Why Google should not be hiding information

May 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The attempted murder of an entire family, an actor’s affair with a teenager, and tax dodging are just some of the things that people are asking Google to hide.

The search engine has been inundated with more than a thousand take-down demands in the past few days, triggered by a European Court ruling last week giving people the right to be forgotten.

Half the demands made in the UK are from people who have a criminal past, such as one man who is trying to remove links to information about his conviction for possessing child abuse images, according to a source close to Google.

One person is trying to remove a link that reveals a conviction for cyber-stalking, while another wants links to information about tax offences erased.

In another case, a man who had tried to kill his family wants to lose links to a news report about the crime. A well-known actor is also demanding links to articles about an affair he had with a teenager be removed. And the child of a celebrity has tried to get news stories about a criminal conviction removed.

It is not just criminals and celebrities attempting to hide their past. A former MP seeking re-election is trying to get links to details of past conduct removed. And a university lecturer who was once suspended wants that information taken down.

Businesses are also demanding that certain things are removed. One company is calling for the deletion of links to forum discussions by customers complaining of being ripped off.

The European Court ruling that Google should be made to remove links to old information on some people is another reason why perhaps the UK should leave the EU. It’s a ruling that is very bad for the Internet and freedom of speech – and very good for criminals and fraudsters.

I was listening to a US podcast on this case and what was interesting is that it was from a man who had his home repossessed a decade ago and this got reported in his local newspaper. His court case was asking both the newspaper and Google to remove the story.

The court said that the newspaper can’t be forced to remove the story, but Google (and other search engines) should hide from search results if it is ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive’. 

Apart from the insanity of Google having to somehow judge what is inadequate, irrelevant or excessive, the ruling rides over the fact that Google only indexes material that publishers say they can index. If you don’t want it to appear in Google, then you can mark your page x-no-archive.

The newspaper that published the story is the entity that should decide if they want to keep the story online. And as a compromise they could have kept the page on their website but marked it x-no-archive. But that is a decision for them, not Google.

I often get people e-mailing me asking for some deletion or amendment of a post or comment that names them, as it comes up very high on Google. I consider each request on its merits, and usually will agree. But that is my decision as a publisher – and if I decide not to – it is outraegous that in Europe Google would be forced to second guess me. Google should be a search engine – not a Judge.

Opinion remains divided on the ruling, with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding saying it was a clear victory for the protection of personal data, while Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says it was one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings he had seen.

I agree with the great Jimmy Wales.

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BBC censors Fawlty Towers

January 26th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Political Correctness strikes again. Stuff reports:

In the annals of comedy history, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the greatest television programs ever produced. And from among its episodes, The Germans, in which hotelier Basil Fawlty clashes with visiting German tourists, is one of its most-loved.

And yet in an act which many will see as political correctness gone mad, if not actual cultural vandalism, the venerable BBC has censored a scene in which racist language is used.

In the scene, a hotel regular, the elderly Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley), relates a conversation in which he corrected someone for using a particular racist slur, by suggesting they use another, equally racist, slur.

In the context of the episode, the line is clearly intended to mock the old-school British upper class for their inherent racism. In that sense, the joke is on Major Gowen, as it were, and not aimed at racial minorities.

I detest this sort of rewriting of episodes. People are mature enough to judge old comedy shows in the context they were made – and as reported the show is actually lampooning the Major.

The actual lines that are now censored are:

He kept referring to the Indians as niggers. No, no, no, no I said niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs.

I guess Archie Bunker will be banned at some stage also!

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This will get me banned in Pakistan

November 19th, 2011 at 1:35 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Guardians of linguistic purity have long warned against the pernicious impact that text messaging may have on the young, but Pakistan officials have taken such concerns to a new extreme by demanding that mobile phone operators block all text messages using offensive words.

With a creativity and dedication to the task unusual for local officialdom, the country’s telecoms regulator has issued a list of more than 1000 words and phrases which will be banned.

After serious deliberation and consultation, officials from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have come up with more than 50 phrases using the word “fuck” and 17 involving “butt”.

