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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

Academics Take On Government Net Censorship 274

Posted by michael
from the it's-always-a-basement-lab dept.
Anonymous Brave Guy writes "There's an interesting article from the BBC today about a group of academics at the University of Toronto who are working to investigate and break down government-imposed censorship of the Internet. Are they defending human rights, or simply trying to impose their own beliefs on people from other cultures? Incidentally, one of their people was responsible for the previous Slashdot discussion of 'five fundamental problems with open source'."
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Academics Take On Government Net Censorship

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#8897113)
    the more you try and control it the more behind your back methods will be created.
  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:17AM (#8897120)
    Are they defending human rights, or simply trying to impose their own beliefs on people from other cultures?

    Is there really a difference between the two? Fundamentally, the acknowledgement of "human rights" is a system of belief, born out of our culture. Certainly there have been plenty of cultures which have not accepted any of the principles which we want to "defend" today.

    On some level, the concept of "human rights" is a claim that our cultural beliefs are better, and more right, then those that do not agree with them.

    Since there is no absolute source of right and wrong in the universe, our own beliefs are the best we've got. And there are certain things that we believe so strongly, that we are willing to impose them on others. What gives us the right to do this? That we are stronger. Nothing else.

    We ought to see this for what it is, and stop feeling bad about it.
    • by Alphanos (596595) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:25AM (#8897155)
      Since there is no absolute source of right and wrong in the universe, our own beliefs are the best we've got.

      Interestingly, your statement disproves itself. There must be a standard of objective absolute truth, because if there was not, then it would be objectively, absolutely true that objective truth does not exist, which is a contradiction. Therefore there exists at least some truth that is objective (ie. true in all places, at all times, for all people). Whether or not human rights are one of the objective truths is a separate matter.

      • If something cannot exists, it must exists because it cannot exists?...

        I fail to follow your logic, care to elaborate?
        • I think he's talking about absolute statements. Such as, "It is impossible to prove anything" which cannot be proven true, because for it to be true, you must have proved something.

          Or, take this true or false question.
          T/F: This statement is false.
          • Reflexive Paradox (Score:4, Informative)

            by yintercept (517362) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @11:22AM (#8897483) Homepage Journal
            "It is impossible to prove anything" which cannot be proven true, because for it to be true, you must have proved something.

            It is pretty much established that the reflexive paradox will come up in any complex system. The paradox has created a great deal angst for top thinkers like Goedel [sp], Cantor, Russell, etc..

            Unfortunately, we keep building this paradox [descmath.com] into the base of our systems of thought. I personally think the one thing Aristotle and Socrates did right was to acknowledge that their definitions were never really complete, and to procede from there. The systems built with the paradox as a central feature seem a bit mushy to me.

            As I recall, Goedel's contribution was to show that the paradox will show up in any system sufficiently complex to include the whole numbers.

      • by Rhesus Piece (764852) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:49AM (#8897271)
        Ah. I think there is a difference in words here. He seems to be using "right" and "wrong" to mean "morally correct" and "morally incorrect". You seem to be interpreting them to mean "objectively correct" and "objectively incorrect". By your interpretation of the words, yes a contradiction. By his, however, all seems well by my logic checker dealie.
      • I was talking about moral right and wrong, not logical. I dont think anybody is arguing that net censorship is logically wrong (hard, maybe, but obviously theoretically possible).
      • by Gall (193345)
        ... at least some truth that is objective (ie. true in all places, at all times, for all people).

        Just as a matter of clarification `objectively true,' when talking about moral judgements, does not mean `true in all places, at all times, for all people.' In moral philosophy, this is what `absolute' truth means. `Objectively true,' on the other hand, simply means that there exist standards upon which everyone does or should reasonably agree for determining the truth of any statement in its domain.

