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The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘censorship’

Some Thought, Part Ten – Respect

Posted by BigWords on April 24, 2010

There has been some rather eloquent posts already written examining respect – with people making clear points which really shouldn’t need making these days, but I have yet to see any serious or committed reexamination of online behavior guidelines. There’s no reason why it should have been so completely abandoned by the masses, and an adoption of the basics could possibly halt online diatribes in their tracks. The idiots who decide to gang up on an individual (Richard Dawkins has faced such a firestorm of moronic personal attacks in his forum) really deserve to have some sort of public admonishing. The ability to comment isn’t a democratic right. You may think anyone has the right to litter the internet with abuse, but you would be wrong – someone pays for the hosting on forums, and on blogs, and pretty much everywhere that matters. So… A majority-led charter signed off by the group, where a code of conduct is adhered to? Yeah, that’s one way of going.

But wait… Removing a person from one area of the net would send them off in search of other haunts. And that isn’t much better than throwing a violent drunk out of a bar – it moves the problem on, but doesn’t remove the problem at the root – we need to be thinking along lines which have the potential to resolve problems. My concept of the future of the internet being much tighter than it is, with blogs, forums, and other communications all tied to a single account, would give people the ability to inform of improper behavior (racism, for example) so that the online activity of the individual can be peer-monitored. There is much to be said for this move away from fragmented identities (handling accounts on WordPress, Blogger, Google, forums, Disqus, Twitter, and elsewhere is not the perfect solution to an online existence), though this opens up a world of hurt when the account is cracked. Problems, you see, are merely opportunities in disguise after all – by linking all internet activity to a single account we could see a larger uptake on discussions which are split across the expanse of the internet, merging thoughts which, before now, would need members of both communities to make the connection.

So what other means would be employed to keep people from baiting and bullying their way through the digital landscape?We need a way to combat the bullying which has driven teens to suicide, and the efforts of a few (a Facebook campaign by YA authors f’rinstance) are admirable. And Facebook has a solution I like… The use of buttons which flag up user activity to a third-party oversight group (child protection buttons already take advantage of this technique), with levels of punishment appropriate to activity, could skim off the users who deliberately attack random people with their words. A safeguard (or several) would be needed to prevent people being flagged for no reason, though a simple and effective check and balance system could have its’ place in stopping this. There is much to be done in fighting bullying, but online respect has other areas of interest to me, which are less well highlighted than the more obvious areas.

It is a good idea to remember just how much of the internet is filled with commentary and personal opinions, and how much of that is of objectionable content – even leaving aside the obvious contenders for note here, it should be pointed out that a staggering proportion of the web contains openly hostile content. “Parody or horribly offensive” is the gray area in which some revel, though I find it hard to accept that an openly offensive-for-the-point-of-being-offensive stance is remotely amusing. Some “extreme” areas of the web (Goatse – don’t click the link) have managed to cross over into a less powerful force thanks to memetic dilution (the Olympic Games logo riffing off the image is part of this), but there are other, less savory areas we have to trawl through before we get the full scope of what is needed for a better internet. A safer, less trouble-wrought internet for the masses to enjoy – the folks who wouldn’t necessarily go out of their way to hunt down the squick which lurks out there.

Managing The Internet

The use of “NSFW” as a warning to those who may not want to click a link is useful (if only to keep people from getting fired from their IT jobs), and the idea which has sparked off the use of this acronym is one which is possibly the most audacious proposal I’ll be making here… A voluntary rating for search-engine age-appropriate content:

Green Locations

1 All-ages text and images.
2 May contain inappropriate words
3 May contain inappropriate words and images

Amber Locations

4 Teen-relevant sites, with monitored content
5 Teen-relevant sites, with unmonitored content
6 Teen-relevant sites, may contain inappropriate material

Red Locations

7 Mature themes / content
8 Mature themes, content may offend some
9 Mature themes, content will offend most

Black Locations

X Adult-only material

At present search-engines are very inefficient at filtering content to age-appropriate settings, and adding a single digit to each website to validate the level of inappropriate of offensive material before adding the site to search parameters would make the internet just a little bit better than it is. The level of filtering would take precedence over other search requirements, putting the emphasis on which material is suitable for the intended audience. The use of color-coded symbols beside each link would help casual surfers avoid anything which is too harsh for their tastes, whilst allowing those of us with dark sensibilities to continue looking in amazement at the absolute strangeness which exists around the internet.

Protecting The Internet

Censorship, which is always a hot topic, is another area of respect in which too few actions and too many commentaries are present. Saying that blatant censorship of content is wrong is no longer enough, and a more proactive anti-censorship stance would help bolster confidence in what is disseminated through the web. The fact that Google has begun listing instances where content has been removed at the instigation of governments goes some way to doing this, but the disrespect for users is still apparent. That doesn’t begin to compare with the disrespect shown to authors, while Google systematically steals work from publishers irrespective of copyright, nor does it come close to the abysmal behaviour some major software companies.

Respect (in a particular example) means that you thank people for work done in the form of payment – not merely a “thank you” (if, indeed, you manage to get as much as that), and Microsoft’s behaviour when security loopholes are pointed out is one of the things which irks me. I’ve never written code for them, but know people who have. People who, in their own time, have solved problems which Microsoft couldn’t deal with. And this is something which crops up time and time again – the larger the company, the less respect they give consumers. We live with this situation mainly because we have little option, but a stance should be made every now and again to remind them who is in charge of the relationship… Companies answer to the public, not their shareholders – if we decide that we don’t like a service, we have the power to make it go away, simply by ignoring it.