The list includes several apparently innocuous words and phrases, including “flatulence”, “deposit” and “fondle”. Others would likely only make sense to frustrated teenagers.

Among the more printable terms are “strap-on”, “beat your meat”, “crotch rot”, “love pistol”, “pocket pool” and “quickie”.

The officials’ flair for the task was apparent, with prohibition embracing more figurative language, such as “flogging the dolphin”, and 51 terms with the suffix “ass” – although only one variation of the word ‘arse’. There were 17 variants on “tit” and 33 on “cock”, with officials managing to produce eight obscenities involving the word “foot”.

I’ve managed to get hold of a full list of the 1,109 words or phrases banned in Pakistan. They are included over the break.

Would be fun having a job where you have to know all the dirty words so you can ban them.

There should be a competition for who can write the best short-story that involves all 1,109 words!

(more…)

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Update to story on media access for visit from Chinese VP

June 17th, 2010 at 1:12 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday about complaints local Chinese media had not been able to get access to the visit of the VP of China.

DIA sent me on Tuesday an e-mail which I have attached to the original post. The key part is:

We can assure you there is no attempt to block the local Chinese media from attending various activities during the Vice President Xi JinPing’s visit or adopt any form of censorship. Invitations have been issued today to local media including Auckland and Wellington based Chinese media.

Better later than never!

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Is the Government blocking local Chinese media?

June 15th, 2010 at 10:31 am by David Farrar

A reader writes:

The local Chinese media are saying that the NZ government is blocking their accreditation to cover the visit of the vice president Jinping this week. According to them no local Chinese media allowed at any function or press conference. …

Surely there’s a way to security check the local Chinese media to see if any are crazed Falung Gong and exclude them rather than them all?
The NZ Government should not adopt the censorship policies of the Chinese Government, just because the Chinese Government is visiting. If no local Chinese media have been allowed accreditation, then questions need to be asked and answered.
UPDATE: The DIA has sent me the following:
This blog entry was brought to the attention of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The Department has responsibility for the overall management and coordination of media activity for the official visit by the Mr Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China. There are a series of media opportunities over the period of the visit.

We can assure you there is no attempt to block the local Chinese media from attending various activities during the Vice President Xi JinPing’s visit or adopt any form of censorship. Invitations have been issued today to local media including Auckland and Wellington based Chinese media. We have also extended invitations to Press Gallery journalists and local Auckland and Wellington media. The only media restrictions that will apply are camera pool arrangements where there are space constraints. In such situations both the official Chinese media and local New Zealand media will have an equal opportunity to participate in the pool.

Enquiries are welcomed from all interested Chinese local media and we encourage them to contact us if they are interested in attending events during the Vice President’s visit or have concerns. We will endeavour to accommodate their needs within the space and security constraints. These are the same considerations that would apply for any official overseas government visit to New Zealand.

Internal Affairs operates an open, responsive media policy and is committed to ensuring that news media has reasonable access to information about the activities of the Department.

The media advisory outlining media opportunities is available from the Department of Internal Affairs.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify the concerns that have been raised.

The DIA sent this to me on Tuesday, after the original post appeared on Monday. It is good local Chinese media are being given access. One could be suspicious of why it happened so late in the piece, but better late than never.
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Southpark Censorship

April 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Once again Comedy Central has censored Southpark. Four years ago they banned the show from being able to show from showing a harmless depiction of Muhammad (was just him giving someone a fish) in their Cartoon Wars episodes.

The episodes were about appeasing people who threaten violence is wrong, but it didn’t work. This time in episode 201 Comedy Central have even refused to allow the name of Muhammad, after the Southpark creators cunningly discussed him onside a bear costume.

This has nothing to do with religious tolerance. Comedy Central have allowed the show to show Jesus Christ defecating on an American flag. Their decisions are purely appeasement in the face of threatened violence from extremists. The sad thing is they don’t realise that what they do, encourages the extremists. It shows threatening violence wins.

