Amnesty International Launches Campaign Against Internet Repression

Details here.

Posted on August 8, 2006 at 2:36 PM • 15 Comments

Comments

AlainAugust 8, 2006 3:13 PM

Are you sure that this is really Amnesty International?

I'm skeptical!

The page you link to and the info site do not contain a negative word about the Unites States govt. and that evildoer Bush. This can't be Amnesty International!

SpacialAugust 8, 2006 3:16 PM

I had already used the javascript code to help Amnesty.

I think this is very important to take the internet back to its roots.

AnonAugust 8, 2006 4:39 PM

@Alain

Amnesty has been soft on the US for ages. They wouldn't do anything to help Kevin Mitnick who was held without trial or bail for 5 years (including 8 months in solitary confinement) in the US. They won't criticise things which may cause them to lose popular support. It's much easier to pick the low hanging fruits offered by foreign governments/environments.

Matthew SkalaAugust 8, 2006 4:42 PM

I'm sorry that it calls for "governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet". That word "unwarranted" makes the whole exercise almost meaningless, because everybody with a black magic marker will claim, "Oh, well, *our* restriction is warranted because of national security/protecting children/our precious bodily fluids/because God said so/etc." An important part of the point is that these restrictions are always unwarranted; the pledge shouldn't admit a possibility of them sometimes being acceptable.

Fred PAugust 8, 2006 5:00 PM

@Matthew Skala-

I suspect that "unwarrented" implying "any" was intended. AI is very much pro-freedom of expression. In any case, more detail will come out in their future releases on this program.

RalphAugust 8, 2006 6:47 PM

I am a little surprised.

Every society has censorship based around its own morality and values. To criticise in general does not seem helpful.

I would rather focus on battles that can be won.

DanAugust 8, 2006 10:13 PM

Too bad that their javascript snippet link is easily blocked. The client's browser still contacts irrepressible.info directly, so one entry in the firewall will take care of that pretty quick...

Nigel SedgwickAugust 9, 2006 12:43 AM

Anon wrote: "They wouldn't do anything to help Kevin Mitnick who was held without trial or bail for 5 years (including 8 months in solitary confinement) in the US."

The Wikipeadia article "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Mitnick" puts it somewhat differently.

Best regards


AnonAugust 9, 2006 2:07 AM

@Nigel

The only discrepancy that I saw was "four years of it pre-trial," but Kevin never got a trial. The only reason that he got out was because he plead guilty after it became clear that he wasn't going to get his day in court any time soon. But this is drifting off-topic...

SteveAugust 9, 2006 4:44 AM

@Dan: Too bad that their javascript snippet link is easily blocked.

That doesn't make it useless. Sure, China can block out the whole of irrepressible.info pretty quickly. So the Javascript probably won't help the Chinese see things which have been censored in China. The same goes for other countries which censor using technology.

There's another effect, though, which is that people outside the censorship zone can see what it is that is being censored, and judge the censoring authority accordingly. This won't end censorship overnight, but greater awareness encourages more people to act against censorship, and to help subvert it by more direct means. A lot of Amnesty's work is just about letting the general public know what is happening - their letter-writing campaigns in support of prisoners of conscience, for example, could simply be ignored by the authorities, but sometimes enough pressure is created that the authority feels that it is worth behaving better. The same could happen here, as it apparently did with the censorship applied by FEMA to Katrina refugees (http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2924).

What I will also be interested in, is whether irrepresible.info will carry material which has been censored by indirect legal means rather than direct host-blocking. For example, libellous statements, information repressed for reasons of national security, or material banned under decency laws in the US or Europe, are all forms of censorship, but will this campaign treat them in the same way as censorship by "evil regimes"?

SteveAugust 9, 2006 4:52 AM

Ah, I can answer my own question (http://irrepressible.info/catalogue).

This campaign apparently only reports on technological means of blocking information ("filtering"). They're not including more traditional legal processes ("print that and we'll lock you up").

jayhAugust 9, 2006 8:22 AM

{For example, libellous statements, information repressed for reasons of national security, or material banned under decency laws in the US or Europe, are all forms of censorship, but will this campaign treat them in the same way as censorship by "evil regimes"?}

They all should be.

EVERY act of censorship is for a 'good reason'. That's the problem, controlling authorities tend to censor things that cause them problems. That is the very data that must be exposed.

SteveAugust 9, 2006 9:35 AM

In one major respect, that of restricting freedom of expression, yes they're the same. There is at least some difference, though, between suppressing information which a court has reviewed (however foolish we may think the criteria are), and the government having a physical mechanism for arbitrary censorship without oversight.

It's like the difference between wiretap or search with and without a warrant - however bad the laws are by which warrants are issued, at least it's all a matter of record and each case is individually considered, and there's some chance that the courts will reduce abuse. Relatively few privacy advocates argue that law enforcers should never have any power of search for any reason, but a search damages your privacy whether or not there's reason to suspect you're a criminal.

While I would in some ways like to see libellous or security-critical information relayed, I do understand that Amnesty might not want to put itself in the dangerous position of committing criminal offences in its home jursidiction by doing so. So I can't blame them for compromising on this occasion.

Also, the database of suppressed information is specifically the one constructed by a group researching mass content-filtering - regardless of what they think of libel law, that isn't what they're researching so it's not in their results.

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