US judge closes whistle blower site

Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 3:08 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal, USA | 1 Comment
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US federal court has blocked the whistler blower site Wikileaks.org (NYT):

The case in San Francisco was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust. In court papers, the bank said that “a disgruntled ex-employee who has engaged in a harassment and terror campaign” provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws. According to Wikileaks, “the documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.”

Judge Jeffrey S. White granted a permanent injunction ordering domain name registrar Dynadot to disable and lock the domain Wikileaks.org. Apparently, judge White is unaware of how the Internet actually works. While Wikileaks.org is currently not accessible under its regular domain, the site is up and running here, here, here, here and probably in a number of other places as well if you care to do some googling.

The Wikileaks folks should actually thank judge White for the free promotion. Without this ridiculous injunction order thousands of blogs would probably not be linking to them.

Belarus editor on trial for Muhammad toons

Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 10:25 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Press freedom | Leave a comment
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Berlingske Tidende writes that Aleksander Sdvijkov, editor of Belarus weekly Zgoda is on trial in Minsk for attempting to print the famous  Muhammad cartoons originally published by Jyllands-Posten. He is charged for exhortation to racial hostility which could bring him imprisonment between three and ten years if found guilty. The toons were actually printed but the publisher withdrew the edition and the magazine with the cartoons was never distributed to news stands.

Preliminary investigation against  Sdvijkov was started by prosecutors in February 2006. The magazine was banned in March. Sdvijkov escaped to Russia but was arrested as he returned to Belarus for two months ago.

German intelligence censors the web

Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 20:14 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet | 2 Comments
Tags:

The German Intelligence Service (BND) have obtained a provisional injunction against the web site R-Archiv run by Ewald T. Riethmüller. In accordance with the injunction, some short passages of an article published in December have now been now temporarily deleted by the author.

The censored passages are as follows:

• Insbesondere die Maßnahmen gegen den Buchautor Wilhelm Dietl hatte einzig und allein den Sinn herauszufinden – was der ehemalige BND- Agent Norbert Juretzko in seinem Buch – BEDINGT DIENSTBEREIT – beabsichtigte zu veröffentlichen.

• Zu diesem Zweck wurde ein V-Mann in das Haus des Mitautors Wilhelm Dietl geschickt – das Gebäude von einem Busch aus beobachtet und versucht durch Anheben eines elektrischen Fenstergitters in das Haus einzudringen. Dabei verklemmte sich das Gitter – es entstand Sachschaden in Höhe von etwa 2.000 Euro.(Der BND bestreitet diese Darstellung.)

• Sodann wurde versucht mit 5.000 EURO das Buchmanuskript zu kaufen und als dies misslang kam es im herausgebenden Verlag zu einem Einbruch.

• Nach Behauptungen eines BND-NDV soll – auf der Berliner Friedrichsstrasse – ein Überfall auf Wilhelm Dietl vom BND vorbereiten worden sein – um diesem das Buchmanuskript auf offener Strasse zu entreißen. Der BND bestreitet diese Darstellung.

To put it in context, I uploaded all of the uncensored article. It can be read here.

via Mein Parteibuch.com

Alberta premier threatens to sue local blogger

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 4:53 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Canada, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal | 1 Comment
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Dave Cournoyer is a 24 year old student in University of Alberta. He is also a political blogger affiliated to Alberta Liberals. Dave’s blog Daveberta.ca has a tagline: “alberta politics and other assorted goodies”.

In April 2007, four months after Progressive Conservative leader Edward Stelmach became the premier of Alberta, Dave bought the domain edstelmach.ca which was unregistered at the time. Dave paid 14 Canadian dollars for the registration after which the domain became his property. The CA domain name selection guidelines do not limit the amount of domains registered by one person and limitations on selecting the domain name only apply for registered trademarks.