In similar news, Reuters reports:

A Dutch court has acquitted a Muslim group of inciting hatred with a cartoon that questions the Holocaust, in the latest case to provoke debate about freedom of speech in the Netherlands.

The Arab European League (AEL), which published the cartoon on its website, was cleared of insulting Jews because it was not aiming to dispute the Holocaust but to highlight perceived double standards in free speech.

And that is the right ruling,

The AEL cartoon shows two men, beneath an ‘Auschwitz’ sign and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but the target was six million – the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The AEL said the cartoon was part of a campaign it launched in 2006 to show “the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair.” The image came with a disclaimer on the website saying the AEL did not support the views of the cartoon.

Except the AEL have been proven wrong about the double morals. No one has been killed, or even threatened over their Holocaust cartoon. There have been no burning of flags or storming of embassies.

The mad President of Iran tried to make a similar claim a few years ago by hosting a Holocaust cartoon competition. To his great dismay dozens of Jewish cartoonists submitted entries, rather than protest against it.

The best response to censorship is this:

After Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris wanted to counter the fear. She has declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

“As a cartoonist I just felt so much passion about what had happened I wanted to kind of counter Comedy Central’s message they sent about feeling afraid,” Norris said.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings of any religious figure to be posted as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

On her website Norris explains this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people’s right to express themselves.

The best way to stop the Islamic extremists threatening violence unless you censor, is if the response to their threats is to triple and quadruple the number of outlets who show the cartoon.

It should be a point of principle for every media outlet in the free world, to show such images, to show that threats will not work.

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US Ambassador tells Aust Govt not to filter

April 14th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

It is very rare to have an Ambassador comment on a domestic policy, and even more rare amongst friendly countries. So I was surprised and pleased to see the US Ambassador to Australia speak out against the Government’s planned compulsory filter:

CHILD pornographers can be captured and prosecuted without having to resort to mandatory internet filters, says Barack Obama confidante and US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich.

Speaking on ABC TV’s Q&A program last night, Mr Bleich said Australia had been made aware of his own government’s no internet censorship stance and that the US has had “healthy discussions” with its Australian counterparts on the matter.

“On the issue of the internet we have been very clear. The internet needs to be free,” Mr Bleich said.

“It needs to be free the way we have said skies have to be free, outer space has to be free, the polar caps have to be free, the oceans have to be free. They’re shared resources of all the people in the world.”

The US had told Australia child pornographers could be nabbed without the use of internet filters, Mr Bleich said.

“What we’ve said is we have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers and others who use the internet for terrible purposes, without having to use internet filters,” he said.

I like the quote about how the Internet is a shared resource of all the people in the world.

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Fiji set to clamp down on a free media

April 9th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most people are familiar with the saying two steps forward and one step back to describe a situation of slow progress.

That has been my hope for Fiji, that with a set date for elections in 2014, there would be some progress. But alas, the situation is looking more like one step forward and two steps back.

The Fijian Government has released a draft decree of proposed media censorship. It would make Fiji even more repressive in terms of media freedom.

NZPA report:

The regime of self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama yesterday issued a new media decree which Newspaper Publishers’ Association chief executive and New Zealand Media Freedom Committee secretary Tim Pankhurst described as “highly oppressive”. …

“It not only targets editors and their journalists. Any members of the public brave enough to express dissenting views are also in line for crippling fines, ill treatment and jail.”

Media outlets could be fined up to F$500,000 (about NZ$344,000) and individual journalists up to F$100,000 (NZ$69,000) and be jailed for up to five years if they failed to comply with the decree’s dictates.

Offences included such “crimes” as criticising the government and even failing to run bylines, Mr Pankhurst said. Foreign media ownership was also restricted.

The foreign media restrictions are an attempt to close down the Fiji Times. The Commodore hates them especially as they refuse to describe him as the Prime Minister, unless he actually wins an election to that post.