      • Utter poppycock (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shostiru (708862)
        You are either assuming that "there is no member of set S such that T" is itself a member of set S, or that all truths are morals (if all morals were truths but not all truths were morals, then it would be possible to have objective truths but no objective morals). You have failed to establish either of these. A statement about moral right or wrong is not inherently a moral, any more than a statement about dogs is inherently a dog. And "the set of real numbers R is closed under addition" is true but not
    • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:32AM (#8897187) Journal
      Actually, there is a fairly universal concept of "right" and "wrong" with respect to human society. Human culture is not infinitely plastic. It is a product, invariably, of a standard human nature.

      All cultures have similar kinds of internal conflicts, and the most classic one is between the individual and the "state", or the larger group.

      And all states go through phases where they try to assert more control over the individual than is healthy. An extreme case would be North Korea. Such excessive control is so uneconomical that we eventually get a balance of power in which the state provides individuals with liberty in return for taxes and basic obedience.

      When we seek to "impose our standards" on other states, all we're doing is saying: "hey, it's pointless to kill your dissidents and hang your thieves, pointless to ban women from education and turn religion into a tool of mind control..." We say this because we've been through it, and know that it's bad stuff.
      • Actually, there is a fairly universal concept of "right" and "wrong" with respect to human society. Human culture is not infinitely plastic. It is a product, invariably, of a standard human nature.

        And that explains why we all agree on these things right? Well, at least all of us enlightened types who think this way agree on it. And that's all that counts.

        Right?

        We say this because we've been through it, and know that it's bad stuff.

        I.e., we know better than you. And we know better 'cause we are better. A

    • On some level, the concept of "human rights" is a claim that our cultural beliefs are better, and more right, then those that do not agree with them.

      What a wonderful justification for oppression: People want to be oppressed! Lets see you explain that to the family of one of the Chinese students who died in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

      Every sane person, regardless of their culture, wants the right to express their own opinions and to exercise control over their own lives. Yours is just a pathetic excuse

      • The denial of "human rights" by the parent of your item seems to come across as an excuse to say that oppressive governments that deny rights are quite acceptible: it is "culturally OK".
      • What a wonderful justification for oppression...
        ...And your post is a wonderful example of how slashdotters like to misrepresent the people they're arguing with. I'd bet ten to one that the parent poster believes in human rights.
      • I never claimed that such things could be justified because people wanted to be oppressed. Who said that it is right that people should get what they want, anyways?

        I did not in any way endorse complicity with such governments. Read my last sentence again. I do not presume to know what "every sane person wants", and I am naturally skeptical of such claims (religious fundamentalists will also tell you what every sane person believes), but I know what I believe, and I know that those beliefs are, at least to
        • We do impose our culture on others. And we should. It is better (in our opinion).
          Your assumption that political freedom is an inherent part of our culture is naively arrogant, I am sure there were many Germans in the 1920s that thought the same thing about their culture.

          On the contrary, western culture has not prevented our governments from actively supporting oppression in other countries in many cases.

      • by One Louder (595430) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @11:39AM (#8897611)
        Every sane person, regardless of their culture, wants the right to express their own opinions and to exercise control over their own lives.
        But you'd be amazed how many of those very same people also want to prevent others from expressing their opinions or exercise control over their own lives.
    • ...is the idea that if they would only hear the message, they would embrace it. They should have the right to hear our ideas, just as we have the right to hear theirs.

      That does not imply that they have to listen, that they have to embrace the concept of human rights any more than we have to embrace the wonders of "strong leadership".

      If a society can only exist under censorship - to keep them uninformed of the alternatives, is that right? I don't think so. That goes for countries and sects alike, seeking t
    • "Certainly there have been plenty of cultures which have not accepted any of the principles which we want to "defend" today."

      Just because a few despotic governments deny their people these rights does not mean the culture itself is what is doing the denying.

      "On some level, the concept of "human rights" is a claim that our cultural beliefs are better, and more right, then those that do not agree with them."

      One of the founding tennants of the UN, which everybody supposedly signed on to and which has bee
    • I am not sure why people are modding your post down. The post did a nice job of being an entry point into discussing the article without being flaimbait.

      What gives us the right to do this? That we are stronger.

