September 28 is International Right to Know Day. Centre for Law and Democracy is an NGO based in Canada that works around the world aimed at promoting government transparency. Over the past year, we have carried out projects in Indonesia, Myanmar, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Canada, the Maldives, Kazakhstan and Yemen, among many other places. Access to government information is a human right - it is at the cornerstone of government accountability, and of maintaining an informed citizenry. We are passionate about government transparency, and eager to answer any questions you have about your right to know.

Edited: There will be two lawyers from our organization, Michael_Karanicolas and Toby_Mendel, participating in this AMA.

Edited #2 - I should add, today we are relaunching our international RTI rating - a comparative ranking of all the different transparency laws in the world. Find out which countries are best and which are worst at

Edited #3 - Wow - this really took off. Great to see so many awesome questions. We're working our way through them - but they're coming in quickly now, and a lot require substantive answers, so please bear with us.

Edited #4 - Ok - my work day is winding to a close, and Toby's already boarded a plane, so I'm going to have to call time. Thanks everyone for participating - I can safely say that this response far exceeded our expectations (front page!). If you want more information about our work, please go to and sign up to our mailing list. See you again soon!

Comments: 337 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

invade_china75 karma

What's the time limit when I requested a document via FOIA? It has being 9 years after they said they will provide the document.

Michael_Karanicolas73 karma

Hi - I assume this is the USA we're talking about? Under FOIA, authorities are supposed to respond within 20 working days, extendable by an additional 10 working days. However, they can get further extensions under "unusual circumstances" - with no limit there. These types of provisions are routinely abused by governments around the world, and extensions meant to only apply in extreme cases become routine.

Toby_Mendel29 karma

Just a quick gloss on this; even in the US where there are soft deadlines, requesters are supposed to be given notice of how long the request will take, and that should then be respected. I'm assuming you were not notified of a 9 year deadline!! Perhaps your request has been lost!

shotgears70 karma

Do aliens exist? Has the government found any proof?

Michael_Karanicolas60 karma

I want to believe.

mansanares67 karma

Do you think that one day, EVERYDAY will be an International Right to Know day?

Michael_Karanicolas61 karma

I think we've found our new mission statement: Fighting to make EVERY day Right to Know Day.

herowcatsmanzzz34 karma

  • What was your guys'es initial reaction to the NSA whistle blowing?

  • I assume a positive one but do you guys think it has been treated with well?

  • Also, last question, does reddit and other social media websites "spreading awareness" of the subject really help? Or are we just living under the illusion that we do something by posting and talking about how much the NSA sucks?

Michael_Karanicolas62 karma

I was shocked - as I think many in civil society were. You don't expect these kinds of stories to come out of the developed world. When you work in human rights development, 90% of the major battles tend to be fought in places like China or Russia or the Middle East. To learn about this absolutely atrocious program that was going on right under our noses was certainly a jolt to the system. It's worth noting that CLD also works in freedom of expression, where the moves by the US to completely destroy online privacy are also chilling.

As for Snowden himself, he's a whistleblower who deserves protection and not prosecution. Personally I think he's a hero - he exposed massive government malfeasance at great personal cost.

*Edited to add: Awareness raising always helps - because apathy is always the big enemy. If you're in a democracy, no matter how dysfunctional, you do have the power the change these policies, if you can mobilize enough people behind your cause. So, spreading awareness helps, but of course dedicated political action is better. Find a group that's actively fighting against this in the US (ACLU, EFF, etc.) and volunteer your time or money to help.

Beasterbunny24 karma

Everyday we have a right to know, screw this once a year bullshit

Michael_Karanicolas23 karma

Preach, brother.

drsuperfly15 karma

How come in some states the police won't let you record them in public?

Michael_Karanicolas18 karma

Because they value police power over the first amendment?

The ACLU is fighting this cause, and have done a great job explaining what the law is, and what it should be, here:

Talarot10 karma

Why should I believe political action works?

