE HELP US TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE WORLD!"
The US Government decided that Internet connections did not qualify as trade so the break did not in fact occur.
Abroad, particularly in the U.S., the Internet was used for context, regrettably lacking in NATO censored media. The U.S. government, as reported by Peter Phillips in Z Magazine (October 1999), felt that foreign press coverage [during the Kosovo war] was so out of control that it became necessary to permanently create a new International Public Information Group (IPI), made up of top military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials, to coordinate U.S. resources to "influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals (Washington Times 7/28/99)." IPI would attempt to squelch or limit uncomplimentary stories regarding U.S. activities and policies reported in the foreign press. IPI would use governmental resources to repress foreign news stories that may reach the American public. IPI made sure that American public does not here reports from British, German, French, Italian and Greek press ranging from mentioning of "extensive civilian deaths, the use of illegal cluster bombs" to "bombing campaign having no military effect, and the USAF refusing to abide by the phases of the original NATO plan." The Yugoslav military officer captured by KLA and kept under the U.S. custody in Albania during the war, was released following the release of three Americans - but while the release of Americans was widely televised, the immediate release of the Yugoslav was covered only by Hungarian TV (where the release was executed). Establishment of IPI abridges the freedom of the press in a way that is clearly against the Constitution of the U.S., and as a policy, it is no different than Slobodan Milosevic’s refusing to carry reports from BBC and CNN. The use of print and electronic mass media as a public relations service to the U.S. defense industry forced educated American citizens to rely on Internet as their source of information. And with the bombing getting out of control (bombs falling on passenger trains, refugee convoys and foreign embassies) the mood on the Internet swung back and sites that sharply criticize NATO bombing mushroomed. Internet behaves in a sense like a trading floor for ideas. Idea that Milosevic has to be stopped by any means necessary was a hot buy in March, but it became nearly worthless as an afterthought in September. The stock value of the U.S. missile manufacturer Raytheon rose and fell in sync with the value of that idea.
Internet, Fraud, War and Tyranny
Many would see this as an argument in favor of the Internet. On the other hand, it is also clear that the Internet was used as an instrument of propaganda by both sides of the war. NATO flooded the Internet with press releases aimed at shoring up support for the bombing. These press releases also served to explain away NATO's "collateral damage" bombing blunders, such as the destruction of a refugee convoy, a commuter train in Serbia, and the Chinese embassy. Insisting that the real targets are of purely military nature NATO Psi-Op team feature Serbian tanks on half of the flyers and the only two NATO weapons systems depicted on the leaflets - Apache helicopters and A-10 Warthog fighters - were the ones that were not used in the war. Serbian hackers tried to retaliate by attacking NATO's home page, Albanian sites, and even the White House home page. Mostly, the Internet was used to express anguish and grief. The Kosova Crisis Center lit up with messages: "My heart is bleeding for you. It is shameful to be human and witness this. God be with you in the times ahead," wrote Lisa from Washington.
Aaron, from Newfoundland, mixed humor with sympathy: "When I was a kid I wondered how Hitler got away with what he did. It's the same answer now. Apathy. Yes, I would fight with you. But since I'm an old fart, I'll pray for you instead and support you with my voice and keyboard." One of the most troubling examples is in the messages of hatred that were sent from Serbia and Russia to alb-net.com, a website that serves as a clearing house for material on Albanians worldwide.
"Hello motherfuckers! If you don't know where to go, come to Serbia. We are known as land full of hospitality, sharp knives, strong arms to hold your necks tight and fire in our hearts to burn your motherfucking families all together. Right now, we are searching for a big, big field to prepare it for your last rest. Hope you won't mind if we make just one big hole in ground and put you together. Anyway, we are just sitting here and sharpen our knives, drink sljivovica and sing a song "Sprem'te se, sprem'te Cetnici". Hope to kill you soon. Your's trully Zoran and Kole (called butchers from Croatia) "
"Happy birthday NATO ... over how many dead bodies?" Cetnik from Valjevo "Sasa Milovanovic"
"Yankee!! SERBIA is not Monika!!!! From Russia and "S-300" with DEATH!!!! Oleg" (From Russia)
"What a crap you put on your site. I wonder, who is paying for it. Definitely not "free Kosovorians" Long live Serbian Kosovo!!!!!! MCS" (From Russia)
Alb-net is run by four Albanians, two from Macedonia and two from Kosovo, and their purpose during the war was to present the Albanian perspective. For some months, they were assisted
by Advocacy Project member Teresa Crawford who managed a list on the alb-net.com server. The Advocacy Project is a transnational association of professionals that help advocates in civil society to use the new information technology in their efforts to promote peace, justice, and respect for human rights. Second, it seeks to disseminate information about the international debate on humanitarian issues to as wide an audience of advocates as possible.
