Category Archives: Internet-Censorship

Internet Censorship is the 21st century equivalent of burning books and it comes in many forms. While much of the focus is on nation state censorship my personal experience in dealing with the Anti-vaccination movement is that extremists from any faction will try to silence their critics. Everything from lawsuits to denial of service attacks. Enemies of the Freedom of Speech can get very creative.

Dawson Drama Queen vs Trolls.

Charlotte Dawson has been in the news recently for being trolled on the Internet. That’s right just for being trolled this drama queen has generated headline across Australia for her alleged victimisation at the hands of some anonymous twitter users.

While I don’t agree with the actions of the trolls I also find it hard to have too much sympathy for Ms Dawson because she went troll feeding.

There is an old saying that goes back at least as far as the 1980s. “Don’t Feed the Trolls”

On the Internet a “Troll” is a person who attempts to incite an emotional response from others by either posting offensive material or performing an action that causes inconvenience and frustration to other users of the medium in use. The best way to deal with trolls is by NOT giving them exactly what they want so they get bored and leave. As someone who’s been dealing with internet trolls since the 90s I can confirm that this is a tried and proven method for dealing with the issue.

However Charlotte Dawson decided to engage with the trolls instead. First mistake, she has also been retweeting some of the trolls messages to her followers. Honestly what sort of moron thinks it’s a good idea to help spread the trolls’ message as far and wide as you can? These trolls are anonymous; as a result ALL publicity is good publicity.

Of course now the politicians are wetting themselves in excitement as they are now given a new excuse to remove free speech and privacy from the public internet.

HATE-filled Twitter trolls who anonymously taunt, threaten or urge their victims to take their own lives are on notice from today.

Today we launch a campaign to stand up to the faceless bullies and to urge Twitter to unmask them and turn them in to authorities so they can be prosecuted.

Kevin Rudd has 1.2 million followers – more than any other federal MP – and he last night committed to the campaign from China with the declaration: “The time has come for us to build a bridge over the trolls.”

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is also behind the campaign: “Cyber bullying is reprehensible and has no place in our society.

“What we need is strong co-operation from governments, law enforcement and the community. But we also need the assistance of US-based social networks.” News.com.au

It quickly gets to the point where the persecuted becomes the persecutor. This is where the #StopTheTrolls comes in. The aim is to bully Twitter into disclosing user details so the Australian Government can punish people for what they said online. That’s right; you can be punished for saying something that upsets people.

People not just trolls, often choose to be anonymous on the Internet because they either don’t believe what they say strongly enough to put their name to it. Or because they face serious consequences for speaking out be it government persecution or litigation.

By removing anonymity and punishing trolls all that will happen is the trolls move to more secure form of anonymity and people with a “legitimate” need of anonymity might not have that option available.  Of course what is or is not a “legitimate” use of anonymity is purely subjective.

Terms like ‘Hate Speech’ are thrown about far too easily in today’s society. But classifying what is and isn’t ‘Hate Speech’ is a value judgement. I have people accuse me of ‘hate speech’ simply for disagreeing with them.  So the idea that the government could or should punish people for something based on opinion of another should be a concern to all Australians, not just trolls.

I deal with ‘trolls’ a fair bit. What I post online tends to attract them and it’s the reason user comments below need to be approved by a moderator before they appear. Yet, I still stand by what I’ve been saying for the last 14 years. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t give them the recognition and attention they crave, they will get bored and leave.

Also don’t do a massive Dawson Drama Queen. That only empowers them.

Aboriginal Memes, is Free-Speech Taboo in Australia?

A shit storm is currently brewing over a controversial Facebook page entitled “Aboriginal Memes” the page is now offline but I collected the photos from it so you can see what the fuss is about. Photos Now offline. (I think I’ve made my point.)

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has weighed into the debate over a racially abusive Facebook page, saying he thinks it should be taken down. 

SBS reported yesterday on the Facebook page, which allows posts with racially abusive “memes” about Indigenous people. The page was temporarily removed, before re-appearing on the site with a tag noting that the content contained “controversial humour”.  

