Taking the Civil Liberties

A couple of years ago, Google were faced with a problem : If they wanted to operate in China, they had to censor their own search results to China's government's liking. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they decided that their motto "Do no evil" would be best upheld if they agreed to the censorship, but ensured that their users knew when they were being censored. So, if you are in China, and google for "Tiananmen square", you will be told that the search results have been censored. That was considered better than not taking part in China, and leaving its people with only censored search engines *without* that extra "the truth is being witheld" message.

We all know that China's internet is censored, but until recently, I hadn't realised the UK's is too.

Today, there are two excuses governments use when removing civil liberties from its people, the main one is "TERROR", the other is "THINK OF THE CHILDREN".

The case that showed me the UK's censorship was the "think of the children" variety - it was used to censor a page on Wikipedia. If you don't know what "think of the children" means - its refering to kiddy porn. However, the phrase "think of the children" is tongue in cheek, and is used when something is clearly *NOT* done to prevent abuse of children, but for some other reason (control/power/prevent dissent etc).

The page being censored was about an album by a German heavy metal band called Scorpions. It shows the album cover, featuring a naked girl. The album (complete with album cover), is freely available to buy, but people still though it a good idea to censor the wikipedia article. Hmmm. Also note, if the reason for censoring the page was to prevent people being infected by the "filth" image, then clearly they don't know about the Streisand effect. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect ) - when you try to ban something, more people find out about it. (How many of you are going to google "Scorpions" to find the ablum cover image ;-)

In this particular case, I don't care if the image is censored or not, but I do care about *how* it is censored.

If you censor something, you MUST inform people that they are being censored - just like google does in china. Alas, not here in the UK, this wikipedia page (and who knows what else) is being censored without informing us. That is unjustifiable.

Also, the technical way they censored the page was inexcusable too. They didn't censor the picture, they censored the web page (i.e. the text which discusses the album, and its cover). This text has no reason to be censored at all. (FYI, there is no technical reason to need to censor both, the image is a separate web address, and just the image's address could have been censored).

Thirdly, they censored it in such a way that messed with wikipedia's normal functioning for *all* of its pages. (I had a link that explained it, but can't find it now - let me know if you are interested).

"Think of the children", is increasingly being used, just as "terror" has been. Many "terror" laws have been passed recently, and most (if not all) have been inappropriately used in cases unrelated to terror. For example, a terror law was used when Iceland's banks collapsed. Similarly "think of the children" is being used as an excuse to mess with the internet in inappropriate ways.

While censoring a single (and fairly boring) wikipedia page isn't a big deal, its just a single slice of the salami. Your liberties aren't taken away in one big chunk, they are taken away slice by slice.

Something called "newsgroups", which existed years *before* the world wide web, are now being threatened. This would be a very thick slice - admittedly, newsgropus tend to be used by old-time geeks, so young wipper snappers who use the new fangled "world wide web" won't care about it.

PS. While I'm here mid rant, how would you like the government to keep tabs on every phone call, every e-mail, every text message, and every web page you visit (whether or not you are a terrorist suspect - and most definitely *WITHOUT* any judge/search warrnet involved)? http://www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/news/2223987/uk-government-plans-log-every While this does keep tabs on Joe Public, anybody who wants to remain annonymous, (such as a terrorist), they could use Tor, rendering the logs useless for its purported purpose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network)

PS2. For those of you who think terror laws are justified, ask yourself this : How many people per year die because of terror, and how many because of penuts (or any other everyday, boring, everyday thing). Now ask yourself how much we should spend on fighting peanuts, and which civil liberties should be removed to protect us from penuts. IMHO, the answers should be "very little", and "none" (for both penuts and terror). http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/january2007/050107peanutskill.htm

That's my rant over. Next time you are at a ballot box, think about who you want controlling your freedoms. Hint: blue and red both think the same way, but there are other colours (or should I say a third way?). Its a shame that we have a voting system that perpetuates the red/blue oligopoly. Perhaps we should vote for a party who believes that each vote should count. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation (which, unsurprisingly, is also supported by those not wearing red and blue).