Category Archives: Censorship

Internet Protest Day

You may notice a lot of sites today have “blacked out” or are otherwise protesting the PIPA and SOPA acts being considered in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

If you are not familiar with the acts you really need to be. Please take time to visit the EFF pages on SOPA and PIPA here and in more detail here.

The job you save could be your own.

Forgetful Paradisio

Tim Cole has an interesting post about the need for a “forgetful” internet. A place where embarrassing pictures don’t haunt you for life. A place where there is no permanent record. A place where all sins are eventual forgiven and forgotten.

Such a place does not now exist. Unfortunately the search for such a forgetful paradisio leads instead to the inferno of government control. For if the government can tell you how long you can leave something online, they can also tell you not to put it online to begin with. And they will.


By now you probably know the sordid case of the lost iPhone and the ongoing Apple-Gizmodo spat that culminated in the recent police raid on a Gizmodo editor’s home. The raid raises two very interesting and troubling issues. The first concerns state and federal journalist shield laws and how they apply to online journalists like Jason Chen. That deserves a separate treatment that I will defer to a later post.

The second issue is why the police descended on a home in mass to break down the door and cart away six computers in what is essentially an intellectual property dispute between two corporations. The reason, it turns out, for this strange action on the part of the high-tech crime task force is that Apple sits on their steering committee.

Meet the iPolice, Apple’s very own IP enforcement squad with handy police state powers.

When you make a call and have the police break into a citizens home and confiscate his possessions, doesn’t that qualify you as an evil corporate behemoth?

Full disclosure: I don’t own any Apple products. At this rate it not looking like I ever will.

What’s not being said

I usually find what’s not being said far more interesting than the platitudes that are uttered. According to this article Google and China are negotiating a face saving compromise to allow Google to remain in China. What is being said is that this is about the level of censorship. What is not being said, and what is probably really the truth is that this is really all about the Chinese government hacking Google.

I mean seriously. Google China censored content from day one and now it all of a sudden decided to “do less evil”? As Corporal Nobbs likes to say “pull the other one, it has bells on it”.

No, what changed is that the government has hacked Google and gotten caught doing it, and probably affected some high-level Google execs.

Here is my prediction; the face saving compromise will involve a little easing of the censorship rules, a promise not to hack Google any more, and Google quietly giving some sweetheart deals to some high-level Chinese officials.

Misplaced Blame

Bruce Schneier writes this, in which he lays the blame for the Chinese hack of Google on the US Government. His reasoning is that since Google put in a back door surveillance mechanism to enable the US to  eavesdrop on Google users, it is then the US’s fault that Chinese hackers used that mechanism to hack Google accounts.

This is a little like me blaming my employer if I have an accident on the way to work.

While I agree that companies should not be making it easy for governments to spy on people, when legally required to do so it is also their responsibility to make sure that this done in as secure a manner as possible.

Also note the interesting linguistic phrase that most journalist have used in this issue. The hacking of Google is usually described as being done by “Chinese hackers”. That’s not wrong, but it missing the most important point. No one seriously believes that the attacks were not done at the behest of the Chinese government itself. That is a very important distinction.

Mr. Friedman praises the slave owners

Is a slave with a wise master better off than a free man that makes bad decisions?

Thomas Friedman would say yes according to this jaw dropping editorial in which he praises the Chinese government because it is in his words “enlightened”. I kid you not. Read it for yourself. He favorably compares a despotic regime with the US democracy because they are willing to ignore the will of the people and implement unpopular decisions.

Democracies aren’t perfect. But to refer to a country like China as “enlightened” is an insult to the thousands of its citizens who have been arrested, jailed, tortured, and killed for the crime of wanting freedom.

Of course Mr. Friedman is free to say whatever he wants in this country. An irony that is sadly lost on him.

Report me before I blog again

The Obama administration is doing something rather unusual. It is established an email address where loyalists can report subversive thoughts. From the web site:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care.  These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation.  Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

I guess that whole First Amendment thing is getting in the way. Better just to silence critics with vague threats from the government.

Do me a favor. Report me. Here I will say something fishy to give you a reason:

Every time you support health care reform a kitten dies!

Two years in jail for blogging harsh criticism?

Eugene Volokh blows the whistle on what had been an under the radar move to ban cyber-bullying. Unfortunately this effort could also be used to jail bloggers and twitters that are less than polite. From the Volokh Conspiracy Blog:

Federal Felony To Use Blogs, the Web, Etc. To Cause Substantial Emotional Distress Through “Severe, Repeated, and Hostile” Speech?

That’s what a House of Representatives bill, proposed by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez and 14 others, would do. Here’s the relevant text:

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both….

[“Communication”] means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; …

[“Electronic means”] means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.

“Severe, repeated, and hostile” sound likes half the stuff you see on the internet. I doubt that this bill would pass constitutional mustard. But if it did the ramifications are rather frightening.

ARS Technica has an excellent article on the subject here.

And what would any censorship effort be without the requisite mainstream media cheerleading? You can find that here.

Right decision, wrong reason

The City of London Police have backed down amid international outrage over their arrest and prosecution of a 15 year for peacefully expressing the belief that Scientology is a cult. I had blogged about here right before the police backed down.

The reasons given beggar belief:

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: “In consultation with the City of London Police, we were asked whether the sign was abusive or insulting.

“Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness (as opposed to criticism), neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression.”

 Putting aside the interesting question about how a placard could be abusive, and the fact that the international ridicule likely was a mitigating factor, reasoning here is appalling.

So in London one can only express an opinion if it is not insulting or offensive. And who is to determine what is insulting or offensive? Why the government of course.

That’s not how a truly free society works.

Free speech in Britain slides another bit towards oblivion

What is going on in Britain these days? Has the country that gave us George Orwell really going to prosecute someone for using the word “Cult”? Has the madness really gone that far?

Joseph Welch once faced down a similar tyranny here in the US and utterly demolished it with on simple question:

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Who will stand up to the government of Britain and ask the same?