Censorship. It’s an emotive word. And always wrong, right? Wrong.
You see, people confuse censorship with choice. And when it’s really a question of choice, it cannot be wrong. Consider the recent ‘censorship’ of hard core self-published books by organizations like WH Smith and Amazon. Amos Kepler wrote (14 October 2013):
My books have been banned by WHSmith… If anything, the books being controversial is one more important reason to sell them and feature them. Censorship and oppression of free expression are never okay!
My books have been banned by WHSmith
SM Johnson wrote (13 October 3013):
Well. It seems one of my books has been censored by Amazon… This is one of those “big bads” that NEEDS to be publicized. If we ever needed a shit-storm about anything, it’s THIS.
Erotica Authors – Amazon Censorship Alert
But this isn’t censorship, this is choice. It is the choice of the publisher (in this instance WH Smith and Amazon) to sell or provide what they choose (or in this case, not sell what they don’t choose). We would not describe Harrods’ disinclination to sell Happy Shopper beans as censorship of baked beans requiring a shit-storm of protest — so why should we do so about WH Smith and Amazon? After all, you can still get Happy Shopper beans from Happy Shopper — and you can still get hard core from hard core shops.
Censorship is different. It is the removal of choice. It does not say, you cannot have this from us; it says no-one can have this from anyone, at all, period — and with censorship, WH Smith and Amazon would have no choice over what they wish to sell or not sell. There’s a big difference.
WH Smith and Amazon are not censoring these books; they do not have the ability to do so (the books will be available elsewhere, even if only from the authors’ own websites). WH Smith and Amazon are choosing not to make them available from their sites. And it is their right to make that choice.
Censorship is when an organization prevents all access to information or ideas or art that would otherwise be available. Governments can do it. ISPs can do it. Bookshops cannot.
So if we go back to our first paragraph, censorship is always wrong, right? Right! But choice is not; and we should not confuse the two. Claiming that a bookseller’s decision not to sell a particular book is censorship weakens the argument against genuine, serious censorship. Genuine censorship is not merely wrong, it is dangerous. Bookshops deciding not to sell hard core is not censorship.
A little while back I did a report on a major analysis by a major security firm on a major malware campaign. The security firm mentioned the name of a major security group situate in a major world economy. The malware campaign seemed to originate from this major world economy and primarily target one other specific country. The security group’s name repeatedly appeared in the code of the malware being investigated. All of this is fact.
A few days later I asked a separate security firm, whom I knew to be also investigating the same malware campaign, for their thoughts. We’d rather not comment, was the reply, since this is already causing problems.
Well, this major analysis report now seems to have disappeared from the major security firm’s website.
Why would that be?
I hardly think that legal threats from the major security group would be enough – after all, the major security firm was merely presenting facts. The major security group’s name really does appear in the malware code, repeatedly. Anyway, the analysis report went to great lengths to say, paraphrased, “we are in no way suggesting that [major security group] is implicated by this – there could be many innocent reasons for the name to appear.”
But the report has disappeared. There’s still an entry in the major security firm’s blog that describes the malware campaign. But the major security group’s name doesn’t appear. A link points to the report, but just goes to the home page. The report itself seems to have disappeared.
Why would that be?
There are two reasons I can think of. The first is that the major security firm now accepts that the inclusion of the major security group’s name is coincidental and unrelated to reality. But then why not just say so, rather than removing the whole report?
The other is government pressure. The whole malware campaign reeks of state-sponsored cyber espionage. And if that’s the case, I can fully understand said major world economy applying government-level pressure against said major security firm to bury any implied suggestion of cyber espionage against the target country.
So this morning I received this email. “I am Mr Thing, Corporate Communication Manager of Major Security Group. I had earlier also sent you the mail but I did not got any response from your end.” He hadn’t, but we’ll let that pass. “There is an article on your website which says… I want to clarify you that the claims in the report were totally false and imaginative.” I don’t think so – they were a report of a matter of fact. And it’s not my website – it is the website of the magazine I was writing for. Out of loyalty to that magazine, and courtesy to the major security firm that has buckled under pressure and removed the report, I mention no names. But I should point out to Mr Thing that had I published my report on this website, it would remain in full with his email appended in full, and the major security firm’s major analysis of the major malware campaign appended to that.
Mr Thing also added, “So, I want you to remove the link from your website as it is defamatory, libellous, ethnically objectionable.” I would say to Mr Thing, corporate communications manager of major security group in major world economy, I take a very dim view of being accused of writing things that are defamatory, libelous and ethnically objectionable. In fact, I consider that to be defamatory.
Where do these people get off thinking they can suppress fact and rewrite history?
It’s worth repeating. The law is an ass.
A fundamental purpose of law is to protect the individual. Sadly, this purpose has long since been appropriated by big business – the purpose of the law is now to pander for business at the expense of the citizen through the collusion of politicians.
The result is that the law has become ridiculous.
In the past it used to be an unwritten rule in the UK that parliament would not pass unenforceable laws. The reason is that a law that cannot be enforced makes the law look an ass. Worse, it makes parliament look as big an ass as the law that cannot be enforced.
Here’s an example. Parliament has created the laws that made the courts attempt to block The Pirate Bay (TPB) at the behest of the music industry (and film and video and video gaming etcetera). Parliament has become the pimp of the music industry (ironic, really, since neither prostitution nor the employment of prostitutes is illegal – because it is unenforceable – but pimping is illegal).
But back to The Pirate Bay. The courts have been forced by the alliance of parliament and the music industry to order the ISPs to block TPB. But blocking TPB is so unenforceable it is absurd; confirming that the law and parliament has become a collective ass.
The easiest way to get round the block is to use a proxy service. You go to a site in a country that doesn’t operate a block, and that website redirects you to TPB. A quick search on Google turned up at least 150 TPB proxies.
But you don’t even need to look for them. There’s a Chrome add-on and an Android app that will do it for you automatically.
If you don’t use Chrome and don’t have Android you could use TOR, which will both provide anonymity and bypass the block. Or use a VPN. Both of these require some effort and a little knowledge.
So you could simply switch to the Opera browser and turn on Turbo mode. Turbo mode is designed for users with slow connections. It speeds things up by going via Opera’s own servers. But since you are going to Opera rather than TPB, you don’t get blocked when you go through Opera Turbo to get to TPB.
This is TPB via Opera Turbo from the UK today. Note that although I asked for thepiratebay.se (Sweden), I automatically got redirected to TPB’s latest home at dotSX. TPB moved from Sweden to “Sint Maarten, a tiny island in the northeast Caribbean located 190 miles east of Puerto Rico,” a few days ago (TorrentFreak). This follows the latest court case in Sweden against TPB by the music industry. Incidentally, TPB also has an Icelandic domain. The music industry case in Sweden is trying to get the Icelandic domain closed because it is registered to a man of Swedish nationality. I salute Marius Olafsson of Iceland’s domain registry ISNIC, who told TorrentFreak: “ISNIC will legally fight attempts to use the domain name registry system to police/censor the net. We believe that to be ineffective, wrong and dangerous to the stability of the DNS as a whole.”
Or you could simply use the Google cache. Chrome direct:
The long and the short of it is that the UK blockade of The Pirate Bay (or any other website) is unenforceable.
Only about 30% of the UK electorate bothered to vote in last Thursday’s local elections. Pompous political spinners try to tell us that it’s mid-term and people are more concerned with national rather than local issues. I give them an alternative – the people are totally disillusioned with politics and politicians and the whole political process because the law and parliament has become an ass in the pocket of big business.
And that’s a tragedy.