Original video: https://events.ccc.de/congress/2009/Fahrplan/events/3567.en.html
Transcribed by me
“We have one topic that we definitely need to talk about, and this is a topic that maybe fits this whole conference more than anything else we can provide. It’s the ‘here-be-dragons’ topic, because we are going onto a very very new territory with an experiment that we have tried to seed with the people of Iceland.
We’ve been to a conference at the end of November in Iceland. and for those of you who don’t know, we published the loan book of one of the largest Icelandic banks back in, what was it–”
“August 31st” (2009)
“–yes. And the loan book exposed who was taking all the money out of this bank shortly before it went bankrupt. And it was really important to every single person who living in Iceland–in a population of 300,000 people, that’s such a small microcosm–that everyone is affected by the bankruptcy of the banks. And everyone could have a look at this loan book and understand what insiders took all the money out of the country before all the system went down. So there were facts on the table where people could understand who had actually robbed the country and who had sent them to dept slavery for the next generations to come.”
“For about 6 billion euros represented by that loan book, and two days after we released it the national broadcaster, RUV–the BBC equivalent of Iceland–made it their major story on the evening news. 5 minutes before they went to press, an injunction landed on the news desk and they couldn’t say anything for the first time in the history for Icelandic TV news. so they just said, ‘well we can’t tell you what’s in the report, and we have nothing anything else to say, so here’s the picture of the website that has the report. We’ll just leave it there for the next few minutes’.
“So, a while ago, where every time we’re meeting or talking there are some ideas that are coming up because the things we observe. and Julian had this great idea at some point in time, talking to me, telling me what he thinks an offshore finance center is. and I’ve never thought about it in these basic terms before. so, that is interesting or important to understand, maybe. so, mainly, offshore finance centers exist on islands, so you find them on the British virgin islands, or in the Cayman Islands, or these small islands in England or wherever you look, it’s small places that have limited resources and that cannot compete with any major industry or whatever they could offer. so they could maybe get tourists coming to their country but this is not really, maybe, as big money as attracting some of the real business.
So these people, what they do, the only thing they do is they provide a specialized package of laws. and this package of laws sums up all the laws that make it attractive to you to hide your money, to bring your business registration to this place, to hide your assets there; and basically, these places have become hideouts for all the people that are exploiting this world and that are dealing in secrecy, and that are–”
“–Suing us, yes. Most of these people are residing in these countries. So Julian said, ‘why not reverse it, why not make it the other way around’. so what could an offshore publication center be.
For now it’s not entirely clear if we can bring across this whole idea here within this short talk, but this is a very, very serious idea; I want to have that said. It’s not just spontaneous and there’s a lot of momentum behind it already. And anyone who feels what we’re trying to introduce here is interesting should talk to us afterwards because we need a lot of people and there’s only a small window of opportunity to do something like this.
So–ok. What is the offshore publication center? So, it would provide a specialized set of laws, same as the finance center. So we could just say we’re taking the source protection laws from Sweden, for example, that exists, they are proven laws, accepted by society as established in a country. We could take the first amendment from the Untied States. we could take Belgium protection laws for journalists. and we could all pack these together in one bundle and make it fit for the first jurisdiction that offers the necessities of an information society. every one in this room should understand that all of these freedoms, in respect to information, are really at stake at the moment. These people are upgrading all the time. they’re going from nation state to Europe and it’s going international and we have the ACTA stuff and whatnot, and they’re trying to get to our information in all possible ways. so we thought we’d just have to upgrade as well, maybe, and go from defense to the attack, and create something that is fit–create a Switzerland of bits.
When Julian mentioned that for the first time, we talked about this for a bit and it seemed like a very interesting thought experiment. And then we were in Iceland. And when we arrived in Iceland, we found out that the largest political TV show wants us as guests. It’s a Sunday show that apparently almost everyone watches, so we just thought, why not drop the idea on that Sunday TV show as the new business model for Iceland?
So we did. And in the show, the guy sitting opposite to us, he was just lighting up in his face when he heard this. And the next day, basically everyone in Iceland wanted to talk about it. We had radio interview, we had newspaper interviews, everyone wanted to know more. We met with a press union, and we talked to a lot of people living in Iceland. And they all see how this could be of use to them. But we’ll talk about why Iceland is a good place in a bit.
What does this mean for all of you? This is something that is important to understand. Right now, there is a potential to actually pull this thing off in Iceland. We have started it–lawyers in Iceland are working on a bill that will be introduced on the 26th of January–*applause*–and this could provide the first counter-step, the first safe haven where everyone else is trying to erode all of our freedoms. So we could have the opposite. And there is an opportunity that we could make sure, by this, that all of our voices are not being silenced by anyone, and all our information, at least ha a last resort where we could push it to.
So, why Iceland? Maybe that is something we need to elaborate.–”
“I’m glad this is getting such positive reception”
“–Yes, this is important. This reception is very important because this will need everyone’s support.”