      I think the article is touching on something slightly larger than American culture v. the world. They are touching on the fact that if you have a system where people have access to a global media, then you will end up losing a great deal of what you consider to be your own local culture. To prev

      • It is a little bit more of whether or not the "world culture" should dominate your local culture.

        Sorry, but I don't think the Saudis or Chinese are blocking the Net just because they're afraid of "Friends" or "Entertainment Weekly." And even if they were, I do not believe this would justify censorship. People should be free to make their own decisions what culture to adopt, not forced into it by the government.

        Accepting human rights pretty much takes the ability to completely define culture out of the
  • by wiresquire (457486) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:18AM (#8897128) Journal
    And in other news today, the Government announced that funding for the University of Toronto had been cut by 50%. A source that would not be identified believes that this is reliation for an effort by academics to reduce censorship of the internet.

    An official spokesman at the Education Department could not be reached for comment.
  • by Tango42 (662363) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#8897130)
    "Are they defending human rights, or simply trying to impose their own beliefs on people from other cultures?" Censorship is imposing your values on others, stopping censorship is not. Stopping people hiding information does not force them to have your values.
    • Well, technically, you're imposing your value on them that censorship is a bad thing and should not be practiced.
    • Stopping people hiding information does not force them to have your values.

      Well, it does if their values include hiding information from other people.
  • by tuxette (731067) * <tuxette AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:20AM (#8897134) Homepage Journal
    "Saudi Arabia says explicitly that they censor the internet to preserve their Islamic culture and heritage, which is a pretty valid claim to make," explained the lab's Graeme Bunton.

    I disagree. If what Saudi citizens find out about other places via the Internet causes them to reject their Islamic culture and heritage, then perhaps it's a culture and heritage not worth preserving in the first place.

    There are plenty of countries that are online, for the most part uncensored, and are able to maintain their culture. Next lame attempt at an argument, please?

  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:20AM (#8897136)
    University of Toronto? Interesting, considering the "Canadian Content"-based censorship laws in Canada, where foreign stations are banned (censored) due to lack of "Canadian Content".
    • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#8897189)
      Are you kidding me? I live in Canada and all I see is American content -- radio stations are full of American music, television is all American shows, and the products we buy are all American. Where's the censorship? It's obviously not working.
      • Are you kidding me? I live in Canada and all I see is American content -- radio stations are full of American music, television is all American shows, and the products we buy are all American. Where's the censorship? It's obviously not working.

        Despite living in Canada, you're apparently not aware that the law requires that 35% of popular music selections broadcast by commercial AM and FM radio stations each broadcast week must be Canadian selections" [crtc.gc.ca]. American TV cable stations are permitted, but satel

        • you're apparently not aware that the law requires ...

          I'm aware of these guidelines, I'm just saying that they don't really have significant impact on what I end up seeing.

          But the original issue was one of Canadian TV censorship -- which to me is still pretty funny. For example, our uber-popular comedy Trailer Park Boys [trailerparkboys.com] is coming to the US, except they're going to have to censor the show for American viewers [www.cbc.ca]. (There's lots of drug use and swearing on the show). There's obviously more censorship in the

      • by THotze (5028) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:50AM (#8897279) Homepage
        Actually, there _is_ a minimum Canadian content. You might not notice it because the line between Canadian and American content is sometimes intentionally blurred. I can't speak with great authory on the TV side, because I have no experience, but I do know something of the Canadian Content laws for radio, as I've helped a friend organize songs for a show on a local university radio station here (Carleton University's CKCU). 30% of all music played, by song, on a radio station must be Canadian - meaning, Canadian artist. I _believe_ that Canadian TV laws require principle Canadian actors, or writers, or producers, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

        The idea is that because the Canadian music industry is smaller, and its harder for Canadian artists to tour, etc. and reach the same fame as foreign (read: US) ones, they need to be protected, because if Canadians artists aren't supported in Canada, they're less likely to be supported anywhere.

        The result, however, is that lots of Canadian "filler" artists end up popping up - they're pop music that sounds like all other pop music, but it's CANADIAN filler. Other times, artists that make it in the US are WAAAY overplayed here (think, Avirl Lavigne, ALL THE TIME.) And, on occaison, there is a good Canadian artist/group that for some reason, can't seem to get a international record deal but does well in Canada.

