Tag Archives: Censorship

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.

Just a bit more complicated than that

Phil Windley posts about Google’s recent moves in China and describes them as a result of conflict between Google’s desired to do what’s right (not censor) and doing what it needs to do to stay in business in one of the largest markets in the world. That’s an interesting take on it, but it doesn’t wash with recent history.

To be clear, Google was fine with doing evil for several years now. The lived with the government restrictions and did business up until recently when they were penetrated (reportedly badly) by hackers that no one seriously believes aren’t at least backed by the Chinese government. Also the decision to buck the government was also made easier by Google’s own lagging competitive position in China.

If the real story ever comes out I’m sure it will be fascinating. Until then I’m not sold on Google’s altruistic motives in this dispute.

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.

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.

Infodemics

The South Korean government has invented a new name; “Infodemics”, for an old concept: FUD. South Korea has recently been hit with a wave of FUD about mad Cow disease:

“We have to guard against ‘infodemics,’ in which inaccurate, false information is disseminated, prompting social unrest that spreads like an epidemic,” Lee told parliament early in July.

Lee has every reason to take it personally.

Barely had he taken office in February than he was accused of putting the nation’s health at risk by agreeing to import U.S. beef, long banned because of concerns over mad cow disease.

Much of the fear, at times hysteria, was fanned by blogs and discussion boards that crammed into South Korea’s Internet space. It helped trigger mass protests that daily clogged central Seoul in late spring and early summer as tens of thousands took to the streets to demand U.S. beef be kept from South Korean tables.

An early hot topic was a scientific study, heavily distorted in the retelling but widely believed judging by Internet postings, that Koreans had a genetic predisposition to catching the disease.

The government’s response is, predictably enough, to try to censor their corner of the internet:

The Justice Ministry is working on what it calls a Cyber Defamation Law.

“The reality is that we lack the means to effectively deal with harmful Internet messages,” a ministry official said.

The Korean Communications Commission, which regulates the industry, has come up with its own rules to oblige portals to suspend sites stepping outside the limits and force Websites to use real names of anyone posting comments.

The commission says the measures are designed to improve security and reduce the spread of false information.

But censorship is really the least effective approach to fighting FUD. Censoring the critics will just fuel the perception that the government has something to hide.

There are interesting parallels between the Mad Cow scare in South Korea and the vaccination-autism scare in the US. In the US the fear that vaccinations cause autism is still widespread even though the original preservative blamed for the effect, Thermasol, was phased out of use years ago with no effect on the reported rate of autism.

In both cases the solution to fighting the FUD is more information. In the US, parents need to see the effects these terrible diseases have on children where vaccinations are not in widespread use. They need to be shown that not vaccinating their children is the far riskier option.

In South Korea it would help to see images of healthy Koreans living in the US and dining on beef.

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?