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  ICT Censorship Comment

Internet Censorship is a Prelude to Thought Control

Posted: 2007-02-16
From: Mathaba
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Thought control is perhaps not all that far away and may indeed become a reality, being sneaked in via the prescedent of giving up freedom of thought, speech and information on the Internet between consenting adults.

When searching for Google Images for Gordon Kahl, results in Google France's image search show a missing result, with a helpful message about its removal: In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.

Such results in Google searches are becoming more frequent, as free speech on the Internet has come under increasing legal threat, including from libel law firms such as London's famous Peter Carter-Ruck solicitors who have pressured Internet providers (ISP's) in Britain to remove articles critical of their practice.

In the above example, the website which has been removed from Google France, is www.judicial-inc.biz although the photograph in question, of a US citizen alleged to have been murdered by the FBI in 1968 for refusing to pay taxes, is identical to the image remaining in the search results from the Washington Post.

Although censorship on the Internet has largely proven to be a futile effort, with Mathaba News even moving servers out of Carter-Ruck's jurisdiction in order to maintain the right to publish news and views concerning that law firm, and usually results in increased interest and copying of censored material onto blogs and sites around the world, it is increasingly being used by way of legal threats against ISPs and search engines.

Past attempts have more often than not backfired, notably the attempt by Britain's secret intelligence service MI6 to erase copies of top secret telexes leaked on the Internet which were shown on Mathaba concerning assasination attempts against Libya's leader Muammar Qadhafi and pay-back assasinations of his oponents on the streets of London.

The attempt at sensoring Mathaba by totally disconnecting our server in California in early 2000, as there was no legal basis for removing these documents that were shown in the public interest, resulted in the documents being translated into numerous languages including Russian and Chinese, and hosted on sites all over the world, thus propelling the documents to fame.

Internet censorship has been more effective by flooding the web with commercial spam, useless trivia, pornography and crass capitalism, and thus making it difficult to find information of value amongst all the noise. However, search engines such as Google, which allow those intending to find a certain piece of information, have come under increasing pressure by politicians and pressure groups who do not believe in free speech.

Enterprises such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), profitable search engines and other  for-profit enterprises are unlikely to resist attempts at censorship, which often takes the form of financial pressure or withdrawal of services by profitable partners or investors - it is thus up to the public to support anti-censorship organisations that can lobby politicians and the media on their behalf, if the public wants to maintain the rights of free speech and freedom of information on the Internet.

Sensible fair-minded libertarians maintain that the Internet is an extension of the mind, where thoughts and ideas can be exchanged between willing persons. Those issues that may be offensive to others, can be clearly labeled as such and access given to those who give prior acceptance to view such materials, or to turn to another site where they will not be offended. The Internet is something that can be controlled by the user who decides if they want to view certain material or not, unlike a newspaper or other print media where there is no way to ignore the content of a page once it is seen.

For this reason, the limits of freedom of the speech in print media, where they apply in legal or moral responsibility terms, cannot be justly applied to the Internet. To produce an analogy: the print media is similar to free speech, where the speaker has thought before he or she speaks. Therefore there are some natural, legal or moral limits placed upon the utterance of the speech, depending upon the audience, circumstances and location of the speaker. The Internet on the other hand, is similar to the mind: this is where thoughts take place, and are often intended only for the person thinking them, or to a circle of like minded thinkers, or where they may cause offense to others can be clearly labeled as such to avoid unintended offense.

As the future may indeed hold technical abilities to read people's thoughts, making the sci-fi of 'mind reading' a reality available at first to government agencies and later even to the public, this analogy is not as inaccurate as it may seem to some.

It is therefore all the more imperative that the 'freedom of thought' that may be expressed on blogs, web pages or via other electronic media within limits which are not possible in the print media, be jealously defended. Not to defend the right of free thought and expression on the web, would make any struggle to defend free thought period, all the more difficult in the future.

Otherwise, thought control is perhaps not all that far away and may indeed become a reality, being sneaked in via the prescedent of giving up freedom of thought, speech and information on the Internet between consenting adults.
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