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Fwd: FC: Washington Post editorial on global Net-censorship (10/21/96)

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>Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 07:36:09 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
>To: fight-censorship-announce@vorlon.mit.edu
>Subject: FC: Washington Post editorial on global Net-censorship (10/21/96)
>Message-Id: <Pine.GSO.3.95.961021073535.2936B-100000@well.com>

While the Washington Post may be in thrall to the national security
establishment on encryption policy, it has done more to highlight the
dangers of Net-censorship than any other newspaper. Check out today's
editorial, attached below.

Also, the In the Loop column in today's Post reports that the poorly-named
"Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom" is hosting a $10,000-a-table banquet
called the "1996 Architect of the New Century Award Gala" on November 11.

This year's architect? "None other than that champion of democracy and
human rights the inimitable Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of
Singapore." The same fellow I wrote about in a HotWired column recently: 

   The unknown user, who has the email address an511172@anon.penet.fi,
   posted hundreds of messages to the soc.culture.singapore newsgroup
   under the name of "Lee Kwan Yew," the retired prime minister of
   Singapore. The messages are short and unimaginative, yet apparently   
   are just enough to piss off the thin-skinned Singaporean officials. 
   One post reads: "We are small and vulnerable. Without regulations, we
   will be like Hong Kong, oops, fuck, bad example, they are actually
   doing quite all right. - SM Lee Kwan Yew, Republic of Singapore."  

I just called the Nixon Center and spoke to Tricia Williams, the assistant
to the president. She told me: "You would need to speak to Mr. Sines, the
president. I'm not involved in planning that." More later, if he returns
my phone call. 



                          CENSORSHIP IN CYBERSPACE
   Monday, October 21 1996; Page A18
   The Washington Post
   WHEN IT COMES to communication and censorship, the issues don't change
   much from one medium to the next. The latest reminder comes with a
   mini-gust of consternation that hit the World Wide Web a few days ago
   when, after prolonged outcry, the proprietor of a Sweden-based web
   site called the Gallery Grotesque closed it down. The site had been
   displaying gruesome images for two years and had attracted alarm most
   recently by posting several grisly photographs of a murder scene.

   Those who attempted to visit the web site after it was closed were 
   greeted with a message from the owner that included all the classic
   reasons for allowing speech even when it's violent or disturbing. The
   "gallery," the message explained, had been designed to display true
   images of "a debauched, self-indulgent society"; it had gotten several
   million "hits," or visitors, over its life; "myriad external
   pressures" had been brought to bear, and it was now closing "at a time
   of my own choosing" because "the concept has been fully explored."
   Finally, to those "repulsed or angered" by the images, it added,      
   "Consider this: The insanity still continues; only the messenger has 
   been quelled."

   Whatever you make of the issues of judgment or perhaps            
   self-dramatization involved here, the arguments closely resemble the
   familiar ones about information and its responsible use that have been
   going on for centuries. Meanwhile, the Internet experiences of such
   countries as China and Singapore offer a more sobering demonstration
   that the new technology may not change the landscape of freedom of  
   speech vs. censorship as much as many had hoped. When the Internet  
   with its global reach first became accessible in countries with       
   otherwise tight information control, human rights and pro-democracy 
   activists foresaw a virtual end to isolation for their colleagues in
   closed societies, just as fax machines had buoyed Chinese student
   protesters a decade ago. Some talked of a global "archive of banned
   books" that could be accessed from any point in the world, thus
   rendering book-banning by individual nations pointless.

   Unfortunately, governments interested in maintaining censorship       
   quickly have found ways to use the technology to their benefit. Though
   decentralized and ungovernable, the Internet is also highly
   transparent: No one can be sure who is watching, and most messages
   leave tracks. The governments of China, Burma and Singapore have been
   cited as making use of this characteristic of the medium, announcing
   heavy penalties on those who access unauthorized sites, and, in Iran
   particularly, constructing elaborate technological fire walls to allow
   their citizens to tap some but not all of the Web's information.

   The fire walls may prove rickety, and, even with the restrictions,
   activists may discover over time that access to e-mail and the Web
   brings more advantage than danger. Even so, the lesson remains:
   Technology may alter the dimensions of the problem of censorship, but
   it doesn't take the problems away.


fight-censorship is at http://www.eff.org/~declan/fight-censorship/

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