Sliding ever-so gently off-topic, but I’m on a roll…

Policing The Internet

While I am bringing up what material is unsuitable for children to view, I should also make mention of the groups who would have us believe that the internet is policed in some fashion. It isn’t. Far from it. The internet is, and has been compared to for a while now, a frontier town in the Wild West. The only laws imposed on it are those which the users demand – I’ll be taking a few pot shots at this in my next post, but for the moment I don’t feel inclined to tackle the blindingly obvious.

I think I have covered everything I set out to tackle here, but if anyone has additions to make I would welcome them. This post is already longer than I intended it being, so I had better stop before I run off into other, unconnected, areas.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Australian Government’s Internet Plans Affect Us All

Posted by BigWords on December 19, 2009

Despite the endless freedom of information campaigns spread across the internet, the Australian government is set to strangle the rights of web surfers come next year. The rationale behind the proposal is to weed out illegal content, but the supposition that an independent body can remain neutral is both idiotic and overly simplistic. The notion that a single illegal element can be successfully separated from perfectly legal material existing on the same server is beyond imagining – are entire domains going to be cut off from Australian access, and can sites launch an appeal if they have been wrongly labelled as containing illegal content? These are all valid questions.

And, while I’m thinking on the (many, many) problems which this brings up, are torrent sites going to be blocked? They aren’t, as any sufficiently intelligent people will be well aware, illegal in nature. They are often illegal in content, but they are still used by companies to get material out to customers and fans – in no way breaking any laws. Another thing that is bugging me – because this might affect me – is a tendency by governments to look to individual points of law. There are things on this blog which can be construed as illegal in several countries (libel, offensive insinuations, um… some pics), so will this entire blog disappear from the internet as far as Oz is concerned?

Even better – what will happen to web searches?

Wait. We’re not done yet. One more question. The big one. The question you’re going to be asking if you are living in Australia, and one which is key to the entire debate – the question that everything hinges on: Who is the wizard of Oz internet access? Who is the name which will be signed at the bottom of every blocking order? Who is the man (or woman) who will decide wether a website is permitted to operate in Australia? There is more on this story at Infowars. If you want to know what the Australian government doesn’t want people to know (you do, trust me, you really do) then go to the list here. Unfortunately, most Aussies won’t be able to get to the listed sites, but I’m happy to check them out for you guys. 😀

Oh, and in case there is any doubt a to the severity of this problem, the UK’s very own New Labour Reich have decided that it might be a good idea to follow suit. The horrors which await us are unimaginable – the people in power have no idea what they are talking about. Have you taken the opportunity to check what the assholes people in charge of the Australian government have to say about the ‘dangerous’ individuals who they are targeting with this bill? Their concerns that inappropriate material may be getting through the blocks already in place are one thing, but when people start talking about charges being brought against hackers…

Um… Riiiight. Y’know, it’s these kind of statements which will bring a lot of people over to the anti-censorship stance, simply because the use of the word is completely wrong. Damnit, I’m a fucking hacker you stupid politico. So is Bill Gates, and so is the guy who will implement your dumb censorship plans. Anyone who creates, modifies or tinkers in any way with code is a hacker. To be so blatantly ignorant is no reason to be so terrified of technology. It’s the statement of someone who watches way too many Hollywood movies and ignores real life. Can you tell, just with this post, how pissed off I am with the entire situation?

Don’t be surprised if this doesn’t show up on Australian browsers.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tiger Woods – And UK Censorship… What A Combination!

Posted by BigWords on December 11, 2009

Here are some things I know about Tiger Woods:

  • He’s American.
  • He’s colored.
  • He’s a golfer.
  • He’s a player.
  • He crashed a car.

Here are some things – because of the censorship of the UK media – which I now suspect:

  • He’s an alcoholic.
  • He’s a wife-beater.
  • He’s a junkie.
  • He tried to kill someone.
  • He has ties to organized crime.

See? When you try to block information, I jump to the worst possible scenario. Before the media blackout on information regarding the sportsman, when he was just another boring golfer, I really didn’t pay him much attention at all. Now that there is a scandal, he’s fast becoming a possible O.J. Simpson mk. II in the eyes of the British public. Face it, when a black American sports star is involved in a scandal, there are far, far more pressing matters to deal with than getting some lawyers to shut the press up. If he’s innocent of any serious crimes, and there are some very dark rumors flying around at the moment, then he should have the stones to let the story be told.

Only someone with secrets to hide bring out lawyers.

Tiger hasn’t been very bright about his handling of this mess, and as he is fast becoming the golfing world’s answer to Kim Kardashian there are bound to be even more lurid and disturbing things muttered about what he was up to. I’m not sure if he was pressured into the legal silence, but it tarnishes anything left of his once-good reputation…

Be a man, Tiger. Tell the lawyers your story can be told.

If anything, the thought of another hilarious tragic downfall of a sports star being broadcast endlessly is one which I really don’t look forward to. You would think that seeing the unfolding drama of a hero-to-small-children might contain moments of interest, though I ain’t even vaguely interested. It’s the information blackout which is the real story here. Anyways, enjoy the pic.

Just in case anyone thinks I’m ragging on Tiger, I’m not. ‘Kay. The irony will be lost on some readers, I’m sure, but the point I’m making is simple:

Censorship. Does. Not. Work.


Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »