Tagcensorship

Why One Librarian Banned a Book

Scott R. DiMarco of the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania campus library writes:

The story begins with two staff members and one librarian who enthusiastically created and ran a week of interactive programs for banned book week. The turnout was tepid. A panel discussion on the subject drew six people. Five were librarians and staff members. The sixth was Dennis Miller, our public relations director, who recently published his second novel, One Woman’s Vengeance. As we talked about various books that are still being banned at different locations around the country, Miller said, “You should ban mine. It has sex, violence and adult language.”

He was joking, but his statement emphasized that as long as one book can be banned, any book is a target.

Two of my staff members and one librarian thought it over and came to me a couple days later, suggesting that we should, indeed, ban it during Banned Books Week. We talked over the ramifications and I agreed. We contacted Miller, an ardent opponent of censorship.

He agreed to participate.

Full Story: College and Research Libraries News: Why I banned a book: How censorship can impact a learning community

Wikipedia Blacks Out Russian Version in Protest

The AP reports:

Wikipedia on Tuesday shut down its Russian-language site for 24 hours to protest a bill that would give the Russian government sweeping powers to blacklist certain sites, the latest in a flurry of legislation that appears aimed at neutering a growing opposition movement that has protested President Vladimir Putin‘s rule. […]

The Kremlin has made no public comment on the bill, but lawmakers from Putin’s party were among those who wrote the legislation, and it is likely to pass. It follows other recent laws that have targeted groups Putin views as rivals or bad influences: A law imposing heavy fines for protesters was quickly pushed through parliament in June, and a bill that would label NGOs receiving foreign aid as “foreign agents” was approved just last week.

Time: Russian Wikipedia Shuts Down Site to Protest Bill

Good Interview with The Net Delusion Author Evgeny Morozov

Good interview with The Net Delusion author Evgeny Morozov:

You once tweeted that ‘the term censorship has become meaningless’. Why? And what does it mean exactly?

I have? Half of my tweets are not meant to be serious. But, sure, I do find that a lot of debates about censorship – and especially Internet censorship – operate in very binary terms – i.e. people just look at whether a given site is blocked or not. This may have worked ten years ago but now we have much more sophisticated methods of control, ranging from cyber-attacks (which knock out a site for a short period – but the timing might be crucial) to self-policing by Internet companies to massive trolling. We need to find ways to conceptually allow for those new methods of control as well. […]

Did the ‘Arab Spring’ and Occupy movements lower your skepticism about ‘hashtag activism’?

I’ve never used the term “hashtag activism” but the short answer is “no”. Furthermore, I’m not sure that my position here adds up to “skepticism”; as I state in the book and in the afterword, I have no problem acknowledging that Twitter and Facebook can be great for spreading information and mobilizing people. My concerns – and these are purely normative concerns – are that these tools may also be giving some budding social movements false hopes of being able to transcend the ugliness of political life and simply fight the man from within their Facebook profiles. The less it happens, the better – I’m not arguing that this is an inherent feature of all campaigns that take place online, only that this is one possible outcome and that participants (and especially policymakers who may be thinking of how to invest their money and attention) need to be aware of this possible outcome.

Journalism Festival: @evgenymorozov: openness always good, control always bad? crazy!

(via Justin)

See also:

Morozov’s TED talk How the Net aids dictatorships

Birthers and the democratization of media

ACLU Sues Library for Blocking Wiccan Websites

Pentacle

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern Missouri sued a local public library on Tuesday for allegedly blocking websites related to Wicca, a modern pagan religion.

Anaka Hunter of Salem, Mo., said she tried to access websites about Wicca, Native American religions and astrology for her own research, but the library’s filtering software blocked the sites.

According to the ACLU, the software labeled the sites as “occult” and “criminal.”

The Hill: ACLU sues library for blocking Wiccan websites

Bonus: the library director is accused of saying she had an obligation to report people who accessed said sites to the police.

Have we really learned nothing from the West Memphis Three fiasco?

RIP Comics Code Authority

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America

Whoa, just saw Archie dropped the Comics Code Authority seal at the beginning of this year (yeah, I’m pretty late with this one):

With time the moral panic subsided, the rules softened, and a new wave of adult-oriented titles appeared. In 2001 Marvel Comics adopted its own rating system and dropped the code altogether. In January 2011 the other major comic book publisher, DC, did the same thing. And a day after DC’s decision, Archie Comics followed suit.

