Updates June 10, 2021: Introducing Speakeasy, CYGO Search, and the Freedom Webring

I have a lot to update the community with today regarding some newly released concepts that have been under development and consideration for some time.

File Management for Bleu Users

Recently, I have rolled out an update that gives users enhanced control over any files they upload as post attachments, whether it be photos, videos, documents, etc.

Users may now navigate to My Profile>Files and see a list of every file they have uploaded in a post (outside of spaces).

Users may then right-click (or press and hold on mobile) to see options. Users may then copy the link to the file, download the file, or view the post associated with the file. If a user wishes to delete the file, they may then delete the post associated with the file. This will remove the file from our server.

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This is just another part of our broad effort to give users maximum control over their data and experience.

Speakeasy by CYGO

Speakeasy is an instant messaging frontend based on Element.io, which uses the Matrix protocol. Currently, we are only hosting the frontend, but if there is enough interest in this viable alternative to platforms like Discord and Telegram, we will setup our own Matrix server, ensuring users can indeed speak freely, without restriction, and without compromising their privacy. This is a step in the right direction toward offering a fully-fledged instant messaging application for CYGO Network users.

CYGO Search

We have now released CYGO Search, which is an experimental meta search engine. Currently, it’s still very much in its infancy, and in time we hope to expand this into a TRUE search engine, which indexes websites itself, so that it does not mirror results (and therefore censorship, or just bad results) from other search engines. While it may not be the best and most practical search engine currently available, it is a symbolic step of offerings to come.

Freedom Webring

We have now started the Freedom Webring. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a Webring is, I recommend this Wikipedia article on the history of Webrings. The Freedom Webring is available in a much more simple fashion than many of its predecessors, creating an index of Freedom-supporting websites as a resource for Freedom-loving individuals. This will be available to any website which in some way supports freedom or libertarian philosophy; including freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of information, etc. If you are interested in adding your website, take a look here.

Bleu Updates: Navigation & Notifications

This is a brief overview of the updates, fixes, and changes we’ve made throughout the past few weeks.

We have dramatically improved NAVIGATION universally, for all platforms. Navigation on browser, desktop, and mobile is now entirely consistent, with new buttons for Space navigation and News on the header bar, which makes the mobile app increasingly user-friendly, without the necessity to access the sidebar.

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New space navigation

New SPACE navigation gives you a list of spaces which you are a member of, with a search function making it convenient for users like myself with a large number of spaces. This improved navigation also gives users easy access to create a new space, or access the space directory to browse for new spaces.

The failure of the entire notification system has been resolved. If you received hundreds of emails notifying you of old activity, this is why. Users will now receive notifications according to the preferences they have set in their Account Settings under “E-Mail Summaries” and “Notifications”. You may notice that these notifications are NOT INSTANT. This is not a bug, but rather an intentional implementation to curb the overwhelming problem of social media addiction. This is also the benefit of the daily email summary; any content you’ve missed will be sent directly to your email, so there’s no need to anxiously reload your feed in anticipation of content.

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Notification flood after bug fix

A Guide to Leaving Google

Everyone knows Google is big.
And they have great products.
They can afford the software developers to make these great products because they earn a lot of money collecting and selling their users’ data.

In 2020, they netted about $13 billion in profit and hired nearly 20,000 employees. Really good in a “pandemic.”

Source: 2020 Alphabet Earnings Release. “Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2020 Results”, 02/02/2021


Out of all searches done on the Internet, 90% of them will use the Google search engine and 63% of those searches will be from the Google Chrome browser. Android is the most-used operating system, easily beating out Microsoft Windows for the top spot.

https://seotribunal.com/blog/google-stats-and-facts/
https://gs.statcounter.com/

2.5 billion Android phones in use in 2020.

Over 2 billion people a month used Google’s Workspace in 2020, including 5 million businesses using their paid service. Microsoft Office may still lead productivity at the office, but it is losing ground fast.

Today, many Americans now filter most of their digital lives through the 200+ companies owned by Google and Alphabet. Here are a few examples:
– Their physical connection to the Internet and phone system (Pixel phone / Chromebook / tablet)
– How they interface with their devices (Pixel phones, Chromebooks, tablets)
– How they interact with the Internet (Chrome browser)
– Where they get apps, movies, shows, music, books (Google Play Store)
– How they find content on the Internet (Google search engine)
– Their email, documents, photos, contacts… (Google Workspace)
– Their music videos, entertainment, kids’ content, education (YouTube)
– Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Home Hub
And a whole lot more

Why leave?