Some aspects from the media decree:

  • The Minister of Information personally appoints, and can sack at any time, the Director of the Media Industry Development Authority
  • One of the tasks of the MIDA is to ban any material which creates “communal discord”
  • MIDA will require all media organisations to be registered with them
  • Breaches of MIDA rules will carry a potential penalty of $500,000 for an organisation and $100,000 plus five years in jail for individuals.
  • MIDA has police like powers to search and seize documents from media organisations
  • Bans foreign ownership of over 10% in a media organisation, which will close down the Fiji Times.
  • Sets up a Tribunal with the Chair appointed by the Attorney-General to hear complaints, and which must act within “guidelines’ given by the Minister
  • The Minister can by order prohibit any broadcast or publication that may give rise to disorder, and can demand copies in advance
  • The decree explicitly forbids any Court hearing a challenge to not just the legality of this decree, but any decisions made by the Authority, Tribunal or Minister under this decree
  • The media code bans “hypnotism” and “demonstrating exorcism”!

Cafe Pacific has a good analysis of the decree.

Coup 4,5 report:

This is very broad so it will be interesting to see what kind of stories come under this criteria. Censors are already stopping the publication of stories which make the interim government look bad; eg water and power cuts and bad road conditions leading to pot holes.

This clause really means any stories which the interim regime doesn’t like because it exposes them or shows that they’re not doing a good job, is not in their interest and offends them as it creates communal discord.

The communal disorder clause is what will allow the Government to ban anything which criticises the Government, or if it gets published to imprison the journalist for up to five years.

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Australia to block Wikipedia parody

March 18th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

The Australian Human Rights Commission has threatened legal action against a widely read but controversial US-based website over an article that it says encourages racial hatred against Aborigines.

But online rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia said trying to stamp out the deplorable content would only create the “Streisand” effect, whereby an attempt to censor online content only brings more attention to it.

In a letter to Joseph Evers, the owner of Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED) – a more shocking version of Wikipedia that contains racist and other offensive articles dubbed as “satire” – the Commission said it had received 20 complaints from Aborigines over the “Aboriginal” page on the site. …

On the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s blacklist of “refused classification” websites, which was leaked in March last year, encyclopediadramatica.com was included. This means the entire site will likely be blocked under the government’s forthcoming internet filtering plan.

This is why I don’t like filters.  It is outrageous that the Australian Government will block such a site.

Don’t get me wrong – the site is highly highly offensive to many people. It is a rather puerile site (rather than a smart satire site) that just abuses everybody and everyone in the most insulting way it can. But being offensive is not a reason to be banned or blocked.

I cite again the words of Noam Chomsky, who said there is little virtue in defending popular speech – it is defending unpopular and even offensive speech that is courageous.

When we allow the state to start deciding what parts of the Internet we are allowed to see, that is a bad thing.

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OUSA attempts censorship

February 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports on the compulsory membership OUSA:

The Otago University Students Association wants broadcast media to sign a censorship contract before attending Ori10 concerts.

The annual orientation event starts tomorrow and upon requesting media passes to cover it, Dunedin’s Channel 9 production manager Luke Chapman received a media release form.

The contract contained clauses banning broadcast of footage “showing severe intoxication . . . including, but not limited to vomiting, concussion, fighting, individuals receiving medical attention, and sexually explicit material”.

Oh how wonderful. Instead of having events with no vomiting, fighting or injuries, OUSA just wants to ban the media from showing such activities.

TV3 reporter Dave Goosselink compared OUSA’s attempts at controlling the media to the Fijian Government.

He had never signed a contract to attend orientation events before and said the station never intentionally chased drunk people.

TV3 had never seen a contract like it and he believed one had never existed in New Zealand.

TVNZ One News editor Paul Patrick said he would not sign a contract.

“If they don’t want us to cover orientation, we won’t,” he said.

When he first saw the contract, he “thought it was a joke”.

And universities are meant to be bastions of free speech!

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Christian Intolerance

December 19th, 2009 at 12:05 pm by David Farrar

It has been amazing to see the intolerance on display by some extremist Christians. They have applauded the destruction of a church’s private property, because they don’t like the message on display.