Dave writes about his usage of the domain:

For the majority of the time I have owned edstelmach.ca, I have had the domain name forward to this blog. A week before I received the letter from Premier Stelmach’s lawyer, I changed the forwarding to the wikipedia biography of another Alberta Premier (who also probably would have not thought to register his domain name).

The other premier was Harry Strom who served as premier between 1968 and 197. He was the last Alberta premier from the Social Credit Party of Alberta.

Rather than making a phone call or sending an e-mail to Dave, premier Stelmach had a high rated law firm, Walsh Wilkins Creighton LLP, send him a letter and threaten him with a lawsuite unless he would

(a) make arrangements with your service provider by December 21, 2007, to
ensure that the Website no longer forwards to the 810g; and
(b) make arrangements to with your service provider and/or registrar to have
the Website registered in our client’s name.

The letter, signed by Tyler S Shandro, suggests that Dave has registered the domain “in bad faith”. Dave is also accused for causing premier Stelmach’s image to suffer and having interfered with his personality, image and name.

What really seems to have made the good premier’s lawyers go bananas are the modest Google ads at Dave’s blog:

Fourth, the 810g is signed up for an advertising program called “Ads by Google”, from
which you receive an income through Google.com’s AdSense program, in which
advertisements are matched to your site’s content, and you earn money. You have
therefore knowingly made a commercial use of our client’s name without his consent.
This constitutes an invasion and impairment of our client’s exclusive right to market his
personality. In which case, our client is entitled to the amount he would reasonably have
received in the market for the permission to use his name.

In an interview for the CBC Dave tells that the Google ads generate about 20 Canadian dollars a month in revenue.

Dave is not going to give up easily:

Though I am still surprised that the +150 staffed Public Affairs Bureau failed to complete the simple task of registering a $14.00 domain name, I am even more surprised that Premier Ed Stelmach’s first reaction in this situation was to threaten to sue an 24-year old blogger and debt ridden University of Alberta student. As a born and bred Albertan, I do not take well to threats from politicians. Therefore I will be seeking advice from legal counsel on how to proceed with this threat.

I am not going to state an opinion about the legal merits of premier Ed Stelmach’s case. My advise to the premier is that he should urgently start thinking about damage control instead of insisting to litigate. Messing with bloggers has seldom payed out. Mr Stelmach has already shot his own foot for far more than 14 dollars and it can only get worse unless he backs off.

Australia censors the web

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 2:36 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, internet | Leave a comment
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Australia’s new labor government is planning to introduce a heavy censorship of the Internet.

The Australian government’s aim is to ensure that children only have access to family-friendly websites.

Service providers will be expected to stop the flow of pornography and other X-rated or violent content.

The government is set to compile a list of unsuitable sites, although at this stage it is unclear what will be deemed unsuitable.

Australians wanting unfettered access to the web will have to contact their supplier to opt out of the new regime.

This is an utterly bad idea. All filters used so far around the World have failed to stop some of the contents intended to be filtered out but at the same time a considerable amount of legitimate contents has been blocked. No government is in a position to constantly monitor the web in order to maintain an updated list of “unsuitable” and accepted sites.

Besides, parents are better judges of what is suitable for their children than any government. The government is infringing freedom of speech and at the same time parenting Australian parents.

Allah does not exist (for me)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 at 15:50 | Posted in Freedom of speech, malaysia, Press freedom | 6 Comments
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Diptychal points to an article in the International Herald Tribune reporting that a senior government official in Malaysia has told Malaysian catholic weekly Herald to drop the word “Allah” in their Malay language section as a condition to have their publishing permit renewed.

The Herald, the organ of Malaysia’s Catholic Church, has translated the word God as “Allah” but it is erroneous because Allah refers to the Muslim God, said Che Din Yusoff, a senior official at the Internal Security Ministry’s publications control unit.

“Christians cannot use the word Allah. It is only applicable to Muslims. Allah is only for the Muslim god. This is a design to confuse the Muslim people,” Che Din told The Associated Press.

