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Some Countries Want To Ban 'Information Weapons' 321

Posted by kdawson
from the treaty-to-suppress dept.
DrgnDancer sends in an NPR piece on recent efforts to control so-called "information weapons" on the Internet. What's interesting is that the term "information weapon," as defined by many of the countries trying to limit them, doesn't mean what you would think. It's closer to the old Soviet term "ideological aggression." "At a UN disarmament conference in 2008, Sergei Korotkov of the Russian Defense Ministry argued that anytime a government promotes ideas on the Internet with the goal of subverting another country's government — even in the name of democratic reform — it should qualify as 'aggression.' And that, in turn, would make it illegal under the UN Charter. 'Practically any information operation conducted by a state or a number of states against another state would be qualified as an interference into internal affairs,' Korotkov said through an interpreter. 'So any good cause, like [the] promotion of democracy, cannot be used as a justification for such actions.' The Russians, and a lot of other countries such as Iran and China, apparently consider the free exchange of information to be an information technology threat. One that must be managed by treaty."
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Some Countries Want To Ban 'Information Weapons'

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:24PM (#33676758)
    My mom and other relatives are always giving me shit on Facebook about getting a job, and pointing out how my cousin is doing so much better than me. So while we're making it illegal to criticize governments, can we also make it illegal to criticize individuals? I really feel like a lot of people are being ideologically aggressive towards me, and I would appreciate it if the UN would step in and put a stop to it. Thanks in advance for any protection you can afford me as a sovereign individual.
    • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#33677054)
      Sorry, but Moms and "other relatives" have an inalienable right to criticize. Moms in particular.
    • by scosco62 (864264) * on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:53PM (#33677150) Journal
      Mom says stop reading slashdot and fill out those damn applications now.
    • by istartedi (132515)

      can we also make it illegal to criticize individuals?

      No. Only corporations and governments have rights. However, if you file papers of incorporation and have sufficient capital and/or connections, we might be willing to have a talk with you.

      Meet me under the Whitehurst freeway near the corner of Wisconsin and K. Be wearing a dark suit with a red handkercheif. Bring $10,000 in cash. We'll start from there.

      • Be wearing a dark suit with a red handkerchief [wikipedia.org]

        Left or right pocket?

        • by istartedi (132515)

          LOL, I'd heard of that but totally forgot about it. Isn't the gay thing always with jeans pockets though? When I said "suit", I was thinking jacket pocket. I just pulled up some images and it looks like all suits have only one front pocket.

    • You could just (1) move to another state so relatives rarely visit, (2) block your mom/friends from posting on your facebook (or set it up so they're invisible), (3) answer the phone when mom calls but then say, "Oh I can't talk long. I have an interview today." (i.e. lie)

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Woodie Guthrie's [wikipedia.org] guitar read "This Machine Kills Fascists". And indeed, every musical instrument, poet's pen, comedian's voice, do also.

      (Photo of Guthrie and his facist-killing machine) [wikimedia.org]

      "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

      This painting [wikipedia.org] was c

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by guyminuslife (1349809)
        Holy crap! I never knew that the Federalist Papers---written between 1787 and 1788---actually went and time-traveled back to 1775 to start the Revolution! You know, in this country, we revere the Founding Fathers as saints, but I didn't realize that they could actually perform miracles!
  • NPR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jschmitz (607083)
    Yeah this story was on NPR this morning - Some countries believe Twitter is an ideological weapon am sure that is just what Biz Stone had in mind........ fricken wackjobs
  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:27PM (#33676808)

    Countries that do not like freedom of expression will do a lot to prevent it, including going into conflicts or trying to push treaties and international agreements that conflate freedom of expression and terrorism.

    They have been doing this since people had ideas to argue over. Look it up.

    • The thing is both sets of countries are in a kind of bind.

      Russians and Chinese don't want their citizens to know about foreign economic or political systems.

      But the US doesn't want stuff like WikiLeaks getting out. The Administration's statements on WikiLeaks pretty much confirmed that they considered it a kind of "infowar".