Why did Alb-net post these hateful messages by Serbs on their website? Teresa feels that the intention was to contrast the hundreds of messages that were coming in daily in support of
the Albanians. But at the same time, there must have been an element of self-interest in it. These messages were intended to shock and to disgust, and the posters knew that they would confirm the stereotype of the violent Serbian -- and feed their own pro-Albanian propaganda. There is little evidence of similar messages by Albanians being posted to Serbian sites. Indeed in the cyberwar, Albanians exercised considerable restraint, knowing that this would reflect well on them in the battle for public opinion.
They, however, engaged in other, more sophisticated, methods of the cyberwar: Alb-net.com set up a page on their site for "Homeland Calls" ("Vendlindja Therret") appealing to Albanian exiles for funds on behalf of the incipient Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and even provided details of bank accounts. Some Albanian exiles were definitely ready to take the offensive via the Internet. At the height of the war, they threatened a consumer boycott against the products of companies that advertised with beograd.com, a pro-Serbian site managed from Toronto, Canada. Beograd.com opened a special "war edition" and competed for visitors by trying to be the first to post a NATO hit and debunk lies by the combatants. The consumer threat forced advertisers to withdraw their support and starve the website of funds. This was denounced by beograd.com as an attack on freedom of expression:
"Our effort to earn money through advertising to keep beograd.com alive has been cut short today. An Albanian-organized campaign called advertisers around the country whose ads appeared on our Ad Network banners, threatening boycott of their products. Major advertisers, including Microsoft, in turn threatened Ad Network with pulling their ads if our account is not canceled. This morning our account was canceled. We find it shocking that advertisers would pull out of the news site whose reports are timely and accurate and often quoted by Reuters, CNN, Sky, Fox News and other major news organizations in the country and the world, simply because our editorial position does not appeal to one small market segment. We feel this is an attempt to silence beograd.com which has, after NATO bombing of Yugoslav TV and Radio facilities, remained the only accurate and timely source of information from within Yugoslavia. We are attempting to attract other advertisers, but in the meantime we appeal to beograd.com visitors to continue their financial support so that we may stay in operation."
There is still a question why Serbs got so ostracized by the U.S. media as well as by the Internet community. The answer to that is that Serbia never diligently prosecuted their marketing abroad. Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovar Albanians all hired a U.S. public relations firm to represent their cause to the global media. In 1991 when the war in Croatia started, Croatia immediately formed Foreign Press Bureau staffed with American born college-educated youth of Croatian ancestry to address the needs and whims of American prima donna journalists. While Albanian Internet activists, for example, engaged in the "cyberwar" by organizing a consumer boycott against the products of companies that advertised with beograd.com, Serbian Internet activists posted obscenities to Albanian lists. Milosevic concentrated his propaganda efforts only domestically: Serbian government never seriously addressed foreign public, which is a serious mistake in today’s globalized world. Furthermore, in contradiction to the Serb professed hospitality, Serbian government nearly went out of its way to treat foreign human rights observers and, especially, journalists as unwelcome intruders at best and possibly spies. That costed Serbia dearly: even sympathetic U.S. journalists learned to think that their government might have a point in not liking Milosevic after what they had experienced with Serbian authorities. Of course, they posted that to the Net...
Internet For The People: To Be Or To Have
Internet and War Reporting
A hundred years ago a massacre in some poor underdeveloped region of the world - in Tibet, or Central Africa or in Chechenya - would happen largely un-noticed by the world. Powers to be were free to tailor their policy without much regard for public opinion. Their foreign policy actions were generally unaccountable to anybody, i.e. they could do whatever they wanted. The print media of the WW I and WW II revolutionized that accountability. But mostly in a way that we can question the actions of the power players after the fact. Like, today we know that it was wrong for U.S. to turn back Jewish refugees from Germany in 1938. Then, there was not enough information to sway public opinion in the U.S. to think that way. If there was not for the records in print media of those times (like Life magazine), we wouldn’t know or care whether it happened at all.