Michael_Karanicolas9 karma

Wow... that's a tough one...

Look - a lot of the time you fight and you lose. Someone a few hours ago mentioned the Philippines - where we, along with some very hardworking local NGOs, have been trying to get a transparency law passed for years - and there have been several times when it almost got passed, and then died at the last minute. That's frustrating.

But I've also seen victories, and I've seen progress. And you can't get discouraged when you don't win right away, or when a campaign goes down in flames - that's just part of the process. You win some and you lose some - but you can't stop playing otherwise your cause will never win.

goop_guy_229 karma

Do you think the DATA act will make it's way through congress? Why haven't we done this already?

Michael_Karanicolas8 karma

I hope so!

buck_futter_8 karma

In regards to the NSA spying on everyone, what would happen if i made everything that could ever identify me public (blood type, gene sequence, social security number, drivers license number etc.)?

Law_and_Democracy11 karma

Ai WeiWei did something similar - he found out the Chinese government had secretly installed surveillance cameras in his house, so he set up his own cameras to broadcast a 24-hour live web feed.

Privacy is ultimately about your reasonable expectations - so you could take that approach, but I think the world is better served if people keep to defend a certain amount of personal space.

buck_futter_1 karma

Thank you for the prompt response! If i could ask a followup question would releasing this information better protect me from fraud and identity theft ?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Well - that's not within my area of expertise, but I'm going to go with no. Since most other people keep it a secret, so companies (like your bank) are likely to continue to rely on it as identifying information.

ramboost0077 karma

Hi! Have you heard about government transparency in the Philippines? If yes, what is your reaction? Just like to see our government from a different point of view.

Michael_Karanicolas12 karma

Yes - we've been directly involved on this issue, and in the drafting process of the several failed attempts to get a transparency law passed.

When the most recent draft failed to go through, in February, we joined with the Philippine-based Institute for Freedom of Information to call on the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership to take action:

Toby Mendel, our Director, has been very actively involved on this and I'm sure will weigh in further when he comes online (he's a few time zones behind).

SuitGuySmitti6 karma

What's the most commonly unknown thing about the legal side of business transparency?

Michael_Karanicolas5 karma

That some of the biggest users of access to information laws are businesses. Oftentimes the government will be sitting on information that has commercial value (say - traffic statistics, which will be of interest to me if I want to set up a towing company). So with FOIA, companies can get this information and use it to optimise their business model. And this is great - actually. There's no downside - it's taking something that has no value sitting in a government computer can giving it value. And it always makes an argument for access more persuasive to governments when you can throw in something about how it's good for the economy.

kartstar5 karma

What is your organisation's opinion on WikiLeaks?

Michael_Karanicolas8 karma

I don't think we have an institutional policy - but here's my opinion, which I think a lot of right to information advocates share.

It's great that there's a website that facilitates anonymous whistle blowing. It's great that WikiLeaks is pushing the conversation about how much information States needlessly classify. But, in referring to the Manning leaks specifically, I'm concerned they were a bit reckless since they didn't seem to properly vet the information before they put it up. Whistleblowing is supposed to be about serving a clear public interest. That holds true for some of the information that was released, but not all of it, and the reports that there was harmful information in there, information about the identities of cooperators in Afghanistan for example - that's troubling.

kartstar5 karma

Cool, thanks for the reply.

In regards to the "release by batch" you're referring to I believe that was a mistake. More here

Toby_Mendel4 karma

From what I understand is it was a bit more complicated than that. Wikileaks was releasing the data slowly to 5 major newspapers around the world, after vetting it, but then the heat got turned up on Assange and they sort of blurted it all out, concerned that they might not be able to if they waited.

I agree with Michael's comment on Manning, but at the same time I think it is a travesty that he was sentenced to 35 years, which is longer than you get for multiple murders in many countries.

Rbridge5 karma

What's the point of campaigning or trying to use the legal system when the govt routinely bypasses everything?