It is only a small way removed from the Islamic extremists who burnt down an Embassy, because they didn’t like the cartoons of a newspaper in a country. Of course that was a more extreme act, but what they have in common is both sets of people think their God allows them to break the law to try and suppress a message or image they do not approve of. It is the thin end of theocratic rule.

There are many legitimate ways people could take action against the billboard of St Matthew-in-the-City. They include:

  • Complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (as Family First did)
  • Protest outside St Matthews
  • Put up your own billboard with an alternative message
  • Lobby for the leadership of St Matthews to be disciplined or sacked by the church hierarchy (if possible)
  • Try and have the entire parish booted out of the Anglican Church

But instead the nutters have won, with their campaign of destruction:

After the latest attack, by an elderly woman with a knife last night, the church said the billboard would not be replaced.

The Vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City, Glynn Cardy, said the billboard was “attacked by a knife-wielding Christian fanatic who was then apprehended by a group of homeless people who care about our church. Later in the evening another group of fanatics ripped it down.

I wonder how the fanatics would feel if someone threw bricks through all the windows at their local church, because someone doesn’t like their message.

It isn’t far removed from the morons who vandalise Jewish graves because they don’t like Judaism.

There is no right in New Zealand not to be offended by a religious message. If you are offended, then tough. Either take action under the law, or lump it. But you do not have the right to destroy private property of a church, because you are offended by their message.

But for all those who cheer on the extremists and vandals, well don’t cry out for sympathy when the same happens to your church. I mean if the Catholic Church beatifies Pope Pius XII, then it must be legitimate for Jewish activists to vandalise Catholic cathedrals to protest such an offensive move (Pius XII refused to publicly condemn the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews), if you think it is legitimate for Christian activists to vandalise St Matthews billboard.

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Herald on Filtering Scheme

July 18th, 2009 at 8:34 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

With money granted in this year’s Budget, it plans to provide internet providers with Swedish-devised software that matches site requests to a “banned” list and reroutes the requests to a government computer. The internet companies would have to volunteer to take part, unlike in other countries where compulsory filtering of paedophilic sites is proposed. Consumers would, then, be able to avoid filtering if they object on principle to such restrictions.

Technology commentators have raised concerns that this scheme could be the thin end of a wedge by which the state seeks to “filter” other internet material or sites that it, later, deems unwelcome. They are right to be concerned. The public’s freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and opinion of any kind and in any form” is protected by section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act.

Yet even that law recognises there can be reasons to over-ride that freedom. Reducing the demand for, and profits from, material depicting child sexual abuse would surely qualify in the public mind as one of them.

A tightly targeted, voluntary scheme including most internet providers is better than a compulsory regime. Those deciding what cannot be accessed must themselves be regularly reviewed to ensure the scheme stays strictly on track.

As I previously blogged, I would look to have the Auditor-General’s Office regularly vet the scheme against its publicly stated mandate.

On balance, because of the gravity of the offences against children, and the prevalence of the problem, with 26 convictions in this country in the past six months for collecting or distributing child sex abuse images, some restriction seems justifiable. Limited censorship is the lesser of two evils.

The expert advice I have is that the filtering scheme will not stop the hard core offenders. They trade in chat rooms, Usenet groups etc and will use overseas ISPs if necessary to get around any filters.

What the scheme *may* do is help prevent those “curious” about child porn from acting on their curiosity and end up breaking the law. Some of those go on to get “addicted” to  such images and become professional traders etc.

So no one should think the filtering scheme will make a massive difference to the demand for illegal material. However that is not to say it won’t make some difference – and as the Herald says you have to weigh that up.

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The great Australian firewall

January 2nd, 2009 at 1:23 pm by David Farrar

There’s been quite a bit of media interest lately about the Australian Government’s daft idea to force Australian ISPs to install compulsory filters that will ban sites the Government deems undesirable.

Radio NZ did a piece this morning:

The Australian government plans to force Australian ISPs to filter out more than a thousand websites with content including child pornography, excessive violence, crime and drug information as well as promoting terrorism.

The policy, dubbed the ‘Great Aussie Firewall’, has been met with a storm of criticism across the Tasman.

