Category Archives: Censorship

Why we’re taking Wikipedia down for a day

Over the last few weeks, the Wikipedia community has been discussing proposed actions that the community might take in protest to proposed legislation in the United States called Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (Pipa) in the US Senate.

If passed, these laws would seriously damage the free and open internet, including Wikipedia. With more than 2,000 Wikipedians commenting on this legislation from all over the world, and a clear majority in favour of taking action, this will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a public protest of this nature, and it’s a decision that wasn’t lightly made. From midnight on America’s East Coast and from 5am in the UK, Wikipedia will go dark for 24 hours.

It was felt that both Sopa and Pipa are pieces of clumsily drafted legislation that are dangerous for the internet and freedom of speech. It provides powers to regulatory authorities to force internet companies to block foreign sites offering “pirated” material that violates US copyright laws. If implemented, ad networks could be required to stop online ads and search engines would be barred from directly linking to websites “found” to be in breach of copyright.

However, leaving to one side the fact that there are more than enough adequate remedies for policing copyright violations under existing laws in most jurisdictions, these draft bills go too far and in their framing. Sopa and Pipa totally undermine the notion of due process in law and place the burden of proof on the distributor of content in the case of any dispute over copyright ownership.

Therefore, any legitimate issues that copyright holders may have get drowned out by poorly-framed draconian powers to block, bar, or shut down sites as requested by industry bodies or their legal representatives.

Copyright holders have legitimate issues, but there are ways of approaching the issue that don’t involve censorship.

Wikipedia depends on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. This needs other sites to be able to host user-contributed material; all Wikipedia then does is to frame the information in context and make sense of it for its millions of users.

Knowledge freely shared has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikipedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or, if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, will mean that the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.

All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy — and regulate the internet in other ways — that hurt online freedoms. Our concern extends beyond Sopa and Pipa: they are just part of the problem. We want the internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone.

Steve Virgin is a Board member and Trustee of Wikimedia UK (published 17 January 2011)

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/01/wikipedia-copyright-community  (as author I’d like to thank Staggers for agreeing to allow this to be published elsewhere)

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Media watchdog and OSCE condemn attack on liberal columnist in Serbia

The press freedom situation in Serbia is “alarming,” a media watchdog group said Monday following a weekend attack on a liberal columnist. Two masked assailants attacked Tofil Pancic late Saturday with a metal bar, injuring him on the head and right arm. Pancic’s liberal Vreme weekly said Monday he had since left the country. Pancic is known for his fierce criticism of Serbian nationalism and extremism. The South East Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO, described the attack as a “flagrant violation of press freedom.” The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, called on Serbia’s authorities to act swiftly to find and prosecute the attackers. Police say they are searching for the attackers.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/breakingnews/media-watchdog-condemns-attack-on-liberal-columnist-in-serbia-99231774.html

Vietnam publishes human rights magazine

Vietnam, often criticized by Western governments and international groups for its poor human rights record, has published the first issue of a human rights magazine to help counter what it calls “erroneous and hostile allegations,” state media reported Thursday. The foreign minister said the monthly magazine would serve as one of the sources of information to disseminate the ruling Communist Party and state’s policies on human rights and help people inside and outside the country to understand “protecting human rights is the nature of our regime.” The U.S., European Union and international human rights groups have often criticized Vietnam for jailing religious and pro-democracy dissidents who peacefully raise their voices. Last month, Google criticized Hanoi for passing new regulations requiring public Internet sites to install software that could potentially block access to some websites and monitor user activity.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/15/AR2010071501497.html

China stops funding Green Dam web filter: report

Developers of China’s Green Dam Internet filter have not received government funding in the past year, a local newspaper reported on Wednesday, placing in doubt the future of the much-criticized software. China delayed indefinitely the plan to force PC manufacturers to bundle the Green Dam software with computers sold in the country in June last year, after critics denounced the plan as ineffective. Software developer Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy had closed the office where the software was promoted and maintained, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, citing the company’s general manager. The company and another software developer Zhengshou Jinhui had received CNY 41.7m (USD 6.16m) in May 2008 to develop the software, the report added. Beijing had said the Green Dam software was designed to block objectionable images and stamp out Internet pornography, but faced criticism that the program strengthened China’s ability to censor political content.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE66D0AL20100714

Social networking clampdown rumoured in China as “twitter” look alike sites are down

Chinese social networking websites that provide Twitter-like services have suddenly reverted to testing mode and access has been spotty amid reports of a government clampdown. Although Twitter has been banned for more than a year in China, Chinese Internet companies have been quick to fill the void, providing microblogging services that allow users to post frequent updates and follow other posters. On Wednesday, NetEase.com Inc’s microblog (t.163.com) was inaccessible. A notice said the site had been down since 7 p.m. on Tuesday and was under maintenance. Sohu.com Inc’s microblog (t.sohu.com) was also shut down for more than a day earlier in the week and all Chinese “twitters” now display the notice “in testing mode.” Company sources told Reuters that the developments were the result of tightened government controls over the new services. The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post cited unnamed “industry sources” as saying that the websites were under pressure from Chinese censors.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE66D0K120100714

Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘gag law’ sparks media strike in Italy – as he tried to hide from scandal

There will be no news in Italy today; or, at least, hardly any. That is not a prediction, but fact: none of the main newspapers are appearing because their reporters and editors are on a 24-hour strike. Today they are due to be joined by radio, TV and some internet journalists. The action is over a parliamentary bill proposing a law that Silvio Berlusconi’s government claims safeguards privacy. Most of Italy’s editors, judges and prosecutors say it is intended to shield politicians, and particularly the prime minister, whose career has been ridden with financial and sexual scandals. The so-called “gagging law” would curb the ability of police and prosecutors to record phone conversations and plant listening devices. It would also stop journalists publishing the resulting transcripts. Investigators seeking to listen in on a suspect would need permission from three judges. Regardless of circumstances, eavesdropping warrants would expire after 75 days, after which they must be renewed every three days. The media would only be able to publish a summary of the findings of an investigation after it had ended.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/09/silvio-berlusconi-media-gag-law

Hong Kong journalists demand better protection from harassment and false allegations when covering news in mainland China

A Hong Kong journalists’ group has demanded the semi autonomous government lobby Beijing for better protection after local reporters and cameramen allegedly faced rough treatment, bogus drug accusations and denial of press credentials in the mainland the past year. While mainland China maintains tight media controls, this former British colony enjoys freedom of press as part of its special political status. A Hong Kong Journalists Association’s 2010 annual report issued Sunday urged the Hong Kong government to “make it clear to Chinese leaders that harassment and detention of journalists is totally unacceptable.” The association said the level of interference Hong Kong reporters faced while working on the mainland in the past year was the worst in 10 years. The Hong Kong Journalists Association also urged the Hong Kong government to make radio RTHK an independent public broadcaster — instead of keeping it as a government department — and to review broadcasting legislation in light of the failure of pro-democracy activists to obtain a radio station license.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5ixQ0ZQpMOvPqE7K-OrE-nSS7bZVQ