Michael_Karanicolas4 karma

Again - that depends on the country. Implementation varies widely from place to place. In many countries, the right to information has proven a very effective mechanism of accountability.

To my fellow Canadians - the Peter MacKay helicopter scandal, and Bev Oda's expenses both came out through access to information requests.


0bama promised 'the most transparent administration' ever. It is the complete opposite. Explain, please.

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

I am also very troubled by this (see my earlier comment). A lot of politicians like to talk a big game on transparency during the election or when they are in opposition, and then shift gears once they are in office. Obama wasn't the first to do this, and he won't be the last.

eXo55 karma

Break it down for me man....

Are we fucked?

Michael_Karanicolas7 karma

Nah bro - we got your back.

JustAFewAskew4 karma

How can we stop leaders from having "behind closed doors" talks? I understand that certain things need discretion but when all the worlds governments agree to go beneath their citizens and make policies on censoring the web is their really any hope to stop that?

Michael_Karanicolas4 karma

Transparency in decision making is a major part of what we're going for - since that's critical to meaningful citizen engagement. The ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership are a great example of that - this treaty could have a profound impact on the the Internet and intellectual property, and the discussions have been going on for years in total secrecy. In my mind, it's about mobilizing to send a message that that won't stand.

NetCracker4 karma

what is your honest opinion obama, the first black president(dont mean to be racist)?

Michael_Karanicolas43 karma

Irrespective of his background, I think Barack Obama has been an enormous let down to a lot of people who work in the field of human rights. I think that a lot of people saw the Bush-Cheney years as marking a low-water point in modern US history, and hoped that the election of a young candidate with an idealistic message and soaring rhetoric would mark a clean break from that.

And... boy we were wrong. Just to focus on transparency, which is the focus of this AMA, the rate of classification of documents has actually increased since Obama took office. The Obama administration has also launched an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, most significantly Edward Snowden, and has fought tooth-and-nail against accountability for major policy decisions. The total lack of accountability of the FISA courts is staggering to me.

I'm generally a very optimistic person, but the turnaround between Barack Obama the candidate and Barack Obama the President is one of the most troubling developments I've seen over the past few years.

dawmi6 karma

I feel we'd be in the same position right now If McCain was voted in.

Michael_Karanicolas11 karma

That's probably true - and a sad testament to the State of America's democracy.

tocsta3 karma

USA here. Is there really any "evidence" that the Government may have played a role in such tragic events as 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, Newtown shooting, etc...?

Michael_Karanicolas10 karma

Certainly not that I've seen, and I think those kinds of theories are far fetched and, worse, they detract from the actual scandals that are out there (see NSA surveillance...).

tocsta3 karma

Thanks! I'm a middle class, Husband of seven years, Father of two (Half Mexican) coming from an American born African background. Thank you for offering your opinion on Obama. It's hard to not pull for the guy (and his administration) in the community I come from.

Thanks for the AMA!

Toby_Mendel3 karma

I just want to note that the Centre for Law and Democracy, which Michael and I work for, is an entirely non-political human rights organisation. Our comments on Obama and any other political figure are restricted to the extent to which they have promoted or obstructed human rights.

cuntstantine3 karma

Why does the media keep covering up black on black crime in the United States? Why does our president never address this major issue in our society? What happened in benghazi? Why did the Lois Lerner, an IRS official plead the 5th when the tea party was being targeted? Will we ever know the truth? Why has the correlation between social programs and crime rate or divorce rate or single parent rate, continue to be correlated over time? Why do we never get any transparency out of government?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Lots of questions that I can't answer. Sorry!

throwawayea13 karma

Why should the average citizen know all of the government's activities? The average citizen not understanding a lot of things, easily passing judgement even without understanding, and being highly susceptible to the inevitable media sensationalism? Why should the average citizen be given access to private correspondence or documentation that they know nothing about and that could cause them to jump to uninformed conclusions?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Not all activities of government, but certainly most. People should have access to all government information, unless there is a legitimate harm to the public interest that would accrue from the disclosure. In a democracy (or a republic - for whoever pointed that out), the system is dependent on the public being informed and engaged, so that their votes will steer the country towards the best path forward. That depends on people getting a full accounting of what their government is up to.

some_african2 karma

Has there been any projects or "missions" to look into the Liberian government? It seems to me that after the removal of Charles Taylor, the world has forgotten about them.

