Internet censorship and mission creep
Saving adults and teens from themselves
CFP 2008 "The internet perceives censorship as damage," John Gilmore famously observed, "and routes around it."
That might have been right in the early 1990s. In 2008, the state of internet freedom is looking a little rockier. Karen Karlekar, presenting Freedom House's survey of the state of internet freedom at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference this week, showed that repressing the internet is something many governments spend real money on.
From two in 2002, the number of governments filtering the net has risen to two dozen, according to Rob Faris, research director at the Berkman Center at Harvard and part of the OpenNet Initiative. Faris's maps show that social filtering – pornography, gambling – is far more widespread than political filtering, but that the overlapping diagram of who filters what shows a lot of "mission creep".
But one man's net freedom is another woman's harassment. Ann Bartow, author of the feminist lawyers blog, and Danielle Citron told hair-raising stories of the online version of real-world harassment. Female bloggers writing on women's issues have, for example, been targeted by anonymous groups seeking to effectively run them out of town – their real towns as well as their online ones.
The standard old net answer is social norms: peer pressure forces people to behave. But nothing protects an online space from being invaded by another group with different standards. Besides, said Bartow: "A lot of the stuff in cyberspace is just a reflection of what happens in real space."
Even worse, monitoring software helps abusers stalk victims of domestic violence and those who would help them. It is hard to think of the net as free if your violent ex-spouse is sending you bits copied and pasted out of the email you've exchanged with your lawyer.
Much public policy is made on the assumption that online kids are victims and adults are predators. But, said Elizabeth Englander, director of the Massachusetts Aggression Research Center, adult abuse is rare; kids cyberbullying each other is endemic, and schools have no idea what to do about it. One or more kids attack another kid, film the fight, and put it on YouTube ("grappling"), sometimes with adult encouragement. Provoke someone – a teacher or another kid – record it surreptitiously on your mobile phone, and put it up on YouTube ("YouTubeing"). Photoshop composite images; distribute. Blackmail on social networks, harass by instant messaging. Englander's surveys of 18-year-olds show that half have been cyberbullied – and 22 percent admit to having done it. A UK study shows that kids only tell their parents six percent of the time.
No one at CFP would suggest that the answer to those is greater regulation of the internet; the more common reaction is that law enforcement should take protecting the targets of these actions more seriously. Bartow, for example, favours creating cyberspace equivalents of protection orders.
But, said Richard Winfield, chair of the World Press Freedom Committee, beware of China, which seeks to depose ICANN and remake the internet in its own image. ®
"A cartoon of a child being raped by one or more adults is not."
What about a cartoon of a 17 year old having sex?
"Very few of the posters here appear to actually know what they are talking about, there is much talk of Manga, Hentai, and of comics. None of this is what this is designed to combat,"
So you have knowledge of a law that hasn't even been passed, and know how it will be enforced? References, please.
"ultimately the welfare of children is at stake"
No, cartoons are not children.
"The Police officers and staff who enforce these laws should be revered for what they have to endure"
Of course they should be, for enforcing the current laws on child porn. You are the one who wants to waste their time to spend it on going after drawings, thus diverting resources away from going after child abusers. I fully agree, their work should "not be despised to satisfy some intellectual, but morally repugnant, view point" - but that's exactly what you are trying to do.
"Paris, because she has as much grasp on reality as 99.9% of posters in this thread."
Says the one who can't tell fiction from reality...
Re: common misconception
"The only ways to effect a change are either to stop voting in the hope that it'll bring about a hung parliament and a collapse of the current system... or a military coup, but we're just too British for that."
How about taking back control one small piece at a time? Find out about who's standing for election, and volunteer to campaign for the one who you most agree with. Or stand yourself, and get a few friends to go around to everyone's house to explain what you believe the options are, and why you believe your compromises are better than those of the alternatives. Talk to your friends and neighbours about politics, philosophy, history and economics so you can learn from each other, and you will all be in a better position to evaluate the policies of those seeking to represent you. As more people come to understand politics better, the politicians will need to take their views into account more because attempts to fob them off with spin will backfire.
Self-reliance and education - a very (traditional) British approach. :-)
Apathy and ignorance among the majority of the population (which seem to be actively encouraged by the mainstream media) are what allow those in political power to ignore their constituents and concentrate on serving those who fund them (including, no doubt coincidentally, the mainstream media). You don't have to assume that politicians are inherently bad people for this to be true - it makes their lives much harder if they have to take into account the informed views of their constituents.
...it is time to move to Scotland to escape the superfluous new laws and legislation being introduced in England.