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Blog : Posts tagged with 'filtering'

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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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