01.28.14

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Censorship Has Taken Over the Web. Now What?

Posted in Law at 5:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Everyone is a child in his/her parents’ bedroom now

Summary: Commentary about the state of censorship on the Web, and even the Internet as a whole (e.g. protocol blocking)

IN THE Western media we are pressured to think of ourselves as vulnerable, innocent children, drowning in a World Wide Web of violence, scams, paedophilia, terrorism, and “esoteric” material, including that ‘horrific’ thing which is sexuality. We are told that the governments need to protect us from the ‘evils’ of the Web, even though the Web has been fine and was expanding for many years even without censorship and so-called “protections”. Thanks to the manipulative influence of corporate media, we are accustomed to hearing about censorship in Russia, China, and the Arab world (which we are supposedly in war with, or so we’re told). Even Western allies in the Arab world are big Internet censors, not to mention the West itself. Saudi Arabian [1] or Turkish Web censorship [2] are still making the news, whereas in Holland there’s reversal of a domain-level ban [3] imposed by some overzealous ISPs and those who pressure them (quite famously in the UK, even without any legal process). This is the latest development in the saga of British censorship which wins public support using the “protect the children” line but is actually being used to block sharing sites (corporate interests served) [4,5]. They can also claim that inappropriate bans are a “mistake”, an “error” [6], and when people express themselves freely on the Web they can even be arrested by British police [7], then held in custody for nearly a year. So much for free speech, eh? In Estonia, even commenters in sites (anonymous in some cases) can lead the way to censorship, not by Web site maintainers [8] but by the state [9]. This is appalling.

In north America, book-burning makes a comeback [10,11] and blocking at ISP level (with no oversight) a legitimate practice [12], so our friends across the Atlantic are still ahead of the curve when it comes to censorship. Remember just how many domains got seized (not only blocked) with no trial. This is even worse than blocking. It’s not filtering, either. Remember when Wikileaks cutoff was attempted at domain level, host level (Amazon), and even ISP/network level (parts of US networks banned Wikileaks).

The Web is becoming a sordid mess of censorship, no matter where one lives. There’s no escaping censorship these days.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Sites Blocked By Smartfilter, Censored in Saudi Arabia

    The moral, it seems, is that if you want an example of a censored web site to stick in people’s minds, it either has to be a forgivable error, or an insane vindictive dick move — because in either of those cases, people will understand why it happened. The vast swaths of censored websites on the spectrum in between, the ones for which there is no rational explanation for the blocking, go ignored.

  2. Parliament urged to rejected draconian Internet bill

    Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about an Internet bill that is to be debated by the Turkish parliament in Ankara in the coming days. Registered by a ruling AKP member in mid-December as proposed amendments to Law 5651 on the Internet, it would allow website blocking without a court order and mass surveillance of Internet users.

  3. ISPs No Longer Have to Block The Pirate Bay, Dutch Court Rules
  4. Inside Default Web Blocking – Part 1

    After sustained government pressure, 3 of the 4 major UK ISPs now offer web filtering products to their customers.

  5. Inside Default Web Blocking – Part 2

    Most commentators have ignored the programme to switch these filters on by default. To their credit, ISPs tried resisting calls for filters ‘by default’ – only BT is to introduce the feature for new customers later in 2013. There remains a level of ambiguity as to whether ISPs will implement filtering by default for existing customers as requested to by Claire Perry.

  6. How to complain about mobile filtering over-blocking

    The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is now involved in how mobile internet filtering works. In this post we explain what role they have and how you should be able to get over-blocking problems fixed.

  7. Chris McCann jailed over PC murders comments

    A man from Glasgow has been jailed for 290 days over a message on his Facebook page which mocked the murder of two police officers in Greater Manchester.

    Chris McCann, 30, claimed a friend had posted the comments the day after PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were shot dead by Dale Cregan in September 2012.

    At Glasgow Sheriff Court, he admitted a breach of the peace by allowing them to appear and remain online.

  8. On Accountability

    Speaking personally, I have never, ever, switched off comments on my blog posts or deleted posts. Even when the Internet has seemingly come to get me, or when the press pick up on something and are critical, or when I have made a mistake and felt embarrassed at the outcome…I have never switched off comments and never deleted a blog post. This is because I feel I should be and I am accountable for my words.

    For me, this is an ethical issue; in the same way I won’t go and re-write or edit a blog post if I get criticism for it (outside of minor grammatical/spelling fixes). My posts are a time-capsule of my thinking at that point in my life.

  9. Civil Society Calls on the ECHR’s Grand Chamber to Overturn Delfi v. Estonia Ruling

    Last October, the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling against an Estonian news portal (“Delfi”), making the platform liable for defamatory comments posted by third users. This ruling threatens to encourage privatised censorship and to severely undermine public debate online. From a legal perspective, as NGO Article 19 wrote at the time, “this judgment displays a profound failure to understand the EU legal framework regulating intermediary liability. In addition, it conveniently ignores relevant international standards in the area of freedom of expression on the Internet”. Many organizations and companies all across Europe have sent the following letter to the ECHR’s president to support Delfi’s appeal to the Court’s “Grand Chamber”, which still has the power to overturn this dangerous ruling.

  10. Health Canada scientists setting up unofficial libraries as national libraries fail

    More from the Canadian Harper government’s War on Libraries (see also: literally burning the environmental archives). Dave writes, “Health Canada scientists are also facing difficulties with government controlled libraries. It takes an insanely long time for them to receive any materials due to third-party delivery companies; they’ve started opening up their own unsanctioned libraries and have started taking advantage of external sources (industry and universities). This is turning into an insane story. There’s obviously demand for the material within government circles, but policy and cuts are making it impossible to access, resulting in statistics of diminished use, which results in more cuts.”

  11. Health Canada library changes leave scientists scrambling

    Health Canada scientists are so concerned about losing access to their research library that they’re finding workarounds, with one squirrelling away journals and books in his basement for colleagues to consult, says a report obtained by CBC News.

    The draft report from a consultant hired by the department warned it not to close its library, but the report was rejected as flawed and the advice went unheeded.

  12. How the FCC screwed up its chance to make ISP blocking illegal

    The commission can still put ISPs under its thumb, but it may not want to.

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