  • So saying "The Russian government is wrong on this issue" could be considered an attack. Maybe that is taking it to the extreme, but what if it's "The Russian government is wrong and the Russian people shouldn't stand for it". And then there is the slightly more blunt "...and the Russian people should rise up against it". So at what point does that become aggression? I ask in all honesty, I feel like this could have a major chilling effect on negotiations between nations where legitimate arguments could

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#33677060) Homepage

      So saying "The Russian government is wrong on this issue" could be considered an attack. Maybe that is taking it to the extreme, but what if it's "The Russian government is wrong and the Russian people shouldn't stand for it". And then there is the slightly more blunt "...and the Russian people should rise up against it". So at what point does that become aggression? I ask in all honesty, I feel like this could have a major chilling effect on negotiations between nations where legitimate arguments could be construed as aggression.

      Yes, and the UN is also contemplating a ban on Defamation of Religion [ifex.org].

      Sadly ever ass-hat oppressive regime who doesn't like to be criticized, and every stupid idiot who believes in the tooth fairy wants to remove my right to criticize them or point out that they're idiots. People who embrace living in the stone age want to make it illegal for me to say that they're stupid for doing so.

      So, allow me to preemptively say ... your country sucks if it takes away people's freedoms, your religion sucks if it confers an obligation on those of us who don't believe, your government sucks ... well, your government probably sucks no matter where you are. I retain my right to give offense, and if you don't like it, too damned bad.

      Any religion or government which can't stand some criticism should be banned.

      I'm all for the UN, but increasingly the backwards and the stupid are pushing an agenda that wants to wipe out the last thousand years of progress in human endeavors.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        I'm for the UN Security Council, and various commissions and agencies, but I'm not in favor of the General Assembly doing crap like this.

        Like when a UN forum on Racism keeps calling Zionism racist but won't label movements like Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah or Arab Nationalism as racist. Nor will they call out and attack Saharan and Sub-Saharan slavery.

      • by El Torico (732160)

        You may want to take protective measures (like arming yourself). You just pissed off a lot of people (if they read slashdot that is).

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          You may want to take protective measures (like arming yourself). You just pissed off a lot of people (if they read slashdot that is).

          Only if they explicitly believe in the tooth fairy or embrace living in the stone age. I specifically didn't highlight any one group -- so, they would have to believe those things to be true of themselves before they could take offense.

          And, if they do, good. If you have the critical reasoning skills to apply what I said to you, and take offense, then you're twice the idiot.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        >Yes, and the UN is also contemplating a ban on Defamation of Religion.

        Will this also stop the EMACS-bashing?

      • Any religion or government which can't stand some criticism should be banned./quote.

        No, they should simply be firmly told that if they do not like it, its their problem. That's one reason governments need to be reigned in by well designed constitutions.

    • People can already construe whatever they want as aggression, North Korea does it all the time, so what difference would it really make? The only thing that really matters is if at the end of the day your willing to start shooting and I don't think some treaty about talking is going to factor very strongly into that. Plus theres no way in hell countries like the US are gonna sign onto it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by leonardluen (211265)

        Plus theres no way in hell countries like the US are gonna sign onto it.

        until they add a trailer to the treaty involving copyright

    • Totalitarian governments could give a shit if outsiders criticize them. What they'd like to prevent (or at least make very difficult) is their own citizens doing so.
      • by jandrese (485)
        That's the problem though, their own citizens hear outsiders badmouthing their government on the internet and suddenly those state run media guys just don't seem quite as trustworthy anymore. Maybe all of those minority ethnic guys didn't just commit mass suicide after all... Maybe it's possible to have a government with some form of accountability to the people... Why are we letting these jerks rob us blind and not give anything back anyway?!?
  • New World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:29PM (#33676822)
    If you don't want to hear of all the wonderful ideas the rest of the world has, stop using the communications medium they use to spread them. It is not the problem of modern nations to ensure your citizens are not exposed to ideas that you don't like. Be warned that some of them may object rather strongly when their own government rips it away from them.
    • If you don't want to hear of all the wonderful ideas the rest of the world has

      Wrong. Compare this quote from the beginning of the summary:

      anytime a government promotes ideas on the Internet with the goal of subverting another country's government

      with this one at the end:

      The Russians, and a lot of other countries such as Iran and China, apparently consider the free exchange of information to be an information technology threat

      Two things immediately wrong with this: First, Korotkov, according to the former quote, is opposing the subversion of another government, not the free exchange of information. He's not talking about blogs and Linux isos, he's talking about propaganda. Second, if he posits that the internet should not be a permitted avenue for propaganda, how is this suddenly a threat to information technology? Pure hyperbole.