The weekly should instead, use the word “Tuhan” which is the general term for God, he said.

IHT

In the same IHT article, the Herald editor explains the biblical usage of “Allah” and “Tuhan”:

The Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, said the weekly’s use of the word Allah was not intended to offend Muslims.

“We follow the Bible. The Malay-language Bible uses Allah for God and Tuhan for Lord. In our prayers and in church during Malay mass, we use the word Allah,” he told the AP.

Diphytcal refers to a Wikipedia article about Allah which spells out that “Allah” is widely used by Arabic speaking christians and jews as a reference to god. Diphytcal’s conclusion is that Mr. Che Din Yusoff obviously does not know the difference between language and religion.

Personally I could not care less because I have no religious belief at all. God, Allah and Tuhan do not exist for me. However, I am an advocate of freedom of speech and religion. No matter what ignorant officials in the Malaysian or any other government say, everybody must have the right to address the god they believe in whatever way they see fit.

Vietnam censors blogs

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 at 14:51 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Media | 2 Comments
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The communist government of Vietnam plans to censor the Vietnamese blogosphere, AFP reports. According to a state media report released today, blogs must be controlled “to prevent the spread of subversive and sexually explicit content”.

Referring to anti-Chinese protests over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, Nguyen The Ky, head of the Press Management and Publishing Bureau, said in a statement reported by Than Nien News:

“It’s all right when some bloggers have recently showed their patriotism, posting opinions about the Paracels-Spratly Archipelago on their weblogs.

But some have sparked protests, causing public disorder and affecting the country’s foreign affairs. It’s impossible to control the internet, so I think we should bolster technical security measures in addition to creating regulations.”

Than Nien News also quotes Do Quy Doan, deputy minister for Information and Communications, as saying in a national media conference in Hanoi on Monday:

Controlling weblogs is about developing them in accordance with the law, not forbid-ding them. We should provide guidelines that help people know what type of information they can upload online.

Bloggers will have to be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access. Once we have obvious regulations, I think no one will be able to supervise weblogs better than the bloggers themselves.

It would no doubt be convenient for any government, let alone an authoritarian communist regime, if blogs only posted what is sanctioned by the government. That would of course make blogs as such obsolete. The Vietnamese government already controls what is published in the traditional media. Blogging is about increasing freedom of speech which is not what the Vietnamese government wants.

It would be interesting to learn what the deputy minister had in mind when he said that bloggers should “be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access”. I for one, have access to all the information and indeed dis-information in the Internet but I refuse to take responsibility of anything other than my own posts.

Blogs have been around in Vietnam for a relatively short time. Not only the government is confused about the new method of expressing opinion on line. The bloggers themselves and the main stream media also seem to be in the process of learning how to cope with the new media. Chao-Vietnam accounts for a number of blog wars which very much resemble the disputes common in the western blogosphere for a few years ago.

In a related article, 4DM reports that the Vietnamese government are planning to allow privately owned media publications in addition to the current state owned media. On the surface this may sound like increased press freedom but given the plan to limit freedom of speech in the blogs, one has serious doubts about how free the private media could be. By definiton, freedom of speech and a communist government do not go together.

Gillian Gibbons pardoned

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 13:22 | Posted in civil rights, Freedom of speech | Leave a comment
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The Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pardoned Gillian Gibbons who is serving a 15 day jail sentence in Sudan for allowing her primary school class name a teddy bear Muhammad. Ms Gibbons is to be released today and she is also going to fly back to Britain today.

A presidential pardon is of course a satisfactory solution in humanitarian point of view. However, as Ms Gibbons that should never have been  arrested and convicted in the first place, the conviction should also have been overturned. As I understand, this is not possible after a presidential pardon.

Tolerance is a two way street

Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 0:09 | Posted in Freedom of speech | 6 Comments
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Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher, who allowed her primary school class to name a teddy bear after one of her pupils, has been sentenced to 15 days in jail. The pupil happens to bear the same name as somebody regarded as a holy man by islam: Muhammad. Unity High School in Khartoum is a christian sćhool.

