Tag Archives: censorship

Signs of Progress on the Internet Blacklist Bills

Looks like proponents of the Internet Blacklist Bills are finally beginning to realize that they won’t be able to ram through massive, job-killing legislation without a fight. First, Sen. Patrick Leahy, sponsor of the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), announced on Thursday that he would recommend that the Senate further study the dangerous DNS blocking provisions in that bill before implementation. Then, a group of six influential senators wrote to Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, urging that the Senate slow down and postpone the upcoming vote on PIPA. Sen. Ben Cardin, a co-sponsor of PIPA, also took a measured stance against the bill, saying he “would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written.” Cardin cited consituent activism as the primary reason for the about-face.

On the House side, Rep. Lamar Smith, sponsor of PIPA’s dangerous counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), announced today that he would completely remove the DNS blocking provision from the House bill.

It’s heartening to see Congress take steps in the right direction, and it wouldn’t have happened without the work and commitment of the many internet communities who have rallied to fight these dangerous bills. We should be proud of the progress we’ve made. 

Small steps, but good ones.

Tough Questions for YouTube: How to Handle Videos of Human Rights Abuses

Citizen video is one of the most powerful ways to spread a message. But it’s also very scary, especially with new technology that can identify faces in a crowd. Online video can increase the effectiveness of a protest, but it can also increase the risk of retribution against those who are involved.

YouTube is soliciting ideas about this delicate issue for future blog posts examining the role of online video in human rights.

YouTube is asking users to consider questions such as:

How can uploaders balance privacy concerns with the need for wider exposure?

How can we stay alert to human rights footage without getting de-sensitized to it?

Does human rights content online require some kind of special status?

Submit your ideas and answers to the Google Moderator.

I love that YouTube is aware of the impacts simple information sharing can have across the world – and they don’t maintain some Zuckerberg-fueled rehash of the hippy philosophy of “sharing automatically makes the world better”. It’s an important element of social responsibility for the new media makers to be aware of, and plan for, their eventual impact on human culture. McLuhan would be proud.

Wikileaks Data Spurs App Development – ReadWriteCloud

While politicians, pundits, military, and journalists assess and debate the fallout from Wikileaks’ release of the “Afghan War Diary” – the legality and ethics of Wikileaks, its impact on the war efforts, the rise of the “world’s first stateless news organization” – a number of developers are diving right into the 91,000 some odd classified documents and seeing what they can do with the data.

Update to my previous WikiLeaks post: information is, in fact, still able to permeate even the strictest legal strangleholds. I applaud these lunies who risk life and limb to develop the code that empowers us to understand the data we pay for yet are systematically denied access to by the people we’ve put in power. Take it back!

Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered

A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.

One bury brigade in particular is a conservative group that has become so organized and influential that they are able to bury over 90% of the articles by certain users and websites submitted within 1-3 hours, regardless of subject material. Literally thousands of stories have already been artificially removed from Digg due to this group. When a story is buried, it is removed from the upcoming section (where it is usually at for ~24 hours) and cannot reach the front page, so by doing this, this one group is removing the ability of the community as a whole to judge the merits or interest of these stories on their own (in essence: censoring content). This group is known as the Digg “Patriots”.

As much as I love the distributed network of news sources and aggregators I rely on, like Digg, I’ve always been wary of their hidden algorithms and the possibility of ‘gaming’ the results. My first reaction was, “well, this throws any semblance of impartiality out the window” – but really, is this all that different from how pundits and lobbyists have gamed the major news sources for the last 50 years?

In either case, it’s clear that shifting the curation and editorial power directly into the hands of the users necessarily complicates my relationship with that news even further. As millions migrate to these new, largely unpoliced news sites, these coalitions, conspiracies, and collaborators will become even more pervasive and influential.