Friday, June 23, 2006

Censorship, here and there

Two reports on Internet censorship from Boing Boing:

The first discusses censorship in China. Ben Lehman, who lives in Shanghai, discusses the widely variable, inconsistent censorship of the Internet within China:

The insidious thing about this is not the censorship [...] but the fact that most Chinese people don't even know its there. Almost no one I've talked to even understands that government censorship happens at all -- it just looks to them like the internet has a lot more "dead links" and, if that's all you're used to, there's no reason to expect otherwise.

Techies and geeks often suggest that Internet censorship doesn't matter, because it is easy to get around. Easy for some, perhaps, not so easy for others -- but as Lehman suggests, the biggest problem is that people don't even know they are being censored. If web pages came up with great big CENSORED it wouldn't matter -- people would know when they were having things hidden from them, and make their decisions accordingly. What hurts us is not so much the lies we know about, as those we don't know about.

(Censorship is a lie -- it tells us that something doesn't exist when it does.)

Meanwhile, back in Australia... our government has stepped back from the threatened compulsory Internet filters, and is offering free Internet filters to anyone stupid enough to ask for one.

Why stupid? Because censorware filters are unreliable, biased, and capricious. (The full report by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU is here.)

David Cake from Electronic Frontiers Australia writes:

With the conservative government being heavily lobbied by conservative Christian groups and others calling for opt-out ISP level filtering, and a misguided opposition supporting them, a proposal that takes ISP level filtering off the table and replaces it with opt-in PC filtering has actually improved the political outlook here quite a bit.

With the current state of politics, the rise of conservative Fundamentalism, and the selling of government to the all-mighty corporate dollar, it is a good day when my tax dollars are merely going to be wasted on doing harm to a minority of volunteers who opt-in to censorware. Good news indeed.

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