      So demanding of

      • by Nerdfest (867930)
        On the internet, an idea is an idea, whether it comes from an individual or a government. You can't tell the difference, and one has no more or less weight than the other. The summary may be trolling a bit but not completely.
      • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:17PM (#33677446) Homepage Journal

        Second, if he posits that the internet should not be a permitted avenue for propaganda, how is this suddenly a threat to information technology?

        There are three different ways you can use propaganda to destabilize an opponent:

        • Truth: "In America, the elected leader of the country is limited to two four-year terms." This is an unequivocally untrue statement.
        • Fiction: "Under Putin, the life expectancy in Russia declined from an average of 70 years to 54 years." This is an unequivocally untrue statement.
        • A Mixture of Both: "Russian society is stagnant because of Putin's rule." Portions of this statement may be true, portions may be false.

        When one country is trying to destabilize or take down another country's government, the most effective approach is to use a blend of truth, lies, and mixed statements. The government attempting to resist outside propaganda will declare that all incoming propaganda are sheer lies, but the danger there is that the public will realize that at least some of the propaganda is true, which will make them suspicious about government statements about the false information.

        But consider recent comments from Iran about America's use of the death penalty. The statement that we are putting a woman to death are completely true, even though the Iranian government is making the statement in order to cast America in a poor light. It would be easy under a system of rules designed to prohibit outside subversion, to classify such a statement as subversive propaganda.

        Thus facts, lies, and mixtures of facts and lies can all be considered subversive propaganda. Is there any other form of discourse left after these three are removed?

  • I'm forced to wonder how much the likes of Jesus, Muhammad, and Gandhi keep these sorts of folks awake at night. Someone wraps up an easily expressed idea about how the world should be in a world that needs changing and all of the sudden you have an immortal on your hands - killing them won't stop the idea.

    • Actually, someone did come up with such an idea. See, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
      Sadly, however

  • Non-russian citizens should not be allowed to make criticism of the russian government which then has no way to send them to goulags for it!
  • 1984 newspeak (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:36PM (#33676922)

    If that can be illegal under international law, we will slid quickly to ideological and religious islands with physical and idea walls around. It is censorship for sure. Not unlike the laws against circumventing content protection schemes. Thats illegal.. When I saw we had done that then I knew we were going to see more tightening and control of information, for profit and in this case for political control (well that is a different kind of profit that controls profit). Years before there were laws passed that made it illegal to listen in to certain radio frequencies or transmissions. That I think may have been one of the first steps in this control of information slide. They acually passed laws that Short wave radio's in this country could only tune to certain frequencies, but of course the fix to open that up to other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that bathes us all with its sunsine was easy and provided.

    When will it stop, those that want to control and profit? Ya need to vote.

    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      Ya need to vote.

      Or just start killing them. Assassination politics, seriously.

      • Two thumbs WAY up!!

        If the other three boxes [wikipedia.org] fail, better the limited and judicial use of the fourth rather than an all out engagement.

        _
  • This doesn't need a UN charter or treaty to put such a plan in place. Any country that opposes the free exchange of ideas can just cut themselves off from the free world. Problem solved.

  • Because no rich companies will lose face or contracts like they do when we fight *for* better software less subject to attacks.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:38PM (#33676962) Homepage Journal
    So you're annoyed that your carefully crafted message on your state owned media is being undercut by the free flow of ideas on the Internet? Yeah, I'm just not seeing what is in this for me. Do you have some treaty concessions you would be willing to make in exchange for keeping your stranglehold on what your populace sees and hears, because I'm not seeing how this is my problem.
  • ... the UN charter so that it specifically excludes from its definition of "aggression" the expression of opinions or the communication of ideas between parties that themselves do not advocate or promote the use of any violent act?
    • by lgw (121541)

      Every expression advocates the use of violence, if you're creative enough in describing how. It's usually just a matter of say that your statement is similar to statements made by Group X, and Group X is violent, therefore you're endorsing violence.

