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Censorship on the internet

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Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:41 am



I watched this video today and it has me thinking. I'm not sure where I stand on the issues, so I thought I would ask others.

What is your view of censorship on the internet? What is the role of government and individual organizations and sites such as this forum?

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:55 pm

This was a very relevant video for me at the moment, as I've been considering the topic lately. Partly in relation to the issues surrounding censorship on the Atheism+ website, but also in relation to a recent 'rant' from Matt Dillahunty on the topic of Free Speech and how it relates to private vs public spaces. Matt compared restrictions on free speech when calling "The Atheist Experience" or when posting on internet forums, or advertising on roadside billboards to the decision about what you allow to be said in your home or in your living room. In effect he made the argument that the private owners are not required to allow free speech for the person using the private means of dissemination.

So I've been trying to workout what my position on this is. The comparison between a privately owned public forum and a privately owned private space like a living room is problematic. What is worse, the discussion casually focuses on the legal rights to free speech under the US constitution. This conflates free speech in a philosophical and moral discussion about what is right, with what is legal. These are often not the same thing. It may be perfectly legal for a billboard owner to deny access to an organisation of which they do not approve. But is it right?

The internet has been a highly lawless place until relatively recently. Free speech reigned supreme to the point of annoyance - spam is a perfect example of this. Now we're seeing government intervention taking place across the world. Businesses that want to work within specific jurisdictions of these governments are required to support the intervention. Legislation affecting businesses operating on the internet is often broadly interpreted to ensure that they are not exposed to penalties. There are rare companies that are prepared to take on governments for moral or ethical reasons. Although it was interesting to see how well they worked to oppose recent attempts to put the cost of monitoring speech on the internet directly onto the companies themselves. Government intervention into the internet covers attempts to restrict political discussions, restriction of censored or objectionable material, removal of blasphemous material, secretly tracking and monitoring the behaviour of its citizens and the citizens of other countries on the internet, prevention of criminal or terrorist activity on the internet, protection of intellectual property rights, and many other ethical or unethical actions. For those of us who enjoy or thrive in the lawless aspect of the internet, it is really disheartening to see these restrictions implemented.

The reference to the chilling effect on democracy of government intervention on the internet mentioned in the video is truly disturbing.

But there's an aspect that the presenter referred to that I found most interesting. She talked about the lack of a full understanding of the issues around censorship on the internet. It's reasonable to understand why. The internet is a publishing medium. When various publishing mediums have been invented these issues were resolved by various forms of license and legislation. But print and broadcast media are relatively easy to license as they have a significant physical presence. The internet decentralised the media making it next to impossible to censor. And this has problems. There are legitimate forms of censorship, it is sometimes a moral action to deny people the right to disseminate. Incitement to murder would constitute an example of something that is moral to censor. It is very difficult to legislate exactly where to draw the line. More and more frequently the concept of offence is used to justify censorship of speech. Offence is problematic, to say the least.

The advent of new technology almost always has philosophical implications. Consider the moral quandary of Oppenheimer and other scientists involved in the creation of the Manhattan project. At this point we don't have the philosophical language to identify how the precepts of free speech laid down by people like John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine and others actually applies to this relatively new and potentially dangerous technology - the internet.


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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  arpie on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:20 am

Well said, null. Must admit I was somewhat disappointed with the video, and have heard far more interesting analysis about future net dilemma's on NPR. And is it just my pure irony projection or was there perhaps a bit of self censorship on Rebecca's part not expatiating on all the ramifications of the wiki-leaks brouhaha, or mention the US government being the first-as with the bomb-to launch a viral cyber attack on another country? How putting into use this virus-forgot name-it set a precedent we may well regret? If she said anything about that, I missed it. And I think TED is alas finally running out of steam. Sad

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:49 am

arpie wrote:Well said, null. Must admit I was somewhat disappointed with the video, and have heard far more interesting analysis about future net dilemma's on NPR. And is it just my pure irony projection or was there perhaps a bit of self censorship on Rebecca's part not expatiating on all the ramifications of the wiki-leaks brouhaha, or mention the US government being the first-as with the bomb-to launch a viral cyber attack on another country? How putting into use this virus-forgot name-it set a precedent we may well regret? If she said anything about that, I missed it. And I think TED is alas finally running out of steam. Sad

One video doesn't make a pattern! Although, I haven't had anyone link me to any jaw-dropping videos from TED lately. So you may be right there.

There are many different things she could have focussed on - but that one point was enough for me. Identifying the current problem that needs to be resolved: "How do 19th century paradigms of Free Speech relate to the internet?"

Are ISPs the equivalent of governments? They control the access of people to the internet. There are some discussions taking place currently about the three strikes rule that prevents people from accessing the internet if they are caught breaking the law three times. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/06/un-free-speech-watchdog-blasts-three-strikes-rules/ The UN has called it a violation of human rights. I'd agree.

There are a lot of aspects to free speech on the internet to consider.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  arpie on Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:07 pm

nullnvoid wrote:One video doesn't make a pattern! Although, I haven't had anyone link me to any jaw-dropping videos from TED lately.

