An affront to common sense

Friday, August 13, 2010 at 22:07 | Posted in Freedom of speech | Leave a comment

I discovered through a tweet by @DustyTrice (retweeted by @VilluiArrak) that the Ultra Conservative American political fart factory known as The Tea Party has produced this intellectually pervert statement, mouthed by Jaime Radtke, chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation. Ms Radtke apparently hates the concept of net neutrality because she thinks it is “an affront to free speech and free markets”.

Given that net neutrality is very much about free speech and free access to free speech, all I can conclude is that the frog that just jumped out of a Tea Party mouth is an affront to common sense.

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1st amendment to the constitution

Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 22:47 | Posted in civil rights, Freedom of speech | Leave a comment

Just a reminder, regardless if you are a republican or a democrat:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’ll drink for that 🙂

Briefly about German web censorhip

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 17:42 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet | 2 Comments

New regulations are being discussed (via @doppelfish) in Germany about mouth gagging free speech in the Internet. My brief photographic comment about the proposed measures is as follows:

German MP scores own goal

Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 18:05 | Posted in absurd, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet, Legal, web 2.0. | 6 Comments
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If you type www.wikipedia.de into the address bar of your browser you would normally find a search box for articles in the German Wikipedia which is hosted in a US based server belonging to  Wikimedia Foundation. As from late Friday, the page looks like this (click for a full size view):

The reason for this provisional change of layout is an interim injunction issued by Landgericht LĂĽbeck. The court injunction was sought by Left Party member of German Federal Parliament Lutz Heilmann. Wikipedia.de is ordered not to redirect to de.wikipedia.org, i.e. the German Wikipedia.

Mr Heilmann is apparently unhappy about an article in German Wikipedia about himself. I addition to regular CV there is a short passage about Lutz Heilmann’s alleged activities within the former East German Secret Police STASI. Referring to an article in Spiegel Online, Wikipedia writes:

Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums fĂĽr Staatssicherheit

Im Oktober 2005 enthüllte Der Spiegel die von Heilmann bislang verschwiegene Stasi-Vergangenheit. Heilmann gibt bis heute öffentlich an, von 1985 bis 1990 einen „verlängerte[n] Wehrdienst (Personenschutz MfS)“ geleistet zu haben.[2] Heilmann war nach Ableisten der allgemeinen Wehrpflicht von 18 Monaten für die Zeit bis 1990 als Berufssoldat beim MfS beschäftigt und verließ dieses erst, als es aufgelöst wurde.[4]

Vor der Wahl hatte Heilmann den Mitgliedern des Landesverbandes seine Tätigkeit beim MfS verschwiegen. Dies stellte einen Verstoß gegen innerparteiliche Richtlinien dar. Auf dem Landesparteitag am 4. Dezember 2005 stimmten die Mitglieder des Landesverbandes Schleswig-Holstein über einen Misstrauensantrag gegen Heilmann ab. Das Ergebnis war 47 Stimmen für Heilmann zu 42 gegen ihn.[4] Heilmann ist seitdem innerhalb der Linken in Schleswig-Holstein umstritten.[5]

According to Mr Heilmann, he was enrolled in a “prolonged military service” from 1985 and 1990 but Spiegel says they are in possession of documents confirming that he was working full time for the STASI:

In den nach dem Fall der Mauer von Bürgerrechtlern gesicherten Gehaltslisten des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit (MfS) ist Heilmann 1989 als hauptamtlicher Mitarbeiter des DDR-Geheimdienstes registriert. Nach Aktenlage war er in der Hauptabteilung Personenschutz tätig, die für die Sicherung und Versorgung der Partei- und Staatsführung zuständig war.

Wikimedia Deutschland are going to file a counter motion tomorrow but it may still take some time before things return to normal. This is not the first time Wikimedia Deutschland have been targetted by legal action. Hubertus Albers a.k.a Atze Schröder last year unsuccessfully intimidated took legal action against then CEO Arne Klempert.

The funny thing is that barely anybody took notice when Spiegel published the information about Mr Heilmann’s alleged STASI activities but it has become more than common knowledge now thanks to his own reactions. I call this a classical example of own goal 2.0.

via RA-Blog and Compyblog

Edit: There is a short article about Mr. Heilmann in the English Wikipedia.

Raja Petra locked up for two years

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 10:54 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, civil rights, Freedom of speech, malaysia, Press freedom | 2 Comments
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Raja Petra Kamarudin, a Malaysian blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, has been detained for two years without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Raja Petra is supposed to have insulted islam. He is going to be sent to Kamunting Detention Center today. A protest rally calling for abolition of the Internal Security Act will take place in Kuala Lumpur at 8 p.m. local time.