Michael_Karanicolas3 karma

We don't work that much in Sub-Saharan Africa - but I can tell you that Liberia has actually passed one of the strongest transparency laws in the world. They just named their first Information Commissioner last year, so the jury is still out on implementation, but if the government actually follows through it could have a transformative impact on public accountability in that country.

schweinhunde2 karma

The Australian Privacy Commissioner issued a statement in response to the Snowden leaks that "the federal Privacy Act does not apply in situations where the gathering of Australian user data is in conjunction with an overseas law." It makes me feel rather uneasy that our government doesn't protect our privacy from overseas interests and enthusiastically cooperates with them. How could Australians challenge this?

Michael_Karanicolas3 karma

This is actually a major concern - that governments have been using this as a way of sidestepping domestic surveillance laws: you collect information on my citizens, I'll collect information on yours and we'll compare notes.

The way to challenge it is to mobilize politically and let your representatives know that you find this unacceptable.

schweinhunde1 karma

Thank you for your response Michael/ Well, I have done that, but I find that most people are rather apathetic or perhaps the issue is so overwhelming that to most it seems like there's nothing they can do... Isn't espionage generally considered a hostile act? Why then there isn't more outrage around the world and why only few South American countries are taking action?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

I know - I saw your last election results... :)

Unfortunately - there is a lot of apathy around this in the English-speaking world. All you can really do is keep hammering home the issue and try and get people to wake up.

aubreysux2 karma

I'd love to hear what you think about the relationship between transparency and Islamist political leadership, especially in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Many Islamist organizations, like the Muslim Brotherhood, were previously non-transparent, exclusive organizations that prided themselves in their secrecy. These organizations are now struggling to figure out how to appease the demands for transparency as legitimate political actors.

Do you see a future in which Islamist political parties could have a share in the governance equation in a high-functioning society? Are we close to that future?

Toby_Mendel6 karma

Thanks for that question. We are indeed very involved in those countries. As regards the Muslim Brotherhood, in the past they were harassed constantly by the Mubarak government in Egypt, and so some level of secrecy was arguably imposed on them from outside. It is also arguable that they didn't do a lot to improve transparency when in government. However, they did include a constitutional guarantee for this right in the constitution which was adopted by referendum in December 2012 (since abrogated) and they were also working on developing a freedom of information law.

Tunisia adopted a law in 2011 and has a guarantee in their draft constitution. Morocco also has a constitutional guarantee and is working on a law.

But there is a long way to go from adopting a law to the point at which there are effective access to information systems in these countries, all of which are really at the very beginning of the process of transitioning to democracy. So I think we have quite a way to go for the future which I think you are asking about.

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Hi - we've been involved in processes in all three countries. Toby, our Director, has been very closely involved in the evolution of Tunisia's access to information framework in particular, so I'll leave this one for him (he's speaking at a conference in Ottawa, and should be back in a bit).

[deleted]2 karma


Michael_Karanicolas4 karma

Hey - I also went to law school with a background in journalism!

I love what I do, but the short answer is that there are very few jobs in this field. So, unless you're very lucky, you may have to work your way through internships, and other low-paying (or non-paying) work before you find a proper position, and that won't be possible if you're under a mountain of debt. I generally never advice people to go to law school if they will incur a lot of debt doing it - certainly don't do it if you hope to land a career doing some sort of social good.

telephonetuffguy2 karma

In your opinion, where is the line between transparency and allowing governments to keep information secret for national security purposes?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

It comes down to harm. The internationally recognised test is:

  1. Would the information, if disclosed, cause a specific harm to national security?
  2. If so, does that harm outweigh the public interest in the disclosure of the information?