There are many different things she could have focussed on - but that one point was enough for me. Identifying the current problem that needs to be resolved: "How do 19th century paradigms of Free Speech relate to the internet?"

Were it only one video, null. Been a long time Ted member though have only posted a comment there a few times. Maybe it's just me, but I sense a decline over the last year.

The title should have tipped me off though. I don't think 19th patterns of free speech have much relevance at all to the net. It's a whole new ball game when a click can distribute your message to millions all over the planet. I suspect the next phase in the developing world will be satellite transmissions from moving vehicles to circumvent government censorship. Could even happen in the west, like pirate radio of old. I think we've become extremely vulnerable via our dependence on the net, which has become a huge target.

Speaking of which, have you disabled Java yet? I just heard today about the holes in their security that have all the experts recommending you do so. Another half hour I'll never get back. I ended up just deleting it. Hope lpetrich will weigh in on this. Wink

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:13 pm

The issue that concerns me the most is not free speech per se but the freedom to access that speech (and potentially make up one's own mind on things).

I think the idea that content can or should be censored because it may be offensive to some people is an issue that needs to be sorted out sooner than later. You'll often hear the argument that a person shouldn't say anything on the internet that they wouldn't say to a (usually a very oversensitive grandparent) person's face. I can't help but feel that these people are missing the point, or at least my point, of posting things on the internet.


Last edited by Fred on Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:14 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:49 pm

Fred wrote:The issue that concerns me the most is not free speech per se but the freedom to access that speech (and potentially make up one's own mind on things).

I think the idea that content can or should be censored because it may be offensive to some people is an issue that needs to be sorted out sooner than later. You'll often hear the argument that a person shouldn't say anything on the internet that they wouldn't say to a (usually a very oversensitive grandparent) person's face. I can't help but feel that these people are missing the point, or at least my point, of posting things on the internet.

These are actually the same thing. To quote Hitchens:

"...it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view. Indeed as John Stuart Mill said, if all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except one person, it would be most important, in fact it would become even more important, that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his perhaps outrageous or appalling view."

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:32 pm

Hmm, I think I disagree. It looks like I did a poor job of explaining my thoughts above. Sorry.

They are not the same thing. They are related, (and maybe two sides of the same --I'll have to think about that) but they are not the same. I think one is freedom of speech and the other one is closer to the freedom of conscience.

The internet has an effect of making this distinction more obvious. It has to do with user choice. Before the internet, information was limited to what was available in the library or who you happened to know or through what was made available for public consumption. It would be relatively easy for some controlling body to limit information available without people actually knowing that it was being done. But now that almost anyone can give and produce information almost instantly, censorship involving limiting access, essential sending the message that "this information is not (morally, factually, whatever)right", is much more pronounced.

This is different from not permitting people to say certain things.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:49 pm

Fred wrote:...This is different from not permitting people to say certain things.

Just as a thought experiment: if you allow someone to speak, but only while no one can hear what they say...isn't that exactly the same thing as preventing them from speaking at all?

Free speech is about regulation of communication. Communication requires both a broadcaster and a receiver. Freedom of speech as a concept covers both the right of people to express themselves and the right of people to hear what was expressed.

The restrictions of access to specific broadcasts on the internet in say... China, are an attempt to make it as if such things had never been broadcast in the first place. In every sense, restriction of access is ultimately the same thing as restriction of speech.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:24 pm

Do you think you could be wrong?

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:25 pm

Fred wrote:Do you think you could be wrong?

Not at the moment. I could be proved wrong - but need to see the line of reasoning.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:41 pm

nullnvoid wrote:
Fred wrote:Do you think you could be wrong?

Not at the moment. I could be proved wrong - but need to see the line of reasoning.

Okay. I was just checking to see if we're having a debate or a conversation. I suck at debates. Embarassed

I'll think some more and see if I can come up with a better way to explain what I'm thinking.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:50 pm

Fred wrote:Okay. I was just checking to see if we're having a debate or a conversation. I suck at debates. Embarassed

I'll think some more and see if I can come up with a better way to explain what I'm thinking.

There's a difference? Very Happy

Please do - I have no problem admitting I'm wrong when it's demonstrated to be the case! (And that happens a LOT)


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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:34 pm

I think I can see how you think they are the same, but there is a nuancy detail that makes them different in my mind. If after this attempt it still doesn't make sense, I'll drop it for now.


It's a matter of perspective.

Is it a violation of your free speech when a goverment prohibits you from broadcasting your message to their people? I would contend (and using your requirement for a receiver) that it is not, unless they were doing something to silence you completely, prohibiting you from expressing your message to everyone, everywhere.

By prohibiting their people from receiving your message, is that government they violating the free speech of their people? Again, I would say that they are not, because how is a person to know that they are not recieving a message if they don't know that a message exists? And even if they know a messanger exists, how would they know if they are sending a message or not?