Baring in mind that the Malaysian government have a notorious record on harassing bloggers, the accusation of “insulting islam” must be regarded as an excuse to get rid of a political dissident. Religions, islam included, cannot be insulted because they stand above any form of insult. Any religion is god’s word for a believer but totally indifferent for a non-believer. Alas, no insult can possibly take place.

Maybe Malaysia will some day turn in to be a country with something resembling democracy and a civil society. The present corrupt government should be replaced in order to make that happen. Raja Petra and other political prisoners must be immediately released.

The show is about to begin

Monday, September 15, 2008 at 19:11 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Election, Freedom of speech, Politics, USA | Leave a comment
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A quick look at Sherry Whitstine’s blog makes Sarah Palin look like a bleeding heart liberal. That puts the Wasilla blogger even further away from my values than Ms. Palin is. However, that does not change what I have always believed: I strongly disagree with you but I would go to far lengths in order to defend your right to disagree with me.

Displaying Sarah Palin exactly as a bleeding heart liberal seems to be much of a mission of Sherry Whitstine’s blog. In her so far latest post she throws the following at the Alaska governor:

Where’s the good  and positive fruit Sarah?  Sarah has produced nothing that resembles a good faithful conservative. She’s not a small government gal,  She has shown NO high ethical standard of duty to the state or community. Sarah’s  legacy is vindictiveness, obstructionist and hatred for anyone who may appear to have another answer. You are honored and praised if you are in agreement – You are demonized and minimized if you do not agree.

That I can relate to up to an amount. As far as “Sarah’s legacy” is concerned, I would call it an accurate description. As for most other content of the blog, I respectfully beg to disagree but I would defend the author’s right to make her case.

If it is true what I read in NYT that Sherry received a call from the governor’s assistant Ivy Frye four mounths ago saying: “You should be ashamed! Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”, then I would say that I am worried about John McCain: how could he have a judgement bad enough to pick a running mate like that?

I do assume senator McCain was aware of governor Palin’s background. Because if he was not, how could anybody trust him to make adequate decisions based on the intelligence he would have access to as a president if he is unable to make a simple background research about his own VP?

While the presidential campaigns have been extraordinary so far, I have a hunch that the show is just about to begin. I have no idea what the dirt departments of each party and candidate are going to produce during these remaining weeks. I am going to keep an eye on this entertainment although not full time. There is the small detail of casting a vote myself on 26 October on a ballot where I, unlike the US election, am eligible to vote. And I have not made up my mind yet.

By the way, I enjoyed reading Emer’s post about the American presidential election although I did not agree to 100 %. Close enough, though.

Protest zones without protests

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 21:48 | Posted in China, civil rights, Freedom of speech | 3 Comments

The Chinese government have established special zones for sanctioned protests at Beijing’s World Park. That sounds sort of cute and in Chinese circumstances extraordinarily liberal. However, not a single application to organize a protest has been sanctioned so far. Wang Wei, vice-president of the Beijing organising committee, told reporters they should be “satisfied” with the protest zones. Sure, the zones are just fine and it would probably be too much to ask that actual protests were allowed to take place there.

Of the 77 applications filed so far, 74 have been rejected because “the issues have been addressed” by “proper authorities”. Two applications are pending because they did not include “sufficient information” and one was turned down because it “included children” which is considered to be against the rules. Judging from these statistics, the mere existence of the protest zones could be understood to have solved all social problems in China leaving no need to actually carry out the protests.

Many applicants are reported to have been intimidated by Chinese officials just for filing their application. Two elderly ladies, 79 year old Wu Dianyuan and 77 year old Wang Xiuying, have been sentenced to “re-education through labour” for filing an application to protest against having been evicted from their home in 2001.  The one year sentence was imposed on the ladies by a commission without a trial.

Olympic mouth-gag

Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 20:31 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Freedom of speech, Journalism, Press freedom | 2 Comments
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The IOC has issued what they call Blogging guidelines for the Olympic games (pdf file here, via Barbara). It is a substantial set of very restrictive rules for blogging during the Olympics by Accredited Persons at the Games. It could be best described as a mouth-gag, albeit practically impossible to impose.

At the introduction of the 13 paragraph mouth-gag rules there is a sentence I strongly disagree with:

The IOC considers blogging, in accordance with these Guidelines, as a legitimate form of
personal expression and not as a form of journalism.

That may very well apply for some blogs and bloggers but certainly not all of them. A blog of a journalist, either free lance or affiliated, can include journalistic personal expression or even consist of nothing else but. In that case the blog in question is indeed a platform of journalistic activities.

Many of us, Yours Truly included, publish in our personal blogs some of the material that did not fit in a story published by a main stream media outlet. The content has thus been aqcuired as a journalist and it stays as a jornalistic statement regardless of the media where it appeared. In other words, whether or not blogging is to be regarded as journalism does not depend of the blog format per se but of the status of the blogger and the nature of the contents.