Reason: The Comics Code Goes Cold

And last month the Comic Book Legal Defense fund acquired the Code’s intellectual property:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today announces that it has received the intellectual property rights to the Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval in an assignment from the now-defunct Comic Magazine Association of America, which administrated the Code since the 1950s.

The Comics Code Seal comes to the CBLDF during Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read, and just a few months following a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court where Justice Scalia cited CBLDF’s brief addressing the comics industry’s history of government scrutiny and the subsequent self-regulation the Comics Code represented. Dr. Amy Nyberg, author of Seal of Approval: The History of Comics Code has prepared a short history of the Comics Code Seal and the era of censorship it represents exclusively for CBLDF that is available now in the Resources section of cbldf.org.

CBLDF Receives Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval

See also:

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu.

The New Yorker’s lengthy coverage of the above book.

Online text of Seducing the Innocent (with different illustrations from the original print version).

U.S. Government Subpoenaing Foreign Leader’s Twitter History as Part of WikiLeaks Investigation

Glenn Greenwald reports that the U.S. has subpoenaed Icelandic member of parliment and WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s Twitter history:

What hasn’t been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter — which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested — seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope. It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the “means and source of payment,” including banking records and credit cards. It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present. A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

The Order was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is “reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation,” the language required by the relevant statute. It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed — i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. It gave Twitter three days to respond and barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order. On January 5, the same judge directed that the Order be unsealed at Twitter’s request in order to inform the users and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users.

It’s possible other companies like Facebook, Google and Skype were subpoenaed and complied with the requests silently.

Matthew Ingram writes for Gigaom:

The fact that Twitter is being targeted by the government is another sign of how important the network has become as a real-time publishing platform, and also of how centralized the service is — something that could spark interest in distributed and open-source alternatives such as Status.net, just as the downtime suffered by the network early last year did. It is another sign of how much we rely on networks that are controlled by a single corporate entity, as Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman pointed out when WikiLeaks was ejected from Amazon’s servers and had its DNS service shut down.

See also this post about Douglas Rushkoff’s call to abandon the corporate Internet and the supplemental links I supplied there. I’m tagging further links on the subject of a decentralized Internet with decentralized net.

White House Cyber Czar: ‘There Is No Cyberwar’

White House Cyber Czar Howard Schmidt

Howard Schmidt, the new cybersecurity czar for the Obama administration, has a short answer for the drumbeat of rhetoric claiming the United States is caught up in a cyberwar that it is losing.

“There is no cyberwar,” Schmidt told Wired.com in a sit-down interview Wednesday at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.

“I think that is a terrible metaphor and I think that is a terrible concept,” Schmidt said. “There are no winners in that environment.”

Instead, Schmidt said the government needs to focus its cybersecurity efforts to fight online crime and espionage.

His stance contradicts Michael McConnell, the former director of national intelligence who made headlines last week when he testified to Congress that the country was already in the midst of a cyberwar — and was losing it.

Threat Level: White House Cyber Czar: ‘There Is No Cyberwar’

See also:

Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet

Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative

Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet

Michael McConnell on the right

Above: that’s McConnell on the right.

The biggest threat to the open internet is not Chinese government hackers or greedy anti-net-neutrality ISPs, it’s Michael McConnell, the former director of national intelligence.

McConnell’s not dangerous because he knows anything about SQL injection hacks, but because he knows about social engineering. He’s the nice-seeming guy who’s willing and able to use fear-mongering to manipulate the federal bureaucracy for his own ends, while coming off like a straight shooter to those who are not in the know. […]

He’s talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation if the U.S. government doesn’t like what’s written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded. Or the tech could be useful if a computer got hijacked without your knowledge and used as part of a botnet.

Threat Level: Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet

32% of all Internet users accessing filtered version of the Internet

Hear no evil see no evil speak no evil

“The OpenNet Initiative estimates that at the end of 2009, 32% of all Internet users were accessing a filtered version of the Internet.”

ONI Releases 2009 Year in Review: Filtering, Surveillance, Information Warfare

(via Emily Cunningham)

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/southpaw2305/ / CC BY 2.0)

Apple and Control Machines

apple: come see our latest restriction

In the days before the new Apple tablet was announced the anti-DRM group Defective by Design dubbed Apple’s announcement event the “Come see our latest restriction” event. Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter about the various limitations of the device – DRM, or otherwise.