Internet New Zealand board member David Farrar says much of the banned content is traded over peer-to-peer networks which won’t be caught by filters.

He says the filters will also cause a sharp fall in download speeds for Australian users.

Internet Service Providers Association of New Zealand president Jamie Baddeley said the policy is insane and unworkable.

But he says it is symptomatic of pressure coming on ISPs to do more to police the internet.

One can also listen to the full item, at the bottom of the linked page. Jordan Cater is also interviewed.

I’ve also just been interview by TV3 for their 6 pm news tonight on the same issue.

I commented that luckily in NZ we have far smarter MPs, and I doubt more than a handful here would back some sort of compulsory government filter.

Also put in a plug for Netsafe, who provide really great resources for those worried about Internet safety.

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Amusing censorship

September 7th, 2008 at 10:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged previously about an audio recording of NZ First MP Doug Woolerton slagging off foreign investment.

Well a wee while back Winston blogged on the same topic at the Winston Peters blog.

Now Dave Moskowitz tried to comment on Winston’s blog, adding a link through to the interview with Doug Woolerton.

His comment was rejected! Why? He phoned up and was told they could not link to anything “with bad language in it”.

So they won’t link to an interview with one of their own MPs, because of the MP swearing during the interview!!

That is a new definition of having standards. We are fine to have our MPs swear, but not fine to allow people to link to audio recordings of them doing so!

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Caughey calls for Blog and Wikipedia regulation

August 14th, 2008 at 5:23 pm by David Farrar

Christine Caughey has just been appointed by Labour to their new Transport Board. She got thrown off the Auckland City Council last year, after serving one term. It seems she is not too happy about this, judging by her submission to the Justuce & Electoral Committee.

Advertising by way of blogging, use of Wikipedia or similar, are two examples where abuse may occur. Wikipedia does not appear to have adequate structures in place to monitor and control abuse of the system.

Regulation to control the type of use of the internet for political/campaigning purposes should be put in place …

Caughey also supports extending the EFA to local bodies, so there are restrictions on paid advocacy for all of local body election year.

Not content with regulating blogs, Wikipedia and spending, she also advocates regulating monitoring and assessing the media.

Aaron Bhatnagar has fun dissecting her points one at a time.

How did such a person get elected in the first place, and why in God’s name has Labour appointed someone who wants to regulate Wikipedia to a powerful transport funding board?

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ODT on Cybersafety

August 2nd, 2008 at 9:37 am by David Farrar

The ODT has a useful editorial on the issue of cybersafety:

Arguably, no single innovation has changed the shape of modern life quite as much.

The Internet is one of the most remarkable “inventions” of our times.

It has altered utterly the possibilities for, and nature of, communication, that most basic of human interactions.

And it has changed it at all levels of society: in academia, in the military, in business, in politics, in finance, in the media, and in education.

Few, if any, realms of endeavour are untouched by it.

I try to think sometimes if any other invention has changed the world as much as the Internet. Maybe fire? Or the printing press?

Both major political parties, Labour and National, appear to see it as critical to economic growth and international competitiveness.

Indeed, but with somewhat different approaches.

But like any new technology, especially one so ubiquitous in its applications, it brings with it a host of “issues”.

Many of these arise in the social arena, a fact underlined by the Queenstown conference: “Cybercitizens: Risks, Rights and Responsibilities of Participation in the Information Age”.

Cyberbullying, cybersafety, social networking, child pornography and online grooming were all officially or unofficially on the agenda.

NetSafe is to be congratulated for raising awareness of attendant Internet “problems”, many of which are becoming all too real: a conference report in this newspaper on Thursday canvassed the matter of “complicit victims” – children as young as 12 actively seeking sexual contact with adults on the Internet with little idea of the consequences of their actions.

Netsafe do a wonderful job in this area, and unlike some other bodies have a very balanced approach.

Research in the United States showed 55% of people valued their online communities as much as their offline – or real-life – interactions.

