Free speech = Net neutrality?

As a principle many people would say that the freedom to disseminate information is a requirement of a democracy. After all an informed populace can make better decisions.

Except of course information about things we don’t want to know about. Pro-Anorexia and Pro-Bulimia forums are a controversial example. Its freedom of speech, its an informed choice, and women (mostly, men tend to have image issues with not being muscular enough) on these sites that promote being (too?) thin get positive reinforcement to get thinner. After all, this information isn’t a criminal action.

What has this got to do with Blackout Ireland?

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Well imagine if various food and health industry bodies got a legal settlement with Eircom to enforce a “three strikes and your out” policy against readers of these forums, without a chance to appeal? (Let’s ignore the fact that much of our lives are now done through the internet and that the German courts thought that it was to harsh a punishment; a death sentence to a virtual world). Would there be an outcry? “We’ve doing this to help you”. Then the lobby groups arrange to get Eircom to block certain pro-ana (after all Eircom have said that they wouldn’t fight the court orders). Then go after other Irish ISPs demanding similar action.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

So of course, these sites go underground; accessible by proxy, or new different ones spring up in its place. So the information is out there. Illegal. Hidden. Cherished by a knowing few. Shared with a wider knowing few.

Would there be mistakes and false positives? Of course. Every “not caught in the act” action has the potential for mistaken identity. And with wireless networks, connecting via your neighbour (or war driving to an open location) is going to ensure the wrong people are caught. Or a printer is blamed for having image issues.

But why stop at image issues! There is too much violence on the streets, lets ban all forms of internet violence. No more over the internet first person shooters.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Cyberbullying is too much. Lets block social network sites where such a situation can take place!

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

We can’t have our children accessing information and images about gay life. Block these sites!



Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Its the start of a slope.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The initial logical, maybe apparently sensible first step leads to a worse situation.

So, back to the point of all of this. IRMA wants Eircom to block certain file sharing sites, starting with the Pirate’s Bay.

Interestingly the international version of IRMA is trying to get the Pirate’s bay shut down. And based on the reports of the trial in Sweden, the prosecution are not doing a good job in persuading the courts that the Pirate’s Bay are any different than Google (in fact, it seems that much of the same information can be found using Google). File sharing isn’t a criminal offence. Depending on the outcome of the trial, using Pirate’s Bay may not even be viewed as a civil offence.

So block Google? It’s an option, but too many companies use their cloud computing services for the Irish economy to survive such a block.

So back to net neutrality. Actually it isn’t exactly entirely related to speech. Its closer to a deep packet inspection; what type of packet is this. Is it a web (or encrypted html) packet? A packet form an email? Or a bit torrent packet?

Which is how some software updates itself, for example Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.

Which is how millions (if not billions) around the globe saw the inauguration of President Obama on CNN’s software.

For something purely illegal, those are very odd companies to be using it. Content companies too.

So join in the week long protest against this. Shout, not whisper about the chilling effects on internet free speech.

Join with the other voices around Ireland speak out on this issue.

Darken your avatar.

Write to your local TD about it.

Write to Minister Ryan about it.

While you still can, speak out.

Will Knott

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3 Responses to “Going Dark”

  1. Luke Says:

    Absolutely right to highlight this issue, Will. Any, absolutely any, assault on free speech is the beginning of an avalanche. Nobody has the right to decide what information should or should not be allowed to be expressed, unless it is something absolutely private and personal. If information is irrefutably for public consumption, then it must be allowed to be expressed. It is up to the individual to decide how to use this information.

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