Google is collecting data from you at virtually every datapoint.
They know everything about you. The data collected from you is linked to the unique “fingerprint” of your Internet browser. This valuable information is sold to data miners, researchers, and advertisers, then handed over to authorities at request.

Google trades in filtered and processed data. Raw data is their raw material. You, the user, produce that raw material when you use their products. Their products are designed to harvest that raw material on continual basis. That’s why most of Google’s products are free to you, the user. Your data is a renewable resource; nothing more than recycled bits of ephemera of the human experience which, otherwise, would simply turn into memories.

Google’s bots scrape over EVERYTHING and index all content. Your email content, the files on your Google Drive, the metadata on your photos. Even your voice is recorded and stored on Google’s servers. The location of your cell phone is constantly tracked by your provider for service reasons. It is also tracked by Google, mapping everywhere you go, your routes, the times when you travel, the times when you’re stationary, the speed of travel. They also track telemetry – how your phone is moving at any given time at the stationary location, is it tilted up/down/left/right, is it in your pocket, is it in your hand by your ear, is it in your hand in front of your face, etc.

They use this knowledge to sell ads to other companies who want to target specific markets for their products. They control what your Internet world looks like, creating a “bubble” around you. They have the power to restrict your influence in the Internet world buy reducing the people who can see your content and there’s nothing you can do about it. If they decide your content is unacceptable, they can remove you from their platform, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And this data never goes away. You can request deletion, but with all of this collection, you can never be certain they did it. They are not the only ones doing this, but they are the largest. Google is a data monopoly. And you freely give them all the data they want from you to sell to their advertisers.


America is still a free market, though, and there are many choices available for people who are tired of Google.

First Steps

Initially, the desire to get away from Google can be overwhelming. Some want to toss their phones in the lake, but it is easier and more effective to take a gradual approach. One important note – privacy is the goal, not anonymity. Anonymity on the World Wide Web is a difficult task and beyond the scope of this article.

The easiest things to change are the browser and search engine. A common practical setup is to use the Firefox browser with the DuckDuckGo search engine. GNU IceCat has been previously recommended on our blog here, which is derived from Firefox, excluding Mozilla components. Since Chrome is based on open-source Chromium, some people use Chromium. There are other browsers based on Chromium, too, such as Brave and Microsoft Edge. You can do a little research and find more security/privacy focused browsers that are derivatives of both Firefox and Chromium.

A few websites such as banks, sites using physical access cards or dongles to login, or sites with critical security or communication requirements might need special exceptions to properly load. This may require some experimentation with different browsers and/or security settings. Some people use one browser for certain functions, like checking government email at home, and use another browser for most other work. Learn about settings and extensions or add-ons to make browsers more secure and restrict the amount of data collected. There are tools available to analyze your browser’s fingerprint, such as AmIUnique.org and Cover Your Tracks.

Try out other search engines, too, such as Qwant and metaGer. Even Bing and Yahoo can expand your bubble. Comparing search results can be surprising. Google’s search engine has been criticized for doing more than just keeping you in a bubble of your own preferences and geographical location. Google also shows results to try and shape users’ opinions on political and social issues, and even suppress news stories. Searching “black lives” on Google results in a full page of positive content about the “Black Lives Matter” group and movement. The same search on metaGer brings a more balanced page of content.

Next Steps

For more of a challenge, start changing how you get your work done on the Internet. Zoho mail is a great replacement for Gmail for personal or business. It’s free and can use your own domain, if you have one. They have a full office suite of apps for team collaboration available a la cart, so you can get what you need. Some of the apps need a subscription, though. When signing up for the email, you can chose Business or Personal. They tailor services to especially to small business customers.

Microsoft has a paid cloud-based solution in Office365. Before you jump ship to them, remember it was Microsoft who was the original tech monopoly. In 1999, the Department of Justice issued them a stunning defeat, forcing major changes to the company. Exercise your due diligence before embracing them over Google’s practices.

Another cloud-based solution comes from a company called cloudamo. They are a partner with NextCloud, which is free software that has a cloud drive, contacts, calendar and more. They put that together with OnlyOffice, an open-source, cloud-based office suite similar to Office365. Their subscription plans start at $36/year. No email service is included in this deal, though.

ProtonMail or Tutanota are focused on secure email. They can send and receive encrypted email as well as regular email. Setup a free account with either of them and enjoy more privacy and better security than Gmail. Also comes with calendar and contacts.