World News Australia

However the really horrific thing that I personally found about this page was not the content at all, but rather the fanatical Anti-freedom of Speech groups that setup for the sole purpose of suppressing another persons speech. Yes, that speech is distasteful but supporting free speech means that we must often defend distasteful things.

A page Called Make Facebook Shut Down Aboriginal Memes

Has sprung up in protest of the Aboriginal Memes page  however this situation is nothing more than people seeking to suppress another person’s speech because they happen to find it distasteful. I find it disturbing how many people are radically opposed to freedom of speech in this country. Except of course when it’s their own speech then all of a sudden they are suddenly in favour of it.

But this only shows a gross lack of consideration for what free speech means for all of us. Because you cannot possibly claim to support freedom of speech while simultaneously seeking to suppress another. Free Speech is a right that must be given to everyone on equal ground regardless of its content.

When supporting the Freedom of Speech  you don’t need to agree with the opinions of others but unless you are prepared to defend their right to say whatever they like you cannot call yourself a supporter of Free-Speech and nor can you reasonably expect others to respect your rights when you do not extend that courtesy yourself.

I hate having to defend those whom I disagree with, but it seems I am required to do so more and more often in order to defend free speech these days. This is one of those times.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Anti-vaxxers trying to censor skeptic blogs.

An interesting event came to light recently. Two well known Skeptic blogs Reasonable Hank and Lucky Losing were being blocked by Trend Micro.

We believe supporters of the Australian Vaccination Network have been reporting skeptical blogs as malware in an attempt to have them blocked by malware vendors. This type of behavior has come to be expected from those who lack the evidence to backup their claims. 

There is an especially nutty fruitloop called Liz Hempel who had a few things to say on Twitter regarding the blockage of Reasonable Hank.

Liz Hempel (if that’s even her real name) is quite clearly making false accusations of fraud and criminal conduct. Without any evidence to backup those accusations of course, but then lack of evidence is what the anti-vaccination movement is all about (and promoting disease).

Liz continues…

Liz clearly knows little about the Internet. She receives the warning because she is most likely using Trend Micro which is blocking the page. Perhaps she thought reporting a page she didn’t like would get it removed entirely from the web, she is wrong only users of that particular blacklist are affected by the blockage.

I like her suggestion of reporting it to WordPress.com. Services providers receive threats, abuse and complaints as part of their daily business but no decent service provider is going to remove content unless compelled to by a court of competent jurisdiction. They espesially aren’t going to act at the whim of anti-vaxx bullshitters. Nice try Liz but once more you fail.

Incidents like this just highlight the lengths that anti-vaxxers will go to; or in this case attempt to go to in order to silence critics of their ideology. While Liz Hempel doesn’t know what she’s doing not all anti-vaxxers will be so incompetent with technology and those of us who run sites likely to incur the wrath of others should take steps to ensure that our sites and services are secure from those who would like to silence their critics in desperation. I expect we will see more underhanded tactics being used in the future, by those with an otherwise indefensible position.

Twat sues Twitter over Tweet.

A Melbourne man is suing over a defamatory tweet, but rather than suing the author of the tweet he plans to sue Twitter itself.

It all began when a writer by the name of Marieke Hardy mistakenly identified Joshua Meggitt as the author of a “Hate blog” written about her. Hardy wrote on Twitter ”I name and shame my ‘anonymous’ internet bully. Liberating business! Join me,” she then linked to her blog where Mr Meggitt was incorrectly identified.

It was a tweet seen around the world, and now that Hardy (below) has already reached a confidential legal settlement with Mr Meggitt, believed to be about $15,000, and published an apology on her blog, his lawyers are seeking damages from the social media site where the original defamation had the greatest exposure. Sydney Morning Herald

Normally I would sympathise with Mr Meggitt as he had false information posted to the Internet about him. However this is not one of those times. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald a settlement has already been reached with the offending party. Needless to say I don’t think Marieke Hardy had any malicious intent she just stuffed up and made a genuine mistake. A mistake she is now paying for.

So Joshua Meggitt has his compensation (If the article I quoted is correct) by way of a legal settlement. Personally I would love $15,000 every time someone wrote a false accusation about me on the internet, I would never have to work again.