The television brought the carnage of war in real time as it was happening to our dinner table with evening news and helped build the strong opposition to the Vietnam war in the U.S. The TV, however, has its limitations, too. First, the strength of the televised message depends on the strength of the televised images, and those are stronger if the massacre already happened. Second, the TV is an expensive to produce media and therefore, inevitably, cannot represent interests of small and oppressed who can not pay pricey advertising time. This is where Internet comes in. Indeed, all various rebellions, insurgencies, uprisings, liberation movements present their case today on the World Wide Web, on newsgroups and on lists, relentlessly trying to careen the global public opinion in support of their case: Zapatistas in Mexico, East Timorese, Chechens and of course all parties in Bosnian, Kosovar and other post-Yugoslav conflicts (Appendix F, Appendix D).
Serb president Milosevic and his family are very Internet conscious: Milosevic has an official homepage. His wife's personal page has its own domain: MMarkovic ...and opens with a flower in her hair and a calming message of peace: "The new world is coming. More rich, more just and more universal." Their son, Marko (notorious for his opulent style of living) has a page so powerful and new, that it requires a machine capable of running macromedia shockwave and real-video. Serbian opposition leaders also established their presence on the web. Vuk Draskovic, the always procrastinating leader of SPO, however, had his name hi-jacked by a peasant from Serbian countryside who decided to mirror Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party site under vukdraskovic.org. From 1997 to 2000 the number of Internet users in Serbia increased ten-fold (from 40 to 400 thousands) making Internet a major player in the September 24, 2000 elections (Appendix I).Not only Serbian politicians, but also others in the Balkans desire to be cyber-visible: late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, also had considerable presence on the web, that the new Croatian government decided to completely erase, all the files related to Tudjman were simply deleted, announcing, symbolically that in 21st century the real dying happens in cyberspace - here is the Office of the President of Croatia. Then there is the question of the measurement of the presence on the web. Here is the comparison chart: The Excite search for "Rade Serbedzija", the best known actor in former Yugoslavia, a Serb from Croatia, who is now an up and coming Hollywood celebrity ("Saint") returns 298 hits, while the same search for "Franjo Tudjman" returns 1009 and for "Slobodan Milosevic" 6416 hits. Milosevic receives such a widespread name recognition as if he is a Hollywood mega-star: the Excite search for "Brad Pitt", for example, returns 8940 hits. In the global pop-culture Milosevic is as "popular" as imaginary villains from high budget Hollywood movies.
As a consequence of such on-line facilitated build-up of global public awareness, Kosovo, the least developed province of former Yugoslavia and, with Albania, the least developed region in Europe, now ended up with brand new, advanced and powerful uplink equipment, installed, configured and fine-tuned by the best engineers the EU could hire, running on Eutelsat, a test-bed for the European electronics industry and Ariane Aerospace. As in Sarajevo, the Internet connections got developed about at the time as the satellite uplink is set up. The Kosovo refugee crisis opened up new possibilities for electronic information (Supplement from the Advocacy Project). The International Rescue Committee has begun providing Internet service to Kosovo barely 100 days after the arrival of UN peacekeepers: Internet Project Kosovo, (Appendix E). Internet access is being provided initially to the University of Pristina, the National Library, local news media and Pristina Hospital and to 14 UN and international humanitarian agencies in the capital. The UN and private relief agencies are sharing costs of the Kosovo Internet Project, while local institutions are receiving service free. In the future, additional institutions such as schools and local nongovernmental agencies will be connected at no charge. After a start-up period of six months or so, the IRC plans to give control of the project to a local revenue-generating, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wide access to the Internet in Kosovo.