Shocking though this may seem, it is fast becoming a reality that an older less “wired” generation must learn to accept, while helping to devise safeguards that will assist their children to negotiate the vast repository of unsuitable, potentially damaging, or downright dangerous material that is perennially a mouse click or two away.

All the best advice appears to be that imposing blanket bans is ineffective and counterproductive.

They are indeed both ineffective and often counterproductive.

Because, like it or not, the Internet is now part of the fabric of all our lives.

It has changed the nature of communication, and it is changing the nature of society.

Indeed. How did we survive before blogs? :-)

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Luddite MPs

August 1st, 2008 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a report on some UK MPs concerned about You Tube. Let;s look at what they want:

“We are concerned that user-generated video content on sites such as YouTube does not carry any age classification, nor is there a watershed before which it cannot be shown.”

How stupid are these people? A watershed time before some content can be shown? Oh yes that will work. And what time zone should be used, morons?

The MPs expressed their anger that the operators of such sites did not routinely screen clips posted on them by the public.

Oh yes that is so very practical. Let us look at how many videos are uploaded every day – around 65,000. Now if each is ten minutes long, then one person can do around 50 in a day. So these UK MPs think You Tube (which costs $1 million a day to run already) should hire around 1,300 staff just to screen the videos that come in.

Incidentially did you know You Tube concumses more bandwidth today than the entire Internet consumed in 2000?

They said the practical problems of sifting through vast quantities of material could be overcome as technology is being developed that can rapidly spot hardcore pornography when it is uploaded.

Pornography is banned on You Tube. It normally gets reported very quickly and is gone within hours or minutes. Do these MPs really think people spend all their time on You Tube frantically searching for porn in the few minutes it is there before it is deleted?

I mean if people want porn, they will go to Youporn or Pornotube which have nothing but pornography.

“In a lucrative market, the cost to internet service providers of installing software to block access to child pornography sites should not come second to child safety,” the committee said.

Child pornography is sickening and authorities do a good job in prosecuting those who produce or distribute it etc. But the incidence of child pornography on You Tube is incredibly small, and anyone who uploads it will have their IP address given to authorities.

In terms of wider issues around access to child porn, I agree ISPs should restrict access where possible. But any such blacklists should be based on emperical evidence (ie the site has been verified as having illegal material) such as the British Cleanfeed system, and not on automated filters which “guess” is a site has illegal material and ends up blocking legal content.

The committee called for video-sharing sites to include a “one-click” facility that enabled users to report clips appearing to contain images of abuse directly to the police.

Not a bad idea, but which Police? The FBI? Scotland Yard?b

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PDT on the Internet

July 30th, 2008 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

Internet policy people will be interested in the interview the Herald did with Peter Dengate-Thrush, the NZers who chairs ICANN – the global allocator of domain names and IP addresses. Some extracts:

In terms of safety is the web getting better or worse?

“The internet is neutral about these things – it’s really a question about the users. One of the reasons I’m participating in this is to assist with the constant requirement for user education – in this case we’ll be educating the educators. It’s a bit like saying is fire a good thing or is the wheel a good thing. It’s good when it’s done properly.”

That’s a great response. The Internet is no more good or bad than fire or wheels are.

What are the biggest threats to our internet freedom?

“The biggest threat to the internet itself is developing the wrong culture along the lines that I was just talking about. If we get that wrong, it’ll be humans and the way that humans use this particular tool that will cause the problems. You’ve got to be clear – there’s nothing inherently good or bad in the technology itself, it’s what we choose to do with it.

Indeed.

Our own stupidity that could trip us up?

“Yes. The sort of threats at the moment come from people attempting to impose controls and that runs into all the usual problems that we’ve struggled with over the centuries of this civilisation.

“Where the boundaries are between harmful knowledge and harmful expression and the right to freedom of expression. Getting the balance right is always very difficult. It seems clearer in war time for example when there’s an acknowledged crisis, civil liberties are curtailed. Absent those circumstances we struggle to be as clear as we can. Another clear example is the universal prohibition on child pornography and the exploitation of children. Those don’t cause much debate – it’s in political expression and inciting racial hatred and these sorts of areas where the current debate is raging.