Next, change your desktop office suite.
If you have a PC (Windows/Mac/Linux) you can install LibreOffice for no cost. It covers all of the major productivity apps. This is great if you don’t need office documents on a cell phone. They have installations available for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

And Finally…

Self-Hosting your own complete Google Workspace replacement.
A more advanced solution, but one you can control completely, is self-hosting. To do this in the cloud, you’ll need your own domain, a virtual private server (VPS) for email and NextCloud (about $6/month through DigitalOcean), and a VPS for OnlyOffice (about $48/mo through DigitalOcean). DigitalOcean is just an example; there are lots of VPS providers looking for your business. The cost for the OnlyOffice VPS is higher because it needs at least 8GB RAM to handle the office documents in the cloud. Setup the first VPS with open source software called “Mail-in-a-box” (MIAB) is very easy to setup, does a good job of security, makes administration easy, and comes complete with a basic version of NextCloud. Setup the second VPS for OnlyOffice, then tell NextCloud where to find it to integrate the office apps. The great thing about doing your own setup is you can have as many users as you want (or your VPS can handle) and you control your own data. Just remember that you are the administrator in this setup. MIAB forums are a great help.

U.S. Military: Intimidating Citizens. Are we becoming a police state?

Merriam-Webster defines a police state as a ‘political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures’.

Some characteristics of police states include extensive government surveillance, overwhelming presence of police or military, police enforcement of oppressive mandates, etc. I stumbled upon an article from last May on The Price of Liberty which breaks down these characteristics in a concise but comprehensive manner.

Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot more about police and the military, whether it’s the radically left-wing ‘defund the police’ movement, or the typically conservative ‘back the blue’; there are two very radical and opposing ‘movements’, both with their own slew of rhetoric, some of it being false and others being blatantly obvious truths. I’m not going to attempt to appeal to people on the left, because their arguments can’t be supported using any sort of logical reasoning. Clearly, the core idea behind ‘back the blue’ is that having armed police officers to respond to potentially-violent situations is necessary for public safety; which is arguably correct and I take no issue with that. The problem, rather, is this knee-jerk reaction to reflexively support police and military, even when their actions are clearly indefensible. So far in 2021, there have been a few troubling events that I think are worth highlighting;

Military Occupation of the Capitol

I figured I’d tackle this one first, since it’s the most widely known; after the unruly radical right-wing protesters gained access to the Capitol on January 6, a lot of overzealous security precautions were put in place. Among these, was the deployment of National Guard troops – thousands of them. None of the individuals who infiltrated the Capitol on the 6th brought firearms or weapons. Regardless of your political persuasion, it is fair to say that the massive military occupation for such a long duration of time has not been a necessary security precaution.

Tucker Carlson Fiasco

Another popular instance occurred just over a week ago, when Fox News host Tucker Carlson called out the U.S. Military for its ‘feminization’, criticizing the ridiculousness of things like maternity flight suits (because pregnant women serving in the military is such a fabulous idea, right?). The official U.S. Army Twitter account tweeted a response to Carlson, triggering an uproar among the conservative community. Tucker also responded on his show.

Guam National Guard Targets Congresswoman MTG

During a speech at CPAC, congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene incorrectly claimed that Guam was a ‘foreign land’. Of course, while Guam is technically a U.S. territory, it isn’t a state, making it quite a simple misconception. More to her point, sending taxpayer money to Guam is arguably wasteful spending, when it could be better utilized here in the continental U.S.

What’s the connection?

In all of these instances, the military has taken the position of protecting government institutions against the citizens, as well as intimidating prominent individuals who have questioned their course of action.

Notably, intimidating citizens, whether they be talk show hosts or congressmen, is not the purpose of our military.

Meanwhile, our border security has been compromised, just yesterday we had a mass-shooting, committed by an Islamic extremist targeting white individuals, diplomatic discussions with our adversaries (China, Russia, North Korea) have led to increased tensions, so I believe it would be fair to say that the military has much more pressing things to attend to, rather than ‘diversity’ or public relations.

Are we living in a police state?

We are living in a country where individuals have been arrested for refusing to wear face masks, in which governors are releasing violent felons from jail, where illegal migrants are welcomed with open arms; meanwhile the country is still experiencing government-imposed economic failure and individuals are being targeted by law enforcement simply because they exercise their basic constitutional rights.

If we aren’t living in a police state, then we aren’t far from it.

Parler: Conflicts of Interest Undermine Freedom of Speech

Since 2020, American conservatives have been flocking to Parler like moths to a flame. Perhaps that analogy fits better than most would expect.