Mr Meggitt’s lawyer Scott Gibson told Fairfax Media his client was now seeking legal redress from the social media company: “Twitter are a publisher, and at law anyone involved in the publication can be sued.” Herald Sun

However the offending Tweet never appeared on Twitter. Hardy posted the offending content on her blog. She simply used Twitter to notify people of her blog post, a post she has since apologised for making. Twitter had nothing to do with the content of that blog post.

So why does Joshua Meggitt want to got after Twitter. I personally suspect that greed is playing a role here and Twitter has deeper pockets than Hardy does; at least $140 Million USD per year.

All Australians should be pissed off by this assholes (I held out as long as I could) attempt to hold a service provider liable. In this country we are already a technological backwater and while Twitter is outside Australian jurisdiction to set such a legal precedence here will have dire consequences for us all. If service providers are held accountable for content created by their users it will completely abolish the Web 2.0 in this country. Afterall who in their right mind would host a website or other communications platform if they are to be sued and censored every time someone gets upset with what someone else writes about them.

I host my website offshore because it’s already too easy for miscreants in Australia to bully service providers into taking content offline. But if someone emails me and shows me that information is false I will gladly correct it. Misinformation is damaging and should be addressed, but the correct way to deal with it is by dealing with the author. Most people; at least those who attribute their names have no desire to publish inaccuracies and are happy to correct false information when they are called on it.

However attacking a service provider who has nothing to do with the creation of the content; anymore than the post office or phone company is simply the wrong approach and any sympathy I might of had for Joshua Meggitt is long gone.

Internet Censorship is 21st century book burning.

Internet Censoship is the 21st century equivalent of book burning. You cannot be inspired or educated by a book that you’ll never read, and you will never read that book if it is destroyed. In 1933 the German Nazi Party began it’s campaign of burning books that didn’t correspond with Nazi ideology. Censorship has always been a favorite tool of authoritarians because it limits peoples access to information and silences dissent within the population.

However the existence of the Internet has now made book burning largely redundant because books no longer need to be printed and shipped to those who will read them. Now ideas can be posted online where they are accessible anywhere in the world. I do not need to print pages of this site and send them off in the hope that someone might read them, instead I can post things here on my own corner of the web and anyone with an internet connection can access them. The internet provides a sort of immunity to book burning because not only can ideas be easily accessed without the need to ship a tangible item but they can also be electronically copied an infinite amount of times. Even destroying the server that hosts a particular website cannot guarantee that the ideas have not been copied and made available elsewhere.

But governments do not give in very easily. While there may not be many books left to burn there are still ideas that may need to be silenced. So authoritarian governments of the 21st century have come up with the idea of Internet Censorship. It may be impossible to burn the pages of a website but if the government can prevent people from accessing that website then the end result is the same as burning a book. People cannot be inspired or educated by an idea that they never read. Dissent can be silenced without the need to destroy all copies of the original.

Here in Australia the Gillard Government has plans to introduce legislation that will require all Internet Service Providers to block access to content that is “Refused Classification” that is any content that the Australian Government has deemed undesirable for public consumption. In 2009 Wikileaks released to Australian Governments blacklist of website that it wants banned for all Australians.

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt said the leaked list “constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material”.

He said the leaked list would become “the concerned parent’s worst nightmare” as curious children would inevitably seek it out.

But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist. Sydney Morning Herald

It seems like nobody in Australia is safe from the Gillard Governments censorship regime. Many of us already know better than to run our website off servers located within Australia, but this regime of censorship is aimed at everyone. It doesn’t matter if your content is 100% legal the Australian Government may still silence you at their own discretion. Some people who find themselves on the government blacklist already reside within Australia. So I think it’s fair to ask; Why are they not arrested if the content of their website is so bad? The answer is of course that many of the websites that our government wishes to censor are not actually illegal. If the blacklisted content was illegal they would at least arrest the people who own it and live in Australia.

