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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Reading and Writing Behind the Firewall 

James Richards in Edinburgh made the following statement:

China's government employs upto 40,000 people to watch over its 100 million-plus Internet users....To be honest I don't see a great deal of difference between China's censorship policy and that of employers averse to employees blogging about their working lives.

I replied:

You speak of the things that users write. Similarly, if you look at the things that users read, there isn't a great deal of difference between a firewall that suppresses information about democracy and a firewall that suppresses information about barely legal co-ed hijinks.

At least in a technical sense. Each of us has a set of values, and to my knowledge there are few people who advocate true 100% freedom of speech.

Ah, but as a Usenet veteran, I should have known better. Here's an excerpt from a "Freedom Knights" FAQ:

4.1) Declaration of Free Speech

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Humans are created
equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Unhindered Communications, Unregulated
Exchange of Ideas, and Freedom of Speech, that to secure these rights
the Usenet is instituted on networks of the world, that when any
administration of Usenet becomes destructive to these ends, it is the
Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institue new
administration, laying its foundation on such Principles, and
organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their Free Communication.

[With much thanks to the Declaration of Independence]

Of course, did Dave Hayes believe in True Free Speech...or at least listening to it? Tim Skirvin notes:

...I was invited by Dimitri Vulis to join Dave's "Freedom Knights" mailing list, devoted to discussing Dave's "True Free Speech" and populated by most of the major kooks of Usenet. I sent off my subscription request - and was denied. I was stunned - but I said nothing, and just went about minding my own business for the next few months...until I got a chance to bring up Dave's censoring me...

At the beginning of this summer (1997), I accidently got into some discussions with Steve Boursy over some F-K related stuff, and eventually the mails we sent started being sent to the list, too. I mentioned again that I wasn't allowed on the list, this time to Dave's face - and, finally, he decided that he couldn't keep me off any longer....

Well, what about Free Speech TV?

Finally, after 50 years of television broadcasting, there now exists a national television channel that reflects the diversity of our society, provides perspectives that are under-represented or ignored by the mainstream media, and shines a national spotlight on engaged citizens working for progressive social change.

Sounds like they censor as much as any other channel. If your views are represented by the mainstream media, and/or if you're working against progressive social change, don't expect this outlet to allow you unlimited freedom of speech.

Ironically, dmoz.org lists the following description of the contents of http://www.freespeech.org/unlimitedfreedom

Unlimited Freedom of Speech - An extensive compilation of links and resources pertaining to freedom of expression, great thinkers, famous quotes and related issues.

If you click on the link, you get a 404 file not found error.

As a concluding thought, I found this gem:

November 15
Freedom of Speech

The Constitution grants the freedom of speech to every citizen. Journalists value it more than anything else. Should the freedom of speech be unlimited? Would unlimited freedom of speech do more good or bad to our society? Would limited freedom of speech impact the monitoring power of news media and therefore threaten our society? John and Ken discuss the philosophy behind the freedom of speech.

Before my Los Angeles area readers get all excited, let me post something else from the same page:

John Perry and Ken Taylor's Philosophy Talk, broadcast and streamed Tuesday's at noon Pacific time, 2:00 p.m. local time, on San Francisco's KALW, has the following topics for November.

You were thinking it was someone else?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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