        Personally, I think that if Canada really wants to support its artists, they should do it willingly - that is, there'll be a demand for Canadian music. Perhaps TV/radio stations should make a voluntary industry pact, where stations can agree to Canadian content terms, and if they do, they can display a logo or something on their ads. If Canadians really care, they'll support the stations that have the logo; if not, then Canadian arists will have to prove themselves on the same terms as ones everywhere else, even if there is a bit of discrimination.

        Tim
    • University of Toronto [utoronto.ca] != Canadian Government [parl.gc.ca]

      The University itself may have its own problems with censorship [littlegreenfootballs.com], but at least get the organization right.
    • Foreign stations are banned here? Well that finally explains the mile-high Gauss screen along the border from Pacific to Atlantic. And here I thought it had something to do with bird migration.
    • IIRC, it's more than just a "Canadian content" thing. In Canada there are laws restricting the manner in which corporations can advertise to children. (i.e. no using some super-duper character to sell cereal). Not such a bad idea considering children are so easily influenced.

      Being on the largest undefended border makes controlling all those dang signals (tv/radio) a little difficult.
    • An explanation:

      "Banned" is not the correct word.

      Anyone broadcasting radio in Canada must provide 30% Canadian content (this is define as having at least one producer, musician, artist, etc.. it only has to be Canadian by a bit of a stretch). The rules are similar for television.

      The government does not stop you from receiving signals broadcast over-the-air (VHF/UHF/AM/FM) from the States. Cable companies are allowed to rebroadcast these too. However they do stop you from receiving foreign satellite b

  • by rqqrtnb (753156) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:21AM (#8897138)
    When I worked at GTE the company got the contract to lay the fiber optic cable around the border of China and put in the network centers that setup a ring around China. Total control of all the traffic in and out of the country, or so they hoped. A career limiting move came when I wrote Chuck Lee, CEO of GTE, and said we were helping the same Communist government that gave us Tianamen Square and would continue to repress the Chinese people using this technology. But Bean Counters only care about profit and damn the people that get get screwed over in the process.

    As a side note, I knew a lad working near me from China who had been at Tianamen Square the day before and then the day after the massacre happened. When he saw what the army had done to their own people he went home, packed and left for Hong Kong and then to the US.

    Censorship is only one way the Communists will use to stay in power and shooting another bunch of college kids can happen again.
    • said we were helping the same Communist government that gave us Tianamen Square and would continue to repress the Chinese people using this technology
      Some people argue we shouldn't trade with china, because it assists them in government repression. Others say we should trade with them, because they will then see how good western capitalist culture is and have to change. See also: Cuba, N. Korea.
  • ... are real of course.

    What is not real is the suggestion that human liberty and freedom is culturally dependent. That is a lie used by repressive governments to justify policies that really only serve their own interests.

    There have been many attempts in Western nations to repress individual rights because of the "common interest", and these rightly strike us as barbaric. No reason to apply different standards to other countries just because they are different.

    However... the day I see an electorate in a "culturally different" country freely and democratically vote for a regime that restricts human rights, I'll change my mind.
    • You won't find one because Islam is a horribly repressive religion. You want to talk women's rights in Islam? Talk about the **absence** of them. Being forced to dress head to toe in a rag because a man might get horny seeing their face is common in many countries. Honor killings of women who have been raped. Polygamy. Whatever freedom an Islamic society extends to men it doesn't to women. Not even basic rights like being able to choose what they want to wear in many countries.

      You couldn't be more wrong if
    • by BCoates (512464) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:44AM (#8897246)
      However... the day I see an electorate in a "culturally different" country freely and democratically vote for a regime that restricts human rights, I'll change my mind.
      People do that all the time. Restricting the other guy's rights is one of the more popular political themes of the world--Both in the West and in the "Culturally Different" places. Democracy is useful, but it's not a magic wand that makes authoritarianism disappear.
      • Restricting the other guy's rights is one of the more popular political themes of the world--Both in the West and in the "Culturally Different" places. Democracy is useful, but it's not a magic wand that makes authoritarianism disappear.

