Monday, April 07, 2008

I Disapprove of What you Say . . .


. . . , but I will defend to the death your right to say it. (Voltaire)


I don’t believe in censorship . . well perhaps I do but only in the interest of protecting the young, the vulnerable and the marginalised say from abuse or pornography.

But when it comes to what sites I can access or become unwittingly being blocked because my Government doesn't want me to read something or because worse still, my IP makes a decision on what contains inappropriate, pornography, converse politics, violence, or unsuitable reading material - it is not their right to make that decision. Not at the expense of free speech or information exchange no matter how distasteful we may find it.

Don't get me wrong - I don’t think there should be full frontal nudity on TV at lunchtime and I don't want to watch biased and violent news reports at tea time or drama with excessive vulgar language or explicit sex before 9pm. These should be played later in the evening to avoid exposure to young children. I approve of a film rating system . . the bottom line in this type of censorship - it still allows me to make the choice as to whether I watch or not. I am in control of the remote! I do not approve of banning literature of any type. It's simply medieval to control the reading material of the masses and worse still replace it with sanitised versions off the truth.

Some Internet Providers (IP's) either package or promote ‘spam filters’, ‘disc nannys’, firewalls etc, to stop you accessing what THEY think could be damaging, biased, unsuitable, or even politically subversive information. Unless you have an IT bent, it is difficult to know what is being filtered from your view, what is being decided for you and what in fact you may never see because your security settings deem it unsuitable for your perusal. I'm not talking about pop up restriction here but actual blocking of sites.

If you have the know-how to temper your security settings well and good but I for one, wouldn’t know where to start . . .I only know that I am not overly filtered because I CAN access sites such as Al Jazeera and some others which might be considered contentious by the powers that be but they give me a broader perspective.

My rule of thumb has always been to embrace diversity. I don’t like everything I see or hear, indeed I am often repulsed by sites, books, newspapers and television programmes that I happen along but it's my choice whether to take these on board or move along.

Similarly with opinion on the internet or blogs, I may not agree with you but I will not fall out with you just because you don’t share my view. How are we ever going to learn from each other or understand the external world if we constantly try to stymie free speech among friends and healthy debate between adversaries? Look where a lack of meaningful dialogue has brought world politics! Attempts to censor the internet are insidious. It is not the prerogative of IP’s or software providers to determine what is appropriate for my eyes and what isn’t unless I choose to moderate my security settings of my own free will.

Emerging and non democratic countries are playing catch up trying to censor the internet, email, IM access across the world. It’s proving a difficult and very time consuming task and to some extent. I abhor US companies which are restricting not only the free speech of their own citizens but actively assisting in the prevention of free speech, no free 'criticism', in the emerging world.

The internet is playing a leading role in citizens talking to government and often challenging its rules. A growing number of regimes are experiencing the difficulty of choosing between open communication and economic development or closed communication and controlling ‘dangerous’ ideas. This is not peculiar to developing countries as evidenced by the fact that an IP can actually block you from accessing particular sites unless you know how to change the security settings.

China maintains the world's most effective internet censorship, dubbed "The Great Firewall" . Tens of thousands of people are employed to monitor web traffic. Western companies such as Cisco, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have willingly assisted officials in their goals and ensured that ‘sensitive’ material relating particularly to Taiwan and now Tibet are removed.

This is going to be harder as over 210 million Chinese access the net with 200,000 more going online for the first time every day . This hopefully will lead to a shift in the country's relationship with central power, allowing an opportunity for individuals to challenge government policy.

Iran, especially under the leadership of hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has led a purging of journalists, dissidents, prominent women and unionists. Yet there are many bloggers there who challenge the mullah’s grip on power while western companies contribute to the country’s isolation. Yahoo and Microsoft quietly removed Iran from the country lists of their webmail services last year.. Google's Gmail service still features Iran on its country list.

Internet censorship is becoming a key human rights issue around the world.

Without bloggers in Saudi Arabia, we would have little idea of the nation's true state.

The internet will not automatically democratise all societies or bring Western-style reform. Many bloggers and activists probably hope for the opposite. Its uncontrolled unpredictability has proven to the mainstream media that local voices can bring their opinions to the world.

In conclusion IP’s , Google, Cisco, MSN, Microsoft whoever . . . DO NOT ASSUME I CANNOT SELF REGULATE. I don’t want everything filtered to the max. I could research this more, I could write a thesis on the need to be allowed to choose what I read and access but I think you get the gist.

Australia’s laws on Internet censorship are, theoretically, amongst the most restrictive in the Western world. However, the restrictive nature of the laws has been combined with almost complete lack of interest in enforcement from the agencies responsible. Bless Aussie apathy!

You internet users - be prepared for an information superhighway that will not only enlighten and elucidate, but will teach you how the other half lives. Be critical in your reading and open in your interpretation and for God's sake learn how to moderate your IP security settings.

Mind you an uncensored internet will also shower you with sexy ladies, large penises, viagra, cialis, cheap meds, free degrees, ringtones and will be sure to make your lady squirm! Me love you long time!


This is interesting: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=1061

14 comments:

Ryan said...

