Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/18/letters_1708/
Censorship, planets and
googling searching the net
What you can, and cannot say
Letters A parliamentary committee (that ever useful beast) published a report this week denouncing net censorship as "morally unacceptable". The cries of "hypocrite" could be heard across the net almost as soon as the ink on the pdf was dry...
The whole issue of Net censorship runs straight into the ancient dichotomy of law and ethics. Western governments enthusiastically publicize their intention of censoring - and closing down - Web sites that they consider to be promoting child pornography, terrorism, or other such unspeakable crimes. But what it boils down to is that they seek to censor discussion of illegal activities. The Chinese government is doing nothing different: it, too, aims to stop illegal activities. It is just that different things are illegal in China. As has often been recalled, most of the Nazi government's acts in Germany were technically legal, because - being a government - it passed laws making them legal. So the question becomes one of ethics. Our governments are telling us that their laws must be obeyed meticulously and unquestioningly, but that the "bad laws" of "bad governments" should not be obeyed. Deep waters indeed.
Deep, murky, and quite possibly shark-infested.
"The UK Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee recently issused a report in which it stated that "search engines' agreement to block the access of computer users to certain information (in China) was 'morally unacceptable'."
That's so much crap - they'd be up in arms if Google/MSN/Yahoo! were to take the stance that blocking videos of "child pornography" or racial/cultural hate sites was "morally unacceptable" and therefore happily indexed them.
The age of sexual consent varies in many countries so what might technically constitute child pornography in one may not in another. I'd imagine websites preaching anti-semitism are hardly going to be illegal in some countries.
Since the web isn't governed by a globally agreed set of core laws (and it's unlikely to happen any time soon) then the wishes of the recipient country's government must determine what does, or does not, constitute morally reprehensible or illegal content in that country - no matter how disagreeable those decisions may be to western sensibilities.
It's a cultural issue; apart from a few basic fundamentals (which even all of the major religions seem to agree on if you filter out the dogma), what is, and is not, legal or morally acceptable is determined by the culture in which you live. Drinking 20 pints of lager before eating a nice lardy kebab, throwing up in the taxi and sleeping in the gutter may be virtually a right of passage on your 18th birthday in the UK - you'd be in for a bit of a shock if you tried that in Saudi Arabia... or Utah.
It's OK claiming the moral high ground, but the UK government isn't exactly squeaky clean when it comes to freedom - and the US government even less so. What's that old saying about putting your own house in order ?
Speaking of putting one's house in order, Orange this week suspended an employee pending an investigation into a few comments he made in a blog entry. Needless to say, your Vulture-esque feathers were ruffled:
didn't I read somewhere yet another article about the terrors of censorship in China? I may not like the guy or believe in what he says but damn, it's sad state of affairs when a guy can't take a side swipe without losing his job. It's not like he had "I'm a representive of orange" anywhere. It's like the professor who lost his hosting becouse he slated veggies.
So it's not enough that companies watch their employees' internet usage in the office but now they're responsible for what they do at home?
I feel sick at the way our thoughts are being monitored to the point where any group can say "be nice to us or you're not allowed to earn a living".
Can't we all be grown up and get on with life without calling for the head of anybody who doesn't like what we do and who may call us names? Taking criticism and teasing is a part of life - it happens.
People are being suspended from jobs for writing this?! People in Britain?!!! (Not in, like, China … or North Korea!).
This IS the United Kingdom [natch] where we take the piss out of the Welsh for being Welsh. Deal with it. If they sack the bloke, my Orange phone will be turning some other colour, just as fast as I can make it happen.
Sense of Humour Failure or not, there’s no need to be getting people (even Conservatives) the sack - just like voting in a democracy - humour can give one such legitimate satisfaction
Yet more horror stories of bad guys using MySpace to prey on the naive and unwary. You wondered whether this was really a technology issue:
Interesting that "Girl raped after MySpace meeting" is seen by most media as a reasonable angle on this story; but would we ever see "Girl raped after phone conversation"? Fundamentally there would be no difference.
This sad story has nothing to do with the internet, or MySpace, or "new technologies". It is simply about people doing bad things, which they will unfortunately continue to do whatever the intermediating technology might be.
True, there would be no difference to the victim. However, the developing culture of the net, and how it affects the offline world is something we are interested in here at Reg Towers, so we'll keep reporting on the stories that grab our attention, just the same.
A point of order, next, prompted by the news that Nokia is dabbling in video.
"Nokia, the largest manufacturer of cameras in the world"
Umm, you mean, mobiles?
Bill writes: Depends on how you count 'em. If you take a camera to be something which takes pictures then Nokia comes out top; even if all of their cameras also happen to be phones.
Scary, isn't it.
That whole terror plot thing. Will the draconian luggage restrictions make plane journeys boring enough that we'll use Branson's guru texting service?
"It would seem that in the future all we will be allowed to do in a plane is either get stinking drunk, or twiddle our thumbs"
What happen to sleep, read a book, watch a movie... ? Can't anybody really think at anything more than yapping into a phone or punching keys on a computer anymore? Davide
Er, you have been watching the news in the last few days?