Alas, the restriction imposed to accrediated journalists by the IOC must be regarded as a pathetic attempt to violate the freedom of press. While the so called guidelines also apply to Olympic athletes and there are detailed restrictions about covering Olympic events above the personal experience, it must also be regarded as violating freedom of speech. No interviews or just references to statements of fellow athletes are allowed. There are also extensive limitations to images published and “moving images”, as they call it, are totally banned.

Clauses of commercial material are disputable. If interpreted strictly, the mouth-gag rules could be understood to ban Google Ads in a blog, just to mention one wierd example.

As I mentioned, these so called guidelines are practically impossible to impose, both legally and technically. Dispite the Great Firewall of China, critical contents is leaking out all the time.

An alternative Olympic banner

Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 7:29 | Posted in China, Freedom of speech, Human rights, Journalism, Press freedom | Leave a comment
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I picked this banner at the Reporters Without Borders web site. If you want to download it in full size, just click here.

Are you lesbian or Lesbian?

Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 13:46 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Legal | Leave a comment
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Activists in the island of Lesbos in Greece are seeking an injunction against Greek lesbians who call themsekves just that (BBC):

The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violates the human rights of the islanders, and disgraces them around the world.

The term lesbian dates back to ancient Greek mythology. Goddes Sappho, a native of Lesbos, expressed her love to women in poetry. Tough as it may be, the word can equally be understood to refer to native islanders (with capital L) and women with a specific sexual orientation (with minor l).

Trying to litigate against usage of any word in desired context is an interference against freedom of speech. I hope this case is going to be thrown out of the court ASAP. With any success in Greek courts, the Lesbians are likely to carry on the case internationally. The last thing EU needs is a directive of sexual orientation terminology.

LiveLeak pulls off Fitna after threats

Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 13:19 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech | 1 Comment
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Fitna is not a “politically correct” film. It is a very controversial film with a statement that can be agreed or disagreed with. Whether we agree or disagree with Geert Wilders’s staement, everybody must have the right to watch Fitna in order to make up the mind of their own.

If only “politically correct” statements were allowed, there would be no freedom of speech as acceptable and unacceptable would be defined by those who claim the right to say what is “politically correct”. Nobody has the right of imposing their views on others, nor the right of preventing others from expressing their views. That is the only limitation to freedom of speech: everybody is entitled to speak up their mind as long as they do not seek to prevent others from doing likewise.

Attempting to block somebody’s opinion being heard is despicable. It is even much more despicable to threat with violence in order to make somebody else shut up. Tolerating views that contradict our own opinion goes together with living in a free World.

After receiving serious threats against members of their staff LiveLeak have decided to pull off Fitna. As they say in their official statement replacing the film: “This is a sad day for freedom of speech in net”.

The Internet can obviously not be censored. The film is never going to disappear, how much those cowards will ever threaten service providers. It is currently up in YouTube and elsewhere.

So here is the YouTube version. Should it be taken down, there are more places to see the film. I have a copy on my hard drive and another one in my server. I am certainly not the only one to has secured it.

Edit: As could be expected, the film has been removed from YouTube. Here is a copy hosted elsewhere.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Geert Wilders – Fitna“, posted with vodpod

Watching Fitna

Friday, March 28, 2008 at 4:30 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech | 8 Comments
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On Monday I urged everybody to watch Fitna by Geert Wilders before passing a judgement about the film, just so that everybody would know first hand what they are talking about. I just did that. It is a shocking film but it is not something which would justify censorship of any sort.

The film includes some very shocking scenes and images including footage of the Twin Tower Crash, the Madrid subway explosions and some executions. If you are sensitive about extreme violence you should not watch the film. If you think you can cope with that sort of material, watch it by all means.

Most of the film actually consists of Quran quotes and statements made by islam fundamentalists. There is a tendency of emphasizing views of extremists who wish to impose strict interpretation of sharia allover the World regardless of religion or believe. Mr Wilders carefully avoids mentioning that far from all muslims want to force their religious beliefs on others and that is the week point of the movie. Just as “exporting islam” by force is flat wrong, it is equally wrong to suggest that all muslims would want to export it by force.

Fitna is by no means an objective film and it does not even seek to be objective. It is a strong statement which we may not agree with but nevertheless a statement made within frames of freedom of speech. Which is why I do not understand why Mr. Wilders’s domain is still blocked by Network Solutions.

Dispite its shortcomings the film is not offensive but it is shocking. It is here for you to watch if you think you are comfortable with watching. You have been warned about violent scenes and images.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from watchedbylarko.vodpo

Edit: Unfortunately LiveLeak staff members have received serious threats of violence which is why they have decided to pull off Fitna. Not only is threatening flat wrong, trying to stop people from seeing this controversial film and making up their own mind about it is totally against every notion of freedom of speech. At the end of the day, those responsible of these coward threats are explicitly damaging the World wide muslim community as the threads tend to increase prejudice about them as untolerant people.