Internet and Refugees
Such a plan may be too optimistic given the fate of Zamir Transnational Net (Appendix A): only in Zagreb, Croatia, a non-profit organization that was a member of ZTN - Anti-War Campaign (ARK), started their own revenue-generating Internet Service Provider (ISP) - ZAMIR.NET - and offered holders of @zamir-zg.atn.apc.org accounts to transfer. Some did, some did not. For some time both ZTN and ZAMIR.NET ran parallel. Then one day ZAMIR-ZG ZTN node failed to work and none repaired it for lack of resources. Belgrade ZTN node Zamir-BG and Prishtina ZTN node Zana-PR both closed down due to lack of funding. They were not able to raise funds to cover the running costs from their users. The users were left to find another server on their own. Tuzla ZTN node Zamir-TZ and Sarajevo ZTN node Zamir-SA (as all the original ZTN systems) did not offer full Internet service so when full Internet service came to Bosnia & Herzegovina, most of the users left these systems. With the one's left over, it was not possible to continue. Except for ARK in Croatia, none of the organizations running the ZTN nodes were able to grow into full Internet service providers. The also had difficulties offering reliable services and were not able to collect the funds needed to keep their services alive and to grow. The result, the systems were turned off, the users had to look elsewhere for Internet services. Where each individual user finally connected to the Internet depended upon the situation at that particular moment in that country.
The United States government also experimented with the new information technology during the Kosovo crisis. The United States Information Agency (USIA) wanted to inform the Kosovar refugees as well as provide them with an opportunity to keep in touch with each other and with their families abroad. Some would see this as humanitarian, others as ensuring that the refugees remained solidly behind NATO's war aims.
This information campaign took several different forms. The US subsidized the production of an online magazine for the refugees, named "Kontakti." It also funded the establishment of several cyber-cafes in refugee camps in Poland, Germany, Macedonia, and the US (Elizabeth, New Jersey). Here refugees could search the web for news about family members.
The centerpiece of this was a large satellite dish in the Stenkovac, Macedonia refugee camp and an Internet link via satellite. Both were owned by a private firm (Interpackit), and were loaned to the US humanitarian effort. The USIA turned to the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to manage the equipment and the link and to make the Internet available to the refugees.
None of these initiatives were as successful as might have been hoped. IOM's function is to transport refugees, not develop Internet connections -- and it had more than enough work to do transporting and evacuating refugees. It also proved much more difficult to open cyber cafes than imagined.
To top it all, early in June the refugees suddenly began to return to Kosovo, leaving the expensive Internet donation temporarily stranded. For some time the huge dish sat forlornly in the deserted camp at Stenkovac, while the Pan-Am satellite circled high above. The International Rescue Committee in Prishtina set up another satellite dish, while the Stenkovac dish remained somewhere in the netherworld of the USAID red tape. However, recently it made its way to Prishtina, after all. Eventually it became used to connect IPKO to the Internet (Appendix E). IPKO is about to install the third server using this connection.
Internet and Peace and Democracy Building?
For better or worse, the Internet lacks the enveloping characteristics of the TV media - it does not access you, you have to access IT. The choice is yours. Unlike television, which is top-to-bottom, one-way communication that somehow symbolizes totalitarian structure, Internet is a democracy-promoting media. Information on TV is produced my a small number of people and pushed on the masses through the tube. It behaves like a decree of a totalitarian state: it is inflexible to the recipient, the content is highly dependent on the opinion of those who own and/or control the production and it does not give the viewer a right to appeal: the only recourse against it, is to turn the TV set off. On Internet anybody can post an information for everybody to read, hear or see, and each recipient can agree or disagree and post that agreement or disagreement back to the Net. That information behaves like an attitude of a free individual: it is completely flexible to recipient (you can read it now, tomorrow or never at all; you can add or remove sounds and colors, etc.), the content is solely the opinion of the sender, who may or may not be perceived as an authority by you, and you can always reply to it.
At least, it is still like that. That changes rapidly with the switch of on-line world from the concept of "pull" - post and forget, post on the net for everybody to have access to it - to the concept of "push" - send to all (how many of us already received offers to buy CDs with millions of e-mail addresses?), reply to all, force the browser to open on a certain page, force little pop-up windows to open with the page and make it impossible for a user to close them (actually, some aggressive porno sites already employ technology that prevents you to exit Netscape or Explorer - you simply can’t shut the program down...).