        Actually democracy can be highly effective at dealing with authoritarian governments before they become a danger to both their own citizens and the rest of the planet. The problem is that too many people equate democracy with elections. Even elections where there is either
    • What is not real is the suggestion that human liberty and freedom is culturally dependent. That is a lie used by repressive governments to justify policies that really only serve their own interests.

      Left to their own devices most governments (and government menbers, especially where it is possible to create the job of "professional politican") will tend to do this. Many countries appear to lack effective means to prevent a repressive government comming in through the "back door".

      There have been many att
    • Unfortunately, you are wrong. There is a reason that the army in Turkey is charged with protecting democratic institutions by force if necessary. Left to their own devices and able to choose from all the candidates they want, many of the people in the country would vote in anti-democratic Islamic radical leaders. I recall on several occasions, the army has had to step in to the elections process to prevent this from happening.

      What you mean to say is that well-educated people the world over realize tha

  • by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:25AM (#8897159) Homepage
    "Citizens can't just accept technology at face value."

    *looks at Windows-loaded PCs on Best Buy shelf*

    Ohhhhh yes they can.

  • Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JayBlalock (635935) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#8897188)
    "Saudi Arabia says explicitly that they censor the internet to preserve their Islamic culture and heritage, which is a pretty valid claim to make," explained the lab's Graeme Bunton.

    No it's not. If Islam was a dying thing, like say the aboriginal cultures in Australia, then perhaps there would be an argument there. But religions are always passing converts back and forth. At the moment, IIRC, Islam has some of the highest conversion rates TO it. Which means "Islamic culture" is really in very little danger of going away, and there's no need to "preserve" it.

    Plus, cultures are evolving things. American, Chinese, Islamic, whoever. Compare the governments in the Middle East around 1500 to what we have today. You could easily make the arguement that getting rid of the Princes and opening the country up is REALLY preserving Islamic Culture. (preserving it from the corrupt clerics, of course) It's all just a front for cynical politicians to control their populations in the name of God. As far as I'm concerned, the Chinese have more moral justification, since they're just operating under the "It's my party..." defense.

    (disclaimer: respects all religions, disrespects all hypocrits)

    • Re:Misguided (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thanatopsis (29786)
      Compare the governments in the Middle East around 1500 to what is in the Middle East today. Why they are EXACTLY the same! Corrupt kings running countries like their personal fiefdoms.
    • Re:Misguided (Score:2, Insightful)

      by THotze (5028)
      I'm always kind of irked by the "protecting culture and heritage" argument. You could argue that hertiage is heritage, good, bad or ugly, and nothing in the future can change that, but the more important word is "culture."

      I don't think that most people really think of what any given culture is and has been historically. Culture has ALWAYS spread, mingled, and intermixed, more or less to the extent that any given era's technology allows it to. How else is the Spanish word for money - "dinero", so similar
    • Re:Misguided (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxpublic (450413)
      If Islam was a dying thing, like say the aboriginal cultures in Australia, then perhaps there would be an argument there.

      No, it would not be a valid argument. If exposure to ideas and information outside the culture results in the collapse of that culture, then it wasn't worth supporting in the first place. That culture deserves to die and be replaced with something more robust.

      Max
      • That is a flawed argument. Examine the various implications of the word "deserves."

        Also consider that, by that same basic logic, we all deserve to die of viruses if they are more capable than our immune systems. Would you argue that medicine is just immorally saving the lives of people who are getting in the way of evolution?

        Any system, no matter how robust, can be susceptible to outside factors. That does not mean these outside factors "deserve" survival more; they are simply the newest thing and m

  • from (Score:5, Informative)

    by themusicgod1 (241799) <themusicgod1@zwo ... com minus author> on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:36AM (#8897205) Homepage Journal
    What I understand, freedom of expression is guaranteed in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights [un.org]
    "Article 19
    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 regardless of fronteirs."
    [emphasis added]. So if there is any nation that is not a part of the United Nations, sure, imposing these restrictions on the freedom of the government of these nations would be imposing their own beliefs on these other cultures. This does not sound like what these people are doing, however. There is no excuse whatsoever for government censorship by any government who is a member of the United Nations(this means you, China [computeruser.com], United States of America [thememoryhole.org], and Canada [sasktel.com]).