      That kind of twisting of words happens constantly once the political correctness starts. There was an article this year from the UK about a man who saw the inside of a police station, because he posted a comment on a government web site, and someone complained

  • by medv4380 (1604309) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:41PM (#33676996)
    This is a nonsense issue. Last I heard the US and Britain were on the Security counsel and would veto any attempt to get it though. This is just a way for those countries to say "we don't censor people, we protect them from attacks"
  • By doing this, are other nations indeed not trying to attack the freedom of speech, religion, and press granted by the very founding charter of the US Government? Is that not in itself a form of agression on another countries Government? Do we then get to hear the UN say "Oh dear, I hadn't thought of that" and vanish in puff of logic?

  • Good News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:43PM (#33677020) Homepage Journal

    If this passes we'll finally GTFO of the UN.

  • the Russian Defense Ministry argued that anytime a government promotes ideas...with the goal of subverting another country's government -- even in the name of democratic reform -- it should qualify as 'aggression.'

    Too bad they didn't figure that out before the US encouraged all their citizens to give up (yes, the ideal of) social equality in favor of fancy clothes.

  • by singingjim1 (1070652) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:55PM (#33677178)
    Just goes to show you that some societies (and apparently their "leaders" more so) just can't wrap their minds around the concept of freedom after so many years of oppression and state-sponsored censorship. I even hear some Russian ex-pats speak of how the people there have just come to expect oppressive government and even go so far as to embrace it now. As an American I can't wrap my mind around that, but I guess I understand the underlying reasons for it. Despite what some think about my government and some of it's people, I feel so very fortunate to have been born in the US and I remind myself - and stories like this also remind me - how truly fortunate I am to live in a free society. And dumb comments about how the US isn't really a free society will fall on deaf eyes. I love my country for better or worse, and not just out of blind patriotism, but because the ideals set forth to create this country are the best we've come up with yet. I truly feel for the people of oppressive regimes and hope that one day they get to bask in the warmth that is freedom of thought and expression.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kiwix (1810960)

      I think you're being affected by the same kind of syndrome as those Russians...

      Here in Europe we don't really consider America to be the Land of the Free anymore. To begin with, it's a pain in the ass to enter that country, and they take your fingerprints when they let you enter. Then you loose all your rights as soon as someone claims you might be a terrorist. It's a country were Freedom of Speech has been replaced with Political Correctness. Regarding elections, their campaigns are so expensive that yo

  • Not a new attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snspdaarf (1314399) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:56PM (#33677186)
    Countries have complained for years about shortwave radio broadcasts doing the same thing. They just got around to noticing this "internet thing."
  • for some time now. If they can get the internet classified as a weapon, well then they'll HAVE to regulate it!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      One of the UN's job is to define what is war.
      At no point have they ever tried to get the internet classified as a weapon. They are trying to figure out what action a country can do on the internet that may fall under RULAC.

      This is a good thing.

  • If you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen (or capital city in this case)
  • Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

    by thestudio_bob (894258) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:06PM (#33677328)

    Just because you came up with a new name for it, its still "censorship".

    Maybe they should call it "High Fructose Information Sugar" and people won't notice.

  • by jd (1658)

    First, there's no evidence that the blood-stirring interpretation of what the Russian said was the least-bit correct. I would understand the posting by "a country" to refer to material commissioned by and paid for by the government of that nation or by agencies under its direct authority. A person is not a country and "a country" (being a geological formation) cannot post, so that's about the only interpretation I can place on it.

    I think that postings by a Government on the Internet for the express purpose

  • they would just have to ban the keyboard, and reduce the internet to multiple choice questions, with either check boxes or radio buttons,
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:19PM (#33677500)
    the deep-seated Russian desire for an iron-heeled boot on the back of their neck. FFS, Solzhenitsyn seemed to despise 'The West' (even while exiled in New Hampshire).
  • So, it will be illegal for governments to make propaganda and put in on the internet with the intention of affecting political change in a country other than their own. In the US, where propaganda is perfectly legal, we could argue all day about what is and is not propaganda. So, how does a foreign government make a serious attempt to catch other governments doing it? (spies, perhaps?)

    Or will this just be a pretense for unjustified wars? The UN equivalent of yelling "it's coming right for us" [southparkstudios.com]?

  • It is a deliberate attempt for a governement to try to subvert the message of another governement toward its own citizen, and bring them to revolt against that governement. Whether you don't like it, it is an ideological aggression, or better named ideological propaganda. Because the message is one *we* like , does not make it less propaganda/aggression. The same way that hacking into a system to remove a virus is hacking, jsut as much is hacking a system to put a virus in it. Now that said, for all those f

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