Readers who have been following my columns here on the CYGO blog for the past year probably know where I’m going with this already. To put it succinctly; one cannot have a for-profit social network that simultaneously protects freedom of expression. As I laid out in a previous brief post regarding what I feel are the proper fundamental principles of a free speech platform, “As we’ve seen in many prime examples such as Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and Instagram the interests of investors and advertisers are put before users and their communications”. At this point, I think we could safely include Parler in that list.

I think before I really get into Parler’s fundamental, systemic issues as a platform, it’s imperative to note that Parler is in large part funded by Rebekah Mercer, according to a plethora of sources including CNN and other outlets. Normally I wouldn’t link to an article from CNN, but their piece provides a decent synopsis about Rebekah Mercer if you overlook the hyperbolic and false narratives regarding Parler’s user base. It’s not only fair to say, but potentially an understatement that Mercer has deep pockets, given that her father is a billionaire hedge fund manager. Mercer also has (or rather, had) a stake in Cambridge Analytica, which you may recall having obtained personal information collected by Facebook in order to create targeted political advertising just a few years ago.

Given the fact that the main financial support and control of Parler is in the hands of an individual whom additionally has no problem with Cambridge Analytica unethically misusing personal data, what makes anyone think that Parler actually respects user privacy? Relating to that, Parler implements Google Fonts in their front-end, and everyone knows Google’s stance on personal privacy. Even more atrocious though, Parler requires a phone number to even sign up. You can’t use a VoIP number or a burner number, it must be through your mobile carrier. Then, once you’ve given up your personal phone number and all possible anonymity, to gain full functionality of your account you must upload a copy of your photo identification. No, that’s not an exaggeration, it’s what they enthusiastically call “Parler Citizen Verification”. What could go wrong giving a company funded by multi-millionaires, that is known for widespread security issues your state-issued photo identification? It sounds absolutely absurd, but really it isn’t surprising.

The entire goal of Parler isn’t to provide first-amendment style free speech on the internet. The entire goal of Parler is to simply make a profit.

Parler sells advertisements, which creates a conflict of interest. When users engage in speech that prominent, well-paying advertisers dislike, Parler is going to be under pressure to silence those users. When it comes to making a profit, I’m sure they’ll hardly have an issue silencing a few users or purging some accounts which promote ideologies deemed ‘unfit’ by their advertisers and financial contributors.

Notably, soon after Parler’s relaunch, Parler decided to ban Milo Yiannopoulos after he made “offensive” statements opposing illegal immigration and LGBT lifestyle. Clearly that isn’t indicative of free speech, that’s more of something one would expect from Facebook or Twitter. It would be rather naive to perceive this as an isolated incident, after all, if they would do so to an account such as Milo’s with a large following, what’s to stop them from doing it to smaller accounts?

Parler has a lot of other blatant issues too, such as its security breaches, lack of proper functionality (multiple attempts necessary to login, consistently timing out), amateurish user interface, comic stupidity of management (hosting on AWS and third-party proviers, and not to mention the horrible new logo design which Gab’s founder Andrew Torba accurately compared to the likeness of a menstrual pad.

The last issue I want to focus on isn’t included in that list, though. Parler seems to prioritize public figures (media personalities, politicians, celebrities, etc) over its standard users. When you browse through Parler, the only accounts you ever see are those of prominent conservatives like Sean Hannity; you never see individuals who post engaging content actually build a following in an organic way. Having open dialogue simply doesn’t work when some voices are able to unfairly shout down the voices of others, whether they are opposing or affirming.

Before I come to a close, I think I should address one thing I see so often. Individuals complain about the in-fighting between us free speech social networks, claiming that we’re ‘working toward the same goal’ and that the other ‘isn’t the enemy’. As I’ve laid out, Parler is not working toward the same goal as organizations like CYGO, Gab, and others which take freedom of speech seriously. Here, we don’t have ‘competitors’, and I have no opposition to other platforms and organizations fighting for the same cause; in fact the more we have, the better. However, when platforms claim to support our ideals, but act in an opposing way, it’s our responsibility to call it out.

It’s time to ditch Mozilla.

Over the years, using Linux, Mozilla’s Firefox has almost always arguably been the best option for an open-source, privacy-respecting browser. I’ve been personally using Firefox for nearly 6 years as my primary web browser and I’ve been relatively satisfied with its functionality, stability, and extensibility.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Mozilla is no longer (or perhaps maybe, has never been) an organization that champions an open internet, freedom of expression, and personal privacy.

Mozilla still continues to sell itself as an anti-establishment organization fighting for the little guy, despite the facts that I’m about to point out.

Mozilla couldn’t care less about your privacy.