HotWingsDogsAndPot2 karma

This sounds like a ploy to sell greeting cards

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Happy Right to Know Day!

MHC-II2 karma

Why should we care it's "international right to know day?" Every group has a day now. Tomorrow is probably going to be "international starving kids in africa day." What does having a day accomplish if everybody does it?

Michael_Karanicolas8 karma

It's an advocacy tool - no doubt. And it brings people together to raise awareness of an issue. And right now - there's a thousand-odd people on Reddit talking about government transparency (thanks for being one of them!).

PWNbear2 karma

Do you agree with this?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Yes! You should totally support that movement. Particularly EFF - who do fantastic work.

Sssquish2 karma

We would like to see more budgets and more budgets being accounted for. Where can we access these details?

Michael_Karanicolas5 karma

Hi - as you might expect - this varies from country to country. What country are you talking about?

ItsIllak2 karma


Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Well - our analysis is slightly more complicated than that :)

We have 61 indicators of a strong law that we look for - every legal framework has at least some of them. You can check out our methodology in more detail at

Tobl41 karma

One often-cited reason for extensive surveillance is to prevent terrorism, however, when one asks to be shown the results, usually the only answer is that it cannot be disclosed because it would endanger the public. what is so dangerous about the public knowing which terrorist have already been taken down? (I'm not talking about immediate announcements, but maybe cases that lie back a year or longer?)

Michael_Karanicolas3 karma

I think that the argument is that if government techniques were revealed, criminals/terrorists would have an easier time evading them. Which - to be fair - there's is obviously some truth to that - but this line of reasoning is obviously abused quite a bit to classify information that should be public.

rostering1 karma

I live in Scotland. We're an oil producing country that's just about to vote on whether or not we want independence from England.

We have to make an important decision about our countries future but right now there's no reliable source of impartial information and the whole country is sitting inbetween two different camps of propoganda and scare mongering. Everyones treating this like an election with plenty of spin meaning there's no transparency.

This is probably one of the most important decisions we'll make in our life times. We need to be informed. How can we fix this and will you help us?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

I don't have an opinion one way or another on Scottish independence - but transparency is a significant issue there. These guys work to enhance transparency in Scotland:

Look past the low-quality website - they do good work!

slubensky7201 karma

Is the United States government truly in contact with extra-terrestrial beings like Canada claims?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Let's go back to talking about 9.11.

CrimsonYllek1 karma

I am writing a legal article involving some unexpected possible results from the uncovered NSA "spy" programs in the US. Where can I go to find out exactly what the NSA is doing (beyond simply headlines and journalism articles) and how? I have found some resources on my own, but it sounds like you guys may be able to point me towards even better ones.

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

You can't really find out - and that's the problem. There hasn't been real accountability. Glenn Greenwald probably has a better understanding of this than anyone - and what he knows he has published. Organizations like the EFF and the ACLU are probably your best bets for analysis.

inbeforethend1 karma

And... queue the whole purpose of this thread to be about US issues..

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

We actually do very little work in the US. Indonesia's by far our biggest project - but we're happy to talk about whatever people are interested in.

Oldschool19641 karma

Has this been "the most transparent administration in history"?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

If you're referring to the Obama administration, the short answer is no. Transparency has gotten worse since the Bush years, believe it or not.

eageratbest1 karma

Are you hiring? More specifically, would you hire me?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Not at the moment I'm afraid :)

But go to our website and sign onto our mailing list if you want to know when we have an opening.

pythor1 karma

What, in your opinion, would be the biggest danger of an American Constitutional amendment to make it illegal for any public sector employee to lie to a citizen and retain their job. What would be the biggest hurdle to getting such an amendment passed?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

I don't know you'd necessarily need a constitutional amendment for that - really just a law or executive regulation. I'm all for honesty in public service, but something like that sounds a bit too inflexible to me.