Recently at the marriage of my friends Eric and Dorie, I followed up on a joke, that somebody else said, about how Dorie was guilty for him to stay with peace movement, saying that Dorie was also guilty of introducing me to another friend of mine, Johanna, with whom I had an exciting albeit turbulent relationship for a while. Eric and Dorie are both peace activists that work on projects in post-Yugoslav societies for the past decade. Eric was the facilitator and system operator of the Zamir Transnational Net. Dorie assembled a directory of organizations "Working for Peace in the Balkans, A Guide to U.S. Organizations".
Later, some other people commented to me how I shouldn’t have made a joke on account of a person that was not present at the gathering. I admitted my general lack of good manners, that’s well documented on several continents, shrugged my shoulders and walked away. Then I thought - gosh - I did not even feel that she was not present. I imagined that she was there. Since I already spend much more time communicating with people over Internet than face to face, I adapted to the rules and etiquette of the on-line communication as opposed to the face-to-face communication. When I send my thoughts through the Net I can add whomever I want to the list of recipients of those thoughts. I can Cc: my mail to anybody. Even better, I can Bcc: my mail. I am not limited by those present in the room to hear my thoughts. I can tailor the group of recipients to each particular thought I am sending out. I don’t have to watch my language, adapting to the listeners, as I would have to in the face-to-face communication - instead I can write what I want and then chose the audience for that language. In a sense while in the face-to-face world our thoughts are inevitably a variable limited by the environment of recipients, in the on-line world that environment of recipients becomes a variable in function of our thoughts at the moment. In the face-to-face world such an event is, perhaps, the reading of the last will.
Therefore, I concluded, given the amount of time I spend on-line, I already "live" there and in the face-to-face world I am just represented by an avatar, who reasonably forgot that he could not Cc: Johanna that joke. I guess, I will have to work on adjusting his parameters. Nevertheless, the ability to determine who will hear your thoughts on-line, i.e. to create a precise "target audience" for each of your ideas, made Internet a perfect tool for marketing and commerce. That Internet’s gift for commercial success contains a curse - of it becoming solely another tool of pushing corporate products on the consumer. Even if those products are promoted as if to address humanitarian needs. The UNHCR-Microsoft effort to document all Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia in an on-line searchable database was hampered by refugees’ relative quick and sudden return to Kosovo. It seems that their valuable product (they entered 400,000 names in the database; see Supplement) that was basically used for the first time in the Kosovo refugee crisis, would be better served if that crisis lasted longer. In summer 2000, we have United States Institute for Peace getting Serbian and Albanian political moderates from Kosovo together signing the landmark Airlie Declaration Against Violence. Each member of the delegation was given a laptop computer by the Waitt Family Foundation to be able to stay in touch, exchange ideas with each other and the world. The founder of the Waitt Family Foundation is Ted Waitt , also the co-founder of Gateway Computers. The laptops are of course Gateway and I would not be surprised that Gateway receives the 'cookies' about the sites accessed by the recipients.
With the cold war behind us, and the cold peace firmly established between the powers to be in the world, there is a lot of talk of the future of the Internet. There is a longing of the Pax Americana’s world’s dispossessed for the virtual justice promised by the Internet, as it was among Pax Romana’s world’s downtrodden for the after-life justice promised by Christianity. There is also a function of being the knowledge keeper, that Internet of today shares with the Church of the Middle Ages. And there is, also, the element of aggressive "marketeering"- proselytizing to the unbelievers, evident in the introduction of the "Push" technologies. Indeed, while some of the world's major religions (Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) had compounded annual growth rates (of members) ranging between .34% and 4.12%, the Internet has accumulated 200,000,000 "followers" in 7 years: that's a compounded annual growth rate of 1,434.13% (Tim Draper, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson Associates, presented those numbers in his speech on October 21 to the investors community in New York). The Internet is just getting out of college, letting his hair grow, and taking the piercings out of his nose, leaving noble but not bill-paying causes to his past, together with his war tool origins, looking for a (well-paid) job, now, and pushing things that we want, or don’t want, to us daily, relentlessly: the Internet of the future is the biggest tool of commerce ever conceived. There are several technologies, concepts, and processes now put in place to make it happen:
- Number of people who have easy access to the Net (through web, FREE e-mail), which equals the number of people to whom the Net has access to (Appendix G).
- Number of people who have credit cards (or debit cards with MC or VISA logo) that can be used to facilitate payments on-line.
- Number of bits used in cryptography doubles every year, giving more assurance to consumers that their transaction information will remain confidential.