The BBC quotes Ali Alhadithi, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis) in UK as saying:

“What we have here is a case of cultural misunderstandings, and the delicacies of the matter demonstrate that it was not the intention of Gillian Gibbons to imply any offence against Islam or Muslims.

“We hope that the Sudanese authorities will take immediate action to secure a safe release for Gillian Gibbons.”

I agree that 15 days for exercising the freedom of speech is disproportionate. Unfortunately, though, angry mobs in Khartoum seem to be orchestrating lynch parties demanding Ms Gibbons to be executed. An anonymous demonstrator in Khartoum said to the BBC:

“We can’t accept it from anybody. Even if they can do that in Europe, they cannot do it here in Sudan. We ask our rulers and judges to review what they have said. Fifteen days is not enough.”

With all due respect, dear Anonymous, 15 days is far too much. You can not impose your own beliefs on somebody else, not even in Sudan.

Geirsan calls for leaders of the muslim community in Norway to explain their Sudanese brothers what the concept of tolerance is all about. I think this is a reasonable request, baring in mind the enormous tolerance that muslims enjoy in prominently christian Norway.

Tolerance is a two way street. If you take it for granted that muslims are entitled to their own religion in Europe (which I agree), the same must go for minorities in countries like Sudan. You can not just claim your own rights without giving in to others.

A pig named Jesus

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 23:45 | Posted in Freedom of speech | 3 Comments
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Gillian Gibbons is under arrest in Sudan because her class voted to name a teddy bear Muhammad. As you can read in this BBC report, Muhammad the teddy bear has nothing to do with the islam prophet with the same name. The name was suggested by a boy named Muhammad, a pupil in Ms Gibbons’s class.

In this Reuters video clip a local imam says that islam respects other religions and indeed freedom of speech but demands that non muslims “respect their opnion and deal with them fairly”.

from www.reuters.com

I am neither muslim nor christian, I have no religious belief at all. I am happy to respect both islam and christianity and indeed “deal with them fairly”, as it were. However, I would not accept that beliefs of islam or christianity or any other religion were imposed on me. So if I wanted to name a teddy bear, a dog or a pig Muhammad, Jesus or Buddha that would be my constitutional right within freedom of speech.

Unity High School in Khartoum is a christian sćhool. Demanding that they practise islam’s teddy bear naming policies is not what I understand as tolerance, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Authorize my ass

Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 16:31 | Posted in Freedom of speech, internet, it, Legal | 2 Comments
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Inventor-link web site has a weird understanding of freedom of speech. Their Privacy and User Agreement suggests that linking to the web site without their permission is prohibited:

By using this site you agree and understand that the HTML code, look, feel, content, company name, logo, text, and any likeness or derivative of such content is the sole property of Inventor-Link LLC and may not be used in any manner without the expressed written permission of Inventor-Link LLC. Furthermore, we strictly prohibit any links and or other unauthorized references to our web site without our permission.

Inventor-link is represented by the law firm Dozier Internet Law who have similar terms at their web site. The firm goes even further than that. They are trying to forbid viewing the HTML code of their web site:

We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.

Authorize my ass! No way can this sort of limitations of free speech be enforced.

The whole story can be read at Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

Iceland and Norway on top, Ertirea at bottom

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 3:54 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Journalism, Press freedom | Leave a comment
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Reporters Without Borders have issued a new World ranking of press freedom. It shows Iceland and Norway sharing the top position of countries with most press freedom, followed by Estonia, Slovakia, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Portugal.

The worse situation has been detected in Eritrea. The runners up (or should I say runners down) are North Korea, Turkmenistan, Iran and Cuba. Commenting the bottom rankings, Reporters Without Borders said:

“Even if we are not aware of all the press freedom violations in North Korea and Turkmenistan, which are second and third from last, Eritrea deserves to be at the bottom. The privately-owned press has been banished by the authoritarian President Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are thrown in prison. We know that four of them have died in detention and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate.”