Hell_on_Earth1 karma

Does this mean I don't have the right to know any other day?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Well... I plan on going back to work Monday.

[deleted]1 karma


Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

There's a lot of great journalists out there - the problem is they don't work in television. You can look at the work that Glenn Greenwald did on the Snowden case as a prime example, but there are a lot of great writers in the US who are, indeed, calling a spade a spade. The problem is not that there are no good journalists, but that the good journalists don't command the big audiences.

NosuchRedditor1 karma

Give a quick transparency score on a scale of one to ten of the past four U.S.presidents and their administrations.

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

It's tough to say - I'm not that familiar with how it was under the Bush I or Clinton. But I know things seem to be getting worse, and I would give Obama a worse grade than Bush II... which is troubling.

grizzburger1 karma

Hi, I have a question.

Do you believe that a nation's citizens have a right to know the substance of all diplomatic negotiations and communications between that nation and others in the international community?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

No - there's certain discussions that are carried out in secret, and where publicity would cause harm to the public interest - and so governments are right to classify them. This is a recognised exception to the right to information.

But, broadly speaking, this exception tends to be overused - and applied to all sorts of discussions where no harm would come from the disclosure. Also, more progressive laws will have a "sunset clause", mandating that information be declassified after a particular period (usually 15 or 20 years), since presumably by that point the potential for harm should be gone.

RyanHudd1 karma

When will We be aloud to listen/read our congressman's phone calls and text messages? I would like to know what my tax money is getting me. I mean we have the data and "transparency". If there representing us I would like the taxes we pay to reflect the view of the people. Oh and how is reddit not being adpated to be our new voting model?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

I don't know about listening in on their phone calls, which I expect are not recorded as a matter of custom, but text messages are certainly government documents, and I expect would be subject to FOIA requests.

sjennings1 karma

Hi, I'm working on a platform to make government transparency understandable. I want to start with legislation and make it interactive. If you all are interested in it, please let me know. Check us out at It's just a launch page, but our goal is to get the average citizen to understand what's going on in their government.

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

There are a lot of very innovative web-based platforms like this emerging around the world. During Libya's last election, the Election Commission hosted a geo-tagging function on their website which allowed anyone with a mobile phone to report an allegation of election fraud and post it in real-time. Very cool stuff.

sjennings1 karma

That's awesome. I'm trying my best to use my developer skills to bring more of these platforms to help the world. Hopefully we can all save the world. If you all have any ideas you want implemented, I'd be more than happy to help out.

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

That's awesome! The world definitely needs more people with your kinds of skills working for good causes!

motherinlawstongue1 karma

Do you think that we can increase transparency and increase public confidence in governmental proceedings if we were to require that any lobbyist who wanted to use a scientific study to influence congress was required to submit that study to an agency (read intern at a desk) that would check that study for peer review status and either certify or not. Then based on that certification any congressman would know, to an increased degree, the reliability of that information. Mainly I am trying to eliminate a situation where, for example, big tobacco can purchase a result and use that result to influence legislation. ?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Ok - there's a lot of issues that are coming together for that question... But I'll focus on the transparency aspect and say that it's very important that studies are clear and upfront about the sources of their funding.

zzxno1 karma

How many government watch lists am I going to get on by talking to you?

On a more serious note in the same light how do you feel about individuals who are forcing government openness in defiance of the law, such as the recent high profile cases in the US (Manning / Snowden)? Are they helping or hurting the cause?

Michael_Karanicolas6 karma

You should probably burn your computer, just to be safe.

