Irrepressible Info

Adj. 1) Impossible to repress or control.

“Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information. The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression.”

I’m not usually much of a fan of Amnesty International but their initiative to highlight and combat Internet repression seems like a just cause. The whole situation goes beyond just the governments conducting the censorship but also includes the western companies which help build the tools and systems to actually enable this (Cisco, Google etc.). The Internet was designed as a platform without borders – this is something everyone should be worried about.

Why not get on board and be irrepressible?

David avatar

6 responses

  1. Ushi,

    You have hit the nail on the head regarding the potential conflicts here.

    Unfortunately the Internet does, in many ways, reflect the harsh reality of the real world and some of the sick people in it. However, we don't simply block these people out of our collective vision – when found we take appropriate action (most of the time). Here we deal with conduct which the majority finds morally/ethically unacceptable (with a few exceptions).

    The Internet should be a liberating and enabling platform which allows people anywhere in the world access to the worlds knowledge. I.e. Chinese/Indian people should be able to access Wikipedia, BBC News, RandomWire (hehe) etc. etc. Of course some governments don't like this and go to great lengths to block it, sometimes with the help of western companies. This is the issue and I think there is a non-verbal distinction in the way Amnesty presents this.

    At the end of the day there will always be objectionable content on the Internet but this is NO reason to accept censorship – truth sets people free.

  2. Sorry, but if you go down the path you're suggesting then it's just a 1984 style situation. Every day our freedoms are being slowly eroded and this cannot be allowed here.

    On the Internet you always have a choice regarding what you look at (unlike other mediums) so even if there are extreme groups out there at the end of the day it is not the job of the government to tell me what I can or cannot read/say.

    The government are servants of the people not the other way round.

  3. I don't want to seem to serious about this and I agree with what you say in your last post, however…

    I have never come across the sort of sites you are talking about and I'd consider myself a heavy Internet user. I don't deny they exist, just that it's not that easy to find them unless actively look for them – in which case you want that content. If you don't like something you come across on the net it's quite simple – close that page!

    As far as children are concerned it is the job of a responsible parent to keep an eye on what their children are looking up. Most ISPs provide everything you need to do this fairly effectively and search engines like Google have their “safe search” feature is turned on by default which filters out much of what you refer to.

    Going back to the original point though – the core of this is about access information and a platform to put across your own point of view (as we are doing now) without interference from external bodies. The very fact that few people in countries like China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria will not be able to read this is why we must fight against this sort of oppression regardless of the existence of undesirable elements.

  4. Ushi avatar

    I'm going to play devil's advocate here.

    ““Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information.

    The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression.”

    Freedom of expression – What is the definition?

    The Internet is a wide forum, and as of yet has very little policing. Chat rooms monitored – Don't you need to monitor chat rooms where you know young children frequent on to protect them?
    Deleting Blogs – What if those blogs were harmful as in demanded violence against a race / religion/ person be carried out?
    Blocking Websites – What if those websites were for far right extreme groups?

    I recently was involved in a debate on freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet. In the argument, someone gave me a link of a web forum that was targeting 'children lovers'. The website was sick. Should that website be allowed to exist? Should it not be monitored? Should those who write their blogs on that site be allowed to have the blog exist in the first place?

    I think what you're talking about is the situation with Google in China, and more recently the situation in India, where certain blogs were made inaccessible. However, how is there is distinction made in what Amenesty is saying?

    (This may all come across as garbled for which I am very sorry for. Tis Late, and I'm tired…)

  5. Ushi avatar

    Unforutnately you can't take appropriate action against sites that 'the majority finds morally / ethically unacceptable', due to freedom of speech. Most of these websites such as the one I mentioned earlier, and a few others that I have stumbled upon are hosted in the USA, where they are protected by the freedom of speech law or however it is referred. So those sites are here to stay.

    I agree that the Internet should be literated and a platform open to everyone. However, I should point that the only sites blocked in India that are causing the problems are some blogging websites. The claim is that they're trying to block websites which spew hatred, extreme right groups and other things like those,. So in a way the Indian government is trying to take appropriate action against sites that are morally / ethically wrong. Yet unfortunately, in the process other innocent blogs have been made unreadable which is where the issue arises. I personally think the bigger issue is where the line is drawn.

    I have seen many sites which should be by all accounts banned, or made unavailable online, because of the contents.

    Censorship is needed. But the question is how much censorship is needed, and who defines censorship.

  6. Ushi avatar

    I'm playing Devil's advocate here.

    There are forums out there that are frequented by extremists groups. There are forums out there frequented by 'children lovers'. There are forums out there that describe in so many details how to kill yourself, and also how to kill other people.

    To say that you can allow people to visit what sites they want to go to is fine. But is it sensible? Children will look on the site, read it, and say to themselves 'well it's online and no-one has taken it off, therefore its fine'. I remember a few years back there was a big law suit going on between France and Amazon. France bans Nazi memorabilia being sold. Yet this memorabilia is sold freely on Amazon, so French people were buying the memorabilia through the Internet. France argued that this should not be allowed. They had a good point. I can't remember the conclusion of the case though…

    I agree that freedom of speech is being eroded. Not just in countries like China, but also in the UK and the USA, and I hate that as you very well know. But at the end of the day each government creates policies and rules by which to govern the society by, such as murder and drugs being both illegal. The Internet may be a global source of information, but remember that there is a lot of information and knowledge that certain societies and culture deem unsuitable.

    For instance, India has a very strong stance against pornography. Both creating it, and watching it. Some of the sites it recently banned were those of pornography. Now this isn't a case of eroding people's freedom. This is a case of ensuring that Indian laws were followed.


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