Internet Censorship is the 21st century version of Book Burning. Essentially a Book Burning 2.0 and it must be stopped at any and all opportunities. The internet gave us the freedom to share and discuss ideas without boundaries and those in power seek to reinstate those boundaries and limitations on behalf of vested interests. Silencing Dissent is the dream of every authority but it must not be allowed to happen here in our western democracy.

United States policy is at odds with Australian politics.

The United States government is funding the development of systems that will allow citizen in foreign countries to evade government internet censorship. However meanwhile in Australia the government is moving ahead with it’s draconian plan to censor the countries internet service. So we are left in an interesting situation where our own government is gearing up for a massive assault on our human rights while an allied nation is seeking to develop tools to mitigate such an attack.

THE US Government is reportedly financing the development of “shadow” internet systems to enable dissidents abroad to get around government censors.

Financed with a $US2 million ($1.9 million) State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communications over a wide area with a link to the global internet. News.com.au

So how will this work with the proposed internet censorship here in Australia. Will we be able to import this technology from the US to help Australian citizens evade the governments censorship?

You would think that with all that’s been going on in the middle east recently, that our government would be taking a pro-democracy and pro-freedom of speech stance. Unfortunately it is not and senator Conroy remains as committed to the filter as ever. How can our government persist with it’s ideology of censorship and control while one of its closest allies (at least in the public spotlight) is developing tools to thwart such control.

The United States stance against internet censorship is incompatible with Senator Conroys desire for control. Is it wishful thinking for me to hope that the United States will take an agressive stance against this policy?

Anonymous Script Kiddies are not defending the internet.

If you’re following the WikiLeaks debacle you have no doubt heard of the group being called “Anonymous” although they are more of a phenomenon than an actual group or organisation. Anonymous have been launching Distributed Denial of Service Attacks against Mastercard, PayPal. Dubbed “Operation Payback” this loosely connected band of idiots are attempting to bring down websites and services that have refused to do business with WikiLeaks under the misguided view that they are standing up for Freedom of Speech and ‘Defending the Internet’.

However nothing could be further from the truth because Anonymous have even attempted to bring down Amazon for refusing to host WikiLeaks. Of course with Amazon being one of the largest service providers in the world Anonymous failed miserably, although they still attempted to bring down a service that hosts tens of thousands of servers. Such an attack on so many innocent people is not standing up for Freedom of Speech. Knocking someone’s service provider offline has the same effect as adding them to a government censorship filter; they are silenced.

Amazon has been lined up as the next victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack by the group of online vigilantes known as Anonymous, which has already taken down the web sites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, as the WikiLeaks controversy continues.

A Twitter update from one of the accounts used by the group, @Op_Payback, read an hour ago: “TARGET: WWW.AMAZON.COM LOCKED ON!!!”. Subsequent updates gave followers instructions on how to turn their computers into part of a mass botnet set to launch the DDoS attack in two hours.

It is unclear whether the attack is in retaliation for the actions of Amazon Web Services last week in booting WikiLeaks off its servers, or due to the appearance on Amazon.com today of the WikiLeaks cables for a £7.37 charge. V3.co.uk

I decided to briefly point out this hypocrisy in the IRC channel:

If the screencap is hard to see click here.

I had expected to receive at least some half baked ideology in response to justify the DDoS attacks but instead it seems these Script Kiddies are not interested in discussion.

 

As I type this the IRC has come to life; they are gearing up for another attack. I will be watching this out of interest but I refuse to assist any of these idiots. Because these morons are not defending the internet. Instead they are crippling it and stamping on the Freedom of Speech that they claim to protect. Despite what the media tell you these are not hackers because all these individuals are doing is abusing the core fundamentals of the Internet. Packets of information are routed indiscriminately to their destination so a DDoS attack requires no expertise to carry out. All you need to do is send traffic to a target and the Internet does the rest.

 

If like me you support WikiLeaks but condemn Operation Payback and the idiots behind it then say something on Twitter, Comment forms or the Anon-ops IRC (But don’t expect a warm welcome.)

 

Wikipedia: What is a Denial of Service Attack?

 

Anon-Ops IRC: 91.121.92.84 Port: 6667 #OperationPayback

 

Gillard wants prohibited debate.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants to talk about euthanasia, a topic that is banned from discussion under the Australian Government censorship regime.