- Number of people who DON’T have full access (widespread closing of telnet access and TOC accounts by ISP-s): the technology of the World Wide Web is used to shut people off from the real interactivity that Internet offered in its beginnings and reduce them to the status of consumers.
- Number of "push" technologies developed by ISP-s (AOL Instant Messenger), free web hosts (Geocities, Tripod pop-up windows), browser makers (Microsoft Exchange, My Netscape), software designers (RealPlayer streaming media), on-line retailers (Xoom endless spamming ever larger groups of people), free E-mail hosts (Hotmail), etc.
- Number of new devices designed for ‘customer’s convenience’ - to make web surfing ‘easier’ - in effect narrows customer options: like computers today do not only come with operating system pre-installed, but also with the web browser pre-installed. Incidentally, both are products of Microsoft, that brought the U.S. government wrath on Microsoft. Compaq went a step further by conveniently building the addiction to shopping into its hardware: the new Presario Series laptops have a couple of dedicated buttons below the touch pad: Instant Internet Access Button, Instant E-Mail Button, Secure E-Commerce Button - making you spend your money easier. Compaq donated computers to Kosovo refugee camps under the UNHCR-Microsoft project.
- Number of mergers of ISP-s and of ISP-s and Telekom companies - leading to consolidation and monopolization of Internet resources. For example - for years my primary Internet Service Provider was Institute for Global Communications, operated by non-profit Tides Foundation, a small, but respected provider with national access and global reach to 133 countries (as a member of Association for Progressive Communications). However, in Fall of 1999, when most of this article was written, the IGC "outsourced" its dial-up service to Mindspring. The IGC now no longer is a primary ISP. Mindspring, an aggressive but ‘cool’ ISP, in turn this Fall merged with Earthlink, a second largest ISP in the U.S., partially owned by the Church of Scientology. Earthlink has a partnership agreement with the U.S. Sprint. And U.S. Sprint is the part of joint venture with the Deutsche Telekom and the France Telekom: Global One.
All those numbers are on the rise, and there are too many people around, particularly in the U.S. - the country with the largest Internet access, noticing that the richest man on the planet is not an oil sheik, but a software designer, who ask Internet the question: "Can something have any intrinsic value if I can’t make money out of it?" Caveat emptor! Sooner or later - with such a trend - we are all going to be ONE. The old-style venture capitalist believes that certain existing
professionals and services will become extinct because of the Internet: intermediaries (replaced by online stores and cyber-auctions), information brokers (rendered obsolete by the availability of free information online), lawyers, bureaucrats and accountants (replaced by easy access to published laws and the creation of intelligent forms), and broadcasting (useless to a generation of proactive learners who surf to get news instead of sitting back and listening.) The new venture capitalist tries to corner the Internet market making himself the one and only indispensable intermediary, information broker, lawyer, bureaucrat, accountant and the news broadcaster. Do you Yahoo?
Appendix A - Zamir Transnational Net =
Appendix B - Vrij University Sarajevo Satellite Uplink Diagram =
THE END OF UNILINK
Appendix C - Sarajevo Pipeline archives =
Appendix D -
Find what post-Yugoslavs talk about:
Listing of newsgroups and mailing lists
Listing of chat groups
The ICTY links
News and analysis from the Balkans
Appendix E -
Kosovo Internet Project
Appendix F -
Nation of Lorosae (note: formerly East Timor; they had their own .tp top level domain on-line before they actually received independence in the real world; their domain was served from Ireland)
Chechenya, (alternative page)
Listing of post-Yugoslav World Wide Web resource pages
Kosovo Crisis hub
The "unlimited group" is actually limited by the number of users, which is larger than the number of hosts - computers connected to the Net (for example, AOL host has close to 20 million subscribers-users), and that number is bigger every year:
Year Number of computers connected to Internet
The story of hijacking of opennet.org and b92.net domains in the
spring '99 was never been published yet, but it might as very be...
