Digital Life Clippings – New Year’s News

  1. Indian government blocks programming web sites, including and Github gists – TechCrunch – As if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily, the Indian government has blocked entire slices of web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it. More on the blog.
  2. Marriott wants to block your devices so you have to pay for their wifiBoing Boing – Marriott clearly does not want anyone from the technology industry to stay at their hotels or to use them for events. Best to respect their wishes and avoid them like the plague.
  3. End-user adoption of open source is a lousy metricRRW – Open source is primarily a collaboration technique, leveraging the permission-in-advance arising from software freedom to unlock innovation in many unrelated deployers. For many reasons, enterprise end-user deployment of unmodified open source software is thus a lousy metric for gauging the influence of open source.
  4. Perfect slapdown to a bogus takedownTechDirt – The monkey selfie is resoundingly in the public domain, your jurisdiction has no say in mine and my use is fair use. Otherwise, do you have any questions?
  5. If the Supreme Court tackles the NSA in 2015, it’ll be one of these five casesArs Technica — This is a great test for the separation of powers. US law very clearly needs an update for the meshed society and signalling it is a job for SCOTUS. I’m also interested to see if the court is willing to clarify the Third Party Doctrine. It seems obvious to me that if I have a relationship with a telco as a customer, that telco can’t truly be considered a “third party”.

India Illustrates The Risks Of Censorship Laws

Next time you see your government proposing internet censorship laws of any kind, remember this incident where the Indian government crippled their own software industry so they could be seen to be doing something about terrorism. Their department of telecommunications has blocked 32 web sites — including and Github — as if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily (ETI claims it’s 60+). They’ve blocked entire slices of multi-purpose web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it, according to TechCrunch.

Perhaps it is happening because a person tasked with being seen to be doing something about terrorism found a broad and badly-drafted regulation with no checks, balances or oversight that she could use to satisfy her instructions at no personal cost. As a result, vast numbers of Internet uses that are neutral or positive to Indian culture and society are being inhibited in pursuit of a tiny number of cases that are negative. Certainly the sources ETI cites have no clue the damage they’re causing.

Laws and regulations don’t just get used for their intended purpose; they get used by anyone that is permitted to do so for any purpose that is not proscribed. So broad rules permitting censorship for open-ended durations and purposes can and will be used to silence opposition, score points and prove some functionary is tough on terrorism or paedophiles. Who cares if businesses, research and culture are harmed? Think of the children!

“… and the filters don’t work/they just make it worse…”

The UK government has pressured ISPs to apply content filters to their customers’ connections, in the name of protecting children from unsuitable content. During 2014, ISPs will be approaching their customers and trying to persuade them to turn on filtering. But this is a mistaken approach arising from magical thinking — “this thing should exist so it must be possible”.

Content filters can’t work, for several reasons. Just a sample: Continue reading

Make a stand against censorship!

Open Rights GroupDavid Cameron’s web filtering agenda is particularly unhelpful. There are a raft of reasons why “default on” filtering is a bad idea. Filters don’t effectively block explicit material and lots of helpful, wanted material gets caught up in the same blockages (including this site!). Even if there was some practical way to avoid problems of this nature (which there isn’t) there’s another, deeper problem involved concerning censorship.

As ORG’s campaign “David Cameron: Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship” points out, “adult filtering amounts to censoring legal content”. No other modern, democratic country is behaving this way. By pushing this agenda David Cameron sets a dangerous precedent for the administration of any country which is seeking to justify the suppression of information to its people.

Signing ORG’s petition is one way that you can have your say on the matter. By adding your voice to those calling on the prime minister to drop his proposals you can make a valuable stand against censorship. So take a look at the campaign and if it’s something you agree with, make your voice heard! If you’re still unconvinced that “default on” filtering is a bad move, ORG’s page on censorship goes over some of the issues in more detail. This is an issue which is cropping up more and more, in parliament and in the news and a lot of the coverage has a clear and ill considered bias. Get informed and don’t let the UK get “sleepwalked into censorship”.

Porn Summit is Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Representatives from a whole host of ISPs will meet tomorrow with Culture Secretary Maria Miller in a summit to discuss the problems of illegal child abuse image distribution and the effective filtering of legal pornography. Brushing aside for a moment the fact that these are two very separate issues that need to be handled in different ways and not be confusingly bundled together, there are some other serious problems with the governments approach to the issue.

Having a meeting to which only service providers are invited emphasises the governments apparent position that it is the ISPs responsibility to police the content created by internet users. This is as ridiculous as expecting postmen to not deliver hate mail. ISPs are not and should not be responsible for the things Internet users choose to put online.

On the issue of filtering, it’s amazing that ministers still consider filtering as a possible course of action. Only this week ORG have released a collection of other web sites blocked by existing filters used by mobile carriers. To try and put an absolute filter on something as subjective as inappropriate content seems almost wilfully dismissive of citizen freedoms. Read more in today’s ComputerWorldUK article.