    Sure, one may argue that the United Nations may be unnecessary, outdated, completely irrelevent [zmag.org] or otherwise, but as it stands today, we are obligated to fufil our part of the bargain, despite how sometimes we may disagree with it, or alternatively, decline membership to the United Nations and become a Rogue State, with none of the protections to you that The Declaration provides.

    These guys sound down-right nuts, though. If a dictator is willing to kill thousands of his own people, what makes you think they won't assasinate you, if you actively mess with them? Kudos to their efforts.
  • by Toxygen (738180) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:38AM (#8897218) Journal
    Seriously, is it any surprise to anyone here that the government is involved in social engineering programs? They've always used any form necessary/available to bend our thinking into what they want their population to be, and as soon as the next far-reaching information/media service becomes available you can bet they'll be using that too.

    Resistance is futile.
  • ...are you talking about? http://www.freenetproject.org
  • by wytcld (179112) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @10:58AM (#8897327) Homepage
    Let's say we have this little thing called "science" that enables us to approach real truth - not just culturally-relative beliefs about something we call "true." Let's say with science we begin to have an informed vision about how people can live better than the beliefs of their local culture would allow. For instance, we can teach them how to dig latrines instead of shitting upstream of their water supply. We can also teach them how their local leaders are lying to them about what's true, in the scientific sense, when they persist in foisting culturally-relative beliefs about, say, the supposed inherent inferiority of women (perhaps they are the variety of Muslims who justify this with a claim that women "don't have souls").

    If you are a post-modern simpleton, who believes that everything is constituted by belief, that one belief is as well-founded as another (because none are founded at all except in social practice), and that suffering from ignorance should be the accepted plight of children born into particularly ignorant and anti-scientific cultures ... well, please get out of the way while those of us who know the power of science to actually discover and share real, useful, even salvational facts about the world give those children the chance to benefit from these truths, and perhaps - if those facts are about ways to establish human liberty and not just about how to build munitions - even encourage them to make their cultures less dangerous to our own.

    Because the only other alternative is to wipe out the ignorant, religious savages as they get better at coming after us to enforce their own anti-scientific, anti-human (as we know it) belief sets. And as much satisfaction as some of us might take in battles fairly won against truly evil (because ignorant) populations, surely the satisfaction is sweeter if we can transform them to something approaching civilization (even as we are only approaching civilization, and have not reached it yet - witness the Bush anti-science agenda).
    • To summarize: Post-modernists are idiots. They are wrong, but I am right. Because I am right, post-modernists should get out of the way and let me do what I want. Because I am right. Science is the best. P.S. Women are "scientifically" inferior to men in many ways. Why do you suppose that we have to have separate sports leagues to allow women to compete? This isn't about science, it's about you foisting your views about egalitarianism between the genders off on some other culture.
  • They're imposing their beliefs in human rights on "other" cultures. More power to them!
  • "Saudi Arabia says explicitly that they censor the internet to preserve their Islamic culture and heritage, which is a pretty valid claim to make,"

    Im not an expert but i know that allot of laws that are said to be part of a religion are infact not and leaders have twisted and bent ideals and laws under the guise of religion and that goes for all countries everywhere including the USA. Saudi Arabian law (apparently) also says its ok to beat your wife to within an inch of her life because thats part of isla
    • As for my country (UK) i think i speak for everyone when i say "dont even fucking think about censoring the net! - you can stop pedophiles but thats as far as it goes, period"
      once its peadophiles it has begun and it will only get worse - not defending them at all but go after people who access the stuff not block access to it (seems like the best policy) censoring even one site is a first step on a slippery slope
  • to quote anime... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) <arch_angel16@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday April 18, 2004 @11:08AM (#8897375) Homepage
    "Human beings are composed of two divergent forces. Homeostasis and Transistatis. Homeostasis is a force to maintain the current situation, and transistasis is the force of change. We're consantly fighting an internal battle with change." (ok, not an exact quote, but I get the idea don't I?)