The oragnization is also concerned of the situation in Burma and China (6th and 7th from bottom respectively). In view of the 2008 Olympic games, imprisoned Chinese journalists are not likely to be released soon. In Burma, the junta seems to have determined to hang on which is likely to rather increase than ease restrictions of free speech.

There we go again

Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 22:39 | Posted in Freedom of speech | 1 Comment
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There are apparently muslims who think that islam is too weak to be joked about. That I have hard to understand. If you can not take a joke targetted at what you believe in, one might ask if your faith is not too weak.

I made the same point last year as much of the muslim World was shocked about innocent cartoons that appeared in Jyllands-Posten. The aftermath of those cartoons has barely faded away and now another cartoonist, Lars Vilks, and another editor, Ulf Johansson in Nerikes Allehanda have been imposed a dead threat by a terrorist and self declared religious leader in Iraq. One would think that there is enough trouble as it is in Iraq without interfering in what newspapers as far away as in Sweden may or may not choose to print.

Both Mr. Vilks and Mr. Johansson are saying at this video clip that they are not afraid and rightly so. If one religion seeks to be recognized as a universal code of conduct, there is nothing even resembling freedom of religion or freedom of speech left in the World. With all due respect, exercise your religion as you see fit but do not interfere in others’ right to exercise or not excercise what they believe in.

from watchedbylarko.vodpo

Lech Kaczyński is a prick

Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 20:58 | Posted in Freedom of speech, google | Leave a comment
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It would not be very polite to say that George W Bush is a prick but it would be everybody’s constitutional right to say so both in the USA and elsewhere. I am also within my rights to freedom of speech by saying that the Polish president Lech Kaczyński is a prick. However, I could face prison by making such a statement in Poland.

Google Blogscoped quotes an article in the Polish quality newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza as translated by Ludwik Trammer:

Young internet geek is facing up to 3 years in prison. The man is accused of insulting president Lech Kaczyński.

The young man is said to have written a piece of software creating a Googlebomb to the Polish president’s web site with the keyword “kutas” which is Polish for penis. The article does not reveal technical details which makes the existence of a software somewhat questionable. Most of us know how to make a Googlebomb just by using search anchors although Google claims to have neutralized the bombs. Software or not, the links provided in comments to the entry in Google Blogscoped confirm that a Googlebomb did indeed exist.

The discussion in the comments also reveals that there is a seldom used piece of legislation in Poland which protects the honor of the president and apparently also that of heads of states in other countries and enforces restrictions to freedom of speech. It would technically be illegal in Poland to say that George W Bush is a prick but his honor would be less likely to be protected by Polish police and prosecutors than that of prick President Kaczyński or indeed Rev. Josef Ratzinger in his capacity of head of state in a country called the Vatican.

I am going to watch closely what will happen to the young man who used a Google bomb to make a controversial point. I am also using my own blog space to say that president Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński are pieces of a prick and I hope that both of them will eventually be voted out of office. I may or may not enter Poland to see if I am going to be arrested for this statement.

Fear causes self censorship

Monday, August 27, 2007 at 23:05 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech | Leave a comment


Klick for a larger image

Fear is a strange factor. It causes otherwise rational people and organizations to act irrationally. In the aftermath of the great comic bang a number of newspapers refuse to print a couple of episodes of the Opus comics:

Wyson said some client papers hesitated to run a sex joke and others won’t publish any Muslim-related humor, whether pro or con. “They just don’t want to touch that,” she said.

It is sad to note that the World is loosing one of its most valuable assets: the sense of humor. No religion or idea should be untouchable of humor. The ability to laugh at oneself and not get hurt is a healing force.

Self censorship is pitiful. If you have no intention to hurt, there is no point in anticipating somebody feel hurt of what you are about to say.

via Matti Lintulahti

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