ISP Level filtering will have a hard time taking hold in Australia. ISP's here have already said that they are strongly opposed to it and the cost to implement it is enormous. I think we are quite safe for a while. The current ACMA trial in tasmania is disturbing, and quite frankly im suprised Krudd hasn't abolished it. I believe it is very proactive for ISP's to give parents the option to use the filters they provide but unfortunately they are easily circumventable. However, they still provide a means for parents to monitor and regulate internet usage.

I think we need to clarify a few terms also, excuse the nerd/geek in me. IP stands for internet protocol and in the context you are using it in your blog, readers may be under the assumption that Australian ISP's can filter what you access and what you can't. No ISP in Australia currently offers a transparent proxy that can filter what you read and what you can't. Yes it happens in China etc, but not here. Yet.

I also wonder how effective these filters are going to be. Good luck writing an algorithm fast enough to detect a pair of breasts in an image. You can filter the text easily, but the way we are going these days and the push towards multimedia rich applications (the dreaded web 2.0 word) I think the authorities are getting a bit ahead of themselves at this stage.

Baino said...

Oh Ryan. Firstly let me say I love my geeks because they shed light. I guess I was talking more about the right of ISP's (sorry you can see why I have trouble with filter settings) to hoodwink the less IT savvy of us by filtering without consultation. And much as I understand your fascination for breasts . . I'm actually talking about political censorship. A friend was recently blocked for 'hate speech' because he posted a contentious video or maybe because he's pro firearms. Please come over one night I cook a mean dinner and we can argue politics until the poker table collapses! Here's to free press ISP's and uncensored internet! Thanks for setting me straight possum and I'm sorry I didn't come out last week and drool over your ute!

Ryan said...

Ahh sorry Baino but yes, boobs are the first thing that comes to mind. They will take my boobs away over my dead body!

Melissa said...

"How are we ever going to learn from each other or understand the external world if we constantly try to stymie free speech among friends and healthy debate between adversaries?"

Well said!

I had a funny mental image of myself turning on the TV at noon to full frontal and spitting my coffee all over the screen in surprise. :)

Nick said...

I so agree, Baino. The great joy of the internet and blogging is that we have so much access to uncensored, unrestricted opinions and information that often governments and companies don't want us to see. It would be a sad day indeed if there was ever wholesale blocking of so-called undesirable sites by paranoid individuals who don't want ordinary people to think for themselves. What's going on in China already is an awful warning.

Gledwood said...

I've had important emails filtered out specially for me... didn't know what the hell happened then they're in the Spam Box! How on earth Lycos claim to spot spam from nonspam when they've let SO MUCH nonsense through ("win a laptop" about 1zillion times...) oh blah blah

hey and re freedom of speech have you seen the scandalous near riots on the streets of London and esp Paris now re the Olympic Flame

(in a way I was more scandalized to realize it's not actually passed round the world in real time by a jogger but actually gets extinguished and flown aboard aeroplanes overnight from Moscow to London e.g.)...

but THAT says a lot about freedom of speech they've not heard a THING about it in Beijing and if it happened in Beijing those people would be getting 10 yr sentences who lunged at it...

Hey re my London Guide posting: I hope your daughter and nephew have a great time I shall be posting up a more personal and unique guide to the less tourist-trodden environs v soon (coupla days...) ;->...

Emperor Ropi said...

I think pornography should be banned from Tv at all. You have no full protection against pornography.

Baino said...

Nick China is just the obvious end of the stick and I guess it's to be expected there but in so called free western society? It's a worry.

Gleds there will be similar issues here in terms of anti Chinese sentiment when the torch arrives. Actually the torch gets extinguished but the flame is carried in a special box to light another torch at it's destination . . learned that during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I'll keep up with the travelogue, Nephew is already there, has been for six months. Daughter gets there in June!

Cheers :)

Baino said...

Melissa: Seriously, I was sick one day and watching the Midday movie on free to air and they showed a movie called Hideous Kinky and Harvey Keitel showing no modesty! Nearly fell off the couch!

Anonymous said...

I've tried putting pornography, violence and bad language blocks on my grommet's computers as they grew but with each, has taken less than three hours for them to override... it's impractical to be watching where they're surfing and alert programs alert when there is no need to...

Melissa said...

Yikes, Baino ... I've seen that movie and know of what you speak!

RED MOJO said...

Your TV must be different there than it is here in the states. We have to pay through the nose for pornography. It doesn't just appear!
I agree with non-censorship all the way! People can make up their own minds, well, most can!

Baino said...

Anony: sorry for not visiting but your site takes forever to load and I was busy at work. Pretty birdies! I've never filtered my PC but been very careful about time on it and what they're watching (nothing compared to the magazines I found under DrummerBoy's mattress when he was 10!)

Melissa: I nearly died! He's not the handsomest of men to start with.

Mojo: We don't have porn on TV but our free to air censorship is fairly lax after 8:30. The language flows and there's no problem with the sex. Surely you get Sex in the City? Six Feet Under? Queer as Folk? The L Word? All free to air here.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I might rid the new slide shows, you are second to complain about loading time ...