    To quote some other famous philosopher, "the only constant in the universe is change". Cultures, religions trying to resist change are fighting a losing battle. Now, it's granted that certain things are more likely to change than others, but that's up to the people who believe in them. Humans, like every other organism on this earth, are constantly evolving, adapting, changing to match their environment.

    With this in mind, it's counter-intuitive to try to be static, resist change. Especially when the only method you have to resist change is to deny it, ignore it, and even prohibit it. Censuring the internet is simple evidence of this: Governments in countries like Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, etc, wish to "preserve" their existence by denying the existence of other ideas. From the beginning they should have known it was a losing battle.

    The trend towards enlightenment through education seems to be unstoppable.Sure you have occasional hiccups (like the dark ages) but in the end, "change is the only constant" and those who oppose change, or the possibility of change that knowledge brings, are fighting a losing battle, and they know it.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quixote (154172) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @11:16AM (#8897442) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand why the Saudi (and other Islamic) governments are so worried about this "interweb" harming their culture.

    1. Islam is the fastest growing religion on this planet [beconvinced.com], so why worry about the Internet?
    2. Muslims live and thrive in countries with open access to the Internet (like US, Canada, India); if they are just fine with it, what's wrong with Saudi citizens having open access to the Internet?

    This censorship by the Saudis wouldn't have anything to do with trying to preserve the royal family's hold on power now, would it? Naaahh.. I didn't think so.. ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2004 @11:42AM (#8897635)
    I live in Dubai, which is the financial capital of the UAE. As net censorship goes, it isn't as bad here as it is in Saudi Arabia or Iran. The censorship is generally applied to "home" based Internet access, while access is open for office based Internet. Initialy, internet access was unproxied, but some neighboring countries complained about having access to "Questionable" material (anyone who has ever studied Middle Eastern politics understands how poisonous it can be), so BAM came the proxy and all the headaches that goes with it. My problem with censorship however is that it encourages the very behaviour it was intended to stop. Whenever I try to visit a site that just happens to blocked, I get so irritated that I can't help but try to defeat the proxy. Worse, there are plenty of legitimate sites that are blocked because of poor filtering parameters. There are plenty of ways around the proxy though, so its more designed to keep children out and clueless adults (The same clueless adults who are afraid of the BIG BAD net). Censorship has nothing to do with "preserving" religious values, it has everything to do with power and maintaining control by witless clerics and hypocrites. Islam flourished when muslims hungered for knowledge, it only started to decline when clerics decided that muslims already knew enough and didn't need to know more. In the UAE, we have this proxy just to shut the neighbors up, I am looking forward to the day when it finally goes down.

  • by leereyno (32197) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @02:12PM (#8898624) Homepage Journal
    Control what people know about and you control what they believe. This is the fundamental purpose of censorship, to control what people think. Information control is people control. When you can control what people know and believe controlling what they DO is trivial. This is why there were not constant wide-spread violent revolts in places like the USSR where most of the population believed the leftist lies they were spoon-fed every day. The few who didn't were easy to detect and for them the gulag awaited.

    Here in the west, particularly in America, there is a concept known as freedom of speech. We hold the right to speak one's mind as a fundamental freedom that exists independently of whether the government protects or even acknowledges it. What most people don't realize is the fact that it implies and is dependent upon an even more basic right, and that is the freedom to make up one's mind. The freedom to think for oneself. The freedom to choose what one believes is the foundation upon which all liberty rests. After all, what use is the ability to express your thoughts and ideas when those are being determined by someone else?

    Censorship is an attack upon freedom itself. The idea that by fighting it you are somehow imposing your views upon someone else is one of the most despicable lies I've ever heard, and one of the most perfect examples of the pot calling the kettle black.