Julia Gillard has opened the way for a fresh debate on legalising euthanasia after the Greens leader, Bob Brown, nominated it as one of his top priorities.

While three state parliaments wrestle with euthanasia legislation, the Prime Minister and Senator Brown are expected to discuss the Greens’ demand for the repeal of legislation preventing territory governments from legalising voluntary euthanasia. Sydney Morning Herald

Dr Philip Nitschke founder of Exit International has had his book titled The Peaceful Pill Handbook added to the Australian Governments ‘secret’ blacklist. The book is available online here and because our internet is currently uncensored we can access it. However a quick check of the blacklist shows that the (un-)Australian Government is very much against it’s citizens having access to euthanasia material.

Part of the ACMA Blacklist; peacefulpillhandbook.com is highlighted in green.

If you want to check the list yourself you can find it on wikileaks.org. The Sydney Morning Herald article “Web filtering pulls plug on euthanasia debate” also documents the governments anti-discussion stance.

So why does our Prime Minister suddenly want to discuss euthanasia. Certainly this puts her at odds with government policy. Still it’s good to see that some progress is being made.

Hopefully this will highlight how incompatible censorship is with a democratic society. Not even the PM will bow to the will of the censors, ironically her own party.

Web filtering pulls plug on euthanasia debate

Australian Labor: stepping back to 1984

I think Labor’s proposed National Broadband Network is bullshit. Not because we don’t need faster broadband but because Labor is offering it as bait to try and win back the voters. Having seen how fast Highspeed Broadband in mainland China is I am happy to say ‘no thanks’ to Labor’s National Broadband Network. Because while a faster Internet may seem tempting the idea of being restricted to government approved sites and services via Internet Censorship makes it a pretty raw deal.

Yes, Australia needs faster Internet but I believe there are better ways to achieve it. One of the reasons Conroy wants the ability to censor at the ISP level is because content providers; including Australian Citizens and Businesses often place their websites on United States based servers in order to avoid take down notices from Australian Authorities.

I believe the key to upgrading our infrastructure is to encourage more companies to set-up their data centres over here and the only viable way to do this is to abolish the regime of censorship that our nanny-state of a country has embraced for so long. (We don’t even have R18 for games.) Nobody is going to place servers in Australia if they think there is even the slightest change of being ordered to shut it down. I am not talking about the proposed ISP level censor here but rather the existing censorship that comes from ACMA in the form of take-down notices and $11,000 per day fines. This type of censorship has been around for many years but fortunately the Internet has help liberate the Australian people by giving them a means to speak out. The Internet has given the people a voice and freedom of speech like never before and the Australian Labor party wishes to silence it by implementing mandatory service provider level censorship. This combined with the plan to monitor the Internet usage of all Australian Citizens is destroying our digital economy and moving us towards George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty Four.

Labor will chase any would be investors away with even more draconian Censorship. In order to move forward we need to become a safe haven for freedom of speech and freedom of information. That combined with our own investments into the infrastructure will provide an incentive for overseas and Australian companies to run servers in Australian data centres which ultimately means they will be investing in Australia’s communication infrastructure and economy.

Somebody Think of the Children!

I find it bizarre that the pro-filter mob have adopted the “Somebody Think of the Children” stance because in my opinion it should be the exact opposite. While I have no kids myself and would never want any in the first place. I do believe in protecting the rights and freedoms of the future generations. It seems appropriate to me that anyone who wants to protect children should be opposed to censorship in every way shape and form and be focused on upholding human rights, not suppressing them.

Surely any reasonable parent would want their child to grow up in a democratic society that upholds the freedom of speech and rejects totalitarian idealism that would see even the most fundamental human rights removed. We live in one of the greatest countries in the world and the freedoms we all take for granted only exist because of our modern democracy that allows the free exchange of ideas and information. The internet has played a primary role in enhancing our lives in recent decades not only because it gives us access to information but also because it allows us to contribute in return. The rise of the web 2.0 phenomena means that now everyone can contribute to the global conversation we call “The Internet” and only the most callous individuals would seek to silence it for there own ends.