* 1st part: hijacking the domain names
I was admin contact for two names: opennet.org and b92.net. The
contact address for opennet.org was listed as
email@example.com - my account with Belgrade University academic
When they got into B92 premises in April '99, police has:
- sent faxes to NSI on B92 letterhead, asking for change of the
opennet.org and b92.net admin records (this actually the most
important point - they were in possession of real B92 letterhead);
- filtered my email account firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I have
never got any notification from NSI;
- when they changed records (including ns pointer) for opennet.org
domain, then they changed records for b92.net using fake emails from
* 2nd stage: taking opennet.org domain back but not b92.net
I have informed NSI about the hijack of openet.org and b92.net
domains, with the urgent note that all emails to addresses at
opennet.org go directly to Serbian police. Meaning that police is
collecting emails to majority of opponents to Miloshevic regime.
So, very fast NSI has reacted and changed (and locked) opennet.org
domain name. We have then established a scheme for email, so that
emails to openent domain go to xs4all and then are being rerouted
accordingly. That system still functions...
When I tried to get back b92.net domain, it was a totally different
story. NSI had taken standpoint that the street address (Makedonska
22)and possession of B92 letterhead is a decisive fact, hence
Milosevic guys who had taken over B92, now own copyrighted name
either. Consequently there was not way to get domain name back.
Internet: The Real Winner in September 24 Elections in Serbia
Wednesday, September 20 9:47 AM SGT
Internet the rising star of Yugoslav elections
BELGRADE, Sept 20 (AFP) -
Neither the boiling speeches of political foes nor the hundreds of
billboards with slogans of candidates on Sunday's federal general and
presidential elections in Yugoslavia could win the title of the rising
star of the heated campaign.
That title definitely goes to the Internet, for thousands of Yugoslavs the
only place they can find all the necessary election data, where they can
listen to banned radio stations, check voter registers or examine
candidates' programmes and promises.
In 1997, at the time of Serbia's presidential elections, the last held in
this Yugoslav republic, only an estimated 40,000 people -- most of them in
Belgrade -- had access to the web.
Nowadays, there are at least 400,000 Internet users, but experts say that
the number of those with the access to the web could be twice as high.
The first to discover the opportunities of the web were media outlets: as
the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic has increased its pressure on
the independent radio and TV stations and with private and non-state
newspapers facing paper shortages, the Internet has become a vital source
The independent radio B292, seized by the government three times in its
11-year long history, nowadays can be heard only by those with satellite
dishes or with access to its website at www.freeb92.net.
The radio also provides daily news bulletins in Serbian and English, as
well as interviews, video footage and reports from the country and abroad.
Trying to enable access to sometimes vital information that cannot not be
heard on the state-controlled media, groups of young enthusiasts have set
up their own web pages to compete with the professionals.
At www.xs4all.nl/freeserbia and www.freebgd.net, one can find a daily
digest of press reports, electoral campaign schedules and well-stocked
archives of events leading up to the vote.
Due to many changes in the voters register in the country, which has not
had a registration since 1991, the citizens of Belgrade and several other
towns need to check whether their data is correctly noted.
Since the elections were called in late July, dozens of non-government
organisations have increased their activities in both the real and the
The site www.izlaz2000.org groups several organisations campaigning for "democratic and fair elections," and offers analysis and pre-election prognosis, as well as listing the "rights and duties of a real voter."
At www.vreme-je.net, an Internet user can find reports of more than twenty
rock concerts held as a part of the campaign "Come out to vote," aimed at
inspiring thousands of young people to take part in the polls.
The student-led opposition movement Otpor (Resistance) at www.otpor.com
offers reports of frequent raids of its premises and of the detention of
its members by the regime, which refuses to register the group as a
political movement, branding it instead a "fascist and terrorist" group of
The Center for Free and Democratic elections (CESID) provides rules and
regulations regarding the vote, and has promised the preliminary results
of Sunday's vote at its site, www.cesid.org.yu.
Most of the political parties have discovered the powers of the Internet,
but only the presidential candidate of the opposition Serbian Renewal
Movement of Vuk Draskovic has his own site at www.vojislavmihailovic.org [Note: since vukdraskovic.org was hi-jacked by an entreprneurial Milosevic loyalist].
All the details of the campaign of Vojislav Kostunica, Milosevic's leading
rival in the presidential polls, are to be found at www.izborise.co.yu, aimed at boosting
turnout at the polls.
Milosevic's Socialist Party offers its political programme and a biography
of the Yugoslav president at www.sps.org.yu, while its ally, the Yugoslav Left of his wife Mira Markovic at www.jul.org gives basic party details and an application form.
