RSSCategory: Censorship

The United Nations comments on Wikileaks

December 23, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
The United Nations comments on Wikileaks

On December 21, 2010, Frank LaRue (the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression) and Catalina Botero (the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression) have issued a Joint Statement on Wikileaks. This statement is carefully crafted and right on the mark. It will piss off American conservatives who still care one whit about freedom of speech issues because it is written in the spirit of the First Amendment. It was written “in light of ongoing developments related to the release of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks.

The Statement recognizes the critical importance of the free flow of information for the preservation of democratic societies. It advocates that a stiff burden of proof should be on those who attempt to stifle any form of speech with claims of national security. It recognizes the important work done by journalists and whistle-blowers. It condemns the following:

– Politically motivated legal cases brought against journalists and independent media,

– The blocking of websites and web domains on political grounds and

– Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action.

The only fault I find with the statement is that the issuing organizations have protected it with traditional copyright. that is so 20th Century. Something of this importance and magnitude should have been been issued accordance with Creative Commons or with “no rights reserved” to reach the broadest possible audience. Here are the first two articles of the Statement:

1. The right to access information held by public authorities is a fundamental human right subject to a strict regime of exceptions. The right to access to information protects the right of every person to access public information and to know what governments are doing on their behalf. It is a right that has received particular attention from the international community, given its importance to the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic regimes. Without the protection of this right, it is impossible for citizens to know the truth, demand accountability and fully exercise their right to political participation. National authorities should take active steps to ensure the principle of maximum transparency, address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries and increase the amount of information subject to routine disclosure.

2. At the same time, the right of access to information should be subject to a narrowly tailored system of exceptions to protect overriding public and private interests such as national security and the rights and security of other persons. Secrecy laws should define national security precisely and indicate clearly the criteria which should be used in determining whether or not information can be declared secret. Exceptions to access to information on national security or other grounds should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information. In accordance with international standards, information regarding human rights violations should not be considered secret or classified.

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Ralph Nader and Julian Assange on Wikimania

December 22, 2010 | By | Reply More
Ralph Nader and Julian Assange on Wikimania

Ralph Nader has commented about the government witchhunt of Wikileaks:

Secrecy-keeping the people and Congress in the dark-is the cancer eating at the vitals of democracy. What is remarkable about all the official hullabaloo by government officials, who leak plenty themselves, is that there never is any indictment or prosecution of government big wigs who continually suppress facts and knowledge in order to carry out very devastating actions like invading Iraq under false pretenses and covering up corporate contractors abuses. The morbid and corporate-indentured secrecy of government over the years has cost many American lives, sent Americans to illegal wars, bilked consumers of billions of dollars and harmed the safety and economic well-being of workers.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange warned those who work for traditional media outlets that they should not try to dissociate the work of Wikileaks from the work that they do. In fact, he argues that once the U.S. government criminally prosecutes him, that they will be next, and that will be the end of serious government journalism. This link includes a long interview with Assange by Cenk Uygur of MSNBC.

Here’s what he had to say about the various calls for him to be illegally murdered, coming from several prominent American politicians:

If we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people,” he said. “That is incitement to commit murder.

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Statement by Julian Assange upon his bail

December 17, 2010 | By | 8 Replies More
Statement by Julian Assange upon his bail

Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who is involved in a Kafkaesque ordeal, made the following statement on December 16, 2010:

It’s rather amazing how this interviewer doesn’t want to understand the situation. Maybe she would get it if she had been accused of a terrible crime by the corporate news media, and her name had been smeared across the Internet despite the fact that the prosecutor never actually brought any charges or produced evidence of any crime. Maybe then she would get it. The interviewer also can’t seem to wrap her head around the fact that Assange is likely being smeared by those countries and corporations that are being embarrassed by his devastating leaks of authentic documents.

This is nothing short of Kafkaesque.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Fair and Balanced?

December 15, 2010 | By | 19 Replies More
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Fair and Balanced?

Scanning the headlines today, I saw in my peripheral vision one announcing the latest list of inductees into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. I’ve heard stories about the selection process, but haven’t paid much attention because I guess it’s most like the Wallaces’ (and Wallechinsky’s) Book(s) of Lists – based on opinion, not quantifiable metrics.

Just who is Darlene Love anyway? No matter. I don’t really care, but on a whim,I checked to see if my favorite group Rush is in. Nope. Conspicuous in their absence were also Kiss (I’d heard about that before).

I consider Rush to be the most talented trio in the history of rock music. Rumor has it that Jann Wenner doesn’t. Still, as opinionated and usually hermitlike as I am on music, I know I am not alone in my assessment (of Rush), plus I have multiple musicians in the family that agree with me. I’m not a fan of Kiss, but how are they any less influential than some of the others? Ah…Jann Wenner. True or not, both their absences make the Hall a joke because look at the list of past inductees.

In: Steely Dan ????? (Oh, the words I could not use in public to describe what I think of that!); David Bowie?;
James Taylor? Come on!

Not in: Boston(??!); Yes (???!!); B-52’s – Hello? Not Boston? Not Yes?

In: John Paul and George (no Ringo) are in it as individuals and as the Beatles; Metallica; Aerosmith; AC/DC – all no brainers

Not in: Kansas; Journey; Styx; Emerson, Lake and Palmer

In: Stevie Wonder – are you serious?; John Mellencamp ??; Buffalo Springfield ?; ABBA ???; Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel;

The director of the Rush documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” commented to Entertainment Weekly

“It’s unfortunate,” says Scot McFadyen, …“We were hoping a lot more people in the [nominating] room had seen our documentary, and maybe that would have given them a different perspective on the band. But there are just some people that are holding out.”