The Internet can not be censored. Here is Fitna through YouTube.

Fitna: let us watch it first!

Monday, March 24, 2008 at 0:16 | Posted in censorship, civil rights, Freedom of speech | 1 Comment
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While I do not share the views and opinions of Dutch MP Geert Wilders and I regard some of those opinions not only as unacceptable but outright outrageous, it is my firm conviction that Mr. Wilders has every right to express those opinions. It may not be wise on a pragmatical point of view to launch a film which is certain to attract even violent protests and demonstrations but launching a film like that is an indisputable civil right of Mr. Wilmers. Freedom of speech is the most valuable right we have and tolerating expressed opinions that do not match with our own opinions is a mandatory duty of every human on the Earth.

I find it extremely odd that Network Solutions have chosen to suspend a domain set up by Geert Wilders to launch his film Fitna:

This site has been suspended while Network Solutions is investigating whether the site’s content is in violation of the Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy. Network Solutions has received a number of complaints regarding this site that are under investigation. For more information about Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy visit the following URL: http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/aup.jsp

The complaints cited by Network Solutions seem to address something which nobody has yet seen. The site seems to have consisted so far only of an image of the cover of a Koran on a black background with the text: “Coming soon: Fitna”. That can hardly be regarded as offensive by anybody.

Most of the people protesting against the Mohammad cartoons have actually never seen them. I would not state an opinion about Fitna before I have seen the film. Let us just watch it first!

Edit: I spotted a clip (via Befria Media) with Geert Wilders commenting the fuzz around his film. This is the first time ever I recall agreeing with him.

Russia plans to censor Internet

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 7:32 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, russia | 8 Comments

Russia has so far not bothered very much to regulate the Internet. The low Internet penetration in Russia has guarded most citizens from the harmful effects of free speech. Since the traditional media is under heavy government control, access to independent sources of information has has been kept on a suitable level without special measures targeted against the web.

However, this is likely to change soon. According to The Other Russia, the Prosecutor-General’s Office has filed legislative proposals about web censorship to both houses of the Parliament and the presidential administration. The prosecutors want to make ISP’s and telecoms responsible for “objectionable and extremist material” in the Internet.

Aleksey Zhafyarov, the deputy head of Directorate to supervise enforcement of laws on federal security, interethnic relations and countering extremism was frank with the agency:

“We have a paradoxical situation on our hands: there is a whole group of companies that maintain the internet and derive a profit, yet take no responsibility for the impact on society of the content they host.”

Internet related bills have previously been tabled in both houses, among others one that would require all web sites with more than 1000 daily visitors to register as mass-media outlets and another one limiting foreign investments to telecom and internet industries.

Web censorship in Finland

Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 4:28 | Posted in censorship, Finland, Freedom of speech, information, internet, transparency | 4 Comments
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When you talk about governments censoring the Internet, you would be most likely to think of countries like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba etc. As I wrote in my previous post, an attempt to block a whistle blower site was recently made by the US judicial branch. As it turns out, Finland has also joined the notorious countries where government agencies under the noble pretext of fighting child pornography are actually blocking a large number of sites that have nothing to do with child pornography.

Some of the censored sites just incidentally happen to be critical about the censorship itself, including this one operated by Matti Nikki. Matti explains exhaustively in English about the background of his site and the censorship issue. Additional information in English and related links can be found in this article by Electronic Frontier Finland.

The Finnish Parliament last year past a legislation in 2006 allowing the National Bureau of Investigation to comply a list of foreign based web sites allegedly including child pornography. The list was supposed to be sent to Internet service providers together with a request to block access to the listed sites. The black list was supposed to be strictly targeted.

Anybody trying to access the listed URL’s in Finland was supposed to be directed to a NBI page informing about the denied access (here displayed by Matti Nikki). Since my ISP has not (yet?) implied the filter, I am currently able to access both Matti’s site and every other black listed site. I am among other things able to establish that blocking all of the Japanese web portal www.iij4u.or.jp can hardly be described as “strictly targeted filtering”. Among other censored sites I fail to understand what this Japanese music store may have to do with child pornography.

The NBI refuse to comment their black list in public. They also refuse to answer the obvious question why they have not made the courtesy of e-mailing their colleagues in the FBI and European law enforcing agencies about sites actually containing child pornography. One must assume they have not informed their colleagues as the sites are still visible. That also raises the obvious question whether their intention was not to block legitimate critical web contents rather than child pornography.

Electronic Frontiers Finland has filed a complaint to the Chancellor of Justice about the legality of the NBI filter list. The complete complaint (in Finnish) can be accessed here. Among their many questions to the Chancellor is how come Matti Nikki’s site landed on the list although it is completely based in Finland and the law allows only foreign based sites to be filtered.

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