The official government site at www.gov.yu/izbori should also offer details about the elections but many of its areas are still "under
For more links about Serbia check The Balkans Pages.
back to top
Supplement (by Advocacy Project) -
THE INTERNET AND THE KOSOVO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
The brutal and sudden nature of the expulsions created two immediate needs, both of which provided an opening for the Internet. In the first place, thousands of families were split. In the second place, they arrived in the camps without any identity cards -- all forms of identity had been taken by the Serbians in an attempt to condemn the refugees to permanent exile.
During the refugee exodus from Rwanda in 1994, radio had been used by relief agencies to reunite unaccompanied children with their families. During the exodus from Kosovo, in the spring of 1999, the Internet was also employed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a mandate to trace missing persons and 6,000 names were entered in the ICRC website (or ). Several Albanian relief agencies also set up websites for split families. One was organized by El Hilal, a Macedonia-based NGO that was established in 1991 and profiled earlier in this series. El Hilal quickly set about serving the refugees. It had 60 full-time workers in its 14 branches and
more than 150 sub-branches, and was able to mobilize several hundred more at short notice. It used this network to collect over 70,000 refugee names, which were entered into a database and posted on a web site.
This data provided the raw material for another imaginative project. Working under the umbrella of the International Rescue Committee, Paul Meyer developed the "Kosovar Family Finder"
project. Working with a budget of $50,000, he and several Albanian technical experts were able to collect tens of thousands of names from electronic databases like El Hilal's, and publish them in the form of printed Yellow Pages; 4,000 copies were subsequently distributed inside Kosovo and another 6,000 in the camps. Family Finder also opened a website, which allowed Kosovars to search for names of friends and family members. The site received over a thousand hits a day, but it was the combination of the printed and electronic versions that made the list widely accessible.
International relief agencies also used the web to showcase their work and raise funds. Some developed individual pages that followed the journey of their workers in the field, describing first-hand experiences in text and photo. CARE International gave a laptop to one of their local staff workers who wrote of his return to Peja (Pec) after living as a refugee. With the help of IBM and CARE, this was broadcast on the web.
The most ambitious experiment was launched by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in an effort to provide the Kosovar refugees with identity cards.
Neither the Governments of Macedonia nor Albania had succeeded (or bothered) to register the refugees in a consistent manner. This was creating chaos -- and making it hard to ensure the proper distribution of relief aid. There was also a real risk that the 800,000 Albanian refugees would return to Kosovo without documents, making their orderly reintegration considerably more difficult.
By this stage of the refugee crisis, several computer companies had spotted a business opportunity and contacted UNHCR with offers to provide computers and service in return for a guarantee of sales at a later stage. But it was left to the industry giant Microsoft to make a donation that directly addressed UNHCR's dilemma over registration.
Microsoft put together a consortium of its business partners (Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Securit World Ltd., and ScreenCheck B.V.), and made a donation of $2.4 million to develop digital
registration kits capable of taking a photo and producing an ID card that could serve the refugee's needs in exile and be substituted for a permanent ID card on return.
Each kit contained a laptop computer, digital camera, specialized ID card printer, and specially designed software applications and hardware. Initially, it was hoped that the cards would have a
magnetic strip that would allow them to be digitally scanned.
The results of the experiment are still being analyzed by UNHCR, but like so many innovative ideas it proved much easier to conceive than implement. Twenty Microsoft volunteers went to the camps with laptops donated by Hewlett-Packard and Compaq.
It took a lot longer to develop the registration kits than expected, because all kinds of questions had to be answered: Would every individual refugee receive a card, or just the family head?
What kind of information would be needed -- date of birth? Place of residence? Occupation? Reason for flight? Language spoken? Medical details? Obviously, the type of information would depend on the purpose of the card (protection, potential employment, nutritional status, census, etc). The more information that found its way into the form, the longer it took to input by hand.
No sooner had the process started to run smoothly, than it was swept aside by the sudden return of the refugees in early June. According to one report, 400,000 names were entered in a database,
but fewer than 50,000 cards issued. The information was never made public to those people searching for family and friends on the web. The experiment is now being analyzed by UNHCR, as part of a review of its response to the refugee crisis.