As disappointing as Rush’s latest snub was, McFadyen wasn’t necessarily surprised. “They’ve never been a critics’ band. The industry people that are involved with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rush has never been cool enough for them.”

I think Wenner and the Hall should adopt the slogan of another media entity that also isn’t: “Fair and balanced”

Last year, one list of snubs included Alice Cooper, who made the cut this time around. So who is missing in the Hall from your list?

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Can Future Censorship Be Regulated?

December 1, 2010 | By | 11 Replies More
Can Future Censorship Be Regulated?

The question at hand is, who decides what you find on the web? I recently read Regulating the Information Gatekeepers about search engines. This article focused mainly on commercial implications of search engines changing their rules, and the ongoing arms race between companies that sell the service of tweaking web pages and links and click farms to optimize search engine ranking positions, and the search engines trying to filter out such bare toadying in favor of actual useful pages.

On my MrTitanium.com site, I ignore all those search engine games and just provide solid content and current items for sale. In 2002, MrTitanium was usually in the first dozen results when Googling for “titanium jewelry”. In 2003, Google decided that the number of links to a page was the primary sign of its usefulness. Within days, link farms popped up, and my site dropped from view. I waited it out, and in 2004, Google changed the rules again, and MrTitanium reappeared in the top 30. Top five for “titanium earrings”.

But the real question is, should someone be regulating these gatekeepers of information? Who decides whether a search for “antidepressants” should feature vendors, medical texts, or Scientology anti-psychiatry essays?

There are two ways to censor information: Try to block and suppress it, or try to bury it. The forces of disinformation and counterknowledge are prolific and tireless. A search engine could (intentionally or inadvertently) favor certain well represented but misleading positions (such as Truthers or anti-vaxxers) over proven science, and give all comers the impression of validity and authority to “bad” ideas.

But the question of regulation is a dangerous one. The best access to information is open. But if a well meaning legislature decides that there needs to be an oversight board, this board could evolve into information police and be taken over by populist electors who choose to suppress good information.

On the other hand, the unregulated and essentially monopolistic search industry began with great ideals, and so far has been doing a good job at a hard task. But it, too, could become malignant if there is no oversight.

Another facet is, whose jurisdiction would this fall under? If the U.S. congress passes laws that Google doesn’t like, they simply move offshore. There are designs for, and even prototypes of, data centers that float beyond any countries jurisdiction, powered by waves and sun, and connected via fibers and satellites. If the U.N. starts regulating, then whose rules apply? North Korea? Iran? China? And who could enforce it?

The information revolution is just beginning: We do live in interesting times.

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How to rig Digg

August 5, 2010 | By | Reply More
How to rig Digg

The results of Digg are unfairly skewed. We’re not seeing what the general population votes. Rather at least one highly organized block of users is engaging in censorship.

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JFK on transparency in a time of war

August 4, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
JFK on transparency in a time of war

I found this speech of JFK’s to be tremendously powerful, and the applicability to today’s situation should be obvious. Kennedy was speaking to the American Newspaper Publisher’s Association on April 27th, 1961. The whole speech is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight a few key excerpts, especially in the context of Wikileaks’ release of war documents from the Afghanistan theater. Kennedy simultaneously pleads for a more well-informed public, while arguing that the press ought to be mindful of national security issues in choosing which stories to publish. You can almost imagine him talking about the danger posed by terrorists in the present day, rather than the danger of Communism in the Cold-war 1960s:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.

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Founder of Wikileaks explains why he published secret U.S. documents regarding Afghanisgtan

July 26, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
Founder of Wikileaks explains why he published secret U.S. documents regarding Afghanisgtan

At Common Dreams, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange explains why he published the confidential U.S. military documents regarding Afghanistan:

These files are the most comprehensive description of a war to be published during the course of a war — in other words, at a time when they still have a chance of doing some good. They cover more than 90,000 different incidents, together with precise geographical locations. They cover the small and the large. A single body of information, they eclipse all that has been previously said about Afghanistan. They will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars . . . This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war. The archive will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence. . .

We all only live once. So we are obligated to make good use of the time that we have, and to do something that is meaningful and satisfying. This is something that I find meaningful and satisfying. That is my temperament. I enjoy creating systems on a grand scale, and I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing bastards. So it is enjoyable work.

Here is the location of the Wikileaks Afghanistan documents. Glenn Greenwald applauds the leak, and condemns the U.S. governments failure to be forthright about the waste of lives and money regarding the U.S. adventure in Afghanistan:

WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world. Just as was true for the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that’s what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing. WikiLeaks is one of the few entities successfully blowing holes in at least parts of that wall . . .

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Mark Tiedemann speaks

July 18, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
Mark Tiedemann speaks

Mark and I have been friends for 20 years. I’ve celebrated his many successes as a science fiction writer, and I was delighted when he showed interest in being one of the authors for Dangerous Intersection. I just checked the stats here, and I see that over the years, Mark has contributed 187 posts to DI. I’ve read every one of them, and I am repeated struck by the fact that there isn’t a “cheap” post among them. They are all well-crafted and carefully considered.

Every one of Mark’s posts is still available at this site. Click on his name on the bottom right corner list of authors to see them. But perhaps you are not in the mood to read substantive posts tonight. If that is the case, you are in luck.

About a year ago, I sat down with Mark at his St. Louis home and videotaped a long conversation with him. We covered many topics, which I am in the process of breaking into individual YouTube videos. I’m including the first three as part of this post. In Part I, Mark discusses his personal goals and the importance of art. In Part II, he discusses reading, heroes and censorship. In Part III, Mark discusses the blogosphere, including his impression of what goes on here at Dangerous Intersection. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Mark through his spoken words, at least as much as you’ve appreciated his written work. Without further ado . . .

I’ll be posting several more Mark Tiedemann videos later this week.

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