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Blog : Posts tagged with 'censorship'

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Notoriety

In which we’ve been banned


Well, I’ve passed a milestone, or so I’ve been told. This site has finally been banned somewhere! If you’re an employee of a certain large courier company, you won’t be reading this, at least not at work. It’s not China, but it’s a start. I was chatting to someone about it in the pub last night; they were mildly disappointed not to have all this rubbish to read when they’re stuck at their desk. Poor thing.

Big Dave’s still here, for another week at least, but his replacement has been announced. He’s also called Dave, of course, and he’s starting in January. I have no idea how large or small he is, but I’m going to have to call him Wee Dave just for symmetry. I’m not really looking forward to it.

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The truth

In which we are worried about the New Puritans


I’ve spoken several times before about the proposed Extreme Pornography Bill. Which will, it’s planned, criminalise possession of pornographic pictures which appear to show people at risk of serious harm.

There are a few keywords in the proposals which suggest that some of its drafters do care, at least, about trying to make sure the bill only applies to very extreme stuff. Any videos with certificates, for example, would be exempt, because the bill is only intended to apply to things which would be too extreme to pass the censors to start with. The wording is still very vague, though, and leaves convictions down to the whims of judge and jury. Nevertheless, there is plenty of reason to be worried. The bill’s drafters are not those who will use it. Whether people get convicted under it may well end up depending entirely on where they live.

A short digression: Edinburgh has two big seasonal tourist attractions you’ve probably heard of: the Festival season, and the Hogmanay celebrations. You might not have heard, though, of its third big seasonal event: Beltane. Revellers climb Calton Hill to watch a grand fire-juggling performance. Some do treat it as a religious festival, but most are just there to have a good time;* and, like the other two events, people come to watch from all over the world.

You’d think Edinburgh City Council would support Beltane, it being one of the main tourist-attracting events outside the main season. They’re generally not very supportive at all, though – their support has always been lukewarm, if visible at all. And the reason for this, it is rumoured,** is the strong evangelical Christian faction on the city council. They see the Beltane celebration as Satanic and Evil, and definitely not something to be encouraged. They may be completely wrong, but they have positions of power.

BDSM isn’t evil, but there are certainly people who think that it is. If a high-ranking police officer was of that opinion, he could easily try to use this bill to push forward his own personal opinion on it. He may think that pornography itself is evil – certainly, there are people out there who say they want to ban “all pornography”*** There’s a high chance that such a hypothetical policeman would waste an awful lot of time and money aiming this bill at harmless Sensible Pervs, just because he doesn’t like what they do in the bedroom.

A lot of people on the BDSM scene are worried that this bill isn’t just a move against pornography, it’s a move against them personally; a move by a puritan government towards directly attacking people who don’t fit their own straitlaced morality. Maybe some of the bill’s supporters do indeed think that. You might not care about that, yourself, either because you’ve never had a kinky thought in your head, or you’ve never admitted that you do. The Sensible Pervs, though, are ordinary people just like you and me, ordinary people whose acceptance of their own psychological makeup has led some of them into wonderfully deep and supportive relationships. The bus driver who drives you to work, the signalman signalling your train, the IT guy fixing your computer or the shopkeeper of your neighbourhood shop – they could all, for all you know, have sex lives far kinkier than anything you can imagine. But, moreover, at the same time they’re all ordinary people just like you. And an attack on any of the ordinary people in our communities, is an attack on everybody.

(this post was inspired by Blogging For Backlash)

* like all the men who hang around Calton Hill on all the other nights of the year, it being Edinburgh’s closest equivalent to Hampstead Heath

** but it’s likely to be pretty close to the truth, because I heard it from a senior Beltane Fire Society official a few years ago

*** and they tend to think that the definition of pornography, too, is self-evident.

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Freedom of speech

In which we ponder competition among blog hosting companies


Back in the mists of time, I wrote about Jakob Nielsen‘s top ten blog design mistakes. Including: not having your own domain name. My response: there are several sites I read and respect that do do this, but if you want to be completely sure you control your own reputation, you need to control your domain name too.

One thing I didn’t consider, though, is that the people who host your site can, if they want, control what you put on it. Filter out things they don’t like. You could, for example, do what News Corporation subsidiary Myspace have been caught doing: censor links to video-hosting sites, presumably because these sites will soon become News Corp’s competitors when Myspace introduces its own video-hosting service. You might think you can say anything you like on the internet – but if you’re a Myspace user, that apparently doesn’t apply.

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The Internet Will Kill Us All!!!

In which we learn something censored which could harm your health


According to this story in The Guardian, the government thinks that we shouldn’t be looking at websites that can show us how to kill ourselves. So, they want ISPs to stop us. Search engines should alter their results so that the first hit for “suicide” is the Samaritans. We shouldn’t be allowed to discuss ways to kill ourselves with each other.

This has all started because of two people, who met via the net, and killed themselves together. The Guardian is so concerned for our own safety that it won’t even tell you that they killed themselves by using charcoal to produce carbon monoxide. Careful. Now you know that – and you read it on the internet, too – you might go out and do something stupid.

The whole idea that people are more likely to kill themselves just because of the internet is very, very silly. People who want to kill themselves will do it unless they receive support or medical attention; the internet is just a scapegoat; and if it can persuade people to kill themselves in peaceful, non-disruptive ways, then so much the better.* The worrying thing, from my point of view, is the risk that this could be the thin end of the wedge. If the government can persuade ISPs to filter one topic, or can warp the results page for one search request, then they can do it for others. It doesn’t matter how well-meaning they are; they’ve crossed a line. The second time they want to do it, it might not be for such a well-meaning reason.

* Jumping in front of a train doesn’t just kill you, it will scar the driver for life too. Not to mention all the people who have to hose your fragmented remains off the track.

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