Manning and Snowden are different cases, in my opinion. What Snowden did was targeted, and aimed at exposing a specific program that he felt was illegal and immoral. He's a whistleblower (and in my mind, a hero). What Manning did - was basically take all the classified information she had access to and just dump it all online. Now - within that stack of information, there were documents that shouldn't have been classified, and others which exposed wrongdoing and so should have been released to the public - but because what she did was so indiscriminate I'd be hesitant to call her a whistleblower. It seems to me like she just wanted to cause a storm.

flargenhargen1 karma

how do you get an international day?

what do I need to do to get an international Flargenhargen day?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Well - there's a broad and vibrant network of civil society organizations around the world that work to promote transparency. So when these groups link up, it's a short step to getting everyone together to agree on a particular day that will be used to promote their cause - and from an advocacy perspective - it's a great tool.

And, for the record, I would totally support the creation of International Flargenhargen Day (March 18?).

walon1 karma

International Right to Know Day.

Sounds like soundbite I would make up when I was 18 and thought the world would be better if everyone just saw the world same as I do...

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Well - you don't have to lose your idealism when you get older (says the human rights lawyer...).

Also - it's worth noting - I've seen some amazing improvements in this field, and seen countries come to the table and embrace positive change that used to be some of the worst in the world.

thinkaboutfun1 karma

Does the Unites States support terrorist organizations in Iraq or encourage sectarianism in Syria? Both under Bush and Obama.

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

I'm straying a little far from my area of expertise here - I wouldn't be the person to ask about who specifically the US has or has not been funding. But in my mind it all depends on how you define "terrorist".

SMZ721 karma

Do you plan on exposing countries such as China, Russia, or North Korea?

Michael_Karanicolas3 karma

CLD has published a report on Russia's Internet censorship -

But generally no - because we try to focus our advocacy on countries where we can make a difference. So that doesn't necessarily mean the developed world - we do a ton of work in Indonesia, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. But criticizing North Korea's human rights record is only slightly less academic that criticizing Genghis Khan's: they're an atrocious regime, everyone knows they're an atrocious regime, and telling people just how atrocious they are is unlikely to have any real impact.

Asilus1 karma

I have always been curious, regarding the FOIA, what is to prevent the government authorities from submitting censored, modified, or just fraudulent documents to someone's request? Also, what is the procedure to request FOIA information (specifically the government's file on me personally?)

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

I also have been surprised by this. I think it's because, generally speaking, the custodians of these records are mid-level bureaucrats, so they're not responsible for the malfeasance that the records contain, and are less likely to risk their jobs (and often prison-time) by creating fraudulent documents.

Illuminaughtyy1 karma

I believe laissez faire capitalism permits more transparency than the current system, since at least there it's clear that money buys things like congressmen and votes. Is a capitalistic system more or less transparent than the one shrouded in government like we have now?

Michael_Karanicolas3 karma

As the commenter below notes - "capitalism" is a loaded word. I don't know if there are really any countries in the world, other than North Korea, that aren't "capitalist" in some way, shape or form.

But - what's more interesting in my mind is the degree to which market forces can or cannot push companies to be more ethical in an online context. Facebook, for example, has a market incentive to safeguard the freedom of expression rights of its users - since is users feel unable to express themselves they're switch to another social network. Just an intriguing idea, in my mind...

antivist1 karma

I heard Stephen Harper (Canada) is helping lead the way regarding Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and that TPP is like a tighter secretive SOPA, is this true?

What does the TPP mean for the future of the world, censorship and the internet?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

TPP is very troubling - largely because it's being negotiated in secret. So - I have heard the same rumours you have - but can't offer any new information, I'm afraid.

But - just between you and me - I'm not actually too worried about it. Because civil society organizations all over the world are foaming at the mouth on this issue - and in that sense I think the secrecy around the negotiations really backfired. So, when it does finally get unveiled, if it is indeed a new SOPA, it's going to get clobbered from all sides - there's going to be such a reaction that, politically, it will be dead on arrival.

So - I'm not saying you should tune out - because the key to defeating it is engagement - I'm just saying I'm modestly confident that, when push comes to shove, the good guys (those who advocate Internet freedom) will win out on this one.