By default, Mozilla Firefox has telemetry enabled. This means that data regarding your browsing activity and usage of Firefox are sent directly to Mozilla. In all fairness, you can disable it, but any organization which puts privacy first isn’t going to have it enabled by default.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a few months ago Firefox started pushing DNS over HTTPs. But that sounds good, right? DNS over HTTPS isn’t inherently a bad thing, except by default it’s provided by Cloudflare (which, you can read my previous post regarding Cloudflare).

Mozilla doesn’t support freedom of expression and takes radically-left positions.

This summer, I noticed this appear as a ‘snippet’ in the new tab page of my Firefox browser:

Of course, I didn’t appreciate having mantras of “social justice” plastered on my new tab page, so I went into my settings to turn off Snippets. Well, upon opening the page, Snippets were already disabled.

Upon seeing this, I decided to submit a bug to Firefox’s bug-tracking software known as Bugzilla. This bug received two replies from developers and was in short order closed as an apparent non-issue. I intended on including the screenshot of my submission to Bugzilla, but it has apparently been deleted.

Having leftist propaganda beamed directly into my browser without my consent is bad enough. Last month, early in January, Mozilla called publicly in a blog post for “more than deplatforming” of individuals who don’t align with their preferred political, social, and moral ideologies.

Based on all of this, firstly, CYGO Network will NO LONGER be recommending any of Mozilla’s products, Firefox included. Secondly, we should stop using Mozilla software. Is it really that difficult to see the possibility of Mozilla implementing some sort of utility that blocks websites like ours, without the consent of its users?

What browser do I recommend?

To preface this, I’ve seen a lot of people promoting and shilling for Brave browser. I’ve had discussions with colleagues, friends, and users regarding Brave over the past few years, and I must say that it’s just another Chromium-based browser with a plethora of alarming concerns. Brave browser isn’t a suitable piece of software in itself, much less an alternative to Firefox.

As I said above, Firefox at its core is still a good piece of software. This considered, I recommend GNU IceCat. IceCat is a Firefox-based web browser that removes all Mozilla-specific utilities and telemetry, previously known as IceWeasel which was the browser shipped by default in Debian. It’s also worth noting that since IceCat is a project of GNU and the Free Software Foundation that IceCat contains no non-free or proprietary software. It’s also worth noting that there are unofficial builds available for Microsoft Windows, and I opened an issue on the Github repository requesting that instructions for building the package be added to the README.

Updates regarding CYGO Cloud services

CYGO Cloud is no longer available for open sign-ups.

All accounts created after Sunday, January 24, 2021 will not have storage allocated until you have made a donation to CYGO Network. For accounts created prior to this date, storage quotas will remain the same. If a user desires a storage allocation expansion, they must make a donation.

Contributions between $3-$8 will grant users 1GB of storage (permanently).

Contributions between $10-$15 will grant users 2GB of storage (permanently).

If you need more than 2GB of storage, or less than 1GB of storage, please send an email to contact@cygo.network.

If you have made a contribution and need your account storage allocations updated, send an email to contact@cygo.network.

Update 01/22/2021: Downtime & Maintenance

Today, our entire network was down for just over 11 hours.

This is due to a domain transfer; we transferred our domain to a new registrar in order to make sure our ownership of the domain is more secure, as we were uncertain if our previous registrar might cave to political and financial pressure to take down our sites.

After service was restored, there were a few more patches of downtime.

The further downtime was caused by maintenance which included expanding our storage capacity.

It would be unfair to go without mentioning Thomas, who performed the data transfers and supplied the new hardware. His extensive knowledge of the Linux command line and file systems ensured that downtime was minimal.

We do not anticipate that there will be any further extended downtime. If more maintenance is necessary, users will be notified. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we carried out this work.

Bleu updates: readable URLs and mobile navigation improvement.

Today’s update includes a long-awaited feature, human-readable URLs. This will make navigation and sharing of links much more convenient, spaces can have their own custom URLs, and user profile URLs contain your username.

For spaces, use ‘/s/space-name’ and for users use ‘/u/username’.

The next portion of the update includes options under account settings to create new spaces, view and search the spaces and members directory.

This solves the problem with the lack of sidebar in the mobile app, making it fully-functional from your phone without the need to ever access from another device.

Bleu for Android is now available!

As some of you may know, we’ve been looking forward to this for years now. We finally have a functional, native mobile app!

You can download it on our home page, or from this page which gives some basic installation instructions.

It’s also worth noting that we have versions available for desktop operating system, including Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and GNU/Linux.

We hope that this makes Bleu more available and convenient for you to use.