However, that government would be violating their people's freedom of conscience by attempting to prevent people from knowing about the messanger and whether or not they are sending a message, even if the people wanted to find out

If the government says that their people cannot talk about a particular messanger or the message, then this moves back into a freedom of speech issue.

anyway moving on... To anyone who wants to answer:

Although you may have a right to say what you want, do you have a right to say who has to listen?

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  nullnvoid on Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:15 pm

Fred wrote:I think I can see how you think they are the same, but there is a nuancy detail that makes them different in my mind. If after this attempt it still doesn't make sense, I'll drop it for now.

I think we're getting into semantics here so perhaps it's a good idea to move on. I don't want the discussion just to get stuck in this is my opinion and this is your opinion, so I'll post one further quote for you to consider from the universal declaration of human rights. This is article 19 which defines the right to freedom of expression:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Article 19 wrote:Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Of course this right is not actually allowed in any country around the world in any real sense - but it defines the ideal. It clearly ties in the right to seek information to the right to free expression.

Fred wrote:anyway moving on... To anyone who wants to answer:

Although you may have a right to say what you want, do you have a right to say who has to listen?

It depends on the situation. I have legal rights to be heard in court and I have the legal right to have my vote heard by an electoral body. There are other situations where you have a moral right to be heard even if you do not currently have a legal right. For example, you might have a moral right to be heard when asking for help in an emergency situation. The answer to your question is really - It depends.

How about this question - should anyone have the right to not hear something?

(Note that I'm shifting from an is discussion to an ought discussion, so we're talking about a moral right, not a legal right.)

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:19 am

nullnvoid wrote:
Fred wrote:I think I can see how you think they are the same, but there is a nuancy detail that makes them different in my mind. If after this attempt it still doesn't make sense, I'll drop it for now.

I think we're getting into semantics here so perhaps it's a good idea to move on. I don't want the discussion just to get stuck in this is my opinion and this is your opinion, so I'll post one further quote for you to consider from the universal declaration of human rights. This is article 19 which defines the right to freedom of expression:


Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Article 19 wrote:Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Of course this right is not actually allowed in any country around the world in any real sense - but it defines the ideal. It clearly ties in the right to seek information to the right to free expression.

It's not merely semantics, though. I was attempting to draw the distiction between Human Rights Declaration Article 18 (freedom of belief and thought) and Article 19 (freedom of expression and opinion). I think the distiction is very important. One should not be ignored in favour of the other. But anyways, I said I would move on.


How about this question - should anyone have the right to not hear something?

(Note that I'm shifting from an is discussion to an ought discussion, so we're talking about a moral right, not a legal right.)

On a personal level, in their homes, people most definitely have the right not to hear something, in the sense that they can turn it off, or leave a website, or choose not to read something. It's about choice and not allowing other people to tell you what to think or what you should think.

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  arpie on Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:51 am

Fred wrote:On a personal level, in their homes, people most definitely have the right not to hear something, in the sense that they can turn it off, or leave a website, or choose not to read something. It's about choice and not allowing other people to tell you what to think or what you should think.

I agree with most of what you've said here Fred, especially the above. On some level though I think all message boards are censored to some degree. Even on sites where staff have a totally hands off policy inevitably cliques form and gang pile on those they don't like, thus silencing them as effectively as bans. Afraid it does all come down to semantics at some point. Crying or Very sad

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  Fred on Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:42 am

I saw this today and I thought it was pertinent to this thread.

Apple cites porn concerns, pulls Toronto firm's app

Photography apps from a Toronto startup have been pulled from Apple's app store over concerns that they "featured pornographic images" and "complaints about possible child pornography," Apple says.

500px Inc.'s "500px for iOS," which allows people to share and showcase images, was one of two apps from the Toronto-based developer pulled from the app store on Tuesday, to the dismay of the company's chief operational officer, Evgeny Tchebotarev.

"After almost 1M downloads, @500px was removed from Apple's App Store. Why?Sad" Tchebotarev tweeted early Tuesday morning, when the first of the two apps was removed.

500px is one of six nominees for best overall Canadian Startup of 2012 in the 2012 Canadian Startup Awards, with the winner to be announced on January 28.

continues here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/23/tech-500px-apple-app-store.html


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Yo Fred!!

Post  arpie on Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:06 pm

Never been a fan of Apple or MS, and was happy to see the former's stock was down another 6% today. It's almost 20% down from it's peak just a few months ago. Damn I was thinking of selling it short then to, but I'd thought it would never hit 600 too, and it did. The attempt to replace Google maps really cost them. YAY!!

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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  JustinLong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:42 am

Apple is far greater than anything we have ever known. There are none like it.


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Re: Censorship on the internet

Post  arpie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:41 am

Have to disagree with you Chaplain. Jobs stole most of the ideas that got Apple started from Xerox, and set the standard for locking the BIOS and not even allowing the customer to make copies of the software they paid for. Even Gates didn't go that far.

Trust me Google and open source will ultimately trump Apple in the apps wars, and you're seeing the start of their denouement now in the market as others see Google maps take another bite out of the apple. Twisted Evil

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