How did people survive before cellphones, text messaging and e-mail??? All of this B.S. about draconian measures to improve security for air travel smacks of utter stupidity. You'd think it was more important to be able to listen to your Ipod or B.S. on your cellphone than to NOT get blown out of the sky at 30,000 feet. People are such dumbasses that this stupidity would be hilarious if not for peoples outrageous ignorance.
But people make plans and assumptions based on access to technology. That will have to change, and no one ever likes change...
Google gets ants in its pants about people googling stuff. Apparently, we should all be Googling, with our capital letters intact:
"Google is not alone in writing to media outlets: Band-Aid, Kleenex, Hoover, Perspex, Portakabin, Xerox, Frisbee and Jacuzzi are all still registered trademarks that battle against genericide."
Becoming part of the language is the prize for wiping the floor with the competition. All your competitors would be happy to have your problem.
(PS, you missed out Biro, and I vaguely recall IBM getting shirty about "PC" at one point, too. The fact that these examples didn't occur to you indicates just how likely Google are to win this particular battle. The phrase "pissing in the wind" springs to mind.) (PPS, Google can probably rely on the French Academy to keep "googler" out of the dictionary. Perhaps they should relocate.)
Google is telling us we can't Google? Publications that uses "Googling" as a verb will be told not to?
Is Google bonkers? Or just googling Goofy?
C'mon Google, it's WAY too late. You've already set a Googleish precedent. The world's been "Googling" its little heart out for a very long time. You've sat back and enjoyed the free publicity and the fact that you're so successful no one says "I searched for..." any more. They say "I Googled."
Articles have talked about "Googling" and "Googled" for years with no objection from the Googlecorp. The Google-founders have even BRAGGED in interviews about Google being a verb. They've been asked repeatedly about "Googling" or used the word themselves. Did they care? Nope, not so long as there was lots of lovely Googlelollying lolly rolling in.
And now you think you can just say "Stop."? Claim you had no idea anyone was "Googling", heavens, no, and it's threatening the Googlebrand? Tell us your corporate attorneys only recently discovered trademark law and said, "Oops, sorry, hadn't noticed that before"? Well, a thumbed nose to the Googlearchy. I'll google, you'll google, we'll ALL google if we want to.
The Googlegal beagles might as well give up now. They don't stand a chance.
Very Googly Yours,
And a final comment on this story. As you know, we at Vulture Central love a reasoned argument, and we know you do too. So we present the following example, for your enjoyment:
Genericide? I'd like to respond with a balanced argument, but your wretched article had drained all of my strength. So, fuck off you blood sucking wanker.
Saints, or the ASA, preserve us all from smutty humour. The standards agency rules that a sex chat line should not be advertised with innuendo. No, really.
Oh, my God! The sooner this generation of prudes keel over, the better. Preferably from a coronary induced by witnessing scenes of a sexual nature and rushing to their tele-moaning device which contains the ASA and ITC on speed dial.
And as for the ASA; 1 complaint?! 1 complaint is all it took to move an advert with a not-particularly-offensive question, images of the female anatomy and a telephone number containing the numbers '6' and '9' in close proximity? Where were you bastards when the Crazy Frog was doing the nation's collective heads in, during every single advert break, for so long? How many complaints did that take, eh? I bet it was far more than 1!
Get some perspective, people! Questions or images about sex, genitals, breasts, legs, arses and the numbers '6' and '9' are *not* things to get stroppy about. Really, they're not that bad!
The off-road segway sounds pretty special. Using your weight and balance to steer and accellerate is a great idea. If mr Kamen can refine the design a little further - stronger AI, the ability to generate it's own fuel from vegetation and legs - he'll have invented the horse.
Some bad jokes about plutons follow some very useful speculation about what should be considered a planet:
Just thinking... surely a simple blob of discarded astronaut space-wee could be defined as a planet under their new definition ( if ejected from Earth orbit so it couldn't be defined as a satellite, and as long as it assumed hydrostatic equilibrium before it froze). Although you would also be considered a pathetic pedantic pillock for suggesting it, obviously. Probably slapped as well, and rightly so.
Regarding your article "Solar system to get new planets?": "As a result, you will probably start to see Charon being referred to as Pluto's companion rather than its moon." Is this a example of a strictly Plutonic relationship? Regards, Tom
And just when you thought we couldn't get any sillier, and with just a million shopping days until Christmas, may we offer the following response to Dell's battery recall:
Laptops roasting it's an open fire Acrid fumes assail your nose Melting chips smell like burning tires and Techs dressed in asbestos clothes
Everybody knows short circuits in a battery Help to make the office bright End users with their cubes all aglow Will find it hard to work tonight
They know a recall's on its way Before the desk is charcoaled in a blaze And every engineer is gonna spy To see if laptops really know how to fry
And so I'm remembering this simple phrase like geeks from one to ninety two Although we dread it many times many ways Yeah, we're getting a Dell, Dude!
And that is more than enough. More next week. ®