I think some of these limitations could be important for the future of computing and media.

Limitations could be a feature – keeping people focused on reading. Perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking of this as a laptop or netbook alternative at all, but as an text reader and video player. Having a limited multitasking abilities and a lack of Flash might be a means to limit our level of distraction from e-mail and instant messaging. Stan Schroeder wrote for Mashable:

Then, there’s multi-tasking. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to thinks this is a huge deal-breaker, but I think it makes sense. Although Steve Jobs was trying hard to prove to us that the iPad is a computer, it isn’t. Just like the iPod and the iPhone, its main purpose is to give the users an easy way to consume certain types of digital content. After music (iPod) and mobile applications (iPhone) comes iPad with video, photos, e-books, e-magazines, games. Apple doesn’t really want you to do complex photo editing on the iPad; you’ve got your Mac or PC for that. Apple wants you to touch a button, and start consuming content (preferably paying a couple of dollars for it).

Finally, the camera. Yes, it would be nice to have video chat. But once again, Apple wants you to do that on a Mac. If you want to snap photos, you should do it on the iPhone — you’re carrying it with you all the time, anyway. Once again, it becomes clear that Apple doesn’t want to sell devices that can do everything; they want to find the best form factor to consume some types of digital content, and then focus on them. If you look at it, you can do pretty much everything on your personal computer; by that philosophy, you don’t need anything else besides a laptop. And yet, you’ve now got smartphones and e-readers selling very well. Could it be that one powerful device is not as good as several less powerful, but more focused ones?

If that’s the case, and the iPad is just another consumer device and a paradigm, then it’s no big deal.

But if they’re letting users instal everything from the iPhone app store, then are they really designing useful limitations to keep the device focused? You can install apps that do just about anything, not just consume media. And the keyboard extension explicitly allows two-way media interaction.

Ultimately the lack of Flash or multitasking or a web cam seem trivial to me. They’re just features that may or may not be able to make or break the latest in consumer technology. And that’s just not important. But there’s a scarier possibility – that Apple is slowing easing its customers into an app-store centric world, where every app that runs on their platform on a “legitimate” (non-“jailbroken”) device has to pass their gates. It may sound conspiratorial, but I worry that Apple is trying to migrate their closed device paradigm from the mobile world (where that sort of thing is already pretty common) to the desktop world (where that’s unheard of). It’s strange that years after Trusted Computing became an information liberty concern, it’s been Apple, not Microsoft, leading the way to a more restrictive computing environment.

Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music has an extensive post considering the potential problems of the “closed Apple” world:

Apple already has a dangerously dominant position in the consumption of music and mobile software, and their iTunes-device link ensures that content goes through their store, their conduit, and ultimately their control. This means that developers are limited in what they can create for the device when it comes to media – a streaming Last.fm app is okay, but an independent music store (like Amazon MP3 on Android) is not. Now, you can add to that Apple dominating book distribution. At a time when we have an opportunity to promote independent e-book publishing, the iPad is accompanied by launch deals from major traditional publishers. What does that mean for independent writers and content? […]

Apple threatens to split computing into two markets, one for “traditional,” “real” computers, and another for passive consumption devices that try to play games without physical controls and let you read books, watch movies, play music, and run apps so long as you’re willing to go through the conduit of a single company.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be worth my breath if not for my real concern: what if Apple actually succeeds? What if competitors follow this broken path, or fail to offer strong alternatives? The iPad today is a heck of a lot slicker than alternatives. It’s bad news for Linux, Windows, and Android, none of which have really workable competitors yet. It’s especially bad for Linux, in fact, which had a real chance to make its mark on mobile devices.

Timothy Blee makes the case that restricted computing will lose out in the market. I’m not so optimistic.

On not-so-dark note, I was disappointed at how uninnovative the iPad is. It’s just a big iPod touch, or a really crippled tablet pc. It seems like it could be an interesting musical insturment (a nice platform for RJDJ, for instance) It doesn’t seem like as much of a game changer as something like this:

microsoft courier

It’s unusual for Microsoft to out innovate Apple (or rather, to beat them to stealing good ideas), but their Courier seems to do just that. Of course, it’s vaporware right now, and could continue to be so, just like its abandoned predecessor the OLPC2:

olpc 2

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