The World of Web

Internet Censorship Thru Fear, Is Free Speech Dead?

The Opte (pronounced op-tee) Project is a project started by Barrett Lyon that seeks to make an accurate representation of the extent of the Internet using visual graphics.

Internet Censorship Thru Fear:

Internet censorship is the control or suppression of the publishing of, or access to information on the Internet. It may be carried out by governments or by private organizations either at the behest of government or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in Self-Censorship on their own or due to intimidation and fear. —>

Fearing the power of the new technologies, authoritarian states have devised subtle and not-so-subtle ways to filter, monitor, and otherwise obstruct or manipulate the openness of the internet. Even a number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media.

Critics Claim ACTA Threatens Internet Freedom:

The Netherlands this week imposed delays on the ratification of the ACTA international anti-piracy agreement, which critics claim threatens Internet freedoms. Opponents say the draft Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement puts users’ privacy at risk while the European Commission contends the measure doesn’t change existing data protection laws and is needed to mount a long-term global fight against copyright theft.

Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already delayed the international trade agreement’s ratification process, citing the same privacy concerns highlighted during a wave of anti-ACTA protests throughout Europe last week. The Netherlands joined that group Tuesday, when the Dutch lower house of Parliament backed a motion from the Green Left party calling on the Netherlands to refrain from signing onto ACTA, Radio Netherlands reported. —>

Europeans Have Given Up Freedom of Speech:

Americans think of Europeans as essentially like themselves. They believe European societies are like their own-rooted in the rule of law, freedom of religion, democratic government, market competition, and an unfettered press. In recent years, however, Europeans have given up an essential liberty: freedom of speech. It is true that in the United States prevailing orthodoxies on some questions are ruthlessly enforced but it is still legal to say just about anything. Not so in much of Europe. In the last decade or so countries we think of as fellow democracies-France, Germany, Switzerland and others-have passed laws that limit free speech for the same crude ideological reasons that drove the brief, unsuccessful vogue of campus speech codes in the United States.

World Map of Internet Censorship.

Today in Europe there are laws as bad as anything George Orwell could have imagined. In some countries courts have ruled that the facts are irrelevant, and that certain things must not be said whether they are true or false. In others, a defendant in court who tries to explain or defend a forbidden view will be charged on the spot with a fresh offense. Even his solicitor / lawyer can be fined or go to jail for trying to mount a defense. In one case a judge ordered that a bookseller’s entire stock-innocent as well as offending titles-be burned!

Just as Eastern Europe is emerging from it, Western Europe has entered the thought-crime era, in a return to the mentality that launched the Inquisition and the wars of religion. It is a tyranny of the left practiced by the very people who profess shock at the tactics of Joseph McCarthy, an exercise of raw power in the service of pure ideology. The desire not merely to debate one’s opponents but to disgrace them, muzzle them, fine them, jail them is utterly contrary to the spirit of civilized discourse. It is profoundly disturbing to find this ugly sentiment codified into law in some of the countries we think of as pillars of Western Civilization. At the same time, these laws cannot help but draw attention to the very ideas they forbid. Truth does not generally require the help of censors. —>

Not All Censorship Is Bad:

A proposed directive on combating sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography will introduce EU-wide requirements on prevention, prosecution of offenders and protection for victims. It would also oblige Member States promptly to remove web sites containing child pornography or, should this prove impossible, allow Member States to block access to them under certain conditions.

Stop Child Pornography

The text sets out minimum penalties for about 20 criminal offences – far more than are usually provided for in EU legislation. On-line “grooming” (befriending children via the web with the intention of sexually abusing them) will become a criminal offence across the EU, as will child sex tourism, where the offence is committed on a Member State’s territory or by one of its nationals abroad. The UK and Ireland say they wish to adopt and apply this directive. Denmark is the only Member State not taking part.

The sections of the draft on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA that most interest this article are as follows;

(Section 13)  Child pornography, which constitutes sex abuse images, is a specific type of content which cannot be construed as the expression of an opinion. To combat it, it is necessary to reduce the circulation of child abuse material by making it more difficult for offenders to upload such content onto the publicly accessible Web. Action is therefore necessary to remove the content and apprehend those guilty of making, distributing or downloading child abuse images. With a view to supporting the Union’s efforts in combating child pornography, Member States should do their best to cooperate with third countries in seeking to secure the removal of such content from servers in their territory.

(Section 13a) However, despite such efforts, the removal of child pornography content at its source is often not possible where the original materials are not located within the Union, either because the State where the servers are hosted is not willing to cooperate or because obtaining removal of the material from the State concerned proves to be particularly long. Mechanisms may also be put in place to block access from the Union’s territory to internet pages identified as containing or disseminating child pornography. It is understood that the measures undertaken by Member States in accordance with this directive in order to remove or, where appropriate, block websites containing child pornography could be based on various types of public action, such as legislative, non-legislative, judicial or other.

In that context, the provisions of this directive are without prejudice to voluntary action taken by the internet industry to prevent misuse of their services, or to any support for such action by Member States. Whichever basis for action or method is chosen, Member States should ensure that it provides an adequate level of legal certainty and predictability to users and service providers. Both with a view to the removal and the blocking of child abuse content, cooperation between public authorities should be established and strengthened, particularly in the interest of ensuring that national lists of websites containing child pornography material are as complete as possible and of avoiding duplication of work.

Any such developments must take account of the rights of the end users, adhere to existing legal and judicial procedures and comply with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Safer Internet Programme has set up a network of hotlines whose goal is to collect information and to ensure coverage and exchange of reports on the major types of illegal content online.

If you would like to view the full draft, you can find it ‘Here‘. If you would like to understand more regarding Internet Censorship, or get involved in any of the many campaigns against it [See Below]. If you have a comment about this article or any of the issues raised within, feel free to express them in the comment section below.

Campaigns Against Internet Censorship:

Reference:

  • Wikipedia : the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. 3,876,135 articles in English.
  • UPI.com : United Press International (UPI) provider of critical information to governments and researchers worldwide.
  • A.C.L.U. : American Civil Liberties Union, Because freedom can’t protect itself.
  • 123.Help Me! : For all your Essays, Research Papers, Term Papers, and Speeches.
  • The Sofia Echo : Providing news about Bulgaria as well as Central and South Eastern Europe.
  • The European Parliament Website : Portal to all that’s European, and the only directly-elected body of the European Union.
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