HowlMoonstone1831 karma

Did you just make up "International Right to Know Day"?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Toby and I both answered this. Look up FOIAnet for his response, and Flargenhargen for mine.

CryptoPenguin1 karma

What is so great about democracy? I live in a democracy (supposedly) and I feel very oppressed.

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

What's that saying - democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others?

Seriously - if you talk to people that have lived under dictators... it changes your outlook.

scoreoneforme1 karma

Do you think more transparency with lobbyist and campaign donations would affect American government at all? Better yet, do Americans even care who it is that funds their candidates and legislation?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Yes. I wrote a publication a little while back on election transparency. In my opinion, money in politics is the single biggest problem in the US right now, and the corruption of the US political system is probably one of the biggest problems facing the world.

Do American care - dear God I hope so...

amazingtaters1 karma

What FOIA exemption of the nine is the most commonly abused?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

That's a really tough one - it varies a lot from country to country, and it depends on whether you define "abused" as acting contrary to the law, or contrary to international human rights standards.

But - the exception for internal deliberations/government discussions/cabinet deliberations seems to be abused a lot - since that's often where the rubber meets the road for policymakers in terms of covering up mistakes they have made.

trollzor69421 karma

Why is the us government so secretive

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

All governments are secretive. Nobody likes close oversight over their work - it's a natural tendency. You have to remember what "accountability" really means is people look for mistakes or things that are being done badly. That's great for the system - not so great for the people being watched. But, with enough popular pressure, you can often drag governments along by making them realize that being secretive always looks worse.

naosuke1 karma

I just have one question. Why are you closed?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

I'm actually from Toronto - some great shopping down at the Eaton Centre (when it's open...).

Toyou4yu1 karma

Also should the government be 100% transparent all the time, or should there be some times when the government hides some information?

Michael_Karanicolas2 karma

Toby answered this one earlier: "We have never called for total transparency and recognise that certain interests, such as national security and privacy, need to be protected. The challenge is to ensure that these exceptions to the right of access are interpreted in an appropriate (ie not over broad) manner and not abused, as they are in all too many countries."

FancyDalifantes1 karma

U.S. here.

How is it legal for people with exorbitant amounts of money and power to carry on unethical practices that adversely affect masses and masses of people/life? i.e. Mountaintop Removal Mining, oil spills everywhere, Mortgage fraud, false logic on the news, politicians trying to beat the competition instead of doing the job they're elected to, big businesses avoiding huge amounts of taxes, untested/known toxic chemicals in our food, air, and water?

It seems like these things are going on all the time, and I don't remember anything in the Constitution saying, "What they don't know won't hurt them." Why are they getting away with this shit?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

See my earlier answer about the corrosive influence of money in politics, particularly in the US.

Enderdejorand1 karma

(USA Here) Probably more tangentially related than anything, but what's your opinion on Deep Packet Inspection? My understanding is that it received a lot of media attention back in 08/09, but due to a couple significant legal cases being dismissed, that attention has mostly been lost. As a result, it seems that DPI's use has become almost mainstream, with companies like Verizon lauding their plans to limit other ISPs, rather than trying to do so discreetly. This has supposedly extended to all sorts of employment contexts as well, allowing employers to closely monitor their employee internet usage, and all sorts of other applications.

Basically, legally, what has been done to address DPI? What are the potential remedies or approaches (for instance, if we were to suggest plans to Congressmen, etc.) to legally restrict its use, both theoretically and in practice?

Michael_Karanicolas1 karma

Great question! DPI is a very, very troubling technology, and part of the unprecedented degree of surveillance that the Internet has the possibility of facilitating. In fact, over the past year Russia has apparently been setting up an incredibly invasive DPI system as part of the "morality" laws they passed.

That said though - I'm not sure how mainstream DPI has gotten. Russia's the only place I've heard of where it's really being broadly applied (though they probably have some sort of analogous system in China).