The FIFF 10th Anniversary Meeting: An Outsider's Perspective
by Jeff Johnson
CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995
FIFF (the German acronym for Computer Professionals for Peace and Social Responsibility) held its Annual Meeting the same weekend as CPSR's Annual Meeting. This particular FIFF meeting happened on their 10th Anniversary. Since CPSR representatives attended FIFF's first Annual Meeting 10 years ago, FIFF invited us to send a participant again this year. Because the current leadership of CPSR was busy with CPSR's own meeting, 1, as past CPSR Chair, represented us at the FIFF meeting. I gave a speech (in German) during the opening ceremonies, in which I summarized CPSR's history and current activities. Later in the weekend, I also took part in a press conference and the activists' meeting.
Some of FIFF's activists had produced a mural, which includes many references to CPSR, illustrating FIFF's origins and history. Other exhibits included an interactive multimedia presentation on computer- based pornography and e' socially responsible" computer game that tries to educate and sensitize players on immigration issues.
The NII was a big topic, the Germans frequently pointing out that since the Internet is already international, Global Information Infrastructure (GII) would be a better name. Like CPSR, FIFF is currently grappling with privacy and civil liberties issues regarding the use of computer-based communications. One issue that has arisen is what to do about neo-Nazi organizations that have begun making extensive use of computers and networks to organize. The government has been moving toward restricting network usage by such groups. FIFF is strongly opposed to neo-Nazism, but eschews 'solutions" that threaten constitutional rights, because if neo-Nazis' rights can be threatened, anyone's can.
FIFF was recently granted official advisor status to the Bundestag (lower house of parliament). This status is roughly equivalent to that of being a lobbyist or consultant to the U.S. Congress, but comes with certain perks, including grant money. Most members of FIFF see this new mode of working with the government as an improved opportunity to influence policy, but others see it as a problem, since it undercuts FIFF's independence and raises the possibility of their being coopted.
There is still a lot of activism in Germany against the high level of funding for military applications of computing, computer-based weaponry in particular. FIFF is more explictly a peace organization than CPSR; many in FIFF want to continue working against militarism. Some expressed concern to me that activists in the U.S. have dropped out of this fight. I pointed out that CPSR is small and underfunded: if we try to engage in all fights, we won't have enough resources to win any of them.
At the end of FIFF's meeting, its leaders expressed the hope that CPSR and FIFF could work together soon on a joint conference, for example, on GII issues. One small step we took was that FIFF's Chair and I initiated an individual membership exchange. We agreed to join each other's organizations, paying each other's membership fees to avoid currency exchange problems.
Jeff Johnson, former Chair of the CPSR Board of Directors works as a user interface designer and researcher at Sun Microsystems He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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