I think religious expression is very much a topical issue also.

Do you think we’ll be left with another toothless [copyright] law with one test case that will fall over at appeal and leave us back at square one?

“There’s a worse case than it being toothless and that’s it being very toothful – ISPs having to go around closing down all sorts of relatively routine and safe and stable websites because they happen to be hosting – even if it’s against their knowledge – some infringing material.

The new law removed any penalty for filing a false takedown notice, so the potential for misuse is considerable.

Should it be up to ISPs to police the behaviour of their customers? It’s almost like Transit NZ being blamed for a road crash.

“Occasionally Transit are responsible for that if they’ve designed the road badly, but in this case, I take the view that ISPs have a role that’s supposed to be no greater that that of other citizens in relation to infringements. I particularly disagree with the thrust of the current amendment, which turns the ISPs into enforcement agents for copyright owners. I’m a copyright lawyer and I’ve acted for copyright owners and I’ve written on the value of copyright to the community. It’s not an attack on copyright but we do need to get the balance right between copyright interests and the rights of ordinary citizens and what’s good for the internet industries.

For an intellectual property lawyer, he speaks a lot of sense :-)

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Grand Theft Auto IV

May 1st, 2008 at 8:20 am by David Farrar

I’ve never played Grand Theft Auto. But the more I read how Gordon Copeland and Family First want to ban it, the more I really really want to get a copy. What I love about the releases attacking a game, film or book is how incredibly useful and detailed they are for people:

Grand Theft Auto IV is scheduled for release this week. It follows on from previous Grand Theft Auto games which included constant graphic violence and sexual situations. Players could re-enact having sex with a prostitute, beating her bloody, taking her money and running her over with a car and shooting at police officers.

Rockstar Games which produces the game says the company is going even further in its pursuit of realism with this latest game in the series and players can buy cocaine, set enemies alight, shoot a policeman, drink drive, and visit strip clubs – all with improved physics and animation which makes the game feel more real, according to reviewers.

I mean can anyone rule out that they really are on commission for the promoters. I mean who doesn’t want to set their enemies alight :-)

Incidentally how many know that there is an autobiography on Gordon Copeland? Yes, seriously.

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The lawyers strike back

April 19th, 2008 at 1:20 pm by David Farrar

Hot Topic has done what looks to be a lawyer dictated apology and retraction to the Listener:

In fact Mr Hansford was not sacked by The Listener, and nor did The Listener seek to censor or suppress Mr Hansford’s views. Hot Topic and AUT Media Ltd accept that The Listener and its editor have a strong commitment to environmental issues, and that there was no basis for any of the criticisms expressed on this site of either The Listener or its editor, or of the editorial integrity and independence of The Listener. Hot Topic and AUT Media Ltd unreservedly withdraw those statements an apologise to The Listener and to Pamela Stirling for the distress caused by our publication.

While blogs, like any publication, are not immune from the responsibility of good faith and accuracy, it seems fairly heavy handed to sic the lawyers onto a blog rather than using the opportunities blogs provide to provide rebuttal and the other side of the story. I hope this isn’t the start of a trend.

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The material the SST pulled

April 18th, 2008 at 2:07 pm by David Farrar

A few people would have seen stories about pages being ripped out of the SST magazine Sunday, because of the editor’s letter from Emily Simpson. So what was it that is so bad?

All Emily did was quote a few lines from sex blogger – Always Aroused Girl. She even asterisked out the really naughty words, but did leave in scream, ecstasy and spit. Oh dear – the horrors.

The deleted editor’s letter is here.  Can’t say it seems too over the top for me, but I guess the SST were more worried about a commercial backlash.

Hat Tip: Editor’s Weblog

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SPCS argues for a lower rating

April 5th, 2008 at 10:57 am by David Farrar

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards is most well known for arguing that ratings on films are not tough enough. But today they are reported as arguing for children aged under 16 able to see a film showing a group of Christian missionaries speared to death by an Ecuadorian tribe.

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