“Yes that is true. Despite the fact that we have met with cross-party MPs, including from the government in Iceland, and there’s now even MPs in the Icelandic parliament, of 63, who wear Wikileaks badges when they’re speaking–*laughter*–There’s plenty of geo-political incidences that could happen to derail this. So it needs careful planning and thought, and people to not lose energy or momentum. So this crisis in Iceland, in the banks, resulted in a fifty-percent reduction in the price of the Icelandic currency, which was then totally frozen as a tradeable currency at all. So who knows where it actually is. So that shock created a quasi-revolutionary environment in Iceland. And you had, for the first time since Iceland joined NATO–riots in the streets. And riots in the streets–Reykjavik has 200,000 people–so, storming of parliament, change of government in April, and new MPs being elected. So, this is a country which is also used to getting things done very quickly in a legislative sense–and that’s the same reason that these offshore financial havens are little countries–so that you can, quickly, get through a new package of laws because you don’t have to harmonize with a whole bunch of existing laws, because there just aren’t a whole bunch of existing laws. And there isn’t great big lobbies in the country. So, yes, you could probably do health care in Iceland in a week. Not 30 years like in the US. [?]
When people are involved in a crises, they see that actually all of the things that you thought were important aren’t so important anymore. And, the standard of what you can do–because you’ve seen a whole bunch of bad people, in this case do bad things–changes.
For Iceland, there’s particular issues with the UK–which is great for this issue. So the UK is the world’s worst liberal democracy. It’s not just the weather. There are right now between 200 and 300 secret gag orders in operation in the UK. This is according to a law firm that does work for the majority of news organizations in the UK. Secret gag-orders means: gag orders where you cannot speak about the fact that you’ve been gagged. You haven’t just received an injunction saying that you can’t write about an oil company incident in Africa, but actually you can’t write about the fact that you have been gagged from writing about an oil company incident that happened in Africa. And similarly, there’s libel tourism. There’s an international scandal in the UK. And New York has taken out–and passed through both of its houses–legislation to say that if there’s a libel judgement in the UK on an American then they can’t collect it in New York. Similar legislation has gone through the lower house of Congress last year–the federal of the United States. Now, Iceland really, really is unhappy with a lot of things that happened in the UK. It had one of these libel –some of it’s media people–had a libel tourism judgement against them, also from London courts.
Iceland had the highest human-development index of any country in the world. And it has gone from that position into, obviously, a lowered financial position. But it’s seen the direct effects of UK-bullying, IMF-bullying, and actually, bullying from the Netherlands and Denmark as well. The population there has been radicalized in a way that is really unthinkable for the rest of modern Europe. It’s had a sort of ‘Berlin-wall moment’ in January, and the effects of that are proceeding along. Iceland will probably–is trying to enter into the EU, and the UK is actually using that as an extortion point to get 4 years of GDP paid out from Iceland to the UK. So the moment is now to get legislation into Iceland. Because once it’s in Iceland before it’s in the EU, it will bring those laws into EU as a member state. Not to the whole EU, but it will provide an example for others. But if we wait until Iceland is in the EU, then there’s going to be a lot more forces trying to prevent Iceland passing this sort of legislation.”
Yes. So, quite important– what we also see is that Iceland is one of the first victims of the first world, as well. So this is an example that we need to take very serious. It’s the first time now that, IMF for example–so the International Monetary Fund–comes around in a first-world country trying to enslave it with the same kind of conditions that third-world countries get. There’s almost, just as an example, there almost was a bill passed in parliament that would not have ruled out that if Iceland could not have paid their dept, that someone could have taken pieces of nature–”
“Yes–the UK could have seized its electricity industry.”
“–and taken that away from the nation state.
So considering, which is another point, that Iceland has green-energy in sort of an infinite supply–and they have heat, and they have water from the glaciers–this is a very renewable resource, and it’s kind of, well, obvious why this is strategically important for, let’s say, those forces that try to harmonize everything on the global level, and try to get their influences everywhere.
So, green-energy. Yes. There’s green-energy and there’s good cooling, and most of all, energy independence.”
“Yes. And cheap power. So right now there’s an aluminium smelter run in Iceland by a US company no one in Iceland–not a single person–wants that damn aluminium smelter. It’s industry that does not belong in this beautiful, green country. So they would certainly be willing to give the same kind of cheap energy to data centers that do not produce the same byproducts, but actually, provide an example to the rest of the world that we can do it in a meaningful way–saving energy–with skinless-servers and good cooling and everything that is state-of-the-art these days. So it could become a model state for the rest of the world. And in a snapshot, what we find out, the more we think about it, is that a lot of pieces come together. Whether this is that Iceland has a very large, public involvement in the whole political debate at the moment–so it’s different from here–a lot of people really are interested what is going on. There’s a large momentum. And we think that the global community by now starts to understand why their information has to be free and why we need to take more radical measures to fight against those people trying to suppress it.
So what we hope for–*applause*–what we hope for is that we can get the international community to support Iceland from the outside. And that is where, at some point in January (2010), all of your responsibility will come in–because you will have to tell everyone in Iceland that they are doing a great thing there. And you will have to write about it, and talk about it, and communicate it to everyone you know that would care about the topic. Because that is one of the few ways that we have to tell Iceland how important this would be. And to convince those people in Iceland that did not understand it yet–I mean they have conservative parties too–that this is the way to go. So that is where all of you folks might be coming in.
So that is, in a short wrap-up, what we wanted to say about Iceland, I guess.”