    It is censorship itself that seeks to impose beliefs upon people. Those who fight it work to ensure the freedom of others to make up their own minds and decide for themselves what they are going to believe.

    Any culture that depends upon protection from outside influences and ideas in order to survive is a culture that is doomed to perish, and should. The reason is because the degree to which a culture must be so protected is the degree to which it is based upon lies.

    A culture is a set of defining values, beliefs, and ideals held in common by a group of people. A culture is therefore valuable and beneficial to the degree to which it reflects objective truth and contributes to the well-being of those who are a part of it. Those who believe that cultures are somehow inherently precious or valuable are missing the point. The very purpose of human culture is to ensure the survival of the individuals who belong to it. Culture exists to bring individuals together and unify them as a people for the added benefit of all who are a part of it. If a culture does not do this, or does not do this as well as another culture that is competing with, then it should and will either adapt or perish. There is nothing tragic about this. The exposure to and subsequent adoption of new ideas that are more closely aligned with reality, and therefore improve the lives of everyone so exposed, is nothing to cry about.

    I fully support this group's efforts to fight censorship. I don't think they go far enough however. Graeme Bunton seems to think that Saudi Arabia censoring the internet in order to preserve its islamic culture is a valid endeavor. I don't. Ideas should stand or fall based upon their own merit. Cultures, being made up of ideas and beliefs, should be held accountable to the same standard. As I said before, if a culture has to be protected from outside influences in order to survive, then it is a culture that is to that degree based upon lies. As someone who seeks to know and live with the truth, I see no reason to protect lies no matter who it is that believes them or why.

    Lee
  • by geekee (591277) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @03:29PM (#8899104)
    "Are they defending human rights, or simply trying to impose their own beliefs on people from other cultures?"

    I think it is a mistake to assume that you cannot defend basic human rights simply because the leaders of other cultures refuse to grant these rights to their citizens. The concept that morality is relative, and that there is no objective standard for morality, is flawed. It assumes the majority of people in a particular area, based on history, have the right to impose their collective will on the individual. Instead, the world need to recognise the objective morality of preserving basic human rights, even if the majority in that region (although usually it's a ruling minority) object. Freedom of speech is a basic human right, and no govt. has the right to to take it away, especially if it is critical of the govt. in question.

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Sunday April 18, 2004 @05:02PM (#8899575) Homepage
    They're worried about imposing their beliefs on another culture?

    The point of their exercise is that members of a given culture (their governments) have imposed their beliefs on the people of that culture. It is up to the PEOPLE to decide what the "culture" is - NOT the government.

    In any event, there is NO culture worth "preserving" if it cannot "preserve" itself, by definition. (And the Iraqis are proving and preserving daily by shooting US troops.)

    These people need to get straight on this or their efforts will be half-hearted and useless.

  • by samantha (68231) * on Sunday April 18, 2004 @09:10PM (#8900812) Homepage
    Those who believe that rights are arbitrary are usually those who believe that human beings have no particular nature but are in all important ways products of their culture. Generally these folks also believe that rights are an arbitary gift of a culture/society. There is no understanding of rights growing out the nature of human beings and what that nature requires to function well and happily. So to these folks the right to speak and communicate ones ideas and opinions is a mere cultural artifact, and inexplicable gift of society, that one cannot demand if one was so unfortunate as to be born in a society without such. At leeast one cannot demand it as a "right".

    Similarly, no one can fight against the absence of rights they consider the norm because rights have no basis and no universality among human beings. So these folks consider seeking to guarantee the rights of others in other culture as "cultural imperialism". To be consistent, if rights are the gifts of society, then the society may take away what it gives.

    I can only hope that if we lose some of our rights in the US that some "cultural imperialists" rise to our aid! Rights are derived from the nature of human beings. They are not free arbitrary gifts of the state to be granted or withheld by its whim. Persons who do not have certain inalienable rights are living under some greater or lesser degree of tyranny against their own nature as human beings. Any who wish to help them gain and keep their rights should be applauded